Viz. ON THE Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Chapters.

WHEREIN Together with the Explication of the Text and Context.

The Priesthood of Christ as Typed by those of Melchisedek and Aaron, with an Account of their distinct Offices,

The Nature and Efficacy of the Sacrifice of Christ, as Typed by all the Sacrifices of the Law,

The Erection of the Tabernacle according to the Heavenly Pattern; with the Institution of all its Utensils and Services, their especial Signification and End,

The Nature and Differences of the Two Covenants, the Old and the New, with the preference of the latter above the former,

The Reasons and Necessity of the taking away and Abolishing of the Old Legal Worship annexed unto the Covenant of Sinai; & the Means whereby it was removed,

The Glorious Administration of the Mediatory Office of Christ in Heaven; and sundry other Evangelical Truths of the highest Importance,

WITH The Duty of Believers in hearing the Word in Times of Trial and Persecution; the Means and danger of Apostacy from the Profession of the Gospel, Are Declared, Explained and Confirmed.

As also; The Pleas of the Jews for the Continuance and Perpetuity of their Legal Worship; with the Do­ctrine of the principal Writers of the Socinians about these things, are Examined and Dis­proved.

By J. Owen. D. D.

John 5. 39.

Search the Scriptures.

LONDON, Printed for Nathaniel Ponder, at the Sign of the Peacock in the Poultry, near the Church, 1680.


I have so fully in my former Discourses on this subject, declared the general design, scope and end of this Epistle, the pro­per way and means of its Interpretation, with the method of the present Exposition, which is the same throughout, that I shall not at all here detain the Reader with a renewed Declaration of any of them. Onely some few things which immediately concern that part of the Exposition which is now presented unto him, and my labour therein, may be mentioned (as I suppose) unto some usefulness.

1. And it may not be amiss in the first place to take notice of an Objection the present endeavour seems liable and obnoxious unto; and this is the Unseasonableness of it. We live in times that are for­tifyed against the use of Discourses of this nature, especially such as are so long and bulky. The world, and the minds of men therein, are filled with disorder and confusion, and the most are at their wits end with looking after the things that are come and coming on the Earth.

They have enough to do, in hearing, telling and reading, real or pretended News of publick affairs, so as to divert them from inga­ging their time, and industry in the perusal and study of such discour­ses. Besides, there is not any thing in this now published to condite it unto the Palate of the present Age, in personal contests and re­flections, in pleading for or against any party of men or especial way in the profession of Religion; only the fundamental Truths of the Gospel are occasionally contended for. These and the like conside­rations, might possibly in the judgment of some, have shut up this [Page] whole discourse in darkness upon the account of its being unseason­able.

I shall briefly acquaint the Reader with what Relieved me against this objection, and gave me satisfaction in the publishing of this part of the Exposition, after it was finished. For I could not but re­member that the times and seasons where in the former parts of it were published, were very little more setled and quiet, than are these which are now urgent on us: yet did not this hinder but they have been of some use and benefit unto the Church of God in this Nation and others also. And who knows but this may have the same blessing ac­companying of it? He who hath supplyed seed to the sower, can mul­tiply the seed sown, and encrease the Fruits of it. And although at present the most are really unconcerned in things of this nature, yet not a few from many parts both at home and abroad, have earnestly solicited the continuation of the Exposition, at least unto that period whereunto it is arrived.

Besides, in labours and endeavours of this nature, respect is not had meerly unto the present Generation, especially as many are filled with prejudices and causeless enmity against the Author of them. We have our selves more benefit and advantage by the writings of sun­dry persons in former Ages, than they received by them who lived in their own days.

Pascitur in Vivis Livor, post Fata quiescit.

It is therefore the Duty of some in every Age to commit over unto those that shall survive in the Church of God and profession of the Truth, their Knowledge in the Mysteries of the Gospel, whereby spiritual light may be more and more encreased unto the perfect day.

On these and the like Considerations I have wholly left these times and seasons in his hand who hath the sole disposal of them; and will not so far observe the present blustering Wind and Clouds as not to sow this seed, or despair of reaping Fruits thereby.

2. The Reader will find no Exercitations prefixed unto this Vo­lume, as there are unto the former. And this is so fallen out, not because there were no things of weight or moment occurring in these Chapters, deserving a separate, peculiar handling and consideration; But for other reasons which made the omission of them necessary and unavoidable. For indeed continued informities and weaknesses in my near Approach unto the Grave, rendred me insufficient for that la­bour, [Page] especially considering what other duties have been and yet are incumbent on me. And yet also my Choice was compliant with this Necessity. For I found that this part of the Exposition comprizing so many Chapters, and those all of them filled with glorious Mysteries, and things of the highest importance unto our Faith and Obedience, would arise unto a greatness disproportinate unto the former, had it been accompanied with the like Exercitations. Whereas therefore I foresaw from the beginning that they must be omitted, I did treat somewhat more fully of those things which should have been the sub­ject of them, than otherwise the nature of an exposition doth require. Such are the Person and Office of Melchisedek, The nature of the Aaronical Priesthood, and of the Priesthood of Christ as typed thereby, The framing of the Tabernacle with all its Vessels and U­tensils with their use and signification, The solemnity of the Cove­nant made at Sinai, with the difference between the two Covenants, the Old and the New; The manner of the Service of the High Priest on the Day of Expiation, with his entrance into the most Ho­ly place, The cessation, expiration or abrogation of the first Cove­nant, with all the services thereunto belonging; with sundry other things of the like importance. Whereas therefore these must have been the subject of such Exercitations, as might have been prefixed un­to this part of the Exposition, the Reader will find them handled somewhat at large in the respective places wherein they do occur in the Epistle it self.

3. Concerning the subject matter of these Chapters I desire the Reader to take notice.

1. That the whole substance of the Doctrinal part of the Epistle is contained in them; so as that there is nothing of difficulty in the whole case managed by the Apostle, but is largely treated of in these Chapters.

2. That they do contain a full declaration of that Mystery which from the beginning of the World was hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; to the intent that even unto the Principali­ties and Powers in Heavenly places, might be known by the Church the manifold Wisdom of God. In particular,

1. The Wisdom and Grace of God in the Constitution and mak­ing of the Covenant at Sinai; in the Institutions of all the Worship and Divine services thereunto belonging; in the Holy Fabricks, offer­ings and sacrifices of the Priests and Church of Israel, are declared and manifested therein. For all these things in themselves were car­nal, and so used by the generality of the People, in a way unworthy of the Wisdom and Holiness of God.

[Page] But the Apostle declares and makes it evident in these Chapters, that in the design and intention of God, they had all of them an End and Use far more glorious than what appeared in their outward Ad­ministration; As also what intimations God made unto the Church of this end of them, and his intention in them.

2. There is therefore in these Chapters an absolute, infallible In­terpretation of the whole Law, without which it would be a Sealed Book, and of no use unto us. But as the intention and mind of God in those legal Institutions is here declared, there is nothing in the whole Scripture that tends more to the illumination of our Minds, and the strengthning of our Faith, than doth the Law of these Institutions, as is manifested on all occasions in our Exposition. By vertue hereof there is not the meanest Christian Believer, but doth or may understand more of the Books of Exodus and Leviticus, see more of the Wisdom, Holiness and Grace of God in them, and know more of the nature and use of these legal Institutions, not only than all the present Jews, and their Teachers, but than was ever distinctly known in the Church of Israel, of Old.

3. The wisdom, righteousness and faithfulness of God in the Re­moval of the Old Covenant, with all the services thereunto belonging, are herein abundantly vindicated. This is the stone of stumbling unto this day to all the Jews. This they quarrel and contend with God and Man about; seeming to be resolved that if they may not enjoy their old Institutions, they will part with and leave even God himself. Neither indeed is it God, but a shadow of their old carnal Ordinances, which at present they cleave unto, worship and adore. Wherefore the Apostle by all sorts of Arguments doth in these Chapters manifest that before them, under them, by them, in them, God by various ways taught the Church, that they were not to be continued, that they were never ap­pointed for their own sakes, that they only fore-signifyed the introdu­ction of a better and more perfect Church State, than what they could attain unto, or be of use in; as also that their very Nature was such as rendred them obnoxious unto a removal in the appointed season. Yea, he demonstrates that without their Abolition, God could never have accomplished the design of his Love and Grace towards the Church, which he had declared in his promises from the Foundation of the World. And this absolutely determined the controversie between the two Churches, that of the Old, and that of the New Testament, with their Different worship and services, which was then a matter of fierce contention in the whole World. Wherefore,

4. The work of the Apostle in these Chapters is to shew the Har­mony [Page] between the Law and the Gospel, their different Ends and Uses, to take off all seeming Repugnancy and Contradiction between them, to declare the same Grace, Truth and Faithfulness of God in them both, notwithstanding their inconsistent institutions of Divine Worship. Nay he makes it evident not only that there is an Harmony between them, but also an utter impossibility that either of them should be true or pro­ceed from God, without the other.

5. Herein a glorious account is given of the Representation that was made of the Person and Incarnation of Christ, with the whole Of­fice of his Mediation, according as it was granted unto the Church in its infant-state. Some have called it the infant-state of Christ as unto his Incarnation, and affirmed that the Ceremonies of the Law were as his swadling Bands. But things are quite otherwise. The glorious state of Christ and his Office is represented unto the Church in its in­fant-State, when it had no apprehension of spiritual things, but such as Children have of the objects of Reason. In particular, how the An­tient Church was instructed in the Nature and blessed Efficacy of his Sacrifice, the Foundation of its Salvation, is made gloriously to appear.

6. Directions are given herein unto all unto whom the Gospel is preached, or by whom it is professed, how to behave themselves as unto what God requireth of them, expressed in clear Instructions and pathetical Exhortations, accompanied with glorious Promises on the one hand, and severe Threatnings on the other. Scarcely in the whole book of God such an exact description of the Nature and Work of Faith, the Motives unto it, and Advantages of it; of the deceitful actings of Unbelief, with the ways of its prevalency in the Minds, and over the Souls of men; of the End of true Believers on one hand, and of Hypocrites and Apostates on the other: as is in this discourse of the Apostle. Such a graphical Description and account of these things is given us in the sixth Chapter and the later part of the Tenth, as cannot but greatly affect the minds of all who are spiritually enlight­ned to behold things of this nature. A blessed glass is represented unto us, wherein we may see the true image and portraiture of Belie­vers and Unbelievers, their different Ways, Actings and Ends.

In the whole there is made a most holy Revelation and Representa­tion of the Wisdom of God, of the Glory of Christ, of the mystery of Grace in the Recovery of fallen man, and the Salvation of the Church, with the future Judgement, so as that they have a greater Lustre, Light and Glory in them unto such as have the Eyes of their under­standings opened to behold spiritual things, than is in the Sun shining in [Page] its Strength and Beauty unto the Eyes of Flesh, unto which it is sweet and pleasant to behold the Light.

These are the Holy Sayings of God, the Glorious Discoveries of himself and his Grace, the Glass wherein we may behold the Glory of Christ, until we are transformed into the same image from Glory to Glory.

What in the Exposition of these things, and others of an alike nature God hath enabled me to attain unto, is left unto the Use of the Church, and the Judgement of every learned, pious, and candid Reader.

J. Owen.


THis whole Chapter is a continuation of the Digression which the Apostle had occasionally entred into, in the Eleventh Verse of the preceding Chapter. For upon the consideration of the Greatness of the Mystery, and Difficulty of the Doctrine which he designed to instruct these Hebrews in, and his fear of their Disability or Unpreparedness (at least of some) to receive it in a due manner unto their Edification, he engageth into a new Discourse, filled up with Reasons and Arguments to excite them unto a diligent Attendance. And this he so doth, as in the very last words of this Chapter, to return by an Artificial connexion of his Dis­course unto what he had asserted in the Tenth Verse of that foregoing.

There are Four general parts of this Chapter. (1) The Proposition of what he intended to do, or discourse concerning; with an opposition thereunto of what was by him to be omitted: v. 1, 2, 3. (2) An Excitation of the Hebrews unto singular diligence in at­tending unto the most perfect Doctrines of Christianity, and making a progress in the Knowledge of Christ. And this he doth from the consideration of the greatness of the Sin, and inevitableness of the Destruction of Apostates. For this sort of Persons do commonly arise from among such, as having received the Truth, and made a Profession thereof, do not diligently endeavour a Progress towards Perfection, according to their Duty. V. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. (3) A Lenifying of the severity of this Commination in respect of its Application unto these Hebrews. For he expresseth his hope that it did not so belong unto them, or that the Sin condemned should be found in them; or the Punishment threat­ned fall on them. But the warning it self contained in the Commination, was, as he shews, Good, Wholsome and Seasonable. And of this his Hope and Judgment con­cerning the Hebrews, he expresseth his Grounds taken from the Righteousness of God, their own Faith and Love, which he prays they may persevere in. V. 9, 10, 11, 12. (4) An Encouragement unto Faith and Perseverance, from the Example of Abraham, [Page 2] who first received the Promises; from the Nature of the Promises themselves; and their Confirmation by the Oath of God, with the Assistance we may have by our Hope in Christ. thereby. V. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. which last Discourse he issueth in the prin­cipal matter he intended to insist upon, whereunto he now returns again, having di­gressed necessarily into those Exhortations and Arguings from the first Proposals of it in the Eleventh Verse of the foregoing Chapter.

In the first part of the Chapter comprised in the three first Verses, there are three things considerable; (1) A general Proposition of the Apostles Resolution to proceed unto the more perfect Doctrines of the Gospel, as also of his passing over the first Principles of Christianity: v. 1. (2) An Amplication of this Proposition, by an Annumeration of those Doctrines which he thought meet at present to pass by the handling of: v. 1, 2. (3) A Renovation of his Resolution to pursue his Proposition, with a Submission to the Will and good Pleasure of God, as to the Execution of his Purpose; the Expression whereof, the present state of these Hebrews peculiarly called him unto. V. 4.

Ver. 1.


[...]; ideo; quapropter; propterea: wherefore; [...], intermittentes, Ari. vul. Lat. Rhem. [...]. intermitting; as though the Apostle laid these things aside only for the present, with a Resolution to take them up again in this Epistle. But neither doth the word signifie any such thing, nor doth he so do. Relinquentes, Bez. leaving Syr. [...] emittamus; or de­mittamus; dismissing; properly [...], Arias; Sermonem initii Christi. Vul. inchoationis Christi; the word of the Beginning of Christ, as the Rhemists; very ob­scurely in Latin; and in our Language. Erasm. Omisso qui in Christo rudes inchoat Sermone. The word that entreth those that are unskilful, or Beginners in Christ. So also Beza. We; The Principles of the Doctrine of Christ. Syr: The Beginning of the word of Christ; For, the word of the Beginning of Christ. The word of; or that which concerns the Principles of the Doctrine of Christ; [...], feramur, Let us be car­ried on. Syr. [...] let us come to; Arab. let us lift up our selves. Rhem. let us proceed. Ours, let us go on to Perfection.

Wherefore leaving the Doctrine of the Beginning of Christ, let us be carried on to Perfection.
Ver. 1.

[...]; Wherefore. This Illative manifests that there is a Dependance in what ensues, on what was discoursed of before. That which follows, may be either an Inference from it, or be the Effect of a Resolution occasioned by it. Wherefore; that is, either this Duty will hence follow; or seeing it is so, I am thus resolved to do. And this Connexion is variously apprehended on the account of the Ambiguity of the Expression in the Plural Number and first Person. [...] we leaving, let us go on. For in this kind of Expression there is a Rhetorical Communication. And the Apostle either assumes the Hebrews unto himself, as to his work, or joins himself with them as to their Duty. For if the words be taken the first way, they declare his Resolution in Teaching; if in the latter, their Duty in Learning. And if we take the words in the first way, as expressing the Apostles Resolution as to his own Work, the Inference seems to have an immediate dependance on the Twelfth Verse of the preceding Chapter, passing by the Discourse of the following Verses as a Digression to be as it were included in a Parenthesis. Of whom we have many things to say and hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull in hearing; I shall there­fore for your future Instruction, leave the Principles of the Doctrine of Christ, and go on unto more sublime mysteries, or the Wisdom that we speak among them that are Perfect. For although he had blamed them for their dulness and backwardness in Learning, yet he doth not declare them, at least not all of them, to be such as were uncapable of these myste­ries, so as that he ought not to communicate them unto them. This is the meaning of the words, if the Apostle assume the Hebrews unto himself, and if it be his work that is intended.

Secondly, If in the latter way the Apostle join himself unto the Hebrews, and it is their Duty which is intended, namely, that they should not always dwell on the first Prin­ciples or Lessons of Christianity, but press on unto Perfection, then (1) This Illative [...] seems to have respect unto the Time in the first Place, which these Hebrews had enjoyed under the means of growth in the Knowledge of Christ; on the account whereof he affirms that [Page 3] it might be justly expected concerning them, that they should be Teachers of others. Therefore, saith he, or on the consideration hereof, it is just and equal that you should go on towards Perfection; which that they would do, he expresseth his Hopes concerning them, v. 9. (2) It respects also that Negligence and Sloth, and backwardness to learn, which he had reproved in them. As if he had said, Seeing therefore you have hitherto been so careless in the Improvement of the means which you have enjoyed, which hath been no small Fault or Evil in you, but that which hath tended greatly to your disad­vantage, now at last stir up your selves unto your Duty, and go on to Perfection.

We need not precisely to determine this Connexion, so as to Exclude either Intention. Yea it may be the Apostle having respect unto the preceding Discourse, and considering thereon both the present condition of the Hebrews, as also the necessity that there was of in­structing them in the mystery of the Priesthood of Christ, without the Knowledge whereof they could not be freed from their entanglements unto the Aaronical Priesthood and Ceremo­nies which were yet in Use and Exercise among them, doth intend in this Inference from thence, both his own Duty and theirs; that he should proceed unto their farther Instruction, and that they should stir up themselves to learn and profit accordingly. This the Duty of his Office and Care of them, and this their Advantage and Edification required. For this alone was the great means and expedient to bring them off in a due manner and upon right grounds, from that compliance with Judaisme, which God would now no longer con­nive at, nor tolerate the practice of, as that which was inconsistent with the Nature and Design of the Gospel. And it is apparent that before the writing of this Epistle, they were not sufficiently convinced that there was an absolute End put unto all Mosaical In­stitutions. For notwithstanding their Profession of the Gospel, they still thought it their Duty to abide in the Observation of them. But now the Apostle designs their Instruction in that mystery, which particularly evinceth their Inconsistency with Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and Obedience unto him.

[...], Omittentes, relinquentes; we, leaving; [...] is sometimes dimitto, to dismiss, [...]. to discharge, or let go, sometimes omitto, missum facio, to omit; to pass by; And it is used with respect unto Speech of things that have been already mentioned, [...], in Lucian; omitting these Discourses; laying aside farther Speech concerning these things. So is it here used by our Apostle. But the signification of the word is to be limited unto the present occasion. For consider the things here spoken of absolutely, and they are never to be left either by Teachers or Hearers. There is a Necessity that Teachers should often insist on the Rudiments, or first Principles of Religion. And this not only with respect unto them who are continually to be trained up in Knowledge from their Infancy, or unto such as may be newly converted; but also they are occasionally to be inculcated on the minds of those who have made a farther Progress in Knowledge. And this course we find our Apostle to have steered in all his Epistles. Nor are any Hearers so to leave these Principles, as to forget them, or not duely to make use of them. Cast aside a constant regard unto them in their proper Place, and no Progress can be made in Knowledge, no more than a Building can be carried on, when the Foundation is ta­ken away. But respect is had on both sides, unto the present Occasion. Let us not always dwell upon the Teaching and Learning of these things, but omitting them for a Season, as things that you are, or might be well acquainted withall, let us proceed unto what is farther necessary for you.

It is the Duty of Ministers of the Gospel to take care not only that their Doctrine they Preach Obs. 1. be true, but also that it be seasonable with respect unto the State and Condition of their Hearers. Herein consists no small part of that Wisdom which is required in the Dispensation of the word. Truths unseasonable, are like Showers in Harvest. It is a word spoken in Sea­son, that is Beautiful and Useful. Prov. 25. 11. Yea, every thing is beautiful in its own Time, and not else. Ecclesiast. 3. 11. And two things are especially to be considered by him who would order his Doctrine aright, that his words may be fit, meet, and season­able. First the Condition of his Hearers, as to their present Knowledge and Capacity. Suppose them to be persons as the Apostle speaks, of full Age, such as can receive and digest strong meat, that have already attained some good Acquaintance with the mysteries of the Gospel. In Preaching unto such an Auditory, if men through want of Ability to do otherwise, or want of Wisdom to know when they ought to do otherwise, shall constantly treat of first Principles, or things common and obvious, it will not only be unuseful unto their Edification, but also at length make them weary of the Ordinance it self. And there will be no better Effect on the other side, where the Hearers being mostly [Page 4] weak, the more abstruse mysteries of Truth are insisted on, without a prudent accommo­dation of matters suited unto their capacity. It is therefore the Duty of Stewards in the House of God, to give unto his Houshold their proper Portion. This is the blessed Advice our Apostle gives to Timothy. 2 Tim. 2. 15. Study to shew thy self approved unto God, a Work-man that needeth not to be ashamed, [...], rightly cutting out the word of Truth. This is that whereby a Minister may evince himself to be a Work-man that needeth not to be ashamed. If as when the Beasts that were Sacrificed being cut into Pieces, the Priest according to the Law, disposed of the Parts of it unto the Altar, himself, and him that brought it, that each in the Division might have his proper and Legal Portion; so he give out a due and proper part unto his Hearers, he is an approved Work-man. Others cast all things into Confusion and Disorder, which will at length redound unto their own shame. Now whereas in all Churches, Audito­ries, or Congregations, there is so great a variety of Hearers with respect unto their pre­sent Attainments, Knowledge and Capacities, so that it is impossible that any one should always, or indeed very frequently accommodate his matter and way of Instruction to them all; it were greatly to be desired that there might be, as there was in the Primitive Church, a Distribution made of Hearers, into several Orders or Ranks, according as their Age, or means of Knowledge do sort them, that so the Edification of all might be distinctly provided for. So would it be, if it were the work of some separately to Instruct those who yet stand in need to be taught the first Principles of the Oracles of God; and of others to build up towards Perfection those who have already made some Progress in the Knowledge of the Gospel; or the same work may be done by the same persons at several Seasons. Nor doth any thing hinder, but that those who are strong, may be occasionally present at the Instructions of the weak; and the latter at the Teach­ings of the former, both to their great Advantage. In the mean time, until this can be attained, it is the Duty and Wisdom of a Minister, to apply himself in the Doctrine he Preacheth, and the manner of his Delivery, unto the more general State of his Hearers, as by him it is apprehended or known. And as it will be a trouble unto him who esteems it his Duty to go forward in the Declaration of the mysteries of the Gospel, to fear that many stay behind, as being unable to receive and digest the Food he hath provided; so it should be a shame to them, who can make no Provision but of things trite, ordinary and common, when many perhaps among their Hearers, are capable of feeding on better or more solid Provision. Again, (2) The Circumstances of the present Time are duely to be considered by them who would Preach Doctrine that should be Seasonable unto their Hearers. And these are many, not here to be particularly insisted on. But those espe­cially of known publick Temptations, of prevalent Errors, and Heresies, of especial Oppo­sition and hatred unto any important Truths, are always to be regarded. For I could easily manifest that the Apostle in his Epistles, hath continually an especial respect unto them all. Neither was a due consideration hereof ever more necessary, than it is in the Dayes wherein we live. And other things may be added of the like Nature unto this purpose.

Again; Some important Doctrines of Truth may in the Preaching of the Gospel, be omitted for a Season; but none must ever be forgotten or neglected. So deals the Apostle in this Place, and Light hath been sufficiently given us hereinto, by what hath already been discoursed.

2. That which is passed over here, he calls, [...] Sermonem de Christo initiantem. Sermo exordij Christi. Sermo quo instituuntur rudes in Christo. We say, [...]. the Principles of the Doctrine of Christ; I fear somewhat improperly. For the Principles of the Doctrine of Christ indefinitely, must include all, at least the most principal of those which are so: [...] the word; that is, the Word Preached. So [...] is fre­quently used. 1 Cor. 1. 18. And the Name Christ, is not taken here Personally, neither efficiently, as though, of Christ, should be whereof Christ is the Author, nor Objectively concerning Christ; but it is taken Metonymically for the Doctrine of the Gospel, and the Profession of that Religion which was taught by him. So that the word of Christ is no more but the Doctrine of the Gospel as Preached and Taught. [...] containeth a Limitation of this Doctrine with respect unto some parts of it. That is, those which men usually and ordinarily were first instructed in; and which from their own Nature it was necessary that so they should be. These are here called the word of the Beginning of Christ. And what these Doctrines are, the Apostle declares particularly in the End of this Verse, and in the next, where we shall enquire into them. They are the same with the first Principles of the Oracles of God, whereof mention was made before. Having [Page 5] declared what for the present he would omit and pass by, although there was some ap­pearance of a necessity to the contrary, the Apostle expresseth what his present design in general was, and what was the End which therein he aimed at. Now this was that, not being retarded by the Repetition or Reinculcation of the things which he would there­fore omit, they might, he in Teaching, they in Learning, go on to Perfection. And two things must be considered. (1) The End intended; (2) The manner of pressing to­wards it.

The End is [...], Perfection. That is, such a knowledge of the mysterious and [...]. sublime Doctrines of the Gospel, as those who were compleatly initiated, and throughly instructed, were partakers of. Of this he says [...], 1 Cor. 2. 6. we speak wisdom among the Perfect; or declare the deep mysteries of the Gospel, the Wisdom of God in a mystery, unto them that are capable of them. It is then a Per­fection that the Apostle aims at; but such as comes under a double Limitation. (1) From the Nature of the thing its self. It is only an intellectual Perfection, a Perfection of the mind, in Knowledge, that is intended. And this may be where there is not a moral, gracious, sinless Perfection. Yea men may have great Light in their Minds, whilst their Wills and Affections are very much depraved, and their Lives unreformed. (2) It is a Comparative, and not an absolute Perfection. An absolute Perfection in the Comprehen­sion of the whole mystery of God in Christ, is not by us attainable in this Life. The Apostle denies it concerning himself, Phil. 3. 12. But such a degree and measure as God is pleased to Communicate to Believers in the ordinary use of means, is that which is intended. See Ephes. 4. 12, 13. Take therefore the Perfection here aimed at, objectively, and it is, the more sublime mysteries of the Gospel which it expresseth; take it subjective­ly, it is such a clear Perception of them, especially of those which concern the Person and Offices of Christ, and particularly his Priesthood, as grown Believers do usually at­tain unto.

The manner of arriving at this End, he expresseth by [...], and in this word is [...] the Rhetorical Communication mentioned. For either he ascribes that unto himself with them, which belonged only unto them; or that unto them which belonged only unto him; or what belonged unto them both, but in a different way; namely, unto him in Teaching, unto them in Learning. Let us be carried on. The word is emphatical, inti­mating such a kind of progress as a Ship makes when it is under Sail. Let us be carried on; that is with the full bent of our Minds and Affections, with the utmost Endeavours of our whole Souls. We have abode long enough by the Shore; let us now hoist our Sails and launch forth into the Deep. And we may hence learn:

(1) That it is a necessary Duty of the Dispensers of the Gospel, to excite their Hearers, by all pressing Considerations, to make a Progress in the Knowledge of the Truth. Thus dealeth our Apostle with these Hebrews. He would not have them always stand at the Porch, but enter into the Sanctuary, and behold the hidden Glories of the House of God. Else­where he complains of them who are always Learning, that is in the way of it, under the means of it, but yet by reason of their negligence and carelesness in the Application of their minds unto them, do never come [...], 2 Tim. 3. 4. to a clear Knowledge, and acknowledgment of the Truth. And in the same Spirit he com­plains of his Corinthians, for their want of Proficiency in spiritual things, so that he was forced in his dealing with them to dwell still on the Rudiments of Religion. 1 Cor. 3. 1, 2. In all his Epistles he is continually as it were pressing this on the Churches, that they should labour to grow in Grace, and in the Knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and that they might do so, was the principal matter of his Prayers for them. Ephes. 3. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. Chap. 1. 16, 17, 18, 19. Col. 2. 1, 2. And they are utter Strangers to his Spirit and Example who are careless in this matter, especially such as perswade and even compel others so to be. Wherefore this Duty is necessary unto Dispensers of the Gospel on sundry Accounts.

1. Because their Hearers do greatly need the Exercise of it. They are apt to be slothful and weary; many begin to run well, but are quickly ready to faint. There is no rec­koning up the occasions hereof, they are so many and various. Weariness of the Flesh, self-conceit of having attained what is sufficient, perhaps more than others, curiosity and itching ears, in attending unto Novelties, dislike of that Holiness and Fruitfulness of Life, with which an increase of Knowledge openly tends unto; mispending on the one hand, or Covetousness of time for the Occasions of Life on the other; any prevailing Corrup­tion of Mind or Affections; the Difficulty that is in coming to the Knowledge of the Truth in a due manner, making the Sluggard cry there is a Lion in the Streets, with other [Page 6] things innumerable, are ready, and able to retard, hinder and discourage men in their progress. And if there be none to excite, warn and admonish them, to discover the variety of the Pretences whereby men in this matter deceive themselves, to lay open the Snares and Dangers which hereby they cast themselves into, to mind them of the Excel­lency of the things of the Gospel and the Knowledge of them, which are proposed be­fore them, it cannot be but that by these means, their spiritual Condition will be preju­diced, if not their Souls ruined. Yea sometimes men are so captivated under the power of these Temptations and Seductions, and are furnished with such Pleas in the Defence of their own Sloth and Negligence, as that they must be dealt wisely and gently withal in Admonitions concerning them, lest they be provoked, or discouraged. Hence our Apostle having dealt Effectually with these Hebrews about these things, shuts up his Dis­course with that blessed Expression of Love and Condescension towards them; Chap. 13. 22. I beseech you Brethren, suffer the word of Exhortation, [...]. So bear with it, as that which however it may be contrary to your present Inclinations, yet proceeds out of tender Love to your Souls, and hath no other End, but your spiritual Advantage. Neither ought this to abate herein the Endeavours of Faithful Ministers, but only give them far­ther occasion to stir up and exercise their Prudence and Diligence.

2. The Advantages which Professors have by a Progress in the Knowledge of spiritual things, makes it a necessary Duty, to stir them up, and lead them on therein, unto them who are obliged in all things to watch for the good of their Souls. And these Advan­tages also present themselves in so much variety, that they cannot be here recounted. Mention may be made of some few in a way of Instance. As (1) Hereon in a way of an Effectual means, depends the security of men from seduction into Heresies, noisome and noxious Errors. Of what sort are they whom we see seduced every day? Are they not persons who either are bruitishly ignorant of the very Nature of Christian Religion, and the first Principles of it, with which sort the Papists fill the Rolls of their Converts; or such as having obtained a little superficiary Knowledge, and Confidence therein, without ever laying a firm foundation, or carrying on an orderly superstruction thereon in Wisdom and Obedience; which sort of men fill up the Assemblies of the Quakers. The Foun­dation of God standeth sure at all times, God knoweth who are his; and he will so pre­serve his Elect, as to render their total seduction impossible. But in an ordinary way, it will be very difficult in such a time as this wherein Seducers abound, false Doctrines are divulged, and speciously obtruded, wherein there are so many Wolves abroad in Sheeps cloathing, and so great an opposition is on all hands made to the Truth of the Gospel, for any to hold out firm and unshaken unto the End, if their minds be not inlaid and fortified with a sound well grounded Knowledge of the mysteries of the Gospel. It is the Teaching of the Spirit, the Unction of the Holy One, whereby we know all necessary Truths, that must preserve us in such a Season. 1 Joh. 2. 27. (2) Proportionable unto our growth in Knowledge, will be our encrease in Holiness and Obedience. If this at any time fall out otherwise, it is from the sins and wickedness of the persons in whom it is; in the Nature of the things themselves, they thus depend on one another. See Ephes. 4. 21, 22, 23, 24. Rom. 12. 2. That Ignorance is the Mother of Devotion, is a Maxime that came from Hell to fetch the Souls of men, and carried back multi­tudes with it, where let it abide. Now the reason why the Improvement of Know­ledge, doth tend unto the Improvement of Holiness and Obedience, is because Faith acts its self on Christ only in and by the things which we know, where­by spiritual strength is derived unto us, and we are enabled unto them. (3) Use­fulness in the Church, unto our Families, and amongst all men depends hereon. This needs no other Confirmation than what the Experience of every man will suggest unto him. And if I should design to go over but the principal Advantages which we attain, or may do so, in the growth of spiritual Light and Knowledge, there is not any thing wherein our Faith or Obedience is concerned, nothing that belongs unto our Graces, Duties, or Communion with God, in them or by them, nothing wherein we are con­cerned in Temptations, Afflictions or Consolation, but might justly be called in to give Testimony thereunto. If therefore the Ministers of the Gospel have any Care for, or any Love unto the Souls of their Hearers; if they understand any thing of the Nature, of the Office and Work which they have taken on themselves, or the Account they must one day give of the Discharge of it, they cannot but esteem it among the most necessary Duties incumbent on them, to Excite, Provoke, Perswade, and carry on those who are under their Charge, towards the Perfection before described.

[Page 7] There is therefore nothing in the whole Combination against Christ and the Gospel which is found in the Papacy, of a more pernicious Nature and Tendency, than is the Design of keeping the People in Ignorance. So far are they from promoting the Know­ledge of Christ in the Members of their Communion, as that they endeavour by all means to obstruct it. For not to mention their numerous Errors and Heresies, every one whereof is a diversion from the Truth, and an hindrance from coming to an Acquaintance with it, they do directly keep from them the use of those means whereby alone its Know­ledge may be attained. What else means their Prohibition of the People from reading the Scripture in a Language they understand? The most expeditious Course for the rendring of all Streams unuseful, is by stopping of the Fountain. And whereas all means of the increase of Knowledge are but Emanations from the Scripture, the Prohibition of the use thereof doth effectually evacuate them all. Was this spirit in our Apostle? Had he this Design? It is evident to all how openly and frequently he expresseth himself to the con­trary. And to his Example ought we to conform our selves. Whatever other occasion of writing he had, the principal subject of his Epistles, is constantly the increase of Light and Knowledge in the Churches, which he knew to be so necessary for them. We may therefore add,

2. The Case of that People is deplorable and dangerous, whose Teachers are not able to carry them on, in the knowledge of the mysteries of the Gospel. The Key of Knowledge may be taken away by Ignorance as well as Malice. And so it is with many. And when Know­ledge is perished from their Lips who should preserve it, the People must perish for want of that Knowledge. Hos. 4. 6. Math. 15. 14.

3. In our Progress towards an increase in Knowledge, we ought to go on with Diligence and the full bent of our Wills and Affections. I intend hereby to express the sense of [...]. It is of a passive signification denoting the Effect; Let us be acied, carried on; but it in­cludes the active use of means for the producing that Effect. And the Duties on our part intended may be reduced unto these Heads.

(1) Diligence in an Application unto the use of the best means for this End. Hos. 6. 7. Those that would be carried on towards Perfection, must not be careless, or regardless of opportunities of Instruction, nor be detained from them by Sloth or Vanity, nor di­verted by the businesses and occasions of this world. Both industry in their pursuit, and choice in the preferring of them before secular Advantages and Avocations, are required hereunto.

(2) Intention of mind in the attending unto them. Such persons are neither to be care­less of them, nor careless under them. There are who will take no small pains to enjoy the means of Instruction, and will scarce miss an opportunity, that they can reach unto. But when they have so done, there they sit down and rest. It is a shame to consider how little they stir up their minds and understandings, to conceive aright, and apprehend the things wherein they are instructed. So do they continue to hear from day to day, and from year to year, but are not carried on one step towards Perfection. If both heart and head be not set at work, and the utmost Endeavours of our minds improved, in searching, weighing, pondering, learning, treasuring up the Truths that we are taught by any means of Divine Appointment, we shall never make the Progress intended.

(3) There is required hereunto, that our Wills and Affections be sincerely inclined un­to, and fixed on the things themselves that we are Taught. These are the principal wings or sails of our Souls, whereby we are or may be carried on in our Voyage. Without this all that we do will amount to nothing, or that which is no better. To love the Truth, the things proposed unto us in the Doctrine of it, to delight in them, to find a goodness, desirableness, excellency, and suitableness unto the condition of our Souls in them, and therefore to adhere and cleave unto them, is that which will make us prosper in our Pro­gress. He that knows but a little and loves much, will quickly know and love more. And he that hath much Knowledge but little Love, will find that he labours in the Fire, for the increase of the one or other. When in the diligent use of means, our Wills and Affections do adhere and cleave with Delight unto the things wherein we are instructed, then are we in our right course; then if the Holy Gales of the Spirit of God do breath on us, are we in a blessed tendency towards Perfection. 2 Thes. 2. 10.

(4) The diligent practice of what we know is no less necessary unto the Duty pressed on us. This is the next and immediate End of all Teaching and all Learning. This is that which renders our Knowledge our Happiness. If you know these things, happy are ye if you do them. Doing what we know is the great Key to give us an Entrance into knowing what we do not. If we do the will of Christ, we shall know of his word, Joh. 7. 17.

[Page 8] And (5) all these are to be managed, with a certain design, and prospect toward this End of growing in Grace and Knowledge, and that until we arrive at the measure of our Perfection appointed unto us in Jesus Christ. In these ways and by these means, we may attain the Effect directly expressed of being carried on in the increase of spiritual Light and Knowledge, and not without them.

Verse 1, 2.

In the remainder of the first Verse and the next that follows, the Apostle declares in particular Instances, what were the things and Doctrines, which he called in general be­fore the Beginning of the Doctrine of Christ, whose farther handling he thought meet at present to omit.


The Syriack Translation proposeth these words in the way of an Interrogation, Will you again lay another Foundation? And the Aethiopick, omitting the first Clause; in the way of a Precept; Attend therefore again to the Foundation that you dispute not concerning Repen­tance from dead works, in the Faith of God. But neither the Text nor Scope of the Apo­stle will bear either of these Interpretations.

[...], Syr. [...] an numquid rursum; or whether again; All others; non rursum, non iterum; Arab: nec amplius, not again; not any more. [...], Syr. [...] will you lay another Foundation; that term of Another, is both needless because of Again that went before, and corrupts the sense, as though a Foundation different from what was formerly laid, were intended. Besides that is made an Expostulation with the Hebrews, which is indeed expressive of the Apo­stles Intention, fundamentum jacientes; laying the Foundation. [...], Syr: unto Repentance from dead works; and so in all the following Instances. There is no difference among Translators about the rest of the words. Only the Aethio­pick, reads Baptism in the singular number, as the Syriack doth, and placeth Doctrine distinctly by way of Apposition. Baptism, Doctrine, and the Imposition of hands. [...] the Syriack renders by an Hebraisme [...] the Resurrection that is from the House of the dead; that is the Grave, the common dwelling place of the dead; as also [...] by [...] the Judgement which is for ever; the Sentence whereof is eternally irrevocable, and whose Execution endures always.

Not laying again the foundation of Repentance from dead works▪ and of Faith towards God, of Baptisms, Doctrine, and the laying on of hands, of the Resurrection of the Dead, and Ver. 1, 2. Eternal Judgement.

There are two things in these words added concerning the Doctrine of the Principles of Christ, or the first Doctrines of Christianity. (1) Their general Nature with respect to the whole Truth of the Gospel, metaphorically expressed; They are the Foundation. (2) Their Nature in particular is declared in sundry Instances; not that all of them are mentioned, but these Instances are chosen out to shew of what kind they were. In the first two things are proposed, (1) The expression of the thing it self intended, which is the Foundation. (2) The Apostles design with respect unto it, not laying it again.

[...] is as was said in this matter Metaphori­cal; including an allusion unto an Architect, and his Building. First he lays the Foun­dation; [...]. and he is a most foolish Builder who either doth not so, or who rests therein, or who is always setting it up and pulling it down, without making a Pro­gress. Indeed that Foundation which is all the Building, which hath not an Edifice erected on it, is no Foundation; for that which is materially so, becomes so formally only with respect unto the Building upon it. And those who receive the Doctrines of Christ here called the Foundation, if they build not on them, they will prove none unto them whatever they are in themselves.

There are two properties of a Foundation. (1) That it is that which is first laid in every Building. This the natural order of every Building requires. (2) It is that which bears the whole weight of the superstructure; the whole and all the parts of it being laid [Page 9] upon it, and firmly united unto it. With respect unto the one or other of these pro­perties, or both, are the Doctrines intended called the Foundation. But in the latter sense they cannot be so. It is Christ himself, and he only, who is so the Foundation as to bear the weight, and to support the whole Building of the Church of God. Isa. 28. 16. Math. 16. 18. 1 Cor. 3. 10, 11. Ephes. 1. 20, 21, 22. 1 Pet. 2. 4, 5. He is so Personally; the Life and Being of the Church consisting in its spiritual Union unto his person; 1 Cor. 12. 12. and Doctrinally, in that all Truth is resolved into what is taught concerning him. 1 Cor. 3. 10, 11, 12, 13. Wherefore it is in allusion unto a Foundation with respect un­to its first Property, namely, that it is first laid in the Building, that these Doctrines are called the Foundation. So the Jews term the general principles of their Profession [...] the Foundations of the Law; or the principal Doctrines taught therein. The first Doctrines which are necessary to be received and professed at mens first entrance into Christianity. And the Apostle intends the same things by the threefold expression which he maketh use of. (1) [...], Chap. 5. 12. The first Princi­ples of the Oracles of God. (2) [...], Chap. 6. 1. and (3) [...] the Beginning of the Doctrine of Christ, and the Foundation.

Concerning these things he says, [...], not laying it again. His saying that he would not lay it again, doth not infer that he himself had laid it before [...]. amongst them, but only, that it was so laid before by some or other For it was not by him that they received their first Instruction, nor doth he mention any such thing in the whole Epistle. Whereas he frequently pleads it unto those Churches which were planted by himself. 1 Cor. 3. 5, 6, 10. Chap. 4. 15. And it is known from the Story that his Ministry was not used in their first Conversion. But he knew that they had faithful In­structors, who would not leave them unacquainted with these necessary things, and that they would not have been initiated by Baptism, nor admitted into the Church without a Profession of them. Besides they were such, as in general they owned in their former Church State. He might therefore well say, that he would not lay this Foundation again. These things, saith he, you have already been instructed in by others, and therefore I will not, (as also on other considerations) go over them again. Wherefore, Let the Hearers of the Gospel carefully look to it, that they learn those things whereof they have had sufficient Instruction; for if any Evil ensue from their Ignorance of them, they must themselves answer for it. Such Ignorance is their sin, as well as their disadvantage. Preachers may take it for granted, that what they have sedulously and sufficiently instru­cted their Hearers in, they have also received and learned, because it is through their sinful Negligence if they have not so done. And they are not bound always to wait on some in their Negligences to the disadvantage of others.

Secondly, The Apostle declares in particular what were those Doctrinal Principles which he had in general so described, which were taught unto them who were first ini­tiated into Christianity, and which he will not now again insist upon. Repentance from dead works, &c.

We must first consider the Order of these words, and then their sense, or the things themselves intended. Some here reckon up six Principles, some make them seven, some but four, and by some they are reduced unto three.

The two first are plain and distinct. Repentance from dead works, and Faith towards God. The next that follow are disputed as to their coherence and sense. (1) [...], some read these words with a note of distinction be­tween them, [...], both the Genitive Cases being regulated by [...]; The foundation of Baptisms, and of Doctrine, which are put together by Apposition, not depending one upon another. [...] is the Preaching of the word. And this was one of the first things wherein Believers were to be instructed, namely, that they were to abide [...], Acts 2. 42. in a constant attendance unto the Doctrine of the Gospel, when preached unto them. And as I shall not assert this Exposition, so I dare not positively reject it, as not seeing any reason cogent to that purpose. But another sense is more probable.

Take the words in conjunction, so as that one of them should depend on, and be re­gulated by the other, and then (1) we may consider them in their order as they lye in the Original. [...]. supposing the first to be regula­ted by [...], and both the latter by it. The Baptisms of Doctrine and imposition of hands. There were two things peculiar to the Gospel, the Doctrine of it, and the extraordinary Gifts of the Holy Ghost. Doctrine is compared to, and called Baptism. Deut. 32. 2. Hence the People were said to be Baptized unto Moses, when they were ini­tiated [Page 10] into his Doctrines. 1 Cor. 10. 1, 2. The Baptism of John was his Doctrine; Acts 19. 3. And the Baptism of Christ was the Doctrine of Christ, wherewith he was to sprinkle many Nations. Isa. 52. 15. This is the first Baptism of the Gospel, even its Doctrine. The other was the Communication of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. Acts 1. 5. That this and this alone is intended by the laying on of hands, I shall prove fully after­wards. And then the sense would be the foundation of Gospel Baptisms, namely, Preach­ing and the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. And I know but one Argument against this sense, namely, that it is new and singular. To avoid this, Secondly, The order of-the words must be inverted in their Exposition. Not the Baptisms of Doctrine, but the Doctrine of Baptisms must be intended. But then two things must be observed. (1) That [...], Baptisms, is not immediately regulated by [...] the foundation; and so Bap­tisms are not asserted absolutely to be a Foundation, as is Repentance from dead works, but only the Doctrine about it is so. (2) It cannot be readily conceived why [...] Do­ctrine, should be prefixed unto Baptisms alone, and not to Repentance and Faith, the Doctrines whereof also are intended. For it is not the Grace of Repentance and Faith, but the Do­ctrine concerning them which the Apostle hath respect unto. There is therefore some pecu­liar reason why Doctrine should be thus peculiarly prefixed unto Baptisms and the laying on of hands, and not to the other things mentioned. For that Imposition of hands is placed in the same order with Baptisms, the conjunctive Particle doth manifest [...], The following Instances are plain, only some would reduce them unto one Principle; namely, the Resurrection of All unto Judgement.

There is therefore in these words, nothing peculiar, nor difficult, but only whatcon­cerns Baptisms, and the Imposition of hands, the Doctrine whereof is specified. Now I cannot discover any just reason hereof, unless it be, that by Baptisms, and the Imposition of hands, the Apostle intendeth none of those Rudiments of Christian Religion wherein men were to be first instructed, but those Rites whereof they were made Partakers who were so instructed. As if the Apostle had said, These Principles of the Doctrine of Christ, namely, Repentance, Faith, the Resurrection and Judgement, are those Doctrines where­in they are to be instructed, who are to be Baptized, and to have hands laid on them. According to this sense, the words are to be read as in a Parenthesis. Not laying again the Foundation of Repentance from dead works, and of Faith towards God, (namely, the Doctrine of Baptismes, and of the Imposition of hands) of the Resurrection from the Dead, and Eternal Judgement. When men began to attend unto the Gospel, and thereon to give up their Names to the Church, there were certain Doctrines that they were throughly to be instructed in, before they were admitted unto Baptism; see Gal. 6. 6. These being the Catechetical Rudiments of Christian Religion, are called here [...], or the Doctrines that were to be taught in order unto the Administration of those Rites.

Taking this for the design of the Apostle in the words, as is most probable, there are four Instances given of those principal Rudiments of Christian Religion, wherein all men were to be instructed before they were admitted unto Baptism, who came thereunto in their own personal Right, having not been made Partakers thereof by their Covenant Right through the Profession of their Parents in their Infancy. These were persons to be fully instructed in before their solemn Initiation; the Doctrine concerning them being thence called the Doctrine of Baptisms and of the Imposition of hands, because previously necessary unto the Administration of these Rites. There is a difficulty I confess that this Exposition is pressed with, from the use of the word in the Plural number, [...] of Baptisms; but this equally concerns all other Expositions, and shall be spoken unto in its proper place. And this I take to be the sense of the words, which the design of the place and manner of expression lead us unto. But yet because sundry Learned Men are otherwise minded, I shall so explain the words, as that their meaning may be apprehen­ded, supposing distinct heads of Doctrine to be contained in them.

Our next work is to consider the particular Instances in their order. And the first is [...]. Repentance from dead works. This was taught in the first place unto all those who would give up themselves to the Discipline of Christ and the [...] Gospel. And in the Teaching hereof, both the Nature and Necessity of the Duty were regarded. And in the Nature of it two things were declared, and are to be considered. (1) What were dead works; and (2) what is Repentance from them.

This expression of dead works, is peculiar unto our Apostle, and unto this Epistle. It [...]. is no where used but in this place, and Chap. 9. 14. And he useth it in Answer unto what he elsewhere declares, concerning mens being dead in Sin by Nature. Ephes. 2. 1, 5. [Page 11] Col. 2. 13. That which he there ascribes unto their persons, here he attributeth unto their works. These Peter calls mens old Sins; namely, which they lived in before their Con­version: 2 Pet. 1. 9. [...], forgetting that he was purged from his old sins. He hath respect unto what is here intended. They were before their Initiation, instructed in the Necessity of forsaking the sins wherein they lived before their Conversion; which he calls their old or former Sins; which he hath also respect unto 1 Epist. Chap. 4. 3. For the Time past of our lives may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in Lasciviousness, Lusts, Excess of Wine, Revellings, Banquettings, and abominable Idolatries. The necessity of Repentance from these and the like sins, was taught them, and which they made Profession of before they were admit­ted unto Baptism; wherein they received a Token of their being purged from them. And a relapse into these sins, which men had openly professed their Repentance, and Relin­quishment of, was ever esteemed dangerous, and by some absolutely pernicious, whereon great Contests in the Church did ensue. For the Controversie was not whether men falling into any sin, yea any open or known sin after Baptism, might repent, which none was ever so foolishly proud as to deny: But the Question was about mens open falling again into those sins, suppose Idolatry, which they had made a publick Profession of their Repentance from, before their Baptism. And it came at last to this; not whether such men might savingly Repent, obtain Pardon of their sins and be saved; but whether the Church had Power to admit them a second time to a publick Profession of their Repen­tance of these sins, and so take them again into full Communion. For some pleaded, that the Profession of Repentance for these sins, and the Renunciation of them, being indispensably necessary antecedently unto Baptism, in them that were adult; the obliga­tion not to live in them at all being on them who were Baptised in their Infancy, Bap­tism alone was the only Pledge the Church could give of the Remission of such sins; and therefore where men fell again into those sins, seeing Baptism was not to be repeated, they were to be left unto the mercy of God, the Church could receive them no more. But whereas the numbers were very great, of those who in time of Persecution fell back into Idolatry, who yet afterwards returned and professed their Repentance, the major part, who always are for the many, agreed that they were to be received, and reflected with no small severity on those that were otherwise minded. But whereas both parties in this difference run into Extreams, the Event was pernicious on both sides, the one in the Issue losing the Truth and Peace, the other the Purity of the Church.

The sins of unregenerate persons whereof Repentance was to be expressed before Bap­tism, are called dead works, in respect of their Nature and their End. For as to their Nature they proceed from a principle under the Power of Spiritual death; they are the works of Persons dead in Trespasses and Sins. All the moral actings of such Persons with respect unto a supernatural End are dead works, being not enlivened by a vital Principle of spiritual Life. And it is necessary that a Person be spiritually living before his works will be so. Our walking in Holy Obedience is called the Life of God. Ephes. 4. 18. That is the Life which God requires, which by his especial Grace he worketh in us, whose Acts have him for their Object and their End. Where this Life is not, persons are dead, and so are their works, even all that they do with respect unto the Living God. And they are called so, 2dly, with respect unto their End; they are mortua because mor­tifera; dead because deadly; they procure death and end in death. Sin when it is finished bringeth forth Death. Jam. 1. 15. They proceed from death Spiritual, and end in death Eternal. On the same account are they called unfruitful works of Darkness. Ephes. 5. 11. They proceed from a principle of Spiritual Darkness, and end in Darkness Ever­lasting. We may therefore know what was taught them concerning these dead works; namely, their Nature and their Merit. And this includes the whole Doctrine of the Law, with Conviction of sin thereby. They were taught that they were sinners by Nature, dead in sins, and thence Children of wrath. Ephes. 2. 1, 2, 3. That in that Estate the Law of God condemned both them and their works, denouncing Death and Eternal destru­ction against them. And in this sense with respect unto the Law of God, these dead works do comprise their whole course in this world, as they did, their best as well as their worst. But yet there is no doubt an especial respect unto those great outward Enormities which they lived in during their Judaisme, even after the manner of the Gentiles. For such the Apostle Peter writing unto these Hebrews describes their Conversation to have been, 1 Pet. 3. 3. as we shewed before. And from thence he describes what a blessed Deliverance they had by the Gospel. 1 Pet 1. 18, 20, 21. And when he declares the Apo­stacy of some to their former courses, he shews it to be like the returning of a Dog to his [Page 12] Vomit, after they had escaped them that live in Error, and the Pollutions that are in the world through Lust. 2 Pet. 2. 18, 19, 20, 21, 22.

These were the works which Converts were taught to abandon, and a Profession of Repentance for them was required of all before their Initiation into Christian Religion, or they were received into the Church. For it was not then as now, that any one might be admitted into the Society of the Faithful, and yet continue to live in open sins unre­pented of.

Secondly, That which is required, and which they were taught with respect unto [...]. these Dead works, is [...], Repentance. Repentance from dead works is the first thing required of them who take upon them the Profession of the Gospel, and conse­quently the first Principle of the Doctrine of Christ as it is here placed by the Apostle. Without this whatever is attempted or attained therein, is only a Dishonour to Christ, and a Disappointment unto men. This is the method of Preaching, confirmed by the Exam­ple and Command of Christ himself. Repent and believe the Gospel, Math. 4. 17. Mark 1. 15. And almost all the Sermons that we find, not only of John the Baptist in a way of preparation for the declaration of the Gospel, as Math. 3. 2. but of the Apostles also in pres­sing the actual Reception of it on the Jews and Gentiles, laid this as their first Principle, namely, the Necessity of Repentance. Acts 2. 38. Chap. 3. 19. Acts 14. 15. Thence in the Preaching of the Gospel it is said, that God Commandeth all men to repent, Acts 17. 30. And when the Gentiles had received the Gospel, the Church at Hierusalem glorified God saying, Then hath Grd also to the Gentiles granted Repentance unto Life, Acts 11. 18. Again this is expressed as the first issue of Grace and Mercy from God towards men by Jesus Christ, which is therefore first to be proposed unto them. God exalted him and made him a Prince and a Saviour to give Repentance unto Israel, Acts 5. 31. And because it is the first, it is put Synecdochically, for the whole work of Gods Grace by Christ. God having raised up his Son Jesus hath sent him to bless you, in turning every one of you from his Iniquities, Acts 3. 26. It is therefore evident that this was the first Doctrinal principle as to their own Duty which was pressed on, and fixed in the minds of men, on their first Instruction in the Gospel.

And in the Testimonies produced, both the Causes of it, and its general Nature are expressed. For (1) Its supream original Cause is the good Will, Grace, and Bounty of God. He grants, and gives it to whom he pleaseth of his own good Pleasure. Acts 11. 18. (2) It is immediately collated on the Souls of men by Jesus Christ, as a fruit of his Death, and an effect of that All Power in Heaven and Earth which was bestowed on Him by the Father. He gives Repentance to Israel; Acts 3. 31. The Soveraign disposal of it is from the Will of the Father, and the actual Collation of it, is an Effect of the Grace of the Son. And (3) the Nature of it is expressed in the Conversion of the Gentiles. It is unto Life, Acts 11. 18. The Repentance required of men in the first Preaching of the Gospel, and the Necessity whereof was pressed on them, was unto Life; that is such as had saving Conversion unto God accompanying of it. This kind of Repentance is required unto our Initiation in the Gospel state. Not an empty Profession of any kind of Repentance, but real Conversion unto God, is required of such persons.

But moreover we must consider this [...], or Repentance, in its own Nature, at least in general, that we may the better understand this first Principle of Catechetical Do­ctrine. In this sense it respects; (1) The Mind and Judgement; (2) The Will and Affections, And (3) The Life or Conversation of men.

1. It respects the Mind and Judgement, according to the Notation of the word, which signifies a Change of Mind, or an after Consideration and Judgement. Men whilst they live in dead works, under the Power of Sin, do never make a right Judgement, con­cerning either their Nature, their Guilt, or their End. Hence are they so often called to remember and consider things aright, to deal about them with the Reason of men, and for want thereof are said to be Foolish, Bruitish, Sottish, and to have no Understanding. The Mind is practically deceived about them. There are Degrees in this Deceit, but all sinners are actually more or less deceived. No men whilst the Natural Principle of Con­science remains in them, can cast off all the Convictions of sin. Rom. 2. 14, 15. That it is the Judgement of God, that those who commit such things are worthy of death. Rom. 1. 32. But yet some there are who so far despise these Convictions, as to give up themselves unto all sin with Delight and Greediness. See Ephes. 4. 17, 18, 19. Practi­cally they call Good Evil, and Evil Good; and do judge either that there is not that Evil in sin which is pretended; or however, that it is better to enjoy the Pleasures of it for a Season, than to relinguish or forego it on other Considerations. Others there are [Page 13] who have some farther sense of those Dead works. In particular they judge them Evil, but they are so intangled in them, as that they see not the Greatness of that Evil, nor do make such a Judgement concerning it, as whereon a Reliquishment of them should ne­cessarily ensue. Unto these two heads in various Degrees may all Impenitent sinners be reduced. They are such as despising their Convictions, go on in an unbridled course of Licentiousness, as not judging the Voyce, Language and Mind of them worth enquiring into; Others do in some measure attend unto them, but yet practically they refuse them, and embrace motives unto Sin, turning the Scale on that side, as Occasion, Opportuni­ties, and Temptations do occur. Wherefore the first thing in this Repentance, is a through Change of the Mind and Judgement concerning these Dead works. The Mind by the Light and Conviction of saving Truth, determines clearly and steadily, concer­ning the true Nature of Sin, and its demerit; that it is an Evil thing and bitter to have forsaken God thereby. Casting on tall Prejudices, laying aside all Pleas, Excuses, and Palliations, it finally concludes, Sin, that is, all and every Sin, every thing that hath the Nature of Sin, to be universally evil; Evil in its Self, Evil to the Sinner, Evil in its present Effects, and future Consequents, Evil in every kind, shamefully Evil, incompa­rably Evil, yea the only Evil, or all that is Evil in the world. And this Judgement it makes with respect unto the Nature and Law of God, to its own Primitive and present depraved Condition, unto present Duty, and future Judgement. This is the first thing required unto Repentance, and where this is not there is nothing of it.

2. It respects the Will and Affections. It is our Turning unto God; our turning from him being in the bent and inclination of our Wills and Affections unto Sin. The Change of the Will, or the taking away of the Will of sinning, is the principal part of Repentance. It is with respect unto our Wills that we are said to be dead in Sin, and alienated from the Life of God. And by this Change of the Will, do we become dead unto Sin. Rom. 6. 2. That is, whatever remainder of Lust or Corruption there may be in us, yet the Will of sinning is taken away. And for the Affections it works that Change in the Soul, as that quite contrary Affections shall be sub­stituted and set at work with respect unto the same Object. There are Pleasures in Sin, and also it hath its wages. With respect unto these, those that live in dead works, both delight in Sin, and have complacency in the Accomplishment of it. These are the Affe­ctions which the Soul exerciseth about Sin committed, or to be committed. Instead of them, Repentance, by which they are utterly banished, sets at work Sorrow, Grief, Abhorrency, Self detestation, Revenge, and the like Afflictive Passions of mind. No­thing stirs but they affect the Soul with respect unto Sin.

3. It respects the course of Life or Conversation. It is a Repentance from dead works, that is in the Relinquishment of them. Without this no profession of Repentance is of any worth or use. To profess a Repentance of Sin, and to live in Sin, is to mock God, deride his Law, and deceive our own Souls. This is that Change which alone doth or can evidence the other internal Changes of the Mind, Will and Affections to be real and sincere. Prov. 28. 13. Whatever without this is pretended, is false and Hypocritical; like the Repentance of Judah, not with the whole heart but feignedly. Jerem. 3. 10. [...] There was a lye in it; for their works answered not their words. Neither is there any mention of Repentance in the Scripture wherein this Change in an actual Re­linquishment of dead works is not expresly required. And hereunto three things are necessary.

(1) A full Purpose of Heart for the Relinquishment of every Sin. This is cleaving un­to the Lord with Purpose of Heart. Acts 11. 23. Psal. 14. 3. To manifest the stability and stedfastness which is required herein, David confirmed it with an Oath. Psal. 119. 106. Every thing that will either live or thrive must have a Root, on which it grows, and whence it springs. Other things may occasionally bud and put forth, but they wither immediately. And such is a Relinquishment of Sin from occasional Resolutions. Upon some smart of Conviction, from Danger, Sickness, Trouble, Fear, Affliction, there blooms in the minds of many a suddain Resolution to forsake Sin, and as suddainly for the most part it fades again. True Repentance firms a steady and unshaken resolu­tion in the Heart, which respects the forsaking of all Sin, and at all Times or Oc­casions.

(2) Constant Endeavours to actuate and fulfill this purpose. And these Endeavours respect all the Means, Causes, Occasions, Temptations, leading unto Sin, that they may be avoided, opposed, and Deliverance obtained from them; as also all means, ad­vantages, and furtherance of those Graces and Duties which are opposed to these Dead [Page 14] works that they may be improved. An Heartless unactive Purpose, is that which many take up withall and ruine their Souls by. Where therefore there is not a sedulous En­deavour by Watchfulness and Diligence, in the constant use of all means to avoid all dead works in all their concerns from their first Rise and Principle to their finishing or Consum­mation, there is no True Repentance from them.

(3) An actual Relinquishment of all sins in the course of our walking before God. And hereunto is required (1) not an absolute freedom from all Sin, for there is no man living who doth good and sinneth not. (2) No absolute and precise deliverance even from great Sins, whereinto the Soul may be surprized by the Power of Temptations. Exam­ples to the contrary abound in the Scripture. But yet such Sins, when any is overtaken with them, ought (1) to put the Sinner upon a severe enquiry whether his Repentance were sincere and saving. For where it is, usually the Soul is preserved from such Falls. 2 Pet. 1. 10. And (2) put him upon the renewing his Repentance, with the same Care, Diligence, Sorrow and Humiliation as at the first. But (1) it is required that this property of Repentance be prevalent against the common sins of the world, mens old Sins which they lived in before their Conversion. Those Sins which are expresly declared in the Gospel to be inconsistent with the Profession, Ends and Glory of it, it wholly ex­cludes. 1 Cor. 6. 9, 10. 2 Cor. 6. 16. 1 Joh. 3. 14, 15. And (2) against a course in any Sin or Sins, either spiritual or fleshly, internal or external. 1 Joh. 3. 9. Rom. 6. 2. (3) For the most part against all outward Sins in the course of our Conversation in the world, in which things our Sincerity or Perfection is exercised. And these things were necessary to be touched on, to manifest the Nature of this first Principle wherein men are to be instructed.

There is no Interest in Christ or Christian Religion to be obtained, without Repentance from Obser. Dead works; nor any orderly entrance into a Gospel Church State, without a credible Profession thereof. This was one of the first things that was preached unto Sinners, as was before declared; and without a compliance herewith they were not further to be treated with. For (1) The Lord Christ came not only to save men from their Sins, but to turn them from their Sins; to turn them from their Sins, that they may be saved from them; when he comes out of Sion as a Redeemer, a Deliverer, a Saviour, he turns away ungodliness from Jacob; that is, he turns Jacob from ungodliness, Rom. 11. 26. namely by Repentance. This was one principal End of the Birth, Life, Death, and Exaltation of Christ. His work in all these was to make Peace and Reconciliation between God and Man. Hereunto belongeth the Slaying, Destruction, or removal of the Enmity that was between them. This with respect unto God, was done by the Attonement he made, the Sacrifice he of­fered, and the Price of Redemption that he paid. 2 Cor. 5. 21. But the whole work is not hereby compleated. The Enmity on our part also must be taken away, or Reconci­liation will not be finished. Now we were Enemies in our minds by wicked works, Col. 1. 21. and thereby alienated from the Life of God, Ephes. 4. 18. The removal hereof consists in this Repentance. For that is our turning unto God, upon the Terms of Peace tendred unto us. They therefore do but deceive their own Souls, who trust unto Peace with God on the Mediation of Christ, who are not at Peace with God in their own Souls by Re­pentance; For the one is not without the other. As he who is at Peace with God on his own part by Repentance, shall never fail of Peace from God by the Attonement; for he that so lays hold on his Arm and Strength that he may have Peace shall be sure to obtain it, Isa. 27. 3. So without this whatever Notions men may have of Reconciliation with God, they will find him in the issue as devouring Fire, or Everlasting Burnings. All Doctrines, Notions, or Perswasions, that tend to alleviate the necessity of that personal Repentance which was before described, or would substitute any outward Pennance, or Corporeal, pecuniary poenal Satisfaction in the room thereof, are pernicious to the Souls of men. And there is nothing so much to be dreaded or abhorred as a pretence taken unto Sin, unto any Sin without Repentance, from the Grace or Doctrine of the Gospel. Shall we continue in Sin, saith our Apostle, that Grace may abound? God forbid. Those who do so and thereby turn the Grace of God into Lasciviousness, are among the number of them whose Damnation sleepeth not. (2) That any person living in Sin without Repentance, should have an Interest in Christ or Christian Religion, is inconsistent with the Glory of God, the Honour of Jesus Christ, and would render the Gospel, if taught therein, a Doctrine fit to be rejected by all men. For where is the Glory of the Righte­ousness or Holiness of God, if impenitent Sinners may be accepted with him? Besides that it is contrary unto the whole Declaration of himself, that he will not acquit the [Page 15] Guilty, that he will not justifie the wicked, nor accept the ungodly, it hath an absolute inconsistency with the especial Righteousness of his Nature, and which he exerciseth as the supream Rector and Judge of all, that any such persons should approach before him, or stand in his sight. Psal. 5. 4, 5, 6. Rom. 1. 32. And for the Lord Jesus Christ, it would plainly make him the Minister of Sin, the thought whereof our Apostle so detests. Gal. 2. 17. Nay a supposition hereof would make the coming of Christ, to be the greatest means of letting in, and increasing Sin on the world, that ever was since the fall of Adam. And the Gospel must then be looked on as a Doctrine meet to be abandoned by all wise and sober persons, as that which would tend unavoidably to the debauching of mankind, and the ruine of humane Society. For whereas it doth openly and avowedly propose and declare the Pardon and remission of Sin, of all sorts of Sin, to all sorts of persons that shall believe and obey it, if it did this without annexing unto its Promise, the Condition of Repentance, never was there, nor can there be so great an Encouragement unto all sorts of Sin and Wickedness. There is much to that purpose in the Doctrines of Purgatory, Pennances, and Satisfactions, whereby men are taught that they may come off from their Sins, at a cheaper rate than Eternal Ruine, without that Repentance which is necessary. But this is nothing in comparison to the mischief which the Gospel would produce if it did not require Repentance from dead works. For besides those innumerable Advan­tages that otherwise it hath to evidence it self to be from God, whereas these other pre­tences are such as wise and considering men may easily look through their daubing and see their ground of falshood, the Gospel doth certainly propose its Pardon freely without money and without price; and so on this supposition would lay the Reins absolutely free on the Neck of Sin and Wickedness, whereas those other Fancies are burdened and charged with such inconveniencies, as may lay some Curb upon them in easie and carnal minds. Wherefore, I say, on such a false and cursed supposition it would be the Interest of wise and sober men, to oppose and reject the Gospel, as the most effectual means of overflowing the world with Sin and Ungodliness. But it doth not more fully condemn Idolatry, or that the Devil is to be worshipped, than it doth any such Notion or Appre­hension. It cannot be denied but that some men may, and it is justly to be feared that some men do abuse the Doctrine of the Gospel to countenance themselves in a vain ex­pectation of Mercy and Pardon, whilst they willingly live in a course of Sin. But as this in their management is the principal means of their Ruine, so in the Righteous Judge­ment of God it will be the greatest Aggravation of their Condemnation. And whereas some have charged the Preachers of Gospel Grace, as those who thereby give Countenance unto this presumption, it is an Accusation that hath more of the hatred of Grace in it, than of the Love of Holiness. For none do, nor can press the Relinquishment of Sin, and Repentance of it, upon such assured grounds and with such cogent arguments, as those by whom the Grace of Jesus Christ in the Gospel is fully opened and de­clared.

From what hath been discoursed, we may enquire after our own Interest in this great and necessary Duty; to assist us wherein, I shall yet add some farther Directions. As,

1. Repentance is twofold; (1) Initial, (2) Continued in our whole course; and our Enquiry is to be after our Interest in both of them. The former is that whose general Nature we have before described, which is the door of entrance into a Gospel state, or a Condition of Acceptance with God in and through Christ. And concerning it we may observe sundry things.

1. That as to the Properties of it; it is,

(1) Solemn; a Duty that in all its circumstances is to be fixed and stated. It is not to be mixed only with other Duties, but we are to set our selves on purpose, and engage our selves singularly unto it. I will not say, this is so essential unto it, that he can in no sense be said sincerely to have repented, who hath not separately and distinctly been exer­cised herein for some season; yet I will say, that the Repentance of such a one will scarce be ever well cleared up unto his own Soul. When the Spirit of Grace is poured out on men, they shall mourn apart, Zach. 12. 12, 13, 14. That is, they shall peculiarly and solemnly separate themselves to the right discharge of this Duty between God and their Souls. And those who have hitherto neglected it, or failed herein, may be advised so­lemnly to address themselves unto it, whatever hopes they may have, that they have been carried through it already. There is no loss of Time, Grace, nor Comfort, in the so­lemn Renovation of initial Repentance.

[Page 16] (2) Universal, as to the object of it. It respects all Sin, and every Sin, every crooked path, and every step therein. It absolutely excludes all reserves for any Sin. To profess Repentance, and yet with an express reserve for any Sin, approacheth very near the great Sin of Lying to the Holy Ghost. It is like Ananias his keeping back part of the Price when the whole was devoted. And these Soul-destroying Reserves which absolutely over­throw the whole Nature of Repentance, do commonly arise from one of these pretences or occasions.

(1) That the Sin reserved is small, and of no great importance. It is a little one. But true Repentance respects the Nature of Sin, which is in every Sin equally, the least as well as the greatest. The least reserve for Vanity, Pride, Conformity to the world, in­ordinate Desires or Affections, utterly overthrow the Truth of Repentance, and all the benefits of it.

(2) That it is so useful as that, at least at present, it cannot be parted withall. So Naaman would reserve his bowing before the King in the House of Rimmon, because his Honours and Preferments depended thereon. So is it with many in their course of Life, or Trading in the world; some advantages by crooked ways seem as useful to them as their right hand, which they cannot as yet cut off and cas [...] from them. This therefore they have a secret reserve for, though it may not be express, yet real and effectual. But he who in this case will not part with a right Eye, or a right hand, must be content to go with them both into Hell fire.

(3) Secresie. That which is hidden from every Eye, may be left behind. Some sweet morsel of this kind, may yet be rolled under the Tongue. But this is an Evidence of the grossest Hypocrisie, and the highest Contempt of God who seeth in secret.

(4) Uncertainty of some things whether they are Sins or no. It may be some think, such neglects of Duty, such compliances with the World, are not Sins; and whereas themselves have not so full a Gonviction of their being sinful, as they have of other Sins which are notorious and against the Light of Nature, only they have just reason to fear they are Evil, this they will break through, and indulge themselves in them. But this also impeacheth the Truth of Repentance. Where it is sincere, it engageth the Soul against all Appearance of Evil. And one that is truly humbled, hath no more certain Rule in his walking, than not to do what he hath just cause to doubt whether it be lawful or no. True Repentance therefore is universal and inconsistent with all these reserves.

Secondly, Unto the same End, that we may be acquainted with our own Interest in this initiating Repentance, We must consider the Season when it is wrought. And this is,

(1) Upon the first Communication of Gospel Light unto us by the Holy Ghost. Christ sends him to convince us of Sin and Righteousness and Judgement, Joh. 16. 8. And if upon the first participation of Light and Conviction by the Holy Ghost, this Repentance is not wrought in us, it is to be feared that we have missed our Season. And so it falls out with many. They receive Light and Convictions but use them unto other ends. They put them it may be upon a Profession and a Relinquishment of some ways, and parties of men, but farther they use them not. Their first proper end is to work our own Souls unto saving Repentance, and if we miss their first Impressions, their power and efficacy for that end is hardly recoverable.

(2) It never fails on the first saving view of Iesus Christ as crucified, Zech. 12. 10. It is impossible that any one should have a saving view of Christ crucified, and not be sa­vingly humbled for Sin. And there is no one single Trial of our Faith in Christ whether it be genuine or no, that is more natural than this; What have been the effects of it, as to Humiliation and Repentance? Where these ensue not upon what we account our Be­lieving, there we have not had a saving view of Christ crucified.

Thirdly, Whereas we call this Repentance initial, we must consider that it differs not in Nature and Kind from that which we ought to be exercised in whilst we are in this world, whereof afterwards. That which we intend thereby is the Use of Repentance in our first admission into an Interest in a Gospel State. And with respect hereunto its du­ration may be considered; concerning which we may observe,

(1) That with some, especially in extraordinary cases, this Work and Duty may be over in a day as to its initiating use and efficacy. So was it with many Primitive Converts, who at the same time were savingly humbled and comforted by the Promises of the Go­spel. Acts 2. 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42. Acts 16. 31, 32, 33, 34. Now although in such persons the things we have ascribed unto this Repentance, are not wrought formally and distinctly, yet are they all wrought virtually and radically, and do act themselves on all future oc­casions.

[Page 17] (2) Some are held longer unto this Duty as it is initiating. Not only did Paul conti­nue three days and nights under his sore distress without relief, but others are kept days and weeks and months oft-times in the discharge of this Duty, before they have a refreshing entrance given them thereby into an Estate of Spiritual Rest in the Gospel. There is therefore no measure of Time to be allotted unto the solemn attendance unto this Duty, but only this, that none faint under it, wax weary of it, or give it over, before there be thereby administred unto them an entrance into the Kingdom of God.

And these confiderations of the Nature of Repentance from dead works as it is initiating, may give us some direction in that necessary enquiry concerning our own personal In­terest in it.

Now there are several ways whereby men miss their Duty with respect unto this first Principle, and thereby ruine their Souls Eternally.

(1) Some utterly despise it. Such are the presumptuous Sinners mentioned, Deut. 29. 19, 20. As they disregard the Curse of the Law, so they do also the Promise of the Go­spel, as unto any Repentance or Relinquishment of Sin with respect unto them. Such Folly and bruitish Foolishness possesseth the minds of multitudes, that they will have some expectation of benefit by the Gospel, and will give it an outward compliance, but will not touch on the very first thing which it indispensibly requireth of all that intend any con­cernment in it. It were easie to open and aggravate this deplorable folly; but I must not stay on these things.

(2) Some will repent in their dead works but not from them. That is, upon Convicti­ons, Afflictions, Dangers, they will be troubled for their Sins, make confession of them, be grieved that they have contracted such guilt and danger, with Resolutions to forgo them. But yet they will abide in their Sins and dead works still. So Pharaoh more than once repented him in his Sins, but never had Repentance from them. And so it was ex­presly with the Israelites themselves, Psal. 78. 34, 35, 36, 37. And this kind of Repen­tance ruines not fewer Souls than the former total contempt of it. There are not a few unto whom this kind of Repentance stands in the same stead all their days, as Con­fession and Absolution doth to the Papists, it gives them present ease, that they may re­turn to their former Sins.

(3) Some repent from dead works in some sense, but they repent not off them. They will come through the Power of their Convictions to a Relinquishment of many of their old Sins, as Herod did upon the Preaching of John Baptist, but are never truly and sa­vingly humbled for Sin absolutely. Their Lives are changed, but their Hearts are not re­newed. And their renunciation of Sin is always partial, whereof before. There are many other ways whereby men deceive their Souls in this matter, which I must not now insist upon.

Secondly, This Repentance in the Nature and Kind of it, is a Duty to be continued in the whole course of our Lives. It ceaseth as unto those especial Acts which belong unto our Initiation into a Gospel state, but it abides as too our orderly preservation therein. There must be no End of Repentance, until there is a full End of Sin. All Tears will not be wiped from our Eyes, until all Sin is perfectly removed from our Souls. Now Re­pentance in this sense may be considered two ways.

(1) As it is a stated constant Duty of the Gospel; (2) As it is Occasional.

1. As it is stated, it is our humble mournful walking with God under a sense of Sin, continually manifesting its self in our Natures and Infirmities. And the Acts of this Repentance in us, are of two sorts: (1) Direct and immediate; (2) Consequential and dependant. The former may be referred unto two Heads. (1) Confession. (2) Humilia­tion. These a truly penitent Soul will be continually exercised in. He whose Heart is so lifted up on any pretence, as not to abide in the constant exercise of these acts of Repen­tance, is one whom the Soul of God hath no delight in. The other which are imme­diate acts of Faith, but inseparable from these, are (1) Supplications for the Pardon of Sin, (2) Diligent watchfulness against Sin. It is evident how great a share of our walk­ing with God consists in these things, which yet I must not enlarge upon.

2. This continued Repentance is Occasional when it is heightned unto a singular so­lemnity. And these occasions may be referred unto three heads:

(1) A Personal surprisal into any great actual Sin. Such an occasion is not to be passed over with the ordinary actings of Repentance. David upon his fall, brings his renewed Repentance into that solemnity as if it had been his first Conversion to God. On that account he deduceth his personal Sins from the Sin of his Nature, Psal. 51. 5. besides many other circumstances whereby he gave it an extraordinary Solemnity. So Peter [Page 18] upon the denial of his Master wept bitterly, which with his following Humiliation and the Renovation of his Faith, our Saviour calls his Conversion, Luke 22. 23. A new Conver­sion of him who was before really converted. There is nothing more dangerous unto our Spiritual state, than to pass by particular Instances of Sin, with the general Duties of Repentance.

(2) The Sin or Sins of the Family or Church whereunto we are related, calls unto us to give a Solemnity unto this Duty. 2 Cor. 7. 11. The Church having failed in the bu­siness of the incestuous offender, when they were convinced by the Apostle of their sinful miscarriage therein, most solemnly renew their Repentance towards God.

(3) Afflictions and sore Trials call for this Duty, as we may see in the issue of all things between God and Job, Chap. 42. 6.

And lastly, We may observe that this Repentance is a Grace of the Spirit of Christ, a Gospel Grace, and therefore whatever unpleasantness there may be in its Exercise unto the Flesh, it is sweet, refreshing, satisfactory, and secretly pleasant unto the inner man. Let us not be deterred from abiding and abounding in this Duty. It is not a morose, tetrical, severe self-maceration, but an humble, gracious, mournful walking with God, wherein the Soul finds rest, sweetness, joy and peace, being rendred thereby compliant with the Will of God, benigne, useful, kind, compassionate towards men, as might be declared.

The necessity of a profession of this Repentance from dead works, in order unto an Admission into the Society of the Church, that an evidence be given of the Power and Efficacy of the Doctrine of Christ in the Souls of men, that his Disciples may be visibly separated by their own profession from the world that lies in Evil, and be fitted for Com­munion among themselves in love, hath been elsewhere spoken unto.

The second instance of the Doctrinal Foundation supposed to be laid among the He­brews, [...]. is of Faith towards God. And this principle with that foregoing, are coupled to­gether by the conjunctive particle [...], of Repentance and of Faith. Neither ought they to [...]. be, nor can they be severed. Where the one is, there is the other, and where either is not, there is neither, whatever be pretended. He repenteth not, who hath not Faith towards God: and he hath no Faith towards God who repenteth not. And in this expression where Repentance is first placed and Faith in God afterwards, only the distincti­on that is between them, but neither an order of Nature in the things themselves, nor a ne­cessary order in the teaching of them is intended. For in order of Nature Faith towards God must precede Repentance from dead works. No man can use any Argument to prevail with others unto Repentance, but it must be taken from the Word of the Law or the Gospel, the Precepts, Promises and Threatnings of them. If there be no Faith towards God with respect unto these things, whence should Repentance from dead works arise, or how can the necessity of it be demonstrated? Besides, that the order of nature among the things themselves is not here intended, is evident from hence, in that the very last principles mentioned concerning the Resurrection from the dead and Eternal Judgement, are the principal Motives and Arguments unto the very first of them, or the necessity of Re­pentance, as our Apostle declares fully Acts 1. 30, 31. But there is some kind of order between these things with respect unto profession, intended. For no man can, or ought to be esteemed to make a due profession of Faith towards God, who doth not first declare his Repentance from dead works. Nor can any other have the comfort of Faith in God, but such as have in themselves some evidence of the sincerity of their Repentance.

Wherefore omitting any farther consideration of the order of these things, we must enquire what is here intended by Faith in God. Now this cannot be Faith in the most general notion of it, because it is reckoned as a principle of the Doctrine of Christ. But Faith in God absolutely taken, is a Duty of the Law of Nature. Upon an acknowledg­ment of the Being of God, it is thereby required that we believe in him as the first Eter­nal Truth, that we submit unto him and trust in him, as the Soveraign Lord, the Judge and Rewarder of all. And a defect herein was the beginning of Adam's transgression. Wherefore Faith in this sense cannot be called a principle of the Doctrine of Christ, which wholly consists in supernatural Revelations. Nor can it be so termed with respect unto the Jews in particular. For in their Judaisme they were sufficiently taught Faith in God, and needed not to have been instructed therein as a part of the Doctrine of Christ. And there is a distinction put by our Saviour himself, between that Faith in God which they had, and the peculiar Faith in himself which he required, Joh. 14. 1. Ye believe in God, believe also in me. Besides, where these two Repentance and Faith are elsewhere joyned together, as they are frequently, it is an especial sort of Faith in God that is intended. See Luke 24. 46, 47. Acts 19. 4. Chap. 20. 21.

[Page 19] It is therefore Faith in God as accomplishing the promise unto Abraham in sending Jesus Christ, and granting pardon or remission of Sins by him, that is intended. The whole is ex­pressed by, Repent and believe the Gospel, Mark 1. 15. That is the tidings of the Accom­plishment of the Promise made to the Fathers, for the deliverance of us from all our Sins by Jesus Christ. This is that which was pressed on the Hebrews by Peter in his first Ser­mon unto them; Acts 2. 30, 39. Chap. 3. 25, 26. Hence these two principles are ex­pressed, by Repentance towards God, and Faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 20. 21. As Repentance is here described by the terminus a quo; it is Repentance from dead works; so there it is described by its terminus ad quem; it is Repentance towards God, in our turning unto him. For those who live in their Lusts and Sins, do it not only against the command of God, but also they place them, as to their affections and expectation of satisfaction, in the stead of God. And this Faith in God is there called by way of Explication, Faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ; that is, as he in whose giving and sending the Truth of God was fulfilled, and by whom we believe in God, 1 Pet. 1. 21. This therefore is the Faith in God here intended; namely, that whereby we believe the Accomplishment of his promise, in sending his Son Jesus Christ to dye for us, and to save us from our Sins. And this the Lord Christ testified unto in his own personal Ministry. Hence our Apostle says, that he was the Minister of the Circum­cision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the Fathers, Rom. 15. 8. And this he testified unto them, Joh. 8. 24. I said therefore unto you, that you shall dye in your sins; for if you believe not that I am be, you shall dye in your sins; and that because they rejected the promise of God made unto the Fathers concerning him, which was the only foundation of Salvation. And this was the first thing that ordinarily our Apostle preached in his dispensation of the Gospel, 1 Cor. 15. 3. For I delivered unto you first of all, how that Christ dyed for our sins according to the Scriptures. He taught the thing it self, and the re­lation it had unto the promise of God recorded in the Scripture. That this is the Faith in God here intended, I prove by these Reasons: (1) Because this indeed was that Faith in particular which in the first preaching of the Gospel unto these Hebrews they were taught and instructed in. And therefore with respect unto it our Apostle says, that he would not lay again the foundation. The first calling of the Church among them was by the Sermons of Peter and the rest of the Apostles; Acts 2. 3, 4, 5. Now consult those Sermons, and you shall find the principal thing insisted on in them, was the accom­plishment of the promises made to Abraham and David, which they exhorted them to believe. This therefore was that Faith in God which was first taught them, and which our Apostle hath respect unto. (2) Because it was the want of this Faith which proved the ruine of that Church. As in the Wilderness, the unbelief which they perished for, respected the Faithfulness of God in the accomplishment of his promise with respect to the Land Canaan; so the Unbelief which the body of the people now perished for, dying in their Sins and for them, respected the accomplishment of the great Promise of sending Jesus Christ, which things the Apostle compares at large Chap. 3. This then was that which he here minds the Hebrews of, as the principal foundation of that profession of the Gospel which they had taken on them. And we may observe, that

Faith in God, as to the accomplishing of the great Promise in sending his Son Jesus Christ to Obs. 2. save us from our Sins, is the great fundamental Principle of our Interest in and Profession of the Gospel. Faith in God under this formal consideration, not only that he hath sent and given Jesus Christ his Son, but that he did it in the Accomplishment of his Promise, is re­quired of us. For whereas he hath chosen to glorifie all the Properties of his Nature in the Person and Mediation of Christ, he doth not only declare his Grace in giving him, but also his Truth in sending him according unto his word. And this was that which holy persons of old did glorifie God in an especial manner upon the account of, Luke 1. 54, 55. ver. 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75. And there is nothing in the Gospel that God himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Apostles do more insist upon than this, that God had fulfilled his Promise in sending his Son into the world. On this one thing depends all Religion, the Truth of the Bible, and all our Salvation. If it be not evident that God hath accomplished his Promise, the whole Bible may pass for a Fable; for it is all built on this supposition, that God gave and hath accomplished it; the first being the foundation of the Old Testament, and the latter of the New. And there are sundry things that signalize our Faith in God with respect hereunto. As

1. This promise of sending Jesus Christ was the first express ingagement that God ever made of his Faithfulness and Veracity unto any Creatures. He is Essentially faithful and true; but he had not ingaged himself to act according unto those properties in his dealing with [Page 20] us in a way of Love and Grace, calling for Trust and Confidence in us, before he gave the promise concerning Christ, Gen. 3. 15. This therefore was the spring and measure of all other subsequent promises. They are all of them but new assurances thereof, and ac­cording as it fares with that, so it must do with all the rest. God gave out this Promise as that whereon he would depend the Honour and Glory of his Fidelity in all other Pro­mises that he should make. As we find him true or failing herein, so he expects our Faith and Trust in all his other Promises should be. Hence this was the first and imme­diate object of Faith in man after the Fall.

The first thing proposed unto him, was to believe in God, with respect unto his faith­fulness in the future accomplishment of this Promise; and Faith concerning its actual ac­complishment is the first thing required of us.

Besides this Promise hung longest on the File before its Accomplishment. There was not less than four thousand years between its giving and its performance. And many things happened during that season, whereby both its self, and Faith on God thereon, were greatly signalized. For (1) More and greater Objections against the Truth of it, more Tempta­tions against it were raised and managed, than against all other Promises whatever. This long suspension of its fulfilling gave such Advantages to Sathan in his opposition unto it, that he prevailed against every expectation, but that of Faith tried and more precious than Gold. And the Saints themselves had a great exercise in the disappointments which many of them fell into, as to the time of its accomplishment. It is not unlikely that most of them looked for it in their own days; great therefore was the Trials of all sorts about it. (2) It was All that the true Church of God had to live upon during that long season, the sole foundation of its Faith, Obedience and Consolation. It is true, in progress of time God added other Promises, Precepts and Institutions, for the direction and instru­ction of the Church; but they were all built on this one Promise, and all resolved into it. This gave life and signification unto them, therewith were they to stand and fall. (3) This was that the world broke off from God upon, and by rejecting it, fell into all confusion and misery. The Promise being given unto Adam was indefinitely given to mankind. And it was suited unto the Reparation of their lost condition, yea their in­vestiture into a better state. And this increased the wrath and malice of Sathan. He saw that if they applied themselves to the Faith hereof, his former success against them was utterly frustrated. Wherefore he again attempts them to turn them off from the relief provided against the misery he had cast them into. And as to the generality of mankind he prevailed in his attempt. By a Relinquishment of this Promise, not believing of it, not retaining it in their minds, they fell into a second Apostasie from God. And what disorder, darkness, confusion, yea what an Hell of horror and misery they cast them­selves into, is known. And this consideration greatly signalizes Faith in God with re­spect to this Promise. (4) The whole Church of the Jews, rejecting the Accomplish­ment of this Promise, utterly perished thereon. This was the Sin which that Church died for, and that indeed which is the foundation of the ruine of all Unbelievers who perish under the Dispensation of the Gospel.

It will be said, it may be, that this Promise being now actually accomplished, and that ta­ken for granted, we have not the like concern in it, as they had who lived before the said Accomplishment. But there is a mistake herein. No man believes aright that the Son of God is come in the Flesh, but he who believes that he came in the Accomplishment of the Promise of God, unto the Glory of his Truth and Faithfulness. And it is from hence that we know aright both the occasion, original, cause, and end of his coming: which whoso considereth not, his pretended Faith is in vain.

2. This is the greatest Promise that God ever gave to the Children of men, and there­fore Faith in him with respect hereunto, is both necessary unto us, and greatly tends unto his Glory. Indeed all the concernments of Gods glory in the Church, and our Eternal welfare are wrapped up herein. But I must not enlarge hereon.

Only we must add, that the consideration of the Accomplishment of this Promise is a great incouragement and supportment unto Faith with respect unto all other Promises of God. Never was any kept so long in Abeyance, the state of the Church and design of God requiring it. None ever had such opposition made to its Accomplishment. Never was any more likely to be defeated by the Unbelief of men; all Faith in it being at length renounced by Jews and Gentiles, which if any thing, or had it been suspended on any condition, might have disappointed its event. And shall we think that God will leave any other of his Promises unaccomplished? That he will not in due time ingage his omnipotent Power and infinite Wisdom in the discharge of his Truth and Faithfulness? Hath he sent his Son after [Page 21] four thousand years expectation, and will he not in due time destroy Antichrist, call again the Jews, set up the Kingdom of Christ gloriously in the world, and finally save the Souls of all that sincerely believe? This great instance of Divine Fidelity, leaves no room for the Objections of Unbelief as unto any other Promises under the same assurance.

Thirdly, The third principle according to the order and sense of the words laid [...]. down before, is, the Resurrection of the dead. And this was a fundamental principle of the Judaical Church, indeed of all Religions properly so called in the world. The twelve Articles of the Creed of the present Jews, is, [...] the days of the Messiah; that is, the time will come when God will send the Messiah and restore all things by him. This under the Old Testament respected that Faith in God which we before discoursed concerning. But the present Jews notwithstanding this profession, have no interest herein. For not to believe the Accomplishment of a Promise when it is fulfilled, as also sufficiently revealed and testified unto to be fulfilled, is to reject all Faith in God concerning that Promise. But this they still retain an appearance and profession of. And their thirteenth Article is, [...] the Revivisication or Resurrection from the dead. And the Faith hereof being explained and confirmed in the Gospel, as also sealed by the great Seal of the Resurrection of Christ, it was ever esteemed as a chief Prin­ciple of Christianity, and that whose admittance is indispensably necessary unto all Reli­gion whatever. And I shall first briefly shew how it is a fundamental Principle of all Reli­gion, and then evidence its especial relation unto that taught by Jesus Christ, or declare how it is a fundamental Principle of the Gospel. And, as to the first, it is evident that without its Acknowledgment, all Religion whatever would be abolished. For if it be once supposed or granted that men were made only for a frail mortal life in this world, that they have no other continuance assigned to their Being, but what is common to them with the Beasts that perish; there would be no more Religion amongst them, than there is among the Beasts themselves. For as they would never be able to solve the difficulties of present temporary Dispensations of Providence, which will not be reduced unto any such known visible rule of Righteousness, abstracting from the compleatment of them hereafter, as of themselves to give a firm apprehension of a Divine, Holy, Righteous Power in the government of the Universe; so take away all consideration of future Re­wards and Punishments, which are equally asserted in this and the ensuing Principle; and the Lusts of men would quickly obliterate all those notions of a Deity, as also of good and evil in their practice, which should preserve them from Atheism and Bestiality. Neither do we ever see any man giving himself up to the unbelief of these things, but that im­mediately he casts off all considerations of any publick or private good, but what is cen­tred in himself, and the satisfaction of his Lusts.

But it will be asked, whether the belief of the Immortality of the Soul be not sufficient to secure Religion, without the addition of this Article of the Resurrection. This indeed some among the ancient Heathens had faint apprehensions of, without any guess at the Resurrection of the body. And some of them also who were most steady in that per­swasion, had some thoughts also of such a Restauration of all things as wherein the bo­dies of men should have their share. But as their thoughts of these things were fluctua­ting and uncertain, so was all their Religion also, and so it must be on this Principle. For there can be no Reconciliation of the Doctrine of future Rewards and Punishments to be righteously administred, unto a supposition of the separate everlasting subsistence of the Soul only. That is, Eternal Judgment cannot be on satisfactory grounds believed, with­out an antecedent acknowledgment of the Resurrection of the dead. For what Justice is it, that the whole of blessedness or misery should fall on the Soul only, where the body hath had a great share in the procurement of the one, or the other? or that, where­as both concur unto the doing of Good or Evil, the Soul only should be rewarded or punished? especially considering what influence the body hath into all that is Evil, how the satisfaction of the flesh is the great inducement unto Sin on the one hand, and what it often undergoeth and suffereth for that which is good? Shall we think that God gave Bodies to the holy Martyrs, only to endure unexpressible Tortures and Miseries to death for the sake of Christ, and then to perish for ever? And this manifesteth the great degene­racy the Jewish Church was now fallen into; For a great number of them were Aposta­tized into the Atheisme of denying the Resurrection of the dead. And so confident were they in their Infidelity, as that they would needs argue and dispute with our Saviour about it, by whom they were confounded; but after the manner of obstinate Infidels, not converted, Math. 22. 23, 24. &c. This was the principal Heresie of the Sadducees, which drew along with it those other foolish Opinions, of denying Angels and Spirits, [Page 22] or the subsistence of the Souls of men in a separate condition. Acts 23. 8. For they con­cluded well enough, that the continuance of the Souls of men would answer no design of Providence or Justice, if their bodies were not raised again. And whereas God had now given the most illustrious testimony unto this truth in the Resurrection of Christ himself, the Sadducees became the most inveterate Enemies unto him and Opposers of him. For they not only acted against him, and those who professed to believe in him, from that Infidelity which was common unto them with most of their Country-men; but also because their peculiar Heresie was everted and condemned thereby. And it is usual with men of corrupt minds to prefer such peculiar errors above all other concerns of Re­ligion whatever, and to have their Lusts inflamed by them into the utmost intemperance. They therefore were the first stirrers up and fiercest pursuers of the Primitive persecutions, Acts 4. 1, 2. The Sadducees came upon the Apostles, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the Resurrection from the dead. The overthrow of their private Heresie was that which enraged them, Chap. 5. 17, 18. Then the High Priest rose up, and all that were with him, which is the Sect of the Sadducees, and were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the Apostles and put them in the common Prison. And an alike rage were the Pharisees put into about their Ceremonies, wherein they placed their especial interest and glory. And our Apostle did wisely make an advantage of this difference about the Resurrection between those two great Sects, to divide them in their Counsels and Actings, who were before agreed on his destruction on the common account of his preaching Jesus Christ, Acts 23. 6, 7, 8, 9.

This Principle therefore both upon the account of its importance in its self, as also of the opposition made unto it among the Jews by the Sadducees, the Apostle took care to settle and establish in the first place, As those truths are in an especial manner to be con­firmed, which are at any time peculiarly opposed. And they had reason thus to do; for all they had to preach unto the world turned on this hinge, that Christ was raised from the dead, whereon our Resurrection doth unavoidably follow, so as that they confessed that without an eviction and acknowledgment hereof, all their preaching was in vain, and all their Faith who believed therein was so also, 1 Cor. 15. 12, 13, 14. This there­fore was always one of the first Principles which our Apostle insisted on in the preaching of the Gospel; a signal instance whereof we have in his discourse at his first coming unto Athens. First he reproves their Sins and Idolatries, declaring that God by him called them to Repentance from those dead works. Then taught them Faith in that God who so called them by Jesus Christ; confirming the necessity of both by the Doctrine of the Resur­rection from the dead, and future judgement, Acts 17. 18, 23, 24, 30, 31. He seems there­fore here directly and summarily to lay down those principles in the order which he constantly preached them in his first declaration of the Gospel. And this was necessary to be spoken concerning the nature and necessity of this Principle.

[...], The Resurrection of the dead. It is usually expressed by [...], the Resurrection only, Mark 12. 18. Luke 20. 27, 33. Joh. 11. 24. Math. 22. 23, 28. For by this single expression, the whole was sufficiently known and apprehended. And so we commonly call it the Resurrection without any addition. Sometimes it is termed [...], Acts 4. 2. The Resurrection from the dead, that is, the state of the dead. Our Apostle hath a peculiar expression, Chap. 11. 35. [...], They received their dead from the Resurrection; that is, by virtue thereof, they being raised to Life again. And sometimes it is distinguished with respect unto its consequents, in different persons, the good and the bad. The Resurrection of the former is called [...], John 5. 29. the Resurrection of Life, that is, which is unto Life Eternal, the means of entrance into it. This is called [...], the Resurrection of the Just, Luke 14. 14. And so [...] the Life of the dead, or the Resurrection of the dead, was used to express the whole blessed estate which ensued thereon to Believers. If by any means I might attain, [...], the Resurrection of the dead. This is [...], a living again; as it is said of the Lord Christ distinctly, [...], Rom. 14. 9. He rose and lived again, or he arose to life. With respect unto wicked men it is called [...], the Resurrection of Judgement, or unto Judgement, Joh. 5. 29. Some shall be raised again to have Judgement pronounced against them, to be sentenced unto punishment. Reserve the unjust against the day of Judgement to be punished, 2 Pet. 2. 9. And both these are put together, Dan. 12. 2. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the Earth shall awake, some to Everlasting Life, and some to shame and Everlasting contempt.

[Page 23] This truth being of so great importance, as that nothing in Religion can subsist with­out it, the Apostles very diligently confirmed it in the first Churches. And for the same cause it was early assaulted by Sathan, denied and opposed by many. And this was done two ways. (1) By an open denial of any such thing, 1 Cor. 15. 12. How say some among you, that there is no Resurrection of the dead. They wholly denied it as a thing improbable and impossible, as is evident from the whole ensuing disputation of the Apostle on that subject. (2) Others there were, who not daring to oppose themselves directly unto a prin­ciple so generally received in the Church, they would still allow the expression, but put an Allegorical Exposition upon it, whereby they plainly overthrew the thing intended. They said the Resurrection was past already, 2 Tim. 2. 18. It is generally thought that these men Hymeneus and Philetus placed the Resurrection in Conversion, or Reformation of Life, as the Marcionits did afterwards. What some imagine about the Gnosticks is vain. And that the reviving of a new Light in us, is the Resurrection intended in the Scripture, some begin to mutter among our selves. But, that as Death is a separation or sejunction of the Soul and the Body, so that the Resurrection is a re-union of them in and unto Life, the Scripture is too express for any one to deny, and not virtually to reject it wholly. And it may be observed, that our Apostle in both these cases, doth not only condemn these Errors as false, but declares positively that their admission overthrows the Faith, and renders the preaching of the Gospel vain and useless.

Now this Resurrection of the dead, is the Restauration by the Power of God, of the same numerical body which died, in all the essential and integral parts of it, rendring it, in a re-union of or with the Soul, immortal, or of an Eternal duration in blessedness or misery. And,

The Doctrine of this Resurrection is a fundamental principle of the Gospel, the Faith whereof Obser. is indispensibly necessary unto the Obedience and Consolation of all that profess it. I call it a principle of the Gospel, not because it was absolutely first revealed therein. It was made known under the old Testament, and was virtually included in the first promise. In the Faith of it, the Patriarchs lived and died, and it is testified unto in the Psalms and Pro­phets. With respect hereunto did the Ancients confess that they were Strangers and Pil­grims in this world, seeking another City and Country, wherein they should live with God for ever; They desired and looked for an heavenly Country, wherein their persons should dwell, Heb. 11. 16. And this was with Relation to Gods Covenant with them, wherein, as it follows, God was not ashamed to be called their God. That is, their God in Covenant, which Relation could never be broken; and therefore our Saviour proves the Resurrection from thence, because if the dead rise not again, the Covenant Relation be­tween God and his people must cease, Math. 22. 31, 32. Hence also did they take espe­cial care about their dead bodies, and their burial, not meerly out of respect unto natural order and decency, but to express their Faith of the Resurrection. So our Apostle says, that by Faith Joseph gave commandment concerning his bones, Chap. 11. 12. And their dispo­sal into a burying place is rehearsed by Stephen as one fruit of their Faith, Acts 7. 15, 16. Job gives testimony unto his Faith herein, Chap. 19. 25, 26. So doth David also, Psal. 15. 17. and in sundry other places. And Isaiah is express to the same purpose, Chap. 26. 19. Thy dead shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise: awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of Herbs, and the Earth shall cast out the dead. This God proposeth for the comfort of the Prophet, and all those who were either per­secuted or slain in those days for Righteousness sake. Their Resurrection is both directly and emphatically expressed. And whereas some would wrest the words to signifie no more but the deliverance and exaltation of those who were in great distress, yet they must acknowledge that it is expressed in allusion to the Resurrection of the dead, which is therefore asserted in the words, and was believed in the Church. The same also is taught in Ezekiels vision of the vivification of dry bones, Chap. 37. which although it de­clared the Restauration of Israel from their distressed condition, yet it did so with allusion to the Resurrection at the last day, without a supposition of the faith whereof, the visi­on had not been instructive. And many other testimonies to the same purpose might be insisted on. I do not therefore reckon this a principle of the Doctrine of the Gospel, abso­lutely and exclusively unto the Revelations of the Old Testament, but on three other reasons.

1. Because it is most clearly, evidently and fully taught and declared therein. It was as sundry other important truths, made known under the Old Testament, sparingly and ob­scurely. But Life and Immortality with this great means of them both, were brought to light by the Gospel, 2 Tim. 1. 10. all things concerning them being made plain, clear and evident.

[Page 24] 2. Because of that solemn confirmation and pledge of it which was given in the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. This was wanting under the Old Testament, and therefore the Faith of men might oft-times be greatly shaken about it. For whereas death seized on all men, and that penally in the execution of the sentence of the Law, whence they were for fear of it, obnoxious to bondage all their days, Heb. 2. 14, 15. they had not received any pledge or instance of a recovery from its power, or the taking off that sentence and penalty. But Christ dying for us, and that directly under the Sentence and Curse of the Law, yet conquering both Death and Law, being raised again, the pains or bonds of death being loosed, hath given a full confirmation and absolute assurance of our Resur­rection. And thus it is said, that he brought Life and Immortality to light by abolishing of death, 2 Tim. 1. 10. that is, the power of it, that it should not hold us for ever under its dominion, 1 Cor. 15. 54, 55, 56, 57.

3. Because it hath a peculiar influence into our Obedience under the Gospel. Under the Old Testament the Church had sundry motives unto Obedience taken from temporal things, namely, prosperity and peace in the Land of Canaan, with deliverance out of troubles and distresses. Promises hereof made unto them the Scripture abounds withal, and thereon presseth them unto Obedience, and diligence in the Worship of God. But we are now left unto promises of Invisible and Eternal things, which cannot be fully en­joyed but by virtue of the Resurrection from the dead. And therefore these promises are made unspeakably more clear and evident, as also the things promised unto us, than they were unto them, and so our motives and incouragements unto Obedience, are unspeaka­bly advanced above theirs. This may well therefore be esteemed as an especial principle of the Doctrine of the Gospel. And

1. It is an animating principle of Gospel Obedience, because we are assured thereby that nothing we do therein shall be lost. In general the Apostle proposeth this as our great encouragement, That God is not unrighteous to forget our work and labour of love, ver. 10. and shews us the especial way whereby it shall be remembred. Nothing is more fatal unto any endeavours, than an apprehension that men do in them spend their strength in vain, and their labour for nought. This makes the Hands of men weak, their Knees feeble, and their Hearts fearful. Nor can any thing deliver us from a slothful despon­dency, but an assurance that the fruit of our endeavours shall be called over again. And this is given us alone by the Faith of the Resurrection of the dead, when they shall awake again, and sing, who dwell in the dust; and then shall the Righteous be had in everlasting remembrance. Let no man fear the loss of his work, unless it be such as the Fire will con­sume, when it will be to his advantage to suffer that loss, and to have it so consumed. Not a good thought, word or work, but shall have a new Life given unto it, and have as it were a share in the Resurrection.

2. We are assured hereby that such things shall not only be remembred, but also rewar­ded. It is unto the Righteous, as we have observed, not only a Resurrection from the dead, but a Resurrection unto Life, that is Eternal, as their Reward. And this is that which either doth or ought to give Life and Diligence unto our Obedience. So Moses in what he did and suffered for Christ, had respect unto the recompence of reward, Heb. 11. 26. God hath put this declaration hereof into the foundation of all our Obedience in the Cove­nant. I am thy exceeding great reward, Gen. 15. 1. And at the close of it, the Lord Jesus doth not think it enough to declare that he will come himself, but also that his reward is with him, Rev. 22. 12. Some have foolishly supposed that this Reward from God must needs infer Merit in our selves, whereas Eternal Life is the Gift of God through Jesus Christ, and not the wages of our works, as Sin is of death, Rom. 6. 23. It is such reward as is absolutely a free gift, a gift of Grace; and if it be by Grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise Grace is no more Grace, and if it be of works, then it is no more Grace, otherwise work is no more work, Rom. 11. 6. The same thing cannot be of Works and Grace also, of our own Merit, and of the free Gift of God. And others, it is to be feared, under a mistaken pretence of Grace, do keep off themselves from a due respect unto this gracious reward, which the Lord Christ hath appointed as the blessed issue and end of our Obedi­ence. But hereby they deprive themselves of one great motive and encouragement there­unto, especially of an endeavour that their Obedience may be such, and the fruits of it so abound, that the Lord Christ may be signally glorified in giving out a gracious reward unto them at the last day. For whereas he hath designed in his own Grace and Bounty to give us such a glorious Reward, and intendeth by the Operation of his Spirit to make us fit to receive it, or meet for the Inheritance of Saints in Light, Col. 1. 12. our prin­cipal respect unto this Reward, is, that we may receive it with an advantage of Glory [Page 25] and Honour unto our Lord Jesus. And the consideration hereof, which is conveyed unto us through the Faith of the Resurrection, is a chief animating principle of our Obedience.

2. It hath the same respect unto our Consolation, For if in this Life only we have hope in Christ, then are we of all men most miserable, 1 Cor. 15. 19. that is, if we regard only outward things in this world, Reproaches, Scornings, Revilings, Troubles, Persecutions, have been the Lot of most of them who so hoped in Christ. But is this all which we shall have from him or by him? probably as to outward things it will prove so to most of us in this world, if it come not to greater extremities: Then are we of all men most mise­rable; But stay awhile. These things will be all called over again, at the Resurrection, (and that is time enough) and all things be put into another posture. See 2 Thes. 1. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. We have therefore no reason to despond for what may befall us in this life, nor at what distress this flesh we carry about us may be put unto. We are it may be sometimes ready to faint, or to think much of the pains we put our selves unto in Religious Duties, especially when our bodies being weak and crazie, would willingly be spared, or of what we may endure and undergo; but the day is coming that will recompence and make up all. This very flesh which we now thus employ under its weaknesses, in a constant course of the most difficult duties, shall be raised out of the dust, purified from all its infirmities, freed from all its weaknesses, made incorruptible and immortal, to enjoy rest and glory unto Eternity. And we may comfort our selves with these words, 1 Thes. 4. 18.

Fourthly, The fourth principle mentioned is [...]. This is the immediate consequent of the Resurrection of the dead. Men shall not be raised again to live ano­ther [...]. Life in this world, and as it were therein to make a new adventure, but it is to give an account of what is past, and to receive what they have done in the body whether it be good or evil. And because there are no outward visible transactions between God and the Souls of men after their departure out of this world, nor any alteration to be made as to their Eternal state and condition, this Judgement is spoken of as that which immediately succeeds death its self, Heb. 9. 27. It is appointed to all men once to dye, and after this the Judgement. This Judgement is sure, and there is nothing between death and it, that it takes notice of. But as to some there may be a very long space of time between the one and the other; neither shall Judgement be administred until after the Resurrecti­on from the dead, and by means thereof: And when all the race of mankind appointed thereunto have lived and died according to their allotted seasons, then shall Judgement ensue on them all. [...] is commonly used for a condemnatory Sentence. Therefore some think that it is only the Judgement of wicked and ungodly men that is intended. [...] And indeed the day of Judgement is most frequently spoken of in the Scripture with re­spect thereunto. See 2 Thes. 1. 7, 8, 9, 10. Jude 14, 15. 2 Pet. 2. 4. And this is part­ly because the remembrance of it is suited to put an awe upon the fierceness, pride and rage of the spirits of men, rushing into Sin as the Horse into the battel; and partly that it might be a relief unto the godly under all, either their persecutions from their cruelty, or temptations from their prosperity. But in reality the Judgement is general, and all men both good and bad must stand in their lot therein. We shall all stand before the Judge­ment-seat of Christ; as it is written, As I live saith the Lord every knee shall bow to me, Rom. 14. 10, 11. And this is that which is here intended. As the Resurrection of the dead that precedes belongs to all, so doth the Judgement that follows. And this our Apostle ex­presseth by [...], a word of the same original and signification with [...].

This [...] or Judgement is said to be [...] is the eleventh funda­mental Article of the Jewish present Creed. Two of the Targums as a supplement of [...] that Speech which they suppose defective, [...] Gen. 4. 8. And Cain said to his brother Abel, add a disputation between the Brothers about Eternal Judge­ment, with Rewards and Punishments, which they suppose Cain to have denied and Abel to have asserted. And as there is no doubt but that it was one principal Article of the Faith of the Church before the Flood, so it is probable that it was much opposed and derided by that corrupt, violent, and wicked generation which afterwards perished in their Sins. Hence Enochs Prophecy and Preaching among them was to confirm the Faith of the Church therein, Jude 14, 15. And probably the hard speeches which are specified as those which God would severely revenge, were their contemptuous mockings and despisings of Gods coming to Judgement, as Peter plainly intimates, 2 Pet. 3. 3, 4, 5. This seems to be the great controversie which the Church before the Flood had with that ungodly generation, namely, whether there were a future Judgement or no; in the con­tempt whereof the world fell into all profligacy of abominable wickednesses. And as [Page 28] God gave testimony to the truth in the Prophecy of Enoch, so he visibly determined the whole matter on the side of the Church in the Flood, which was an open pledge of Eter­nal Judgement. And hence those words, the Lord cometh, became the Appeal of the Church in all Ages, 1 Cor. 16. 22. [...] respects not the duration of this Judgement, but its [...]d and effect. For it shall not be of a perpetual duration and continuance, which to fancy, is both absurd in nature, and inconsistent with the proper end of it, which is, to deliver men over into their everlasting Lot and Portion. And it is both curious, need­less and unwarrantable to enquire of what continuance it shall be, seeing God hath given no Revelation thereof. Neither is the mind of man capable of making any tolerable conjecture concerning the process of the infinite wisdom of Christ in this matter. Nei­ther do we know, as to time or continuance what will be necessary therein, to the con­viction and confusion of impenitent sinners, or as to the demonstration of his own Righ­teousness and Glory. It may be esteemed an easie, but will be found our safest wisdom to silence even our thoughts and enquiries in all things of this nature, where we cannot trace the express foot-steps of Divine Revelation. And this Judgement is called Eternal; (1) In opposition to the temporal Judgements which are, or have been passed on men in this world, which will be all then called over again and revised. Especially it is so with respect unto a threefold Judgement. First, That which passed upon the Lord Christ him­self, when he was condemned as a Malefactor and Blasphemer. He never suffered that sentence to take place quietly in the world, but from the first he sent his Spirit to argue, reason, and plead his cause in the world, Joh. 16. 9, 10, 11. This he ever did and ever will maintain by his Church. Yet is there no absolute determination of the case. But when this day shall come, then shall he condemn every tongue that was against him in Judgement, and all his Adversaries shall be confounded. 2ly, All those condemnatory sentences whether unto death or other punishments, which almost in all Ages have been given against his Disciples or true Believers. With the thoughts and prospect hereof, did they always relieve themselves under false Judgements and cruel Executions. For they have had Trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea moreover of bond and imprison­ment; they have been stoued and sawn in sunder, tempted and slain with the Sword, have wandred about in Sheep-skins and Goat-skins, being destitate, afflicted, tormented, not accept­ing deliverance, (upon the worlds terms) that they might obtain a better Resurrection; as Heb. 11. 35, 36, 37. In all these things they possessed their Souls in patience, following the example of their Master, committing themselves unto him that judgeth righteously, 1 Pet. 2. 23. 3ly, The false sentences which under their provocations professors have passed on one another, see 1 Cor. 4. 3, 4, 5. (2) Because it is Judicium inevitabile, an unavoidable sentence which all men must stand or fall by. For it is appointed unto all men once to dye, and after that is the Judgement. This Judgement is no more avoid­able unto any than death it self, from which the experience of some thousands of years leaves unto men no hope of escape. (3) Because in it and by it an unchangeable deter­mination of all mens estate and condition is made for Eternity. The Judgement which disposeth of men unalterably into their Eternal estate, whether of Blessedness or of Misery.

Two things must be yet farther spoken unto, to clear this great principle of our Faith. First the general nature of this Eternal Judgement, and then the Evidences we have of its truth and certainty.

1. The general concerns of this Eternal Judgement are all of them plainly expressed in the Scripture, which declare the nature of it. (1) As to its time, there is a determined and unalterable day fixed for it; God hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in Righteousness, Acts 17. 31. And this time is commonly called the day of Judgement, Matth. 10. 15. Chap. 11. 22, 24. Chap. 12. 32. Mark 6. 11. 2 Pet. 2. 9. 1 Joh. 4. 17. And this day being fixed in the foreknowledge and determinate counsel of God, can no more be either hastened or deferred, than God himself can be changed. Until this ap­pointed time comes, whatever falls out, he will satisfie his Wisdom and Glory in his or­dinary government of the world, enterwoven with some occasional extraordinary Judge­ments, and therein he calls all his own people to be satisfied. For this precise time, the knowledge of it is among the principal secrets of his Soveraignty, which he hath for reasons suited to his infinite Wisdom, laid up in his own Eternal bosom. Hence is that of our Saviour, Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the Angels that are in Hea­ven, neither the Son, (that is in and by the humane nature) but the Father, Mark 13. 32. which is the highest expression of an unrevealable divine secret. God hath not only not revealed it, but he hath decreed not to reveal it. All enquiries about it are not only sin­fully [Page 27] curious, but foolish and impious. Then it is certain, when all things foretold in the Scripture are accomplished, when the Obedience of all the Elect is compleated, and the measure allotted unto the wickedness of the world in the patience of God is filled up, then and not before, the End shall be. In the mean time when we see a man old, weak, diseased, nature being decayed and infirmities abounding, we may judge that his death is not far off, though we know not when he will die; so seeing the world come to that state and condition, so weakened and decayed as unto its principal end, that it is scarce any longer able to bear the weight of its own wickedness, nor supply the sinful Lusts of its inhabitants; seeing all sorts of Sins, new and old, heard and unheard of perpe­trated every where in the light of the Sun, and countenanced with Atheistical security; as also considering that the Gospel seems to have finished its work where it is preached, with all sorts of signs of the like nature, we may safely conclude that the end of all things is approaching.

2. There is the Judge, which is Jesus Christ. Originally and absolutely this is the Judgement of God, of him who made the world. And therefore is it often said that God shall judge the world, Deut. 32. 35, 36. Ecclesiast. 12. 14. God the Judge of all, Heb. 12. 23. But the actual Administration of it is committed unto Jesus Christ alone to be exercised visibly in his humane nature, Rom. 14. 11. Dan. 7. 13. Matth. 16. 27. Chap. 19. 28. Joh. 5. 22. 27. Acts 17. 31. 2 Cor. 5. 10. 1 Thes. 4. 16. 2 Thes. 1. 7. and many other places. And herein, in the same individual person, he shall act the proper­ties of both his Natures. For as he shall visibly and gloriously appear in his humane Na­ture exalted in the supream place of Judicature, and invested with Soveraign Power and Authority over all Flesh, Dan. 7. 13. Matth. 24. 30. 1 Thes. 4. 16. Rom. 14. 10. so he shall act the Power and Omniscience of his Deity in upholding the whole state of the Creation in Judgement, and in the discovery of the hearts, and comprehension of the words, thoughts, and actions of all the Children of men from the beginning of the world unto the end thereof. And herein as all the holy Angels shall accompany him, and attend upon him, as Ministers, Assistants, and Witnesses unto his Righteous Judgements, Mark 25. 31. Luke 9. 26. Jude 12. Dan. 7. 10. so also in the Judgement of fallen An­gels and the reprobate world, the Saints, acquitted, justified, glorified in the first place, shall concur with him in this Judgement, by applauding his Righteousness and Holiness with their unanimous suffrage, Isa. 3. 14. Matth. 19. 28. 1 Cor. 6. 2, 3. For

3. As to the outward manner of this Judgement it shall be with solemnity and great glory, 2 Thes. 11. 7, 8, 9, 10. Jude 14, 15. Dan. 7. 9. Rev. 20. 4, 5. And this shall be partly for the demonstration of the Glory and Honour of Jesus Christ, who hath been so de­spised, reproached, persecuted in the world, and partly to fill the hearts of sinners with dread and terror, as Rev. 6. 17, 18, where this Judgement is represented. And the Order of this Judgement will be, that all the Elect shall first be acquitted and pronounced blessed. For they join in with the Lord Christ in the Judgement of the world, which they could not do, if themselves were not first freed and exalted. (2) The Devil and his Angels, and that on three general heads: 1. Of their original Apostasie. 2. Of the death of Christ. 3. Of Persecution. (3) The world of wicked men; probably 1. Hy­pocrites in the Church. 2. All others without. For

4. The persons to be judged are (1) fallen Angels, 1 Cor. 6. 3. 2 Pet. 2. 4. Jude 6. Matth. 25. 41. (2) All men universally without exception, Isa. 45. 23. Rom. 14. 9, 10. Matth. 25. 31. In especial (1) All the Godly, all such as have believed and obeyed the Gospel shall be judged, Luke 21. 36. Rom. 14. 12. 2 Tim. 4. 8. whether all their Sins shall be then called over and made known unto others, seeing they are known to him who is more in himself and unto us than all the world besides, I question. (2) All the un­godly and impenitent sinners, Deut. 32. 35. 2 Pet. 2. 3. Jude 15.

5. The Rule whereby all men shall be judged is the Law of their Obedience made known unto them. As (1) The Gentiles before the coming of Christ shall be judged by the Law of Nature, which all of them openly transgressed, Rom. 2. 12, 13, 14. (2) The Jews of the same time by the Law, and the Light into Redemption from Sin, superadded there­unto; that is, by the Rule, Doctrine, Precepts, and Promises of the Law and Prophets. (3) The Gospel unto all men unto whom it hath been offered or preached, Rom. 2. 16. The Rule of Judgement at the last day, neither is nor shall be any other, but what is preached every day in the dispensation of the Gospel. No man shall be able to complain of a surprizal, or pretend ignorance of the Law whereby he was to be judged. The sentence of it is proposed unto them continually. In the word of the Gospel is the [Page 28] Eternal condition of all the Sons of men positively determined and declared. And all these things are at large insisted on by others.

Secondly, The Evidence which God hath given concerning this future Judgement, whereon the certainty of it as to us doth depend, may also be considered. And 1. God hath planted a presumption and sense of it on the minds and hearts of men by nature, from whence it is absolutely and eternally inseparable. Conscience is nothing but that judgement which men do make and which they cannot but make of their moral actions with reference unto the su­pream future Judgement of God. Hence the Apostle treating of this future Judgement, Rom. 2. 12. 16. diverts to shew what Evidence all mankind had in the mean time that such a Judgement there should be, ver. 14, 15. And this he declares to consist in their own unavoidable thoughts concerning their own actions good or evil. This in the mean while accused them, and forced them to own a Judgement to come. Yea this is the proper Language of Conscience unto sinners on all occasions. And so effectual was this Evi­dence in the minds of the Heathen, that they generally consented into a perswasion, that by one or other, some where or other, a future Judgement would be exercised with respect unto things done in this world. Fabulous inventions and traditions they mixed in abun­dance with this Conviction, as Rom. 1. 21. but yet they made up the principal notions whereby a Reverence unto a Divine Being was preserved in their minds. And those who were wise and sober among them thought it sufficient to brand a person as impious and wicked, to deny an unseen judgement of mens actions out of this world, wherewith Cato reproached Caesar in the business of Catilin. This sense being that which keeps mankind within some tolerable bounds in Sin, the Psalmist prays that it may be increased in them, Psal. 19. 13. see Gen. 20. 11.

2. The working of Reason on the consideration of the state of all things in this world, complies with the innate principles and dictates of Conscience in this testimony. We sup­pose those concerning whom we treat do own the Being of God, and his Providence in the government of the world. Others deserve not the least of our consideration. Now those who are under the power of that Acknowledgement and Perswasion, must and do believe that God is infinitely Just and Righteous, infinitely Wise and Holy, and that he cannot otherwise be. But yet when they come to consider how these Divine Properties are exerted in the providential government of the world, which all Ages, Persons and Places must of necessity be subject unto, and disposed by, they are at a loss. The final impunity of flagitious sinners in this world, the unrelieved oppressions, afflictions, and miseries of the best, the prosperity of wicked Devilish designs, the defeating and over­throw of Holy, Just, Righteous undertakings and endeavours, promiscuous accidents to all sorts of persons, however differenced by Piety and Impiety, the prosperous course of men proud and blasphemous, who oppose God in Principles and Conversation no more than they are able, the secret undiscovered murthers of Martyrs and Innocents in Inquisitions and Dungeons, the extream confusion that seems to be in all things here below, with other things of the like kind innumerable, are ready to gravel and perplex the minds of men in this matter. They have greatly exercised the thoughts even of the Saints of God, and tried their Faith, as is evident, Psal. 73. ver. 4. to 17. Jer. 12. 1, 2. Habb. 1. 3, 4, 13. Job 21. 5, 6, 7, 8. &c. And the consideration hereof turned some of the wisest Heathens into Atheisme or outragious Blasphemies at their dying hours. But in this state even Reason rightly exerted will lead men to conclude, that upon the supposition of a Divine Being and Providence, it must needs be, that all these things shall be called over again, and then receive a final decision and determination, whereof in this world they are not capable. And among the Heathens there were proverbial Speeches which they uttered on occasion of great distresses which signified no less. As, Est profecto Deus qui haec videt. For

(1) Upon a due examination it will quickly appear, that the moral actions of men with respect unto God, in the way of Sin and Obedience, are such as that it is utterly im­possible that Judgement should be finally exercised towards them, in things visible and temporal, or that in this world they should receive a just recompence of reward. For whereas they have an aspect unto mens utmost end which is Eternal, they cannot be justly or rightly stated but under punishments or rewards Eternal, Rom. 1. 32. 2 Thes. 1. 6. Seeing therefore no full Judgement can possibly pass upon the Sins of men in this world, because all that can befall them is infinitely short of their demerit, even reason it self can­not but be satisfied, that God in his infinite Wisdom and Soveraignty should put off the whole Judgement unto that day, wherein all penalties shall be equalled to their Crimes, and [Page 29] Rewards unto Obedience. So when our Apostle reasoned before Felix about Righteous­ness and Temperance, knowing how unavailable his Arguments would be without it, against the Countrey Sins and Evils, from the impunity and prosperity of such sinners in the world, to make them effectual he adds the consideration of the Judgement to come, Acts 24. 25. Here Reason may relieve it self in the midst of all cross occurrences of Pro­vidence, and such as are not only contrary to our desires, but directly opposite unto our judgements, as to what is suitable to infinite Justice and Wisdom. The final determina­tion of things is not made here nor is it possible it should so be, on the ground before assigned.

(2) Should God take men off from a respect unto future Eternal Judgement, and con­stantly dispense Rewards and Punishments in this world, according unto what the wisest of men can apprehend just and equal, (which if any thing, must satisfie without a regard to Eternal Judgement) as it would be most unequal and unrighteous, so it might be an occasion of greater wickedness than the world is yet pestered withall. Unrighteous and unequal it must be unavoidably, because the Judgement supposed must pass according unto what men are able to discern and judge upon, that is, outward actions only. Now this were unrighteous in God, who sees and knows the heart, and knows that actions have their Good and Evil, if not solely yet principally from their respect thereunto. The Lord is a God of knowledge and by him actions are weighed, said Hannah, when Eli judged her drunk, but God saw that she prayed, 1 Sam. 2. 3. There is nothing more evident than that it is inconsistent with, and destructive of all Divine perfections, that God should pass a decretory sentence on the actions of men, according to what appears unto us to be just and equal. This therefore God declines, namely, to judge according to a Rule that we can comprehend, Isa. 11. 3. Rom. 2. 2.

But (3) Suppose that God should in this world distribute Rewards and Punishments constantly according to what he sees in the hearts and inward dispositions of the minds of men, it is no less evident that it would fill all men with unspeakable confusions, and pre­vail with them to judge that indeed there is no certain Rule of Judgement, no unmove­able bounds and limits of Good and Evil; seeing it would be absolutely impossible that by them the Judgements of God should be reduced unto any such Rules or Bounds; the Reasons of them being altogether unknown. This the Scripture plainly owns, Psal. 77. 19. Psal. 36. 6.

Wherefore (4) Should God visibly and constantly have dispensed Rewards and Punish­ments in this world, according to the Rule of mens knowledge, comprehension and judgement, which alone hath an appearance of being satisfactory, it would have been a principle or at least the occasion of a worse kind of Atheisme, than any yet the Earth hath been pestered withall. For it could not have been, but that the most would have made the judgement of men the only Rule of all that they did, which God must be obliged to comply withall, or be unrighteous; which is absolutely to dethrone him, and leave him only to be the Executioner of the Wills and Reasons of men. But from all these and the like perplexities, Reason it self may quietly take sanctuary in submission unto Soveraign Wisdom as to present dispensations, in a satisfaction that it is not only suitable unto, but necessary on the account of Divine Justice, that there should be a future Eternal Judge­ment, to pass according to truth upon all the ways and actions of men. And hereby doth God keep up in the hearts of men a testimony unto this great principle of our pro­fession. Therefore when our Apostle reasoned before Felix concerning such Duties and Sins, as were discoverable by the Light of Nature, namely, Righteousness and Tempe­rance, with respect to both which he was openly and flagitiously guilty, he adds this prin­ciple concerning Judgement to come, the truth whereof the Conscience and Reason of the wretch himself could not but comply withall, Acts 24. 25.

3. God hath given Testimony hereunto in all the extraordinary Judgements which he hath executed since the foundation of the world. It is not for nothing that he doth some­times, that he doth so frequently go out of or besides the common beaten tracts and paths of Providence. He doth it to intimate unto the world, that things are not always to pass at their present rate, but are one day to be called to another account. In great Judge­ments the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against the ungodliness of men, Rom. 1. 18. and an intimation is given of what he will farther do hereafter. For as he leaves not himself without witness in respect of his goodness and patience, in that he doth good and giveth rain from Heaven and fruitful seasons filling mens hearts with food and gladness, Acts 14. 17. so he gives testimony to his Righteousness and Holiness, in the Judgements that he executes, Psal. 9. 16. For whereas goodness and mercy are the works wherein God is [Page 30] as it were delighted, he gives Testimony unto them together with his patience and long­suffering in the ordinary course of his Dispensations. But Judgement in severity he calls his strange work, that which he proceeds not unto, but on great provocations, Isa. 28. 21. he satisfieth his holy Wisdom with some extraordinary necessary instances of it. And thus he hath himself singled out some particular instances, which he gave on purpose that they might be as pledges of the future Judgement, and hath given us a rule in them, how we are to judge of all his extraordinary acts of the same kind. Such was the Flood whereby the world was destroyed in the days of Noah, which Peter affirms expresly was a Type to shadow out the severity of God in the last final Judgement, 2 Pet. 2. 5. Chap. 3. 5, 6, 7. Of the like nature was his turning the Cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into Ashes, condemning them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly, 2 Pet. 2. 6. He made them a terrifying example, that others should hear and fear and do no more so presumptuously. But now whereas God hath not in the space of four thousand years, brought any such Judgement on any other places or persons, if this Example had respect only unto this world, it must needs have lost all its force and efficacy upon the minds of Sinners. Wherefore it did nearly respect the Judgement to come, God giving therein an instance what obstinate and profligate Sinners are to look for at that great day. Wherefore Jude says expresly, they are set forth for an Example suffering the vengeance of Eternal Fire, ver. 7. And this is the Language of all Gods extraordinary Judgements either on persons or places in the world. Let mens Sins be what they will, God can endure in his long-suffering the Sins of one as well as another, among the Vessels of wrath that are fitted for destruction, and so he doth ordinarily, or for the most part. But yet he will sometimes reach out his hand from Heaven in an extraordinary instance of Vengeance, on purpose that men may know that things shall not for ever be passed over in such a promiscuous manner, but that he hath appointed another day wherein he will judge the world in Righteousness. And for this reason such signal Judgements as are Evidences of the future Eternal Judgement of God, are in the Scripture expressed in words that seem to declare that Judgement it self, rather than the Types of it, Isa. 34. 4. Rev. 6. 13, 14. Dan. 7. 9, 10. Math. 24. 29, 30.

But 4. God hath not absolutely intrusted the evidence and preservation of this im­portant truth which is the Foundation of all Religion, unto the remainders of innate light in the Minds and Consciences of men, which may be variously obscured, until it be al­most utterly extinguished; nor yet unto the exercise of Reason on the consideration of the present Administration of Providence in this world, which is oft-times corrupted, de­praved, and rendred useless; nor yet unto the influence which extraordinary Judgements may have upon the minds of men, which some fortifie themselves against by their obsti­nacy in Sin and Security: but he hath abundantly testified unto it by express Revelation from the beginning of the world, now recorded in his word, by which all men must be tried whether they will or no. It may not be doubted but that Adam was acquainted with this truth immediately from God himself. He was so indeed in the Commination given against Sin at first, especially as it was explained in the Curse after he had actually sinned. And this was that which was taught him in the threatning, and which his Eyes were open to see clearly after his fall, where he immediately became afraid of God as his Judge, Gen. 3. 10. Nor can it be doubted but that he communicated the knowledge of it unto his posterity. But whereas they quickly in that profligacy in all wickedness which they gave themselves unto, had together with all other sacred Truths, lost the remem­brance of it, or at least practically despised and scoffed at the instruction which they had received therein, God knowing the necessity of it, either to restrain them in their flagi­tious courses, or to give them a warning that might leave them without excuse, makes a new express Revelation of it unto Enoch, and by him to mankind, Jude 14, 15. For Enoch the seventh from Adam prophesied of these, saying, Behold the Lord cometh with ten thou­sand of his Saints, to execute Judgement upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodlily committed, and of all their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. And this is the second New Reve­lation that is recorded before the Flood. There were two Revelations that were the foun­dation of the Church, the one concerning future Judgement in the Threatning, the other concerning the Recovery and Restauration of mankind in the Promise. Both seem to have been equally neglected by that cursed generation. But God solemnly revived them both, the first by Enoch, the latter by Noah, who was the Preacher of Righteousness, 1 Pet. 2. 5. in whom the Spirit of Christ preached unto them who are now in prison, 1 Pet. 3. 19, 20. And this Old Prophecy was revived by the Holy Ghost, partly that we might [Page 31] know, that God from the beginning of the world gave publick testimony unto and warning of his future Eternal Judgement, and partly to acquai [...]t us, that in the latter days men would break out into an excess, and outrage in sin and wickedness, like that of those before the Flood, wherein it would be necessary that day should be restrained, or terrified or warned, by preaching unto them this truth of the Judgement to come. After this the testimonies given unto it in the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testaments do so abound and are so obvious to all, that it is no way needful particularly to produce them.

This principle being thus cleared and confirmed, it may not be amiss to shew what practical improvement it doth require. And it is manifest that there is no Duty in Religion that is not, or ought not to be influenced by the consideration of it. I shall only name some of them whereunto it is in an especial manner applied by the Holy Ghost himself.

First, Ministers of the Gospel ought to dwell greatly on the consideration of it, as it is repre­sented in its terror and glory, that they may be excited and stirred up to deal effectually with the Souls of men, that they fall not under the Vengeance of that day. So our Apostle affirms that it was with himself; for having asserted the truth and certainty hereof, in those words, For we must all appear before the Judgement-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body according to that he hath done, he adds thereunto, Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we perswade men, 2 Cor. 5. 10, 11. Duely considering what will be the state of things with all men in that day, how dreadful the Lord Christ will be there­in unto impenitent sinners, and what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God, I use all diligence to prevail with men to get such an interest in the Peace and Re­conciliation tendred in the Gospel, that they may be accounted worthy to stand in that day. See Col. 1. 28. And without a continual due apprehension hereof, it cannot be but that men will grow cold, and dead, and formal in their Ministry. If the Judgement­seat of Jesus Christ be not continually in our eye, whatever other motives we may have unto diligence in our work, we shall have little regard to the Souls of men whether they live or die in their Sins or no; without which, whatever we do is of no accep­tance with God.

2. The consideration of it is peculiarly applied by the Holy Ghost against security in worldly enjoyments, and those Evils wherewith it is usually accompanied. So it is made use of by our blessed Saviour, Luke 21. 34, 35, 36. And so by our Apostle, 1 Thes. 5. 5, 6, 7, 8. And this also is expressed in the Type of it, or the Flood in the days of Noah, no­thing in it was more terrible unto men than that they were surprised in the midst of their enjoyments and employments, Matth. 24. 38, 39.

3. It is in like manner frequently applied unto the consolation of Believers, under the trou­bles, difficulties, and persecutions, which in this life they undergo, 2 Thes. 1. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. even the terror and the glory of it, with the Vengeance which shall be executed in it, are proposed as the matter of highest consolation unto Believers, as indeed they are, on many accounts not here to be insisted on. See Isa. 35. 3, 4. Luke 21. 31. Rev. 19. 7. 2 Tim. 4. 8. Rev. 22. 17. And therefore are we required to look for, long for, and what lies in us hasten to this day of the Lord, when on all accounts our Joy shall be full.

4. It is in like manner every where applied to the terror of ungodly and impenitent sin­ners, 1 Thes. 5. 2, 3. 2 Thes. 1. 6, 7, 8. Jude 14, 15. and in many other places not to be numbred. And unto these ends in an especial manner is the consideration of it to be by us improved.

These therefore (that we may return to the Text) are those fundamental principles of Christian Religion which the Apostle calls the Doctrine of Baptismes and the laying on of hands. This was a summary of that Doctrine wherein they were to be instructed who were to be baptized, and to have Imposition of hands thereon.

But there occurs no small difficulty from the use of the word Baptismes in the plural number. For it is not any where else in the Scripture so used, when the Baptism of the Gospel is intended, and the Jewish washings are often so expressed. The Syriack Inter­preter which is our most ancient translation, renders it in the singular number, Baptism. But because there is a full agreement in all Original Copies, and the ancient Expositions also concur therein, none have yet adventured to leave the Original, and follow that tran­slation; but all generally who have commented on the place, have considered how the word may be understood and explained. And herein they have fallen into such various conjectures, as I shall not spend time in the consideration and refutation of, but content my self with the naming of them, that the Reader may use his own judgement about [Page 32] them. Some therefore suppose that mention is made of Baptisms because of the Baptism of John and Christ, which as they judge were not only distinct but different. But the Jews were indifferently baptized by the one or the other; and it was but one Ordinance unto them. Some because of the many Baptisms or washings among the Jews, into the room of all which the mystery of our Baptism doth succeed. But this of all other con­jectures is the least probable; and if any respect could be had thereunto, it would have been necessary to have mentioned Baptism in the singular number. Some think respect is had unto the several sorts of Gospel Baptism, which are usually referred unto three heads, fluminis, flaminis, sanguinis, of the Water by external washing, of the Spirit by internal purifying, of Afflictions unto blood by both. And thus the Apostle should not only intend the Baptism of Water, but also the whole spiritual cleansing of the Soul and Conscience, which was required of men at their initiation into Christian Religion, called [...], 1 Pet. 3. 21. with a purpose to seal their Confession with their Blood if called thereunto, and therein being baptized with the Baptism where­with the Lord Christ in his suffering was baptized, Matth. 20. 23. And this hath in it much of probability, and which next unto what I have fixed on, I should embrace. Some suppose, regard may be had unto the stated times of Baptism, which were fixed and observed in the Primitive Church, when they baptized persons publickly, but twice or thrice in the year. But it is certain that this custom was not then introduced. Some be take themselves unto an Enalogie of number, which indeed is not unusual, but there is nothing here in the Tet to give countenance unto a supposition of it.

Wherefore the most general interpretation of the words, and meaning of the Apostle is, that although Baptism be but one and the same, never to be repeated or reiterated on the same subject, nor is there any other Baptism or Washing of the same kind; yet be­cause the Subjects of it, or those who were baptized were many, every one of them being made partakers of the same Baptism in special, that of them all is called Baptisms, or the Baptism of the many.

All persons who began to attend unto the Gospel were diligently instructed in the fore-mentioned principles with others of an alike nature, (for they are mentioned only as instances) before they were admitted unto a participation of this Ordinance with impo­sition of hands that ensued thereon; these therefore are called the Doctrine of Baptisms or the Catechetical fundamental truths, wherein those to be baptized were instructed, as being the things whereof they were to make a solemn profession.

But if we shall follow the other interpretation, and suppose that this Doctrine of Baptisms is an epression of a distinct principle by it self, then cannot the word by any means be re­strained unto the Baptism by Water only. For although this be an important head of Christian Doctrine, namely, the declaration, use and end of our Sacramental Initiation into Christ and the Profession of the Gospel, yet no reason can be given why that should be called Baptisms, seeing it hath respect only to the thing it self, and not to the persons who are made partakers of it.

Admit therefore of this sense, that it is the Doctrine concerning Baptisms which is in­tended; and then the whole of what is taught or the substnace of it concerning the San­ctification and Purification of the Souls of men in their Insition into, and Union with Christ, outwardly epressed in the Sign of Baptism, and wrought inwardly by the Spirit and Grace of God, through the efficacy of the Doctrine of the Gospel, in opposition to all the legal and carnal washings among the Jews, is intended hereby. So the Lord Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctifie and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, Ephes. 5. 26. And indeed the Doctrine hereof is among the Ru­diments of Christian Religion.

But I yet adhere to the former Eposition, and that also because unto Baptisms, Imposition of hands, whose nature we must netly enquire into, is added.

Some suppose that by this Imposition of hands that Rite in the Church which was af­terward called Confirmation, is intended. For whereas there were two sorts of persons [...] that were baptized, namely, those that were adult at their first hearing of the Gospel, and the infant Children of Believers who were admitted to be members of the Church; the first sort were instructed in the principles mentioned before they were admitted unto Baptism, by the profession whereof they laid the foundation of their own personal Right thereunto. But the other being received as a part and branches of a Family whereupon the blessing of Abraham was come, and to whom the Promise of the Covenant was ex­tended, being thereon baptized in their Infancy, were to be instructed in them, as they grew up unto years of understanding. Afterwards when they were established in the [Page 33] knowledge of these necessary truths, and had resolved on personal Obedience unto the Gospel, they were offered unto the fellowship of the Faithful. And hereon giving the same account of their Faith and Repentance which others had done before they were bap­tized, they were admitted into the Communion of the Church, the Elders thereof laying their hands on them in token of their Acceptation, and praying for their Confirmation in the Faith. Hence the same Doctrines became previously necessary unto both these Rites, before Baptism to them that were adult, and towards them who were baptized in Infancy before the Imposition of hands. And I do acknowledge that this was the state of things in the Apostolical Churches, and that it ought to be so in all others. Persons bap­tized in their Infancy ought to be instructed in the fundamental principles of Religion, and make profession of their own Faith and Repentance before they are admitted into the Society of the Church. But that in those first days of the first Churches, persons were ordinarily after Baptism admitted into their Societies by Imposition of hands, is no where intimated in the Scripture. And the whole business of Confirmation is of a much later date, so that it cannot be here intended. For it must have respect unto, and express somewhat that was then in common use.

Now there is mention in the Scripture of a fourfold Imposition of hands used by the Lord Christ and his Apostles. The first was peculiar unto his own person in the way of Autho­ritative Benediction. Thus when he owned little Children to belong to his Covenant and Kingdom, He laid his hands on them, and blessed them, Mark 10. 16. But this was pe­culiar to himself, who had all blessings in his Power, and hereof this is the only instance. Secondly, This Rite was used in the healing of Diseases. They laid their hands on sick, weak and impotent people, healing them in a miraculous manner, Luke 4. 40. Mark 16. 18. Acts 28. 8. This was the sign of the Communication of healing virtue from the Lord Christ by their Ministry. Thirdly, Imposition of hands was used in the setting apart of persons to the office and work of the Ministry, 1 Tim. 4. 14. Chap. 5. 22. Acts 6. 6. the Rite herein was derived from the Old Testament, Numb. 8. 11. the whole Congregation laid hands on the Levites in their Consecration. And it was of old of common use among the Jews in the dedication of their Rulers, Rabbi's or Teachers, being called by them [...]. Fourthly, It was used by the Apostles in the collation of the supernatu­ral spiritual Gifts of the Holy Ghost unto them who were baptized, Acts. 8. 17. Acts 19. 6. In no other Duties of Religion was this Rite made use of, as to any mention that is made thereof in the New Testament, or Records concerning the practice of the Primitive Churches. The first of these as we observed was only a personal action of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that in one single instance, so not here intended. The second was extraordi­nary also, and that wherein the generality of Christians was not concerned, nor can any reason be given, why the mention of a thing extraordinary, occasional and temporary, should be here inserted. The third was a Rite of standing use in the Church, and that wherein Church Order is much concerned. But as to the use of it one sort of persons on­ly was concerned therein. And no just reason can be given why the Apostle from the Doctrine of the first intrants of Christian Religion, should proceed to the Ordination of Ministers, omitting all other Rites of the Church, especially that of the Supper of the Lord, wherein so great a part of the Worship of the Church consisted. Besides there is no ground to give a probability that the Apostle should insert the obser­vation of this Rite or the Doctrine concerning it, in the same order and under the same necessity with those great fundamentals of Faith, Repentance, the Resurrection, and Eternal Judgement.

Wherefore the Imposition of hands in the last sense mentioned, is that which most pro­bably is intended by our Apostle. For (1) adhering to our first interpretation as the most solid and firm, the Imposition of hands intended, is a description of the persons that were to be instructed in the other fundamental principles, but is no principle its self. And this is not appliable unto any other of the uses of this Rite. For (2) This laying on of hands did commonly if not constantly in those days accompany or immediately follow Baptism, Acts 8. 14, 15, 16, 17. Acts 19. 6. And a thing this was of singular present use, wherein the Glory of the Gospel and its propagation were highly concerned. This was the state of things in the world. When upon the preaching of the Gospel any were converted unto Christ, and upon their profession of Faith and Repentance were bap­tized, the Apostles present, (or if near unto them they came on that purpose) laid their hands on them, whereon they received the Holy Ghost in a supernatural Communication of Evangelical Gifts. And this, next to the preaching of the word, was the great means which the Lord Christ made use of in the propagation of the Gospel. By the Word he [Page 32] [...] [Page 33] [...] [Page 34] wrought internally on the Minds and Consciences of men, and by these miraculous gifts he turned the thoughts of men to the consideration of what was preached, by what in an extraordinary manner was objected to their external senses. And this was not con­fined unto a few Ministers of the word and the like, but as it appears from sundry places of Scripture was common almost unto all Believers that were baptized, Gal. 3. 2. 1 Cor. 14. (3) In the Verse following mention is made of those who were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, that is, of his miraculous gifts and operations which were communi­cated by this Imposition of hands, which therefore refers unto the same. After these times, this Rite was made use of in other occasions of the Church, in imitation no doubt of this extraordinary action of the Apostles, but there is no mention of it in the Scripture nor was in use in those days, and therefore cannot be here intended. And this is the most genuine interpretation of this place. These mentioned were the principles of the Doctrine of Christ, wherein among others of the same importance they were to be well instructed, who were to be baptized and thereon to have hands laid on them, whereby the extraordinary Gifts of the Holy Ghost were communicated unto them.

But we shall allow a room also for that other Exposition of the words, which is more generally received, and in the exclusion whereof, because it complies with the Analogie of Faith, I dare not be peremptory. And this is, that the Doctrine of laying on of hands maketh one distinct principle of Christianity by its self. But then the thing signified is principally intended, namely, the Communication of the Holy Ghost unto Believers in his Gifts and Graces ordinary and extraordinary, whereof this Rite was the external Sign. And as this was peculiar to the Gospel, so it contained the principal verification of it. And this it did sundry ways: (1) Because the Promises of the Lord Christ for the sending of him were eminently and visibly accomplished. It is known that when he was leaving the world he filled his Disciples with an expectation of his sending the Holy Ghost unto them. And he did not only propose this Promise as their great supportment during his absence, but also suspended on its accomplishment, all the Duty which he required from them in the Office he had called them unto. Therefore he commanded them to abide quietly at Hierusalem without any publick engagement into their work, until they had received the Promise of the Spirit, Acts 1. 4, 8. And when this was done, it gave a full and glorious testimony, not only unto his truth in what he had told them in this world, but also unto his present exaltation and acceptation with God, as Peter declares, Acts 2. 33. (2) His Gifts themselves were such, many of them, as consisted in miraculous operations, whereby God himself gave immediate testimony to the truth of the Gospel, Heb. 2. 3, 4. God himself bearing witness (to the preachers of it) with signs and wonders, and with miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost. This made the Doctrine concerning them of unconceivable impor­tance unto Believers of those days, as that whereby their Faith and Profession was emi­nently justified in the face of the world. (3) This Dispensation of the Holy Ghost was peculiar to the times of the Gospel, and was in its self a sufficient proof of the cessation of all Legal Ordinances. For it was the principal Prophecy and Promise under the Old Testament, that in the days of the Messiah the Holy Ghost should be so poured out, as I have at large elsewhere declared. And it was to be a consequent of his Glorification, Job. 7. 38, 39. Hence by the argument of their receiving the Spirit, our Apostle proves to the Galatians their freedom from the Law, Gal. 3. 2. Wherefore (4) The Doctrine concerning this Dispensation of the Spirit was peculiar to the Gospel, and so might be esteemed an especial principle of its Doctrine. For although the Church of the Jews be­lieved the Holy Ghost as one Person in the Trinity, after their obscure manner of appre­hension, yet they were Strangers unto this Dispensation of him in his Gifts, though promised under the Old Testament, because not to be accomplished but under the New. Yea John the Baptist who in light into the Mystery of the Gospel, outwent all the Prophets that were before him, yet had not the Knowledge hereof communicated unto him. For those who were only baptized with his Baptism and initiated thereby into the Doctrine of Repentance for the forgiveness of Sins, had not so much as heard whether there were an Holy Ghost, that is, as unto this dispensation of him, Acts 19. 2, 3. Hereupon our Apostle instructing them in the Doctrine of the Gospel he made use of this Rite of the Imposition of hands, whereon the Holy Ghost came on them, and they spake with Tongues and prophesied, ver. 6. This therefore being so great and important a concern of the Gospel, and this being the Rite appointed to represent it by, the Doctrine concerning it, namely, the Promise of Christ to send the Holy Ghost, with the nature, use, and end of the Gifts which he wrought in Believers, is expressed, and reckoned among the first principles of Christian Religion. But the Reader is at liberty to follow whether of these interpretations [Page 35] he pleaseth. And from the whole of what hath been discoursed we may take the en­suing observations.

1. Persons to be admitted into the Church, and unto a participation of all the holy Ordi­nances thereof had need be well instructed in the important Principles of the Gospel. We have here the Rule of the Apostle and Example of the Primitive Churches for the ground of this Doctrine. And it is necessary that such persons should be so instructed on their own part, as also on the part of the Church it self. On their own part, because without it the Ordinances themselves will be of little use unto them. For what benefit can any receive from that whose nature and properties he is unacquainted withall? And neither the nature nor use of the Ordinances of the Church, can be understood without a previous comprehension of the fundamental principles of the Gospel, as might be easily demonstrated. And it is so on the part of the Church. For the neglect hereof was the chiefest occasion of the de­generacy of most Churches in the world. By this means were the Societies of them filled with ignorant and consequently profane persons, by whom all their Administrations were defiled, and themselves corrupted, as I have shewed elsewhere. When once the care and diligence of the first Churches, in the instruction of those whom they admitted into their Communion, were laid aside, and an empty form taken up in the room of sedulous teach­ing, the Churches themselves hastened into a fatal Apostasie.

2. It is not the outward Sign but the inward Grace that is principally to be considered in those Ordinances or Observances of the Church which visibly consist in Rites and Ceremonies, or have them accompanying of them. As in the Rite of Imposition of hands, the dispensation of the Holy Ghost was principally to be considered.

Verse 3.


And this will we do, if so be that God permit. Ver. 3.

These words contain two things. (1) The Resolution of the Apostle as to the matter and occasion before him. And this will we do. (2) A limitation of that resolution by an express submission to the will and pleasure of God, if so be that God permit.

As to the sense of the first, it is plain that the Apostle in the foregoing Verses had pro­posed [...] or mentioned two things of very divers natures. The first hereof is, going on to perfection, ver. 1. and the other, the laying again of the foundation, ver. 2. Hence it is doubted and enquired, whether of these it be that the Apostle hath respect unto in these words, And this we will do.

This we will do, that is, either we will go on to perfection, which was exhorted unto ver. 1. and so is the more remote antecedent; or this will we do, laying again the foundation, which is the next antecedent, whereunto [...] seems to relate. And this sundry Expo­sitors adhere unto. But there are some things which make it evident, that respect is had herein to the former and more remote antecedent, namely, going on to perfection. And they are, first what the Apostle saith, and then what he doth. In what he saith, his manner of ex­pressing these things is considerable; for as to the latter he twice intimates his intention to omit their farther handling. Therefore leaving, or at present omitting the principles of the Doctrine of Christ, and, not laying again the foundation, ver. 1. Hereunto if we re­fer these words, And this will we do if God permit, they rather signifie the present leaving of them, than their farther handling. And he not only declares his resolution to omit them, but also gives a sufficient reason why he would do so. And this is expressed in the last Verses of the Chapter foregoing. They had already had both time and means sufficient for their instruction in these principles so that to inculcate them on those by whom they were learned and received was needless; and for those, who had either not received them, or rejected them, it was to no purpose farther to treat with them about these things, which he confirms with a severe reason and dreadful consideration, ver. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. But things are otherwise expressed concerning the other antecedent. He speaks of it positively as that which was in his purpose and design, Let us, saith he, go on to perfection, I in teaching, ye in learning, and this will we do if God permit. (2) His intention is no less evident from what he doth in this Epistle; There is indeed in this Chapter, and the last Chapter of it, mention made about Repentance, Faith, Patience, Obedience, the Worship of God, and the like; but not as principles of Doctrine, to be laid as foundation, but as Graces to be practised in the course of their Edification. But the main business he undertakes, and [Page 36] the work which he pursues, is the carrying on of these Hebrews to perfection by the declara­tion of the most sublime mysteries of the Gospel, especially that which is among the chiefest of them, namely, the Priesthood of Christ and the Prefiguration of it by that of Melchisedeck. (3) The whole series of this discourse depends on Chap. 5. ver. 10, 11. Having declared unto them that he had many things to instruct them concerning the Priesthood of Christ, as shadowed out in the Person and Office of Melchisedeck, he lets them know that he had also sundry discouragements in his design, which yet were not such, but that he would break through them and pursue his intention. Only to make his way as smooth and plain as conveniently he could, he deals with them a while about the removal of those hinderances which lay in his way on their part, and then returneth di­rectly to his first proposal, and the handling of it in the last Verse of this Chapter. This therefore is the sense of these words. For the reasons before insisted on, and afterwards to be added, I will proceed unto the declaration of the principal mysteries of the Gospel, especially those which concern the Priesthood of Christ, and thereby raise up the building of your Faith and Profession upon the foundation that hath been laid, whereby through the Grace of God, you may be carried on to perfection, and become skilful in the word of Righteousness.

No discouragements should deter the Ministers of the Gospel from proceeding in the declaration Obser. of the mysteries of Christ, whose dispensation is committed unto them, when they are called there­unto. Among the various discouragements they meet withall, the least is not what ariseth from the dulness of them that hear. This our Apostle had now in his eye in a particular manner, yet resolved to break through the consideration of it, in the discharge of his Duty, So it is with many still. Neither is any thing more irksome and grievous unto faithful preachers than the incapacity of their Hearers to receive Gospel mysteries through their own negligence and sloth. But in this condition they have here an exam­ple for their guidance and direction.

And these things lie plain therein. (1) That they use all means, by warnings, per­swasions, incouragements, and threatnings to stir up their people out of their slothful, care­less frame and temper. So doth our Apostle with the Hebrews in this Chapter, leaving nothing unsaid that might excite them unto diligence and a due improvement of the means of knowledge which they enjoyed. So will they do with them that watch for their Souls as those who must give an account, and Ministers of another sort have no con­cern in these matters. (2) As occasion offers it self, to proceed in their work. And that (1) Because there are among their Hearers some concerning whom they are perswa­ded of better things, and such as accompany Salvation, as our Apostle speaks verse 9. whose Edification is not to be neglected, for the sinful sloth and ignorance of others. (2) God is pleased sometimes to convey saving Light to the minds of men, before very dark and ignorant, in and by the dispensation of the deepest mysteries of the Gospel, without such preparatory instruction in the more obvious principles of it, as is ordinarily required. Not knowing therefore by what ways or means, how or when God will work upon the Souls of men, it is their Duty to proceed in the declaration of the whole counsel of God committed unto them, and leave the success of all unto him by whom they are employed.

Secondly, The Limitation of this Resolution is expressed in those words, [...], [...]. if God permit. There may be a threefold occasion of these words, or a respect unto three things in the Will of God, and consequently a threefold Exposition of them. For,

1. Respect may be had meerly and solely unto the unknown Soveraign will and pleasure of God, and so no more is intended but that general limitation and expression of our ab­solute dependance on him, which we ought to bound all our resolutions withall. This our nature, and the nature of all our affairs, as they are in the hand of God, and at his disposal, do require of us. And therefore also it is expresly enjoyned us as a Duty to be continually minded in all we undertake or do, Jam. 4. 13, 14, 15. If this be intended (as it is also, if not only) then it is as if he had said, If he in whose hand is my life and breath and all my ways, whose I am, whom I serve, and to whose disposal I willingly submit my self in all things, see good and be pleased to continue my life, opportunity, his assistance and all other things necessary to this work, I will proceed with my design and purpose to acquaint you with and instruct you in the great mysteries of the Priesthood and Sacrifice of Christ. See 1 Cor. 16. 7.

[Page 37] 2. Respect may be had unto the condition of the Hebrews whose sloth and negligence in hearing the word he hath now under reproof, and the Will or Purpose of God concerning them. For he seems to intimate unto them, that there may be some fear lest God should be so provoked by their former miscarriages, as that he would not afford them the means of farther instruction. For this is a thing which God often threatens, and which falls out oftner than we are aware of, yea most Nations of the Earth are examples of this se­verity of God. So a word of the same importance is used unto this purpose, as to the turning away of the Gospel from any persons or people, Acts 16. 7. They assayed to go into Bythinia but the Spirit suffered them not, he permitted it not; which is the same, with forbidding them to preach the word in Asia, ver. 6 And so the sense of the expression amounts to this; If God, whom I fear you have much provoked by your negligence and con­tempt of his word, will yet exercise patience and long-suffering towards you, and not cast you out of his care by forbidding me to proceed in my design, or depriving me of my opportunity, if God hinder me not by reason of your unworthiness, but be graciously pleased to be with me in my designed work.

3. There is a [...] in the words, wherein a farther respect unto the Will of God is included than expressed. For it is not a meer naked permission in God that the Apostle in­tends, as if he should have said, if God let me alone, and as it were wink at what I am doing. But there is a supposition in it of the continuance of Gods gracious assistance and especial presence with him, without which he frequently declared that he could neither undertake nor accomplish any thing that lay before him. God can in the beginning or middle of an Epistle, or a Sermon, take us off when he pleaseth, if he do but withdraw his assistance from us. And all these respects unto the Will of God, are not only con­sistent, so as that the closing with one excludeth not another, but they are all of them plainly included in the Apostles intention, and are necessary to be taken in, unto the right understanding of his words.

As it is our Duty to submit our selves in all our undertakings unto the Will of God, so Obser. especially in those wherein his Glory is immediately concerned. In general we have a Rule given us as to the most ordinary occasions of Life, Jam. 4. 13, 14, 15. Not to do it is to disavow our dependance on God; a fruit of carnal wisdom and security, which God greatly abhorreth. Neither is there any thing which will so fill our lives with dis­appointment and vexation. For in vain shall any man, be his condition at present what it will, seek for rest or peace in any thing but the Will of God. But especially is this required of us in these things wherein the Glory of God himself is immediately con­cerned. Such are those here with respect whereunto our Apostle makes this deference unto the Soveraign pleasure of God. This will we do if God permit; namely, the things which concern the instruction and edification of the Church, which regards the Glory of God in an especial manner. For (1) All these things are under the especial care of God, and are ordered by peculiar Wisdom. Not to submit our selves absolutely in these things unto him, is to take his own things out of his hand, and to exalt our wisdom against his, as though we knew better what belonged unto his affairs than himself. (2) We come not to have any concernment in the things of God but upon his call, and hold it at his pleasure. That is the rise and tenour of our Ministry in the Church whatever it be. And is it not just and equal that we should wholly submit in our work unto his Will, and rest in his Pleasure? It may be we have many things in our view that are desirable unto us, many things we would think meet to engage our endeavours in, as supposing them to have a great tendency to the Glory of God, in all which he hath determined contrary to our desires and aymes. All our Satisfaction lies in, and all our Duty is to be bounded by this submission.

Let them who are entrusted with means of Light, Knowledge, and Grace, improve them Obs. 2. with diligence, lest upon their neglect, God suffer not his Ministers farther to instruct them.

Verse 4, 5, 6.


[...]. Impossibile enim, that is, est, it is impossible, Syr. [...] But they cannot. This respects the Power of the Persons themselves, and not the Event of things, it may be not improperly as to the sense. Beza and Erasmus, fieri non potest, it cannot be. The same with impossibile. But the use of the word [...] in the New Testament, which signifies sometimes only what is very difficult, not what is absolutely denied, makes it useful to retain the same word, as in our Translation; For it is im­possible.

[...] Syr. Those who one time, or once descended unto Baptism; of which interpretation we must speak afterwards. All others, qui semel fuerint Illuminati, who were once Illuminated. Only the Aethiopick follows the Syriack; some read Illustrati to the same purpose.

[...], vul. Lat. Gustaverant etiam donum coeleste; etiam for &. Others express the Article by the Pronoun, by reason of its Reduplication. Et gustaverint donum illud coeleste; and have tasted of that Heavenly Gift. Syr. The Gift that is from Heaven. And this the Emphasis in the Original seems to require. And have tasted of that Heavenly Gift.

[...]. Et participes facti sunt spiritus sancti. Vul. Lat. And are made partakers of the Holy Ghost. All others, facti fuerint, have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost; Syr. [...] the Spirit of Ho­liness.

[...]. Vul. Lat. Et gustaverunt nihilominus bonum Dei ver­bum. Rhem. Have moreover tasted the good word of God. But moreover doth not express nihilominus; and have notwithstanding, which hath no place here, [...], verbum pulchrum.

[...]. Virtutes (que) seculi futuri. Syr. [...] Virtutem; the Power. Vul. seculi venturi. We cannot in our Language distinguish between futu­rum and venturum, and so render it, the world to come.

[...]; Vul. Et prolapsi sunt. Rhem. And are fallen. Others, si prola­bantur; which the sense requires; if they fall, that is, away, as our Translation, pro­perly. Syr. [...], That sin again, somewhat dangerously: for it is one kind of sinning only that is included and expressed.

[...]. Vul. rursus renovari ad poenitentiam, to be renewed again to Repentance, rendring the active verb passively. So Beza also, ut denuo renoventur ad resipiscentiam; that they should again be renewed to Repentance. The word is active as rendered by ours, to renew them again to Repentance.

[...]. Rursum crucifigentes sibimetipsis filium Dei. [...]. Vul. Et ostentui habentes; Rhem. And making him a mockery. Eras. ludibrio habentes. Beza, ignominiae exponentes. One of late, ad exemplum Judaeorum excruciant; torment him as did the Jews.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the Heavenly Gift, V. 4, 5, 6. and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the Powers of the world to come, if they fall away (for' any) to renew them again to Repen­tance; seeing they crucifie again to themselves the Son of God, and put him unto open shame, (or treat him ignominiously.)

That this passage in our Apostles discourse hath been looked upon as accompanied with great difficulties, is known to all. And many have the Differences been about its Inter­pretation. For both Doctrinally and Practically, sundry have here stumbled and mis­carried. It is almost generally agreed upon, that from these words, and the colourable but indeed perverse Interpretation and Application made of them by some in the Primi­tive times, occasioned by the then present circumstances of things, to be mentioned [Page 39] afterwards, the Latin Church was so backward in receiving the Epistle it self, that it had not absolutely prevailed therein in the days of Hierome, as we have elsewhere declared. Wherefore it is necessary, that we should a little enquire into the occasion of the great contests which have been in the Church almost in all Ages, about the sense of this place.

It is known that the Primitive Church according to its Duty, was carefully watchful about the Holiness and upright walking of all that were admitted into the Society and Fellowship of it. Hence upon every known and visible failing, they required an open Repentance from the Offenders, before they would admit them into a participation of the sacred mysteries. But upon flagitious and scandalous crimes, such as Murder, Adul­tery, or Idolatry, in many Churches they would never admit those who had been guilty of them into their Communion any more. Their greatest and most signal trial, was with respect unto them, who through fear of death complied with the Gentiles in their Ido­latrous Worship, in the time of Persecution. For they had fixed no certain general Rules whereby they should unanimously proceed, but every Church exercised severity or lenity, according as they saw cause, upon the circumstances of particular instances. Hence Cyprian in his banishment would not positively determine concerning those of the Church in Carthage, who had so sinned and fallen, but deferr'd his thoughts until his return; when he resolved to advise with the whole Church, and settle all things according to the counsel that should be agreed on amongst them. Yea many of his Epistles are on this subject peculiarly; and in them all, if compared together, it is evi­dent, that there was no Rule agreed upon herein, nor was he himself resolved in his own mind, though strictly on all occasions opposing Novatianus, wherein it had been well if his Arguments had answered his Zeal. Before this the Church of Rome was esteemed in particular more remiss in their Discipline, and more than other Churches in their re-admission unto Communion, of notorious Offenders. Hence Tertullian in his Book de Poenitentia, reflects on Zepherinus the Bishop of Rome, that he had admitted Adul­terers unto Repentance, and thereby unto the Communion of the Church. But that Church proceeding in her Lenity, and every day enlarging her Charity, Novatus and Novatianus taking offence thereat, advanced an Opinion on the contrary extream. For they denied all hope of Church-pardon, or of a Return unto Ecclesiastical Communion, unto them who had fallen into open sin after Baptism, and in especial peremptorily excluded all persons whatsoever who had outwardly complied with Idolatrous Worship in time of Persecution, without respect unto any distinguishing circumstances. Yea they seem to have excluded them from all expectation of forgiveness from God himself. But their followers terrified with the uncharitableness and horror of this Perswasion, tempered it so far, as leaving all persons absolutely to the mercy of God upon their Repentance, they only denied such as we mentioned before a re-admission into Church-Communion, as Ac [...]sius speaks expresly in Socrates, lib. 1. cap. 7. Now this Opinion they endeavoured to confirm, as from the nature and use of Baptism, which was not to be reiterated; where­on they judged that no pardon was to be granted unto them, who fell into those sins which they lived in before, and were cleansed from at their Baptism; so principally from this place of our Apostle, wherein they thought their whole Opinion was taught and con­firmed. And so usually doth it fall out very unhappily with men, who think they see some peculiar Opinion or Perswasion, in some singular Text of Scripture, and will not bring their Interpretations of it unto the Analogie of Faith, whereby they might see how contrary it is to the whole design and current of the word in other places. But the Church of Rome on the other side judging rightly from other directions given in the Scrip­ture, that the Novatians transgressed the Rule of Charity and Gospel-Discipline in their severities; yet as it should seem, and is very probable, knew not how to answer the Objection from this place of our Apostle. Therefore did they rather choose for a season, to suspend their assent unto the Authority of the whole Epistle, than to prejudice the Church by its Admission. And well was it that some learned men afterward, by their sober Interpretations of the words, plainly evince that no countenance was given in them unto the errors of the Novatians; for without this it is much to be feared that would have preferred their Interest in their present controversie, before the Authority of it, which would in the issue have proved ruinous to the Truth it self. For the Epistle being designed of God unto the common Edification of the Church, would have at length prevailed, whatever sense men through their prejudices and ignorance should put upon any passages of it.

But this controversie is long since buried; the generality of the Churches in the world, being sufficiently remote from that which was truly the mistake of the Novatians, yea the most of them do bear peaceably in their Communion, [Page 40] without the least exercise of Gospel-discipline towards them, such persons as concerning whom the dispute was of old, whether they should ever in this world be admitted into the Communion of the Church, although upon their open and professed Repen­tance. We shall not therefore at present need to labour in this controversie.

But the sense of these words hath been the subject of great contests, on other occa­sions also. For some do suppose, and contend, that they are real and true Believers, who are decyphered by the Apostle, and that their Character is given us in and by sundry in­separable Adjuncts, and properties of such persons. Hence they conclude, that such Be­lievers may totally and finally fall from Grace, and perish Eternally. Yea it is evident that this Hypothesis of the final Apostasie of true Believers, is that which influenceth their Minds and Judgements to suppose that such are here intended. Wherefore others who will not admit that according to the tenor of the Covenant of Grace in Christ Jesus, true Believers can perish Everlastingly, do say, that either they are not here intended, or if they are, the words are only comminatory, wherein although the consequence in them in a way of arguing be true, namely, that on the supposition laid down, the inference is certain, yet the supposition is not asserted in order unto a certain consequent, whence it should follow that true Believers might so really fall away, and absolutely perish. And these things have been the matter of many contests among learned men.

Again, There have been sundry mistakes in the practical Application of the intention of these words unto the Consciences of men, mostly made by themselves who are con­cerned. For whereas by reason of sin, they have been surprized with terrors and trou­bles of Conscience, they have withall in their darkness and distress, supposed themselves to be fallen into the condition here described by our Apostle, and consequently to be irre­coverably lost. And these Apprehensions usually befall men on two occasions. For some having been overtaken with some great actual sin, against the Second Table after they have made a Profession of the Gospel, and having their Consciences harrassed with a sense of their Guilt, (as it will fall out where men are not greatly hardned through the deceitfulness of sin) they judge that they are fallen under the sentence denounced in this Scripture against such sinners, as they suppose themselves to be, whereby their state is irrecoverable. Others do make the same Judgement of themselves, because they have fallen from that constant compliance with their Convictions, which formerly led them unto a strict performance of Duties, and this in some course of long continuance. Now whereas it is certain, that the Apostle in this discourse gives no countenance unto the severity of the Novatians, whereby they excluded Offenders everlastingly from the Peace and Communion of the Church, nor to the final Apostasie of true Believers, which he testifieth against in this very Chapter, in compliance with innumerable other Testimonies of Scripture to the same purpose; nor doth he teach any thing whereby the Conscience of any sinner, who desires to return to God and to find acceptance with him, should be discouraged or disheartened; we must attend unto the Exposition of the words in the first place, so as not to break in upon the boundaries of other Truths, nor transgress against the Analogie of Faith. And we shall find that this whole discourse compared with other Scriptures, and freed from the prejudices that men have brought unto it, is both remote from administring any just occasion to the mistakes before-mentioned, and is a needful wholesome commination, duely to be considered by all Professors of the Gospel.

In the words we consider, (1) The connexion of them unto those foregoing, intima­ting the occasion of the Introduction of this whole discourse. (2) The subject descri­bed in them, or the Persons spoken of, under sundry qualifications, which may be en­quired into joyntly and severally. (3) What is supposed concerning them. (4) What is affirmed of them on that supposition.

1. The connexion of the word sis included in the causal connexion; [...], For. It re­spects the Introduction of Reason for what had been before discoursed, as also of the li­mitation [...]. which the Apostle added expresly unto his purpose of making a progress in their farther Instruction, if God permit. And he doth not herein express his judgement that they to whom he wrote were such as he describes, for he afterwards declares that he hoped better things concerning them, only it was necessary to give them this caution, that they might take due care not to be such. And whereas he had manifested that they were slow as to the making of a progress in knowledge and a suitable practice; he lets them here know the danger that there was in continuing in that slothful condition. For not to proceed in the ways of the Gospel and Obedience thereunto, is an untoward entrance into a total relinquishment of the one and the other. That therefore they might be acquainted with [Page 41] the danger hereof, and be stirred up to avoid that danger, he gives them an account of those who after a Profession of the Gospel, beginning at a non-proficiency under it, do end in Apostasie from it. And we may see, That the severest Comminations are not only useful in the Preaching of the Gospel, but exceeding necessary towards persons that are observed to be slothful in their Profession.

2. The description of the Persons that are the subject spoken of, is given in five In­stances of the Evangelical Priviledges whereof they were made partakers, notwithstanding all which, and against their obliging efficacy to the contrary, it is supposed that they may wholly desert the Gospel it self. And some things we may observe concerning this description of them in general. As (1) The Apostle designing to express the fearful state and judgement of these Persons, describes them by such things as may fully evidence them to be, as unavoidable, so righteous and equal. Those things must be some evident Priviledges and Advantages, whereof they were made partakers by the Gospel. These being despised in their Apostasie, do proclaim their destruction from God to be rightly deserved. (2) That all these Priviledges do consist in certain especial operations of the Holy Ghost, which were peculiar unto the Dispensation of the Gospel, such as they nei­ther were, nor could be made partakers of in their Judaisme. For the Spirit in this sense, was not received by the works of the Law, but by the hearing of Faith, Gal. 3. 2. And this was a Testimony unto them, that they were delivered from the bondage of the Law, namely, by a participation of that Spirit which was the great Priviledge of the Gospel. (3) Here is no express mention of any Covenant Grace or Mercy, in them or towards them, nor of any Duty of Faith or Obedience which they had performed. Nothing of Justification, Sanctification, or Adoption, is expresly assigned unto them. Afterwards when he comes to declare his hopes and perswasion concerning these He­brews, that they were not such as those whom he had before described, nor such as would so fall away unto perdition, He doth it upon three grounds, whereon they were diffe­renced from them. As (1) That they had such things as did accompany Salvation, that is, such as Salvation is inseparable from. None of these things therefore had he ascribed unto those whom he describeth in this place; for if he had so done, they would not have been unto him an Argument and Evidence of a contrary end, that these should not fall away and perish as well as those. Wherefore he ascribes nothing to these here in the Text, that doth peculiarly accompany Salvation, ver. 9. (2) He describes them by their Duties of Obedience and fruits of Faith. This was their work and labour of Love towards the name of God, ver. 10. And hereby also doth he difference them from those in the Text, concerning whom he supposeth that they may perish eternally; which these fruits of saving Faith and sincere Love cannot do. (3) He adds, that in the Preservation of those there mentioned, the Faithfulness of God was concerned; God is not unrighteous to forget. For they were such (he intended) as were interested in the Covenant of Grace, with respect whereunto alone, there is any engagement on the Faithfulness or Righteous­ness of God, to preserve men from Apostasie and Ruine; and there is so with an equal respect unto all who are so taken into the Covenant. But of these in the Text, he supposeth no such thing, and thereupon doth not intimate that either the Righteousness or Faithfulness of God were any way engaged for their preservation, but rather the contra­ry. The whole description therefore refers unto some especial Gospel Priviledges, which Pro­fessors in those days were promiscuously made partakers of, and what they were in par­ticular we must in the next place enquire.

The first thing in the Description is, that they were [...], once enlightened, [...]. saith the Syriack Translation, as we observed, once baptized; It is very certain that early in the Church, Baptism was called [...], Illumination; and [...], to en­lighten was used for to Baptize. And the set times wherein they solemnly administred that Ordinance, were called [...], the days of Light. Hereunto the Syriack Interpreter seems to have had respect. And the word [...] once, may give countenance hereunto. Baptism was once only to be celebrated, according to the constant Faith of the Churches in all Ages. And they called Baptism, Illumination, because it being one Or­dinance of the Initiation of Persons into a participation of all the mysteries of the Church, they were thereby translated out of the Kingdom of Darkness into that of Grace and Light. And it seems to give further countenance hereunto, in that Baptism really was the beginning and foundation of a participation of all the other spiritual Priviledges that are mentioned afterwards. For it was usual in those times, that upon the baptizing of Persons, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and endowed with extraordinary Gifts pecu­liar to the days of the Gospel, as we have shewed in our consideration of the order be­tween [Page 42] Baptism and Imposition of hands. And this Opinion hath so much of probability in it, having nothing therewithall unsuited to the Analogie of Faith, or design of the place, that I should embrace it, if the word it self as here used, did not require ano­ther Interpretation. For it was a good while after the writing of this Epistle, and all other parts of the New Testament, at least an Age or two, if not more, before this word was used mystically to express Baptism. In the whole Scripture it hath another sense, de­noting an inward operation of the Spirit, and not the outward Administration of an Ordinance. And it is too much boldness to take a word in a peculiar sense in one single place, diverse from its proper signification and constant use, if there be no circumstances in the Text forcing us thereunto, as here are not. And for the word [...], once, it is not to be restrained unto this particular, but refers equally unto all the Instances that fol­low, signifying no more but that those mentioned were really and truly partakers of them.

[...], is to give Light or Knowledge by teaching; the same with [...] which therefore is so translated oft-times by the Greeks. As by Aquila, Exod. 4. 12. Psal. 119. 33. Prov. 4. 4. Isa. 27. 11. as Drustus observes. And it is so by the LXX. Judg. 13. 8. 2 Kings 12. 2. chap. 17. 27. Our Apostle useth it for to make manifest, that is, bring to light, 1 Cor. 4. 5. 2 Tim. 1. 10. And the meaning of it, Joh. 1. 9. where we render it lighteth, is to teach. And [...] is Knowledge upon Instruction, 2 Cor. 4. 4. [...], that the Light of the Gospel should not shine into them; that is, the Knowledge of it, so ver. 6. [...]. The Light of the Knowledge. Wherefore to be enlightened in this place, is to be instructed in the Doctrine of the Gospel, so as to have a spiritual apprehension thereof. And this is so termed on a double account.

1. Of the Object, or the things known and apprehended. For Life and Immortality are brought to light by the Gospel, 2 Tim. 1. 10. Hence it is called Light. The Inheritance of the Saints in Light. And the state which men are thereby brought into, is so called in op­position to the Darkness that is in the world without it, 1 Pet. 2. 9. The world with­out the Gospel is the Kingdom of Sathan; [...], 1 Joh. 5. 19. The whole of the world, and all that belongs unto it, in distinction and opposition unto the new Creation, is under the Power of the wicked one, the Prince of the Power of Darkness, and so is full of Darkness, it is [...], 2 Pet. 1. a dark place, wherein ignorance, folly, error, and superstition do dwell and reign. By the Power and Efficacy of this Darkness are men kept at a distance from God, and know not whither they go. This is called walking in Darkness, 1 Joh. 1. 6. whereunto walk­ing in the Light, that is, the Knowledge of God in Christ by the Gospel, is opposed, ver. 7. On this account is our Instruction in the Knowledge of the Gospel called Illumi­nation, because it self is Light.

2. On the account of the Subject, or the Mind it self, whereby the Gospel is appre­hended. For the Knowledge which is received thereby, expels that Darkness, Igno­rance and Confusion, which the mind before was filled and possessed withal. The Knowledge, I say, of the Doctrine of the Gospel, concerning the Person of Christ, of Gods being in him reconciling the world unto himself, of his Offices, Work and Media­tion, and the like heads of Divine Revelation, doth set up a spiritual Light in the minds of men, enabling them to discern what before was utterly hid from them, whilst aliena­ted from the Life of God through their Ignorance. Of this Light and Knowledge there are several degrees, according to the means of Instruction which they do enjoy, the capacity they have to receive it, and the diligence they use to that purpose. But a com­petent measure of the Knowledge of the fundamental and most material Principles or Doctrines of the Gospel is required unto all that may thence be said to be illuminated; that is, freed from the Darkness and Ignorance they once lived in, 2 Pet. 1. 18, 19, 20. This is the first Property whereby the Persons intended are described; they are such as were illu­minated by the Instruction they had received in the Doctrine of the Gospel, and the im­pression made thereby on their minds by the Holy Ghost; for this is a common work of his, and is here so reckoned. And the Apostle would have us know, that

1. It is great Mercy, a great Priviledge, to be enlightened with the Doctrine of the Gospel' by the effectual working of the Holy Ghost. But

2. It is such a Priviledge as may be lost, and end in the aggravation of the sin, and condem­nation of those who were made partakers of it. And

3. Where there is a total neglect of the due improvement of this Priviledge and Mercy, the condition of such Persons is hazardous, as inclining towards Apostasie.

[Page 43] Thus much lies open and manifest in the Text. But that we may more particularly discover the nature of this first part of the character of Apostates, for their sakes who may look after their own concernment therein, we may yet a little more distinctly express the nature of that Illumination and Knowledge which is ascribed unto them; and how it is lost in Apostasie, will afterwards appear. And

1. There is a Knowledge of spiritual things, that is purely Natural and Disciplinary, attainable and attained without any especial Aid or Assistance of the Holy Ghost. As this is evident in common experience, so especially among such, as casting themselves on the study of spiritual things, are yet utter strangers unto all spiritual Gifts. Some Know­ledge of the Scripture and the things contained in it, is attainable at the same rate of pains and study with that of any other Art or Science.

2. The Illumination intended, being a Gift of the Holy Ghost, differs from, and is ex­alted above this Knowledge that is purely natural. For it makes nearer approaches unto the Light of spiritual things in their own nature, than the other doth. Notwithstanding the utmost improvement of scientifical notions that are purely natural, the things of the Gospel in their own nature are not only unsuited to the Wills and Affections of Persons endued with them, but are really foolishness unto their minds. And as unto that good­ness and excellency which give desireableness unto spiritual things, this knowledge dis­covers so little of them, that most men hate the things which they profess to believe. But this spiritual Illumination gives the mind some satisfaction with Delight and Joy in the things that are known. By that Beam whereby it shines into Darkness, although it be not fully comprehended, yet it represents the way of the Gospel as a way of Righteous­ness, 2 Pet. 2. 21. which reflects a peculiar regard of it on the mind.

Moreover the Knowledge that is meerly natural, hath little or no power upon the Soul, either to keep it from sin or to constrain it unto Obedience. There is not a more secure and profligate Generation of sinners in the world, than those who are under the sole conduct of it. But the Illumination here intended, is attended with efficacy, doth effectually press in the Conscience and whole Soul, unto an abstinence from sin, and the performance of all known Duties. Hence Persons under the Power of it and its Con­victions, do oft-times walk blamelesly and uprightly in the world, so as not with the other to contribute unto the contempt of Christianity. Besides, there is such an Alliance between spiritual Gifts, that where any one of them doth reside, it hath assuredly other accompanying of it, or one way or other belonging unto its train, as is manifest in this place. Even a single Talent is made up of many pounds. But the Light and Know­ledge which is of a meer natural acquirement, is solitary, destitute of the society and countenance of any spiritual Gift whatever. And these things are exemplified unto common observation every day.

3. There is a saving, sanctifying Light and Knowledge, which this spiritual Illumina­tion riseth not up unto. For though it transiently affect the mind with some glances of the Beauty, Glory, and Excellency of spiritual things, yet it doth not give that direct, steady, intuitive insight into them, which is obtained by Grace. See 2 Cor. 3. 18. chap. 4. 4, 6. Neither doth it renew, change, or transform the Soul into a conformity unto the things known, by planting of them in the Will and Affections, as a gracious saving Light doth, 2 Cor. 3. 18. Rom. 6. 17. Rom. 12. 1. These things I judged necessary to be added, to clear the nature of the first character of Apostates.

The second thing asserted in the description of them, is, that they have tasted of the [...] Heavenly Gift; [...]: The doubling of the Article gives Emphasis to the expression. And we must enquire (1) what is meant by the Hea­venly Gift. And (2) what by tasting of it.

First, The Gift of God; [...], is either [...], donatio, or [...], donum. Some­times it is taken for the Grant or giving it self, and sometimes for the thing given. In the first sense it is used, 2 Cor. 9. 15. Thanks be to God, [...], for his Gift that cannot be declared, that is, fully or sufficiently. Now this Gift was his Grant of a free, charitable and bountiful Spirit to the Corinthians, in ministring unto the poor Saints. The Grant hereof is called Gods Gift. So is the Gift of Christ used also, Ephes. 4. 7. according to the measure of the Gift of Christ, that is, according as he is pleased to give and grant of the fruits of the Spirit unto men; see Rom. 5. 15, 17. Ephes. 3. 7. sometimes it is taken for the thing given; properly [...] or [...], as Jam. 1. 17. so it is used Joh. 4. 10. If thou knewest the Gift of God, [...], The Gift of God, that is, the thing given by him, or to be given by him. It is, as many judge, the Person of Christ himself in that place, which is intended. But the context makes it [Page 44] plain, that it is the Holy Ghost; For he is the Living water which the Lord Jesus pro­miseth in that place to bestow. And so far as I can observe [...], the Gift, with respect unto God as denoting the thing given, is no where used but only to signifie the Holy Ghost. And if it be so, the sense of this place is determined, Acts 2. 38. Ye shall receive [...], the Gift of the Holy Ghost; not that which he gives, but that which he is, Chap. 8. 20. Thou hast thought [...], that the Gift of God may be purchased with money, that is, the Power of the Holy Ghost in miraculous Ope­rations. So expresly, chap. 10. 45. chap. 11. 17. Elsewhere, [...], so far as I can ob­serve, when respecting God, doth not signifie the thing given, but the grant it self. The Holy Spirit is signally the Gift of God under the New Testament.

And he is said to be [...], heavenly, or from Heaven. This may have respect [...]. unto his work and effect, they are heavenly as opposed to carnal and earthly. But prin­cipally it regards his Mission by Christ after his Ascension into Heaven, Acts 2. 33. Being exalted and having received the Promise of the Father, he sent the Spirit. The Promise of him was, that he should be sent from Heaven, or from above, as God is said to be above, which is the same with Heavenly, Deut. 4. 39. 2 Chron. 5. 23. Job 31. 2, 8. Isa. 2. 2, 15. and chap. 45. 8. When he came upon the Lord Christ to anoint him for his work, the Heavens were opened, and he came from above, Matth. 3. 16. so Acts 2. 2. At his first coming on the Apostles, there came a sound from Heaven. Hence he is said to be [...], that is, to be [...], sent from Heaven, 1 Pet. 1. 12. Wherefore although he may be said to be Heavenly upon other ac­counts also, which therefore are not absolutely to be excluded, yet his being sent from Heaven by Christ, after his Ascension thither, and exaltation there, is principally here regarded. He therefore is this [...], the heavenly Gift here intended, though not absolutely, but with respect to an especial work.

That which riseth up against this Interpretation, is, that the Holy Ghost is expresly mentioned in the next clause, And were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. It is not there­fore probable that He should be here also intended.

Answ. (1) It is ordinary to have the same thing twice expressed in various words, to quicken the sense of them; and it is necessary it should be so, when there are divers re­spects unto the same thing, as there are in this place.

(2) The following clause may be exegetical of this, declaring more fully and plainly what is here intended which is usual also in the Scrptures; so that nothing is cogent from this consideration, to disprove an Interpretation so suited to the sense of the place, and which the constant use of the word makes necessary to be embraced. But,

(3) The Holy Ghost is here mentioned as the great Gift of the Gospel times, as coming down from Heaven, not absolutely, not as unto his Person, but with respect unto an espe­cial work, namely, the change of the whole state of Religious Worship in the Church of God; Whereas we shall see in the next words, he is spoken of only with respect unto external actual operations. But he was the great, the promised Heavenly Gift, to be bestowed under the New Testament, by whom God would institute and ordain a new way, and new Rites of Worship, upon the Revelation of himself and Will in Christ. Unto him was committed the Reformation of all things in the Church, whose time was now come, Chap. 9. 10. The Lord Christ when he ascended into Heaven, left all things standing and continuing in Religious Worship, as they had done from the days of Moses, though he had virtually put an end unto it. And he commanded his Disciples that they should attempt no alteration therein, until the Holy Ghost were sent from Heaven to enable them thereunto, Acts 1. 4, 5. But when he came as the great Gift of God, promised under the New Testament, he removes all the carnal Worship and Ordinances of Moses, and that by the full Revelation of the Accomplishment of all that was signified by them, and appoints the new, holy, spiritual Worship of the Gospel, that was to succeed in their room. The Spirit of God therefore, as bestowed for the introduction of the New Gospel state, in Truth and Worship, is the Heavenly Gift here intended. Thus our Apostle warneth these Hebrews, that they turn not away from him who speaketh from Heaven, chap. 12. 25. that is, Jesus Christ speaking in the Dispensation of the Gospel by the Holy Ghost sent from Heaven. And there is an Antithesis included herein, between the Law and the Gospel; the former being given on Earth, the latter being immediately from Heaven. God in the giving of the Law made use of the Ministry of Angels, and that on the Earth; but he gave the Gospel Church state, by that Spirit which although he worketh on men in Earth, and is said in every Act or Work to be sent from Heaven, yet is he still in Heaven, and always speaketh from thence; as [Page 45] our Savour said of himself, with respect unto his Divine Nature, Joh. 3. 13.

Secondly, We may enquire what it is to taste of this Heavenly Gift. The expression [...]. of tasting is metaphorical, and signifies no more but to make a Trial or Experiment; For so we do by tasting, naturally and properly of that which is tendred unto us to eat. We taste such things by the sense given us naturally to discern our food, and then either re­ceive or refuse them as we find occasion. It doth not therefore include eating, much less Digestion and turning into nourishment of what is so tasted. For its nature being only thereby discerned, it may be refused, yea though we like its relish and savour upon some other consideration. Some have observed that to taste is as much as to eat, as 2 Sam. 3. 35. I will not taste bread, or ought else. But the meaning is, I will not so much as taste it, whence it was impossible he should eat it. And when Jonathan says he only tasted a little of the Honey, 1 Sam. 14. 29. it was an excuse and extenuation of what he had done. But it is unquestionably used for some kind of experience of the nature of things, Prov. 31. 18. she tasteth that her merchandize is good, or hath experience of it, from its increase, Psal. 34. 8. O taste and see that the Lord is good; which Peter respects, 1 Epist. 2. 3. If so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious, or found it so by experience. It is therefore properly to make an experiment or trial of any thing, whether it be received or refused; and is sometimes opposed to eating and digestion, as Matth. 27. 34. That therefore which is ascribed unto these Persons, is, that they had an experience of the Power of the Holy Ghost, that Gift of God, in the Dispensation of the Gospel, the Revelation of the Truth, and Institution of the spiritual Worship of it; of this state and of the excellency of it, they had made some trial, and had some experi­ence; a Priviledge which all men were not made partakers of. And by this taste they were convinced, that it was far more excellent than what they had been before accustomed unto, although now they had a mind to leave the finest Wheat for their old Acorns. Wherefore although tasting contain a Diminution in it, if compared with that spiritual eating and drinking, with that Digestion of Gospel Truths, turning them into nourish­ment, which are in true Believers; yet absolutely considered it denotes that Apprehen­sion and Experience of the excellency of the Gospel as administred by the Spirit, which is a great Priviledge and spiritual Advantage, the contempt whereof will prove an un­speakable Aggravation of the Sin, and the remediless ruine of Apostates. The meaning then of this Character given concerning these Apostates is, that they had some experience of the Power and Efficacy of the Holy Spirit from Heaven, in Gospel Administrations and Worship. For what some say of Faith, it hath here no place; and what others affirm of Christ, and his being the Gift of God, comes in the issue unto what we have proposed. And we may observe, farther to clear the Design of the Apostle in this Commination,

1. That all the Gifts of God under the Gospel are peculiarly Heavenly, Joh. 3. 12. Ephes. 1. 3. and that in opposition, (1) To earthly things, Col. 3. 11, 12. (2) To carnal Or­dinances, Heb. 9. 23. let them beware by whom they are despised.

2. The Holy Ghost for the Revelation of the mysteries of the Gospel, and the Institution of the Ordinances of spiritual Worship, is the great Gift of God under the New Testa­ment.

3. There is a Goodness and Excellency in this Heavenly Gift, which may be tasted or expe­rienced in some measure by such as never receive him, in their life, power and efficacy. They may taste, (1) Of the Word in its Truth, not its Power; (2) Of the Worship of the Church in its outward Order, not its inward Beauty; (3) Of the Gifts of the Church, not its Graces.

4. A Rejection of the Gospel, its Truth and Worship, after some experience had of their worth and excellency, is an high Aggravation of Sin, and a certain presage of De­struction.

The Third Property whereby these Persons are described is added in those words, [...]; and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. [...]. This is placed in the middle or centre of the Priviledges enumerated, two preceding it, and two following after, as that which is the root and animating Principle of them all. They all are effects of the Holy Ghost, in his Gifts or his Graces, and so do depend on the participation of him. Now men do so partake of the Holy Ghost, as they do receive him. And he may be received either as unto personal Inhabitation, or as unto spiritual Operations. In the first way the world cannot receive him, Joh. 14. 17. where the world is opposed unto true Believers, and therefore these here intended were not in that sense partakers of him. His Operations respect his Gifts. So to partake of him is to have a [Page 46] share, part or portion in what he distributes by way of spiritual Gifts; in answer unto that expression; All these worketh that one and self-same Spirit, dividing unto every one se­verally as he will, 1 Cor. 12. 11. So Peter told Simon the Magician, that he had no part in spiritual Gifts, he was not partaker of the Holy Ghost, Acts 8. 21. Wherefore to be par­taker of the Holy Ghost, is to have a share in and benefit of his spiritual Ope­rations.

But whereas the other things mentioned are also Gifts or Operations of the Holy Ghost, on what Ground or for what Reason is this mentioned here in particular, that they were made Partakers of him, which if his Operations only be intended, seems to be expressed in the other Instances?

Answ. (1) It is, as we observed before, no unusual thing in the Scripture, to express the same thing under various notions, the more effectually to impress a con­sideration and sense of it in our mind; especially where an expression hath a singu­lar Emphasis in it, as this hath here used; For it is an exceeding Aggravation of the sins of these Apostates, that in these things they were Partakers of the Holy Ghost.

(2) As was before intimated also, this participation of the Holy Ghost, is placed it may be in the midst of the several parts of this Description, as that whereon they do all depend, and they are all but Instances of it. They were partakers of the Holy Ghost, in that they were once enlightened, and so of the rest.

(3) It expresseth their own personal Interest in these things. They had an interest in the things mentioned not only Objectively, as they were proposed and presented to them in the Church, but Subjectively they themselves in their own Persons were made partakers of them. It is one thing for a man to have a share in, and benefit by the Gifts of the Church, another to be personally himself endowed with them.

(4) To mind them in an especial manner of the Priviledges they enjoyed under the Gospel, above what they had in their Judaisme. For, whereas then they had not so much as heard that there was an Holy Ghost, that is, a blessed Dispensation of him in spiritual Gifts, Acts 19. 2. now they themselves in their own persons were made Par­takers of him, than which there could be no greater Aggravation of their Apostasie: And we may observe in our way, that

The Holy Ghost is present with many as unto powerful Operations, with whom he is not present as to gracious Inhabitation: Or many are made Partakers of him in his spi­ritual Gifts, who are never made Partakers of him in his saving Graces, Matth. 7. 22, 23.

Fourthly, It is added in the Description, that they had tasted [...], The Good Word of God. And we must enquire, (1) What is meant by the Word of God. [...]. (2) How it is said to be Good; and (3) In what sense they taste of it.

1. [...] is properly, verbum dictum, a word spoken; and although it be sometimes used in another sense by our Apostle, and by him alone, chap. 1. 3. chap. 11. 3. where it denotes the effectual active power of God; yet both the signification of the word, and its principal use elsewhere, denotes words spoken, and when applied unto God, his word as preached and declared. See Rom. 10. 17. Joh. 6. 68. The Word of God, that is, the Word of the Gospel as preached, is that which they thus tasted of. But it may be said, that they enjoyed the Word of God in their state of Judaisme; They did so, as to the written word; for unto them were committed the Oracles of God, Rom. 3. 2. But it is the word of God as preached in the Dispensation of the Gospel that is eminently thus called, and concerning which such excellent things are spoken, Rom. 1. 16. Acts 20. 32. Jam. 1. 21.

2. The word is said to be [...], good, desireable, amiable, as the word here used signifieth. Wherein it is so, we shall see immediately. But whereas the Word of God preached under the Dispensation of the Gospel may be considered two ways; (1) In general, as to the whole systeme of Truths contained therein; and (2) In especial, for the Declaration made of the Accomplishment of the Promise in sending Jesus Christ for the Redemption of the Church; it is here especially intended in this latter sense. This is emphatically called [...], 1 Pet. 1. 25. So the Promise of God in particular is called his Good word; Jer. 29. 10. After seventy years I will visit you and perform my good word towards you; as he calls it the Good thing that he had promised, chap. 33. 14. The Gospel is the good tiding of Peace and Salvation by Jesus Christ, Isa. 52. 7.

[Page 47] 3. Hereof they are said to taste, as they were before of the Heavenly Gift. The Apo­stle as it were studiously keeps himself to this expression, on purpose to manifest that he intendeth not those, who by Faith do readily receive food, and live on Jesus Christ, as tendered in the word of the Gospel, Joh. 6. 35, 49, 50, 51, 54, 55. It is, as if he had said, I speak not of those who have received and digested the spiritual Food of their Souls, and turned it into spiritual nourishment, but of such as have so far tasted of it, as that they ought to have desired it as sincere milk, to have grown thereby; But they had received such an experiment of its Divine Truth and Power, as that it had various effects upon them. And for the further Explication of these words, and therein of the De­scription of the state of these supposed Apostates, we may consider the ensuing Obser­vations, which declare the sense of the words, or what is contained in them.

1. There is a Goodness and Excellency in the Word of God, able to attract and affect the minds of men, who yet never arrive at sincere Obedience unto it.

2. There is an especial Goodness in the Word of the Promise concerning Jesus Christ, and the Declaration of its Accomplishment.

Lastly, It is added, [...]; And the Powers of the world to [...]. come, [...] are [...]; the mighty great miraculous Operations and Works of the Holy Ghost. What they were and how they were wrought among these Hebrews, hath been declared in our Exposition on chap. 2. 4. whither I shall refer the Reader; and they are known from the Acts of the Apostles, where sundry Instances of them are recorded. I have also proved on that Chapter, that by the world to come, our Apostle in this Epistle intends the days of the Messiah, that being the usual name of it in the Church at that time, as the new world which God had promised to create. Wherefore these Powers of the world to come, were the Gifts whereby those signs, won­ders, and mighty works, were then wrought by the Holy Ghost, according as it was foretold by the Prophets, that they should be so. See Joel 2. compared with Acts 2. These the Persons spoken of, are supposed to have tasted, for the particle [...] refers to [...] foregoing. Either they had been wrought in and by themselves, or by others in their sight, whereby they had an experience of the glorious and powerful working of the Holy Ghost in the confirmation of the Gospel. Yea, I do judge that themselves in their own persons were Partakers of these Powers in the Gifts of Tongues, and other mi­raculous Operations, which was the highest Aggravation possible of their Apostasie, and that which peculiarly rendered their recovery impossible. For there is not in the Scrip­ture an impossibility put upon the recovery of any, but such as peculiarly sin against the Holy Ghost; and although that Guilt may be otherwise contracted, yet in none so sig­nally as this of rejecting that Truth which was confirmed by his mighty Operations in them that rejected it, which could not be done without an Ascription of his Divine Power unto the Devil. Yet would I not fix on those extraordinary Gifts exclusively un­to those that are ordinary. They also are of the Powers of the world to come. So is every thing that belongs to the Erection or Preservation of the New world or the Kingdom of Christ. To the first setting up of a Kingdom, great and mighty Power is required; but being set up, the ordinary Dispensation of Power will preserve it; so is it in this matter. The extraordinary miraculous Gifts of the Spirit were used in the Erection of Christs Kingdom, but it is continued by ordinary Gifts, which therefore also belong unto the Powers of the world to come.

From the consideration of this Description, in all the parts of it, we may understand what sort of Persons it is, that is intended here by the Apostle. And it appears, yea is evident,

1. That the Persons here intended, are not true and sincere Believers in the strict and proper sense of that name, at least they are not described here as such; so that from hence nothing can be concluded concerning them that are so, as to the possibility of their total and final Apostasie. For (1) There is in their full and large Description no mention of Faith or Believing, either expresly, or in terms equivalent. And in no other place in the Scripture are such intended, but they are mentioned by what belongs essentially to their state. And (2) There is not any thing ascribed to these persons, that is peculiar to them as such, or discriminative of them, as taken either from their especial Relation unto God in Christ, or any such Property of their own, as is not communicable unto others. For instance, they are not said to be called according to Gods purpose, to be born again not of the Will of Man, nor of the Will of Flesh, but of God, not to be justified, or sanctified, or united unto Christ, or to be the Sons of God by Adoption, nor have they any other characteristical note of true Believers ascribed to them. (3) They are in the [Page 48] following Verses compared to the Ground, on which the rain often falls, and beareth no­thing but Thorns and Briars. But this is not so with true Believers. For Faith it self is an Herb peculiar to the inclosed Garden of Christ, and meet for him by whom we are dressed. (4) The Apostle afterwards discoursing of true Believers, doth in many parti­culars distinguish them from such as may be Apostates, which is supposed of the Persons here intended, as was before declared. For (1) He ascribeth unto them in general better things, and such as accompany Salvation, ver. 9. (2) He ascribes a work and labour of Love, as it is true Faith alone which worketh by Love, ver. 10. whereof he speaks not one word concerning these. (3) He asserts their Preservation, (1) On the account of the Righteousness and Faithfulness of God, ver. 11. (2) Of the Immutability of his counsel concerning them, ver. 17, 18. In all these and sundry other Instances doth he put a difference between these Apostates and true Believers. And whereas the Apostle in­tends to declare the Aggravation of their sin in falling away by the principal Priviledges whereof they were made partakers, here is not one word in name or thing of those which he expresly assigns to be the chief priviledges of true Believers, Rom. 8. 27, 28, 29, 30.

2. Our next enquiry is more particularly whom he doth intend. And (1) They were such who not long before were converted from Judaisme unto Christianity, upon the evi­dence of the Truth of its Doctrine, and the miraculous Operations wherewith its Dis­pensation was accompanied. (2) He intends not the common sort of them, but such as had obtained especial Priviledges among them. For they had received extraordinary Gifts of the Holy Ghost, as speaking with Tongues or working Miracles. And (3) They had found in themselves and other convincing evidences, that the Kingdom of God and the Messiah, which they called the world to come, was come unto them, and had satis­faction in the Glories of it. (4) Such Persons as these, as they have a work of Light on their minds, so according to the efficacy of their Convictions may have such a change wrought upon their Affections and in their Conversation, as that they may be of great esteem among Professors; and such these here intended might be. Now it must needs be some horrible frame of spirit, some malitious enmity against the Truth and Holiness of Christ and the Gospel, some violent Love of sin and the world, that could turn off such Persons as these from the Faith, and blot out all that Light and Conviction of Truth, which they had received. But the least Grace is a better security for Heaven, than the greatest Gifts and Priviledges whatever.

These are the Persons concerning whom our Apostle discourseth, and of whom it is supposed by him, that they may fall away, [...]. The especial nature of the [...]. sin here intended is afterwards declared in two Instances or aggravating circumstances. This word expresseth the respect it had to the state and condition of the sinners them­selves; they fall away, do that whereby they do so. I think we have well expressed the word, if they shall fall away. Our old Translations render it only, if they shall fall, which expressed not the sense of the word, and was liable to a sense not at all intended. For he doth not say, if they shall fall into sin, this or that or any sin whatever that can be named, suppose the greatest sin imaginable, namely, the denial of Christ in the time of Danger or Persecution. This was that sin (as we intimated before) about which so many contests were raised of old, and so many Canons were multiplied about the order­ing of them who had contracted the Guilt thereof. But one example well considered, had been a better guide for them than all their own Arbitrary Rules and Imaginations: When Peter fell into this sin, and yet was renewed again to Repentance, and that spee­dily. Wherefore we may lay down this in the first place as to the sense of the words; There is no particular sin that any man may fall into occasionally through the Power of Temptation, that can cast the sinner under this Commination, so that it should be im­possible to renew him to Repentance. It must therefore (secondly) be a course of sin or sinning that is intended. But there are various degrees herein also, yea there are divers kinds of such courses in sin. A man may so fall into a way of sin, as still to retain in his mind such a Principle of Light and Conviction that may be suitable to his Recovery. To exclude such from all hopes of Repentance, is expresly contrary to Ezek. 18. 21. Isa. 55. 7. yea and the whole sense of the Scripture. Wherefore men after some Con­viction and Reformation of Life, may fall into corrupt and wicked courses and make a long abode or continuance in them. Examples hereof we have every day amongst us, al­though it may be none to parallel that of Manasseh; consider the nature of his Education under his Father Hezekiah, the greatness of his sins, the length of his continuance in them, with his following Recovery, and he is a great Instance in this case. Whilst [Page 49] there is in such persons any seed of Light or Conviction of Truth which is capable of an Excitation or Revival, so as to put forth its Power and Efficacy in their Souls, they cannot be looked on to be in the condition intended, though their case be dangerous.

3. Our Apostle makes a distinction between [...] and [...], Rom. 11. 11. between stumbling and falling, and would not allow that the unbelieving Jews of those days, were come so far as [...], that is, to fall absolutely, [...]. I say then have they stumbled, that they should fall? God forbid; that is, absolutely and irrecoverably. So therefore doth that word signifie in this place. And [...] encreaseth the signification, either as to perverseness in the manner of the fall, or as to violence in the fall its self.

From what hath been discoursed it will appear, what falling away it is that the Apostle here intendeth. And,

(1) It is not a falling into this or that actual sin, be it of what nature it will, which may be, and yet not be a falling away.

(2) It is not a falling upon temptation or surprisal, for concerning such fallings we have rules of another kind given us in sundry places, and those exempli­fied in especial Instances; but it is that which is premeditated, of Deliberation and Choice.

(3) It is not a falling by a Relinquishment or Renunciation of some though very material Principles of Christian Religion by Error or Seduction, as the Corinthians fell, in denying the Resurrection of the dead, and the Galatians by denying Ju­stification by Faith in Christ alone. Wherefore,

(4) It must consist in a total Renunciation of all the constitutent Principles and Do­ctrines of Christianity, whence it is denominated. Such was the sin of them who relinquished the Gospel to return unto Judaisme, as it was then stated, in opposi­tion unto it, and hatred of it. This it was, and not any kind of actual sins, that the Apostle manifestly discourseth concerning.

(5) For the compleating of this falling away according to the intention of the Apostle, it is required that this Renunciation be avowed and professed; as, when a man forsaketh the Profession of the Gospel, and falls into Judaisme or Mahumatisme, or Gentilisme, in Perswasion and Practice. For the Apostle discourseth concerning Faith and Obedience as professed, and so therefore also of their contraries. And this avowment of a Relinquishment of the Gospel hath many provoking Aggrava­tions attending it. And yet whereas some men may in their hearts and minds ut­terly renounce the Gospel, but upon some outward secular considerations, either dare not or will not profess that inward Renunciation, their falling away is compleat and total in the sight of God; and all they do to cover their Apostasie in an exter­nal compliance with Christian Religion, is in the sight of God but a mocking of him, and the highest Aggravation of their sin.

This is the falling away intended by the Apostle; A voluntary resolved Re­linquishment of, and Apostasie from the Gospel, the Faith, Rule, and Obedi­ence thereof, which cannot be without casting the highest reproach and con­tumely imaginable upon the Person of Christ himself, as is afterwards ex­pressed.

Concerning these Persons and their thus falling away, two things are to be con­sidered in the Text. (1) What is affirmed of them. (2) The Reason of that Affirmation.

The first is, That it is impossible to renew them again to Repentance. The thing in­tended is negative; to renew them again to Repentance, this is denied of them; but the modification of that negation, turns the Proposition into an Affirmation; It is impossible so to do.

[...]. The Importance of the word is dubious; some think an abso­lute, [...]. and others a moral Impossibility is intended thereby. This latter most fix upon, so that it is a matter rare, difficult, and seldom to be expected, that is in­tended, and not that which is absolutely impossible. Considerable Reasons and In­stances are produced for either Interpretation. But we must look farther into the meaning of it.

[Page 50] All future events depend on God, who alone doth necessarily exist. Other things may be or may not be, as they respect him or his will. And so things that are future may be said to be impossible, or be so, either with respect unto the nature of God, or his Decrees, or his moral Rule, Order and Law. Things are im­possible with respect unto the Nature of God, either absolutely as being incon­sistent with his Being and Essential Properties; so it is impossible, that God should lye; or on some supposition, so it is impossible, that God should forgive sin without satisfaction, on the supposition of his Law, and the Sanction of it. In this sense the Repentance of these Apostates it may be is not impossible. I say, it may be; It may be there is nothing in it contrary to any Essential Properties of the Nature of God, either directly or reductively. But I will not be positive herein. For the things ascribed unto these Apostates are such, namely, their crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting him unto open shame, as that I know not but that it may be con­trary to the Holiness and Righteousness and Glory of God, as the supream Ruler of the world, to have any more Mercy on them than on the Devils themselves, or those that are in Hell. But I will not assert this to be the meaning of the place.

Again, Things possible in themselves, and with respect unto the Nature of God, are rendered impossible by Gods Decree and Purpose: He hath absolutely deter­mined, that they shall never be. So it was impossible that Saul and his Posterity should be preserved in the Kingdom of Israel. It was not contrary to the Nature of God, but God had decreed that so it should not be, 1 Sam. 15. 28, 29. But the Decrees of God respecting Persons in particular, and not Qualifications in the first place, they cannot be here intended; because they are free acts of his Will, not revealed neither in particular, nor by virtue of any general Rule, as they are Soveraign, making differences between Persons in the same condition, Rom. 9. 11, 12. What is possible or impossible with respect unto the Nature of God, we may know in some good measure from the certain knowledge we may have of his Being and Essential Properties. But what is so one way or other with respect unto his Decrees or Purposes, which are Soveraign free Acts of his Will, knoweth no man, not the Angels in Heaven, Isa. 40. 13, 14. Rom. 11. 34.

Thirdly, Things are possible or impossible with respect unto the Rule and Order of all things that God hath appointed. When in things of Duty God hath nei­ther expresly commanded them, nor appointed means for the Performance of them, then are we to look upon them as impossible, and then with respect unto us they are so absolutely, and so to be esteemed. And this is the Impossibility here principally in­tended. It is a thing that God hath neither commanded us to endeavour, nor ap­pointed means to attain it, nor promised to assist us in it. It is therefore that which we have no reason to look after, attempt or expect, as being not possible by any Law, Rule, or Constitution of God.

The Apostle instructs us no farther in the nature of future events, but as our own Duty is concerned in them. It is not for us either to look or hope, or pray for, or endeavour the Renewal of such Persons unto Repentance. God gives Law un­to us in these things, not unto himself. It may be possible with God for ought we know, if there be not a contradiction in it unto any of the Holy Properties of his Nature; only he will not have us to expect any such things from him, nor hath he appointed any means for us to endeavour it. What he shall do, we ought thankfully to accept; but our own Duty towards such persons is absolutely at an end. And indeed they put themselves wholly out of our reach.

That which is said to be thus impossible with respect unto these Persons, is [...], to renew them again to Repentance, [...] in [...]. the New Testament with respect unto God, signifies a gracious change of mind on Gospel Principles and Promises, leading the whole Soul into Conversion unto God.

This is the beginning and entrance of our turning unto God, without which, neither the Will nor the Affections will be engaged unto him, nor is it possible for sinners to find acceptance with him.

It is impossible [...], to renew. The construction of the word is de­fective, [...]. and must be supplied; [...] may be added, to renew themselves; it is not possible they should do so, or [...], that some should, that any should renew them, [Page 51] and this I judge to be intended. For the impossibility mentioned respects the Duty and Endeavours of others. In vain shall any attempt their recovery by the use of any means whatever. And we must enquire what it is to be Renewed, and what it is to be Renewed again.

Now our [...], is the Renovation of the Image of God in our natures, whereby we are dedicated again unto him. For as we had lost the Image of God [...]. by sin, and were separated from him as things prophane, this [...] respects both the Restauration of our Nature, and the Dedication of our Persons to God. And it is twofold.

First, Real and internal in Regeneration and effectual Sanctification. The wash­ing of Regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, Tit. 3. 5. 1 Thes. 5. 23. But this is not that which is here intended. For this these Apostates never had, and so cannot be said to be renewed again unto it. For no man can be renewed again unto that which he never had.

Secondly, It is outward in the Profession and Pledge of it. Wherefore Renova­tion in this sense consists in the solemn confession of Faith and Repentance by Jesus Christ, with the seal of Baptism received thereon. For thus it was with all those who were converted unto the Gospel. Upon their Profession of Repentance to­wards God, and Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, they received the Baptismal Pledge of an inward Renovation, though really they were not Partakers thereof. But this estate was their [...], their Renovation. From this state they fell totally, renouncing Him who is the Author of it, his Grace which is the Cause of it, and the Ordinance which is the Pledge thereof.

Hence it appears what it is, [...], to renew them again. It is to bring them again into this state of Profession by a second Renovation, and a second Baptism as a Pledge thereof. This is determined impossible, and so unwarrantable for any to attempt. And for the most part such persons do openly fall into such Blasphemies against, and engage (if they have power) into such Persecution of the Truth, as that they give themselves sufficient Direction how others should be­have themselves towards them. So the ancient Church was satisfied in the case of Julian. This is the sum concerning what is affirmed of these Apostates, namely, that it is impossible to renew them unto Repentance, that is, so to act towards them as to bring them to that Repentance whereby they may be enstated in their former condition.

Hence sundry things may be observed for the clearing the Apostles Design in this Discourse. As,

(1) Here is nothing said concerning the Acceptance or Refusal of any upon Re­pentance or the Profession thereof after any sin, to be made by the Church, whose Judgement is to be determined by other rules and circumstances. And this per­fectly excludes the pretence of the Novatians from any countenance in these words. For whereas they would have drawn their warranty from hence for the utter ex­clusion from Church Communion of all those who had denied the Faith in times of Persecution, although they expressed a Repentance whose sincerity they could not evince; Those only are intended, who neither do, nor can come to Repen­tance it self, nor make a Profession of it, with whom the Church had no more to do. It is not said, that men who ever thus fell away, shall not upon their Repen­tance be admitted into their former state in the Church; But that such is the se­verity of God against them that he will not again give them Repentance unto Life.

(2) Here is nothing that may be brought in bar against such as having fallen in­to any great sin, or any course in sinning, and that after Light, Convictions, and Gifts received and exercised, who desire to repent of their sins and endeavour after sincerity therein. Yea such a desire and endeavour exempts any one from the Judgement here threatened.

There is therefore in it that which tends greatly to the encouragement of such sinners. For, whereas it is here declared concerning those who are thus rejected of God, that it is impossible to renew them, or to do any thing towards that which shall have a tendency to Repentance; those who are not satisfied that they do yet savingly repent, but only are sincerely exercised how they may attain thereunto, have no concernment in this Commination, but evidently have the door of mercy [Page 52] still opened unto them. For it is shut against those who shall never endeavour to turn by Repentance. And although Persons so rejected of God, may fall under Convictions of their sin attended with despair, which is unto them a foresight of their future condition; yet as unto the least attempt after Repentance on the terms of the Gospel, they do never rise up unto it. Wherefore the Impossibility intended of what sort soever it be, respects the severity of God, not in refusing or rejecting the greatest sinners which seek after and would be renewed unto Repentance, which is contrary unto innumerable of his Promises; but in the giving up such sinners as these are here mentioned, unto that obdurateness and obstinacy in sinning, that blindness of mind, and hardness of heart, as that they neither can nor shall ever sincerely seek after Repentance, nor may any means according to the mind of God be used to bring them thereunto. And the Righteousness of the exercise of this severity is taken from the nature of this sin or what is contained in it, which the Apostle declares in the ensuing Instances.

VERSE 7, 8.

What the Apostle had Doctrinally instructed the Hebrews in before, in these Verses he layeth before them under an apposite similitude. For his Design herein is to re­present the condition of all sorts of Persons who profess the Gospel, and live under the Dispensation of its Truths, with the various Events that do befall them. He had before treated directly only of unfruitful and Apostatizing Professors, whom here he represents by unprofitable Ground, and Gods dealing with them as men do with such Ground when they have Tilled it in vain. For the Church is a Vine or Vineyard, and God is the Husbandman, Joh. 15. 1. Isa. 5. 1, 2, 3. But here moreover for the greater Illustration of what he affirms concerning such Persons, he compriseth in his similitude the contrary state of sound Believers and fruitful Professors, with the acceptance they have with, and blessing they receive from God. And contraries thus compared do illustrate one another, as also the Design of him who treateth concerning them. We need not therefore engage into a particular Enquiry what it is which the word For, whereby these Verses are annexed and continued unto the precedent, doth peculiarly and immediately respect, concerning which there is some difference among Expositors. Some suppose it is the dealing of God with Apostates before laid down which the Apostle regards, and in these Verses gives an account of the Reason of it, or whence it is they come unto such a woful End. Others observing that in his wholle ensuing Discourse he insists principally if not only on the state of sound Believers and their acceptance with God, suppose he hath immediate respect unto what he hath declared in the beginning of the Chapter, ver. 1, 3. concerning his Design to carry them on unto Perfection. But there is no need that we should restrain his purpose to either of these intentions exclusively unto the other; yea it is contrary to the plain scope of his Discourse so to do. For he compriseth both sorts of Professors and gives a lively representation of their condi­tion, of Gods dealing with them, and the Event thereof. The Reason therefore that he gives is not to be confined to either sort exclusively, but extends it self equally to the whole subject treated of.

[...] Ver. 7, 8.

There is not any thing materially to be observed concerning these words in any Translations ancient or modern; They all agree unless one or two that openly de­part from the Text, and which therefore are of no consideration. Only [...] is by the Syriack rendred [...] propter quos, for whom; all others read per quos, or a quibus, by whom; only ours mark for whom in the Margin, which indeed is the more usual signification of [...] with an Accusative Case. But that is not in­frequently put for the Genitive. And although this be not usual in other Authors, yet unquestionable Instances of it may be given, and amongst them that of De­mosten. Olint. 1. is eminent. [...] [Page 53] [...] And seeth the way whereby (by which) Philip who at first was weak became so great. But into the proper sense of this Expression in this place we must enquire afterwards.

For the Earth which drinketh in the Rain, that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth Herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth Blessing from God. But that which beareth Thorns and Briars, is rejected, and is nigh unto Cursing, whose End is to be burned.

Some things must be observed concerning this similitude in general, before we enquire into the particular parts of it. (1) The [...] or Application of it, is left included in the [...], or proposition of the similitude it self, and is not ex­pressed. A Description is given of the Earth by its Culture, Fruit or Barrenness, but nothing is especially added of the things signified hereby, although those are principally intended. And the way of Reasoning herein, as it is compendious, so it is plain and instructive, because the Analogie between the things produced in the similitude, and the things signified, is plain and evident, both in it self and from the whole discourse of the Apostle.

(2) There is a common subject of the whole similitude branched out into distinct parts, with very different Events ascribed unto them. We must therefore consider, both what is that common subject, as also wherein the distinct parts whereinto it is branched, do agree on the one hand, and differ on the other. (1) The common subject is the Earth; of the nature whereof both Branches are equally participant. Originally and naturally they differ not, they are both the Earth. (2) On this common subject in both Branches of it, the Rain equally falls; not upon one more and the other less, not upon one sooner and the other later. (3) It is equally dressed, tilled, or manured by or for the use of some. One part doth not lie neg­lected, whilst the other is cared for.

In these things there is an Agreement, and all is equal in both Branches of the common subject. But hereon a partition is made or a Distribution of this common subject into two parts or sorts with a double difference between them; and that (1) On their own part, (2) Of Gods dealing with them. For (1) The one part brings forth Herbs which are described by their usefulness, they are meet for them by whom they are dressed. The other bare Thorns and Briars, things not only of no use or advantage, but moreover noxious and hurtful. (2) They differ in the conse­quent, on the part of God, for the first sort receiveth Blessing from God, the other in opposition unto this Blessing from God, (whence we may also learn what is contained therein) is first rejected, then cursed, then burned.

Before I proceed to the particular Explication of the words, Enquiry must be made into the especial Design of the Apostle in them with respect unto these Hebrews. For here is not only a Threatening of what might come to pass, but a particular prediction of what would come to pass, and a Declaration of what was already in part accomplished. For by the Earth he understands in an especial manner the Church and Nation of the Jews. This was Gods Vineyard, Isa. 5. 7, 8. Hereunto he sent all his Ministers and last of all his Son, Matth. 21. 35. Jer. 2. 21. And to them he calls, O Earth, Earth, Earth hear the word of the Lord, Jer. 22. 29. Upon this Earth the Rain often fell in the Ministerial Dispensation of the Word unto that Church and People. With respect hereunto Christ says unto them [...], how often would I have gathered thy Children, Matth. 23. 37. as here the Rain is said to fall [...], often upon it.

This was the Earth wherein were the Plants of Gods especial planting. And these were all now distributed into two parts. (1) Those who Believing and Obeying the Gospel brought forth the fruits of Repentance, Faith and new Obe­dience. These being effectually wrought upon by the Power of God in the new Creation, our Apostle compares to the Earth in the old Creation, when it was first made by God and blessed of him. Then in the first place it brought forth [...] that is, [...], as the Lxx. render the word, Herb meet for him that made and blessed it, Gen. 1. 11. And these were still to be continued the Vineyard of God, a Field which he cared for. This was that Gospel Church gathered of the He­brews which brought forth fruit to the Glory of God, and was blessed of him. [Page 54] This was the Remnant among them according to the Election of Grace, which obtained mercy when the rest were blinded, Rom. 11. 5, 7.

For (2) the remainder of this People, the residue of this Earth, it was made up of two sorts, which are both of them here cast under the same lot and condition. There were obstinate unbelievers on the one hand, who pertinaciously rejected Christ and the Gospel, with Hypocritical Apostates on the other, who having for a season embraced its Profession, fell off again unto their Judaisme. All these the Apostle compares unto the Earth when the Covenant of God with the Creation was broken by the sin of man and it was put under the Curse. Hereof it is said [...], Gen. 3. 18. [...], as the Lxx ren­ders it, the very words here used by the Apostle, it beareth Thorns and Briars. Such was this Church and People now they had broken and rejected the Covenant of God by their Unbelief, Earth that brought forth Thorns and Briars. The best of them was as a Briar and the most upright of them as a Thorn Hedge, then was the Day of their Prophets nigh, the Day of their Visitation foretold by the Prophets their Watchmen, Micah 7. 4. So God threatened that when he rejected his Vineyard it should bring forth Briars and Thorns, Isa. 5. 6.

And of these unbelieving and Apostate Hebrews of this barren Earth, the Apostle affirmeth three things.

(1) That it was [...], rejected, or not approved, that is of God. Hereof they boasted, and herein they continued yet to pride themselves, that God owned them, that they were his People, and preferred them above all others. But although God was pleased yet to exercise patience towards them, yet he had pronounced concerning them in general, that they were not his People, that he owned them not. Thorns and Briars were come upon their Altars, so that both their Persons and Wor­ship were rejected of God.

(2) It was nigh unto Cursing. And this Curse which it was now very nigh unto had in it (1) Barrenness; and (2) an unalterable and irrevocable Destination unto Destruction. (1) It had in it Barrenness. For this Church of the Jews made up now of Infidels and Apostates was represented by the Figg-tree cursed by our Savi­our, Matth. 21. 19. He said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever, and presently the Figg-tree withered away. After this time the Gospel having been sufficiently tendred unto them, and rejected by them, there was no more of saving Faith, Repentance, or Obedience, nothing that was acceptable unto God, in Ho­liness or Worship ever found amongst them to this Day. Many Jews were after this converted, but the Church of the Jews never bare any more Fruits unto God. And (2) they were devoted unto Destruction. The close of the Old Testament, and therein of the immediate solemn Revelation of God unto that Church was, that if they received not the Lord Christ after the coming and Ministry of Elijah, that is, of John the Baptist, that God would come and smite the whole Earth with a Curse, Mal. ult. He would make it a thing anathematized or sacredly devoted unto Destruction, [...].

When God first brought them into his Land, which was to be the seat of his Ordinances and solemn Worship, the first Town that they came unto was Jericho. This therefore God anathematized or devoted to perpetual Destruction, with a Curse upon him that should attempt its Re-edification, Joh. 6. 17. The whole Land there­by was alienated from its former possessors, and devoted unto another use, and the place it self utterly destroyed. Jerusalem, and consequently the whole Church was now to be made as Jericho; and the Curse denounced was now speedily to be put in Execution, wherein the Land was to be alienated from their Right unto it, and be devoted to Desolation.

(3) The End of all this was that this Earth should be burned. An universal Desolation according to the Prediction of our Saviour by Fire and Sword, repre­senting the Eternal Vengeance they were liable unto was to come upon them. This was now approaching, namely, the End of their Church and State in the De­struction of the City, Temple and Nation.

This was the especial Design of the Apostle with respect unto these Hebrews; And he adds this Scheme or Dclineation of the present and approaching Condition of that Apostatized Church, to give Terror unto the Commination that he gave unto unprofitable Professors. But whereas all things unto the very last happened [Page 55] unto them in Types, and the Condition of the Churches of the Gospel is repre­sented in their sin and punishment; and whereas the things reflected on are such as it is the common and constant concernment of all Professors heedfully to consider, I shall open the words in the whole latitude of their signification, as they are pecu­liarly instructive unto us.

1. The Subject of the proposition in the similitude, is the Earth; and that which is represented thereby, is the Hearts and Minds of all those to whom the Gospel [...]. is preached. So it is explained in that Parable of our Saviour, wherein he ex­pressed the Word of the Gospel as preached by Seed, and compares the Hearers of it unto several sorts of Ground whereinto that Seed is cast. And the Allusion is wonderful apposite and instructive.

For (1) Seed is the principle of all things living; of all things that having any kind of natural Life, are capable of natural increase, growth, and furit. And whatever they arrive unto, it is but the actuating of the vital seed from whence they do proceed. So is the Word of the Gospel unto all spiritual Life, 1 Pet. 1. 23. And Believers because of their growth, increase, and fruit, from this vital princi­ple or seed of the Word, are called Vines, Plants of Gods planting, and the like.

(2) The Earth is the only fit and proper subject for seed to be put into, and alone is capable of the Culture or Husbandry that is to be used about it. God hath made no other matter or subject to receive the seeds of things that may bring forth fruit; no man casts Seed into the Air or Water. It was of the Earth alone that God said, Let it bring forth Grass, the Herb yielding Seed, and the Fruit-tree yielding Fruit after its kind, whose Seed is in it self upon the Earth, Gen. 1. 11, 12. The Earth alone hath a passive power to be made fruitful, it hath that matter in it which being cultivated, disposed, excited, sowed, planted, blessed, may bring forth Fruit. So it is with the Souls of men with respect unto the Seed of the Word. Their Minds, and they alone, are a subject capable of receiving of it, and improving it. They are the only meet Object of Divine Care and Culture. The faculties of our Souls, our Minds, Wills and Affections are meet to entertain the Gospel, and to bring forth the Fruits of it, whereof nothing is found in any other Creatures on the Earth. Hence we are [...], 1 Cor. 3. 9. Gods Husbandry, the Ground or Field that he tilleth. As Christ mystical comprising all Professors is the Vine, and his Father is the Husbandmam, Joh. 15. 1. by whom it is dressed and pruned.

(3) The Earth by and of it self, in the state wherein it is, brings forth nothing that is good or useful. Upon its first Creation it was inlaid and impregnated by the Blessing of God with all Seeds of useful Herbs and Fruits. But after the en­trance of Sin, its Womb was cursed with Barrenness as unto its first usefulness, and brings forth nothing of it self but Thorns, Briars, and noxious Weeds, at least those in such abundance as to choke and corrupt all the Remainders of useful Seeds and Plants in it. It is like the Field of the slothful grown over with Thorns, and Nettles cover the face thereof. Especially it is condemned to utter Barrenness, if the Rain fall not on it; whereof afterwards. And such are the Hearts and Minds of men by nature. They are dark, barren, unprofitable, and which without Di­vine Culture will bring forth no Fruits of Righteousness that are acceptable unto God. All that of themselves they can bring forth are noxious Weeds. Among the Weeds of unmanured Earth some are painted with alluring Colours, but they are but Weeds still; and among the Fruits of unsanctified Minds some may carry a more specious appearance than others; but they are all, spiritually consi­dered, Sins and Vices still. So then the common subject of the similitude is plain and instructive. And we may in our passage observe that,

The Minds of all men by Nature are universally and equally barren with respect unto Fruits of Righteousness and Holiness, meet for and acceptable unto God. They are all Obser. as the Earth under the Curse. There is a natural Difference among men as unto their Intellectual Abilities. Some are of a far more piercing and sagacious Under­standing, and of a sounder judgement than others. Some have a natural temper and inclination disposing them unto Gentleness, Sobriety and Modesty; when others from their constitution are Morose, Passionate and Perverse.

[Page 56] And hereon some make a good progress in Morality, and usefulness in the world, whist others lay immersed in all vitious Abominations. There are therefore on these and the like Accounts great Differences among men, wherein some are incompara­bly to be preferred above others. But as to the Fruits of spiritual Holiness and Righ­teousness all men by nature are equal and alike. For our Nature as unto a princi­ple of living unto God is equally corrupted in all. There are no more Sparks or Reliques of Grace in one than another. All spiritual Differences between men are from the Power and Grace of God in the Dispensation of the Word. But we must proceed.

Of this Earth it is said, that it drinks in the Rain that comes often upon it. Some­thing is wanting, something must be done to this Barren Earth to make it fruitful. [...]. And this is done by Rain. And that is described, by (1) its Communication or ap­plication unto the Earth; it falls upon it; (2) An especial Adjunct thereof in its frequency, it falls often on it. (3) By that Reception which the Earth is naturally fitted and suited to give unto it; it drinketh it in.

The thing it self is Rain. This is that whereby alone the Earth otherwise dry and barren is impregnated and made fruitful. For there is therein a Communica­tion of moisture absolutely requisite to apply the nourishing virtue of the Earth unto the radical principles of all fruits whatever, and therefore before any Rain did fall God caused a vapour to arise which supplied the use of it and watered the Earth, Gen. 2. 6. So the Poet expresseth it,

Tum Pater omnipotens foecundis imbribus Aether,
Conjugis in gremium late descendit & omnes
Magnus alit, magno commistus corpore, foetus.
Georg. 2.

And [...] is a wetting shower, not a Storm, not a violence of Rain causing an inundation, which tends to Barrenness and Sterility, nor such as is unseasonable and spoils the Fruits of the Earth, but a plentiful shower is intended; for [...] exceeds [...], as Aristotle observes.

(2) This Rain falls on the Ground. And (3) It is said to fall often or frequen­ly, iteratis vicibus. The Land of Canaan is commended that it was not like the Land of Aegypt where the Seed was sowed and watered with the Foot; but that it was a Land of Hills and Valleys and did drink water of the Rain of Heaven, Deut. 11. 10, 11. And they had commonly two seasons of it, the former whereof they called [...] Joreh, and the latter [...] Malcosh, Deut. 11. 14. The former fell about October in the beginning of their year, when their Seed was cast into the Ground, and the Earth as it were taught thereby (as the Word signifies) to apply it self unto the Seed, and to become fruitful. The other fell about March when their Corn was grown up, filling the Straw and Ear for the Harvest, as the word probably signifies. Hence it is said that Jordan overfloweth all his Banks at the time of Harvest, Josh. 3. 15. 1 Chron. 12. 15. which was occasioned by the fall­ing of Malcosh or this latter Rain. And that this was in the first Month or March, which was the entrance of their Harvest, it is evident from hence, in that immediately after they had passed over Jordan during the swelling of its waters, they kept the Passeover at Gilgal on the fourteenth of that first Month, chap. 5. 10. Whilst they had these Rains in their proper seasons, the Land was fruitful; and it was by with-holding of them that God punished them with the Barrenness of the Earth, and Famine thereon ensuing. Besides these, in good seasons, they had many other occasional showers; as mention is made of the showers on the mown Grass. Hence it is here supposed that the Rain falls [...], often on this Earth.

Again, The Earth is said to drink in the Rain. The Expression is Metaphorical but common. [...]. And the Allusion is taken from living Crea­tures, who by drinking take in water into their inward parts and bowels. To do thus is peculiar unto the Earth. If the Rain falls upon Rocks or Stones, it runs off from them, it hath no admission into them. But into the Earth it soaks more or less, according as the condition of the Ground is more or less receptive of it. And it is the nature of the Earth as it were to suck in these moistening Rains that fall upon it, until it be even inebriated, Psal. 65. 10. Thou visitest the Earth. and [Page 57] watereth it, thou waterest the Ridges thereof abundantly, thou setlest the Furrows there­of. [...] thou inebriatest or makest drunk the Furrows thereof.

This is the [...] or proposition of the similitude. The [...] is inclu­ded in it, that is, the Application of it unto the matter in hand. (1) That by the Earth, the Minds and Consciences of men are intended, was before declared; and it is as evident what is meant by the Rain. Yet some suppose that the Gifts of the Holy Ghost before treated of may be designed by the Apostle. For in the communication of them the Holy Spirit is frequently said to be poured out, that is, as Water or Rain. But this Rain is said to fall often on the Earth, (yea upon that Earth which continueth utterly barren) in one shower after another. And this can be no way accommodated unto the Dispensation of the Gifts of the Spirit. For they being once communicated, if they be not exercised and improved, God gives no more showers of them. It is therefore the Administration of the Word that, is in­tended. And in other places the Doctrine of the Scripture is frequently compared unto Rain and watering, Deut. 32. 2. My Doctrine shall drop as the Rain, my Speech shall distill as the Dew, as the small Rain upon the tender Herb, and as the Showers upon the Grass. And where God denies his Word unto any people, he says, upon them there shall be no Rain, Zech. 14. 17. And hence [...] to drop as the Rain doth is an expression for Prophesying or Preaching, Ezek. 21. 2. Amos 7. 16. the showers whereof are sometimes more soft and gentle, sometimes more earnest and pressing. And those words, [...] Psal. 84. 7. because of the ambi­guity of the words, and the proportion that is between the things, are rendred by some, the Rain also filleth the Pools, and by others, the Teachers shall be filled with Blessings. This is that whereby God watereth and refresheth the barren Souls of men; that whereby he communicates unto them all things that may enable them to be fruitful; in brief, not to enlarge on the Allegory, the Word of the Gospel is every way unto the Souls of men, as the Rain to the barren Earth.

2. This Rain is said to fall often on the Earth. And this may be considered either with respect unto the especial concernment of these Hebrews which was laid open before, or unto the ordinary dispensation of the Gospel. In the first way it re­gards and expresseth the frequent addresses made unto the People of the Jews in the Ministry of the Word for their healing and recovery from those ways of Ruine wherein they were ingaged. And so it may include the Ministry of the Prophets, with the close put unto it by that of Christ himself, concerning which see our Ex­position on Chap. 1. 1. And concerning this whole Ministry it is, that our Saviour so expostulates with them, Matth. 23. 37. How often would I have gathered your Children. And this also he at large represents in the Parable of the Housholder and his Vineyard, with the Servants that he sent unto it, from time to time to seek for fruit, and last of all his Son, Matth. 21. 33, 34, 35, 36. Take it in the latter way for the Dispensation of the word in general, and the manner of it with frequency and urgency is included in this expression. Where the Lord Christ sends the Gospel to be preached, it is his will that it should be so, instantly in season and out of season, that it may come as abundant showers of Rain on the Earth.

3. This Rain is said to be drunk in; the Earth drinketh in the Rain. There is no more intended in this expression, but the outward hearing of the Word, a naked assent unto it. For it is ascribed unto them who continue utterly barren and un­healed, who are therefore left unto Fire and Destruction. But as it is the natural property of the Earth to receive in the Water that is poured on it; so men do in some sense drink in the Doctrine of the Gospel, when the natural faculties of their Souls do apprehend it and assent unto it, though it works not upon them, though it produce no effects in them. There are indeed in the Earth Rocks and Stones on which the Rain makes no impression, but they are considered in common with the rest of the Earth, and there needs no particular exception on their account. Some there are who when the Word is preached unto them, do obstinately refuse and reject it; but the Hearers in common are said to drink it in; and the other sort shall not escape the judgement which is appointed for them. And thus far things are spoken in general, what is common unto both those sorts of Hearers which he afterwards distinctly insists upon.

The Word of the Gospel in the preaching of it being compared unto Rain we may observe that,

[Page 58] The Dispensation of it unto men is an effect of the Soveraign Power and Pleasure of God, as is the giving of Rain unto the Earth. There is nothing in Nature that God assumeth more into his Prerogative than this of giving Rain. The first men­tion of it in the World, is in these words, The Lord God had not caused it to Rain upon the Earth, Gen. 2. 8. All Rain is from the Lord God, who causeth it to Rain or not to Rain at his pleasure. And the giving of it he pleads as a great pledge of his Providence and Goodness. He left not himself of old without witness, in that he did good and gave Rain from Heaven, Acts 14. 17. Our Saviour also makes it an Argument of his Goodness that he causeth his Rain to fall, Matth. 5. 45. And whatever thoughts we have of the commonness of it, and whatever acquaintance men suppose they have with its causes, yet God distinguisheth himself as to his Al­mighty Power, from all the Idols of the world that none of them can give Rain. He calls his People to say in their Hearts, Let us fear the Lord who giveth Rain, Jer. 5. 24. Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause Rain, or can the Heavens give showers, Jer. 14 22. And he exerciseth his Soveraignty in the giving of it, Amos 4. 7, 8. I caused it to Rain upon one City, and not to Rain upon another, one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered, so two or three Cities wandered unto one City to drink water. And thus is it absolutely unto the Di­spensation of the Gospel to Nations, Cities, Places, Persons; it is Gods disposal alone, and he useth a distinguishing Soveraignty therein. He sendeth his Word un­to one People and not to another, to one City and not to another, at one time and not at another, and these are those matters of his, whereof he giveth no account. Only some things we may consider which give us a prospect into the Glory of his Wis­dom and Grace herein; And this I shall do in two Instances, first in the principle of his Dispensation; secondly in the outward means of it. As

(1) The principal End which he designeth in his disposal of the Dispensation of the Gospel in that great variety wherein we do behold it, is the Conversion, Edi­fication, and Salvation of his Elect. This is that which he aimeth to accomplish thereby, and therefore his Will and Purpose herein is that which gives Rule and Measure unto the actings of his Providence concerning it. Wherever there are any of his Elect to be called, or in what time soever, there and then will he cause the Gospel to be preached; For the purpose of God which is according to Election must stand, whatever Difficulties lie in the way, Rom. 9. 11. And the Election must obtain, Chap. 11. 5, 6. So the Lord Christ prayed that he would take care of all those that he had given unto him, which were his own by Election (thine they were and thou gavest them unto me) and sanctifie them by his Word, Joh. 17. 17. In pursuit of his own purpose, and in answer unto that prayer of our Lord Jesus, he will send his Word to find them out wherever they are, that so not one grain of his chosen Israel shall be lost or fall to the Ground. So he appointed our Apostle to stay and Preach at Corinth, notwithstanding the difficulties and oppositions he met withall, be­cause he had much people in that City, Acts 19. 9, 10. They were his People by Eternal Designation, antecedently unto their effectual Vocation, and therefore he will have the Word preached unto them. And in the hard work of his Ministry the same Apo­stle who knew the End of it, affirms that he endured all things for the Elects sake, 2 Tim. 2. 10. That they might be called and saved was the work he was sent upon. For whom he doth predestinate, them he also calleth, Rom. 8. 30. Predestination is the Rule of effectual Vocation, all and only they are so called by the Word, who are predestinate. So speaks our Saviour also, I have other Sheep which are not of this Fold, them also I must bring and they shall hear my Voice, Joh. 10. 16. He had some Sheep in that Fold of the Church of the Jews, to them therefore he preached the Word, that they might be gathered unto him. But he had other Sheep also, even all his Elect among the Gentiles, and saith he, them must I gather also. There is a necessity of it upon the account of the purpose of God concerning them, and they are to be gathered by hearing of his Voice, or the preaching of the Word. In that Soveraignty therefore which God useth in the disposal thereof, causing the Rain of the Doctrine of his Word to fall upon one place and not upon another, at one time and not at another, he hath still this certain End before him; and the actings of his Providence are regulated by the purposes of his Grace. In what place or Na­tion soever, in what Time or Age soever he hath any of his Elect to be brought forth in the world, he will provide that the Gospel of Peace be preached unto [Page 59] them. I will not say that in every individual place where the Gospel is preached, there are always some of the Elect to be saved. For the Enjoyments of one place may be occasioned by the Work that is to be done in another, wherewith it is in some kind of conjunction: Or the Word may be preached in a place for the sake of some that are there only accidentally. As when Paul first preached at Philippi, Lydia only was converted, who was a stranger in those parts, belonging to the City of Thyatira in Asia, Acts 16. 14, 15. And an whole Country may fare the better for one City, and an whole City for some part of it, as Micah 5. 7. God concealeth this secret Design under promiscuous outward Dispensations. For he obligeth those by whom the Word is preached to declare his mind therein unto all men indefinitely, leaving the effectual work of his Grace in the pursuit of his pur­pose unto himself; whence they believe who are ordained to Eternal Life, and those are added to the Church that are to be saved, Acts 2. 47. Acts 13. 48. Besides God hath other Ends also in the sending of his Word, though this be the principal. For by it he puts a Restraint unto Sin in the World, gives a visible control to the King­dom of Sathan, and relieves mankind by sending Light into those dark places of the Earth, which are filled with Habitations of Cruelty. And by the Convictions that he brings thereby on the Minds and Consciences of men, he makes way for the manifestation of the Glory of his Justice in their Condemnation. Coming and speaking unto them he leaves them without pretence or excuse, Joh. 15. 22. Yet will I not say that God sends the Word for any continuance for these Ends and Designs only. For a short time he may do so, as our Saviour sending forth his Disciples to Preach, supposeth that in some place their message may be totally rejected; and thereon appointeth them to shake off the dust of their feet as a Testimony against them, or their being left without excuse. But these are but secondary and accidental Ends of the Word where it is constantly preached. Wherefore God doth not so send it for their sakes alone. But on the other side, I dare say, that where God doth not by any means nor in any degree send his Word, there are none of his Flect to be saved; for without the Word they can neither be called nor sanctified. And if any of them are in any such place, as whereunto he will not grant his Word, he will by one providence or other, snatch them like Brands out of the Fire, and convey them under the showers of it. And this we find verified by experience every day. The Gospel therefore doth not pass up and down the world by chance, as we know in how great variety it hath visited and left Nations and People, Ages and Times; nor is the disposal of it regulated by the Wisdom and Contrivance of men, what­ever their Work and Duty may be in the Dispensation of it; but all this like the falling of the Rain is regulated by the Soveraign Wisdom and Pleasure of God, wherein he hath respect only unto the Purpose of his own Eternal Grace.

2. He doth according to his Soveraign pleasure call and send persons to the Preaching of it, unto those to whom he will grant the Priviledge thereof. Every man may not upon his own Head, nor can any man upon his own abilities undertake and discharge that work. This is the Eternal Rule and Law of the Gospel. Who­soever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how shall men call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a Preacher? And how shall they Preach except they be sent? Rom. 10. 13, 14, 15. that is, by God himself; for neither doth the Apostle discourse, nor hath he any occasion in that place to discourse concerning the ordinary call of Persons unto an Office in the Church, whereunto the Ministry of the Church it self is required. But he treats of Preaching the Gospel in general unto all or any parts of the world, and of the love and care of God in sending of men unto that purpose, whereby others coming to hear of him may believe in him, call upon his name, and be saved. Hence he compares the Work of God herein unto that of his sending forth Light and natural Instructions unto all the World by the Luminaries of Heaven wherein the Ministry of Men hath no place, verse 18. Wherefore the Preaching of the Gospel depends absolutely on the Soveraign plea­sure of God in sending men unto that work; for how should they Preach except they be sent? And he doth send them, first, by endowing them with spiritual Gifts, enabling them unto that Work and Duty. The Gospel is the Ministration of the Spirit; nor is it to be administred but by virtue of the Gifts of the Spirit. These God gives unto them whom he sends by Jesus Christ, Ephes. 4. 7, 8, &c. And [Page 60] these Gifts are a sort of especial, peculiar, yea supernatural Abilities, whereby men are fitted to, and enabled for the Dispensation of the Gospel. It is sad to consider what woful work they make who undertake this Duty, and yet unfurnished with these Abilities, that is, such who are sent of men, but are not sent of God. They harness themselves with external Order, Ecclesiastical Mission according to some Rules agreed upon among themselves, with some other implements and Ornamen­tal Accoutrements, whereon they undertake to be Preachers of the Gospel, as it were whether God will or no. But these vanities of the Gentiles cannot give Rain, the Preaching of the Gospel as unto its proper Ends, depends on Gods sending alone. When they betake themselves to their work, they find themselves at a loss for Gods Mission, at least they do so unto whom they pretend to be sent. I speak it not, as though outward order and a due call were not necessary in a Church un­to the Office of a Teacher; but only to shew that all Order without a concurrence of the Divine Vocation is of no validity nor efficacy. Now the Dispensation of these spiritual Gifts without which the Rain of the Doctrine of the Gospel falleth not, depends solely on the Soveraignty of God. The Spirit divideth unto every one as he pleaseth, 1 Cor. 12. 11. And it is evident that he doth not herein follow the Rule of any humane preparation. For whereas it is most certain, that the improve­ment of mens intellectual Abilities in Wisdom, Learning, Oratory and the like, are exceedingly subservient unto the use and exercise of these spiritual Gifts, yet it is evident that God doth not always and regularly communicate them unto those who are so prepared; no though they were acquired in a rational way, in order unto the work of the Ministry. For how many may we see so qualified, and yet destitute of all Relish of spiritual Gifts, God preferring before them persons, it may be, be­hind and beneath them in those Qualifications. As it was whilst all these affairs were transacted in an extraordinary manner at the first planting of the Gospel. He did not chuse out eminently, the Philosophers, the Wise, the Learned, the Scribes, the Disputers of this world, to communicate spiritual Gifts unto, but generally fixed on persons of another condition and more ordinary capacity. Some were so that none might think themselves excluded because of their Wisdom and Learning, things excellent in themselves; but many of this sort, as our Apostle informs us, were not called and chosen unto this work. So something in proportion here­unto may yet be observed in the distribution of the ordinary Gifts of the Spirit. At least it is evident that herein God obligeth himself to no Rules of such prepara­tions or qualifications on our part. Nay which is yet farther, he walks not herein, in the steps of his own sanctifying and saving Grace. But as he worketh that Grace in the Hearts of many on whom he bestows not those Gifts which are needful to enable men unto the Dispensation of the Gospel, so he bestows those Gifts on many, unto whom he will not vouchsafe his sanctifying Grace. And these things make evident that Soveraignty which God is pleased to exercise in his sending of persons unto the work of preaching the Gospel, manifesting that the whole of it depends like the giving of Rain, absolutely on his pleasure. And when men exclusively un­to this part of Gods Call will keep up a Ministry, and so make a preaching of the Gospel, it is but a lifeless Image of the true Dispensation of it.

Secondly, This Communication of Gifts unto men is ordinarily accompanied with a powerful and effectual inclination of the minds of men, to undertake the work and ingage in it against those Objections, Discouragements, Oppositions and Dif­ficulties, which present themselves unto them in their undertaking. There is so I say ordinarily, for there are more Instances than one, of those who having the word of Prophecy committed unto them, instead of going to Niniveh, do consult their own Reputation, Ease and Advantage, and so tack about to Tarshish. And there are not a few who hide and napkin up their Talents, which are given them to Trade withall, though represented unto us under one Instance only. But these must one day answer for their Disobedience unto the Heavenly Call. But ordina­rily that Inclination and Disposition unto this Work, which accompanies the com­munication of spiritual Gifts, is prevalent and effectual, so that the minds of men are fortified by it against the Lions that are in the way, or whatever may rise up to deter them from it. So our Apostle affirms that upon the Revelation of Christ unto him, and his Call thereby to Preach the Gospel, immediately he conferred not with Flesh and Blood, but went into Arabia about his Work, Gal. 1. 16, 17. He would not [Page 61] so much as attend or hearken unto Cavils and Exceptions against the Work where­unto he was inclined and disposed, which is the way of a well grounded firm Re­solution. And something in proportion hereunto is wrought in the minds of them, who undertake this Work upon an ordinary Call of God. And where this is not, much success is not to be expected in the work of any, nor any great Blessing of God upon it. When men go out hereunto in their own Strength, without a sup­ply of spiritual Gifts, and engage in their Work meerly upon external considerati­ons, without this Divine Inclination of their Hearts and Minds, they may seem to cast out Water as out of an Engine by violent compression, they will never be like Clouds to pour forth showers of Rain. This therefore also is from the Lord. Again,

2. God ordereth things in his Soveraign unsearchable Providence, so as that the Gospel shall be sent unto, and in the Administration of it, shall find Admittance in what places, and at what times seems good unto himself, even as he orders the Rain to fall on one place and not on another. We have not Wisdom to search into the Causes, Reasons, and Ends of Gods providential Works in the world; and individual persons seldom live to see the issue of those which are on the Wheel in their own days. But we have ground enough in the Scripture to conclude, that the principal works of Di­vine Providence in the World, and among the Nations of the Earth, do respect the Dispensation of the Gospel, either in the granting of it, or the taking of it away. It were an easie matter to evince by evident Instances that the principal Na­tional Revolutions which have been in the Earth, have been all of them subservient unto the counsel and purpose of God in this matter. And there are Examples also manifesting how small occasions he hath turned unto great and signal use herein. But what hath been spoken may suffice to evince who is the Father and Author of this Rain. And how this consideration may be improved unto the exercise of Faith, Prayer and Thankfulness, is manifest.

This Rain is said to fall often upon the Earth, which respects the actual Dispen­sation of the Word, by them unto whom it is committed. And we may thence Obs. 3. observe, That It is the Duty of those unto whom the Dispensation of the Word is com­mitted of God, to be diligent, watchful, instant in their Work, that their Doctrine may as it were continually drop and distill upon their Hearers; that the Rain may fall often on the Earth. So hath God provided that the Ridges of it may be watered abundantly, to make it soft (or dissolve it) with showers and so he blesseth the springing thereof, Psal. 65. 10. In an hot, parching and dry season, one or two showers do but in­crease the vehemency of the Heat and Drouth, giving matter of new Exhalations which are accompanied with some of the remaining moisture of the Earth. Of no other use is that dead and lazie kind of Preaching wherewith some satisfie them­selves and would force others to be contented.

The Apostles when this Work was committed unto them, would not be diverted from a constant Attendance unto it, by any other Duty, much less any other occa­sion of Life, Acts 6. 4. See what a Charge our Apostle gives unto Timothy to this purpose, 2 Tim. 4. 1, 2, 3. And a great Example hereof we have in the account he gives concerning his own Ministry in Asia, Acts 20. (1) He declares when he began his Work and Ministry, the first day he came into Asia, ver. 18. that is, on the first opportunity; he omitted no season that he could possibly lay hold upon, but engaged into his Work, as his manner was in every place, that he came unto. And (2) in what manner did he teach? He did it (1) publickly in all Assemblies of the Church, and others also where he might have a quiet opportunity of speaking. And (2) privately from house to house, ver. 20. All places were alike to him and all Assemblies small or great, so he might have advantage of communicating unto them the knowledge of God in Christ. And (3) what did he so declare unto them, or instruct them in? It was the whole counsel of God, ver. 27. The Gospel of the Grace of God, ver. 24. all things that were profitable unto them, ver. 20. in sum, Repentance towards God and Faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, ver. 21. And (4) How did he dispense the Word unto them? It was by a Declaration of the Will of God, ver. 27. by testifying the necessity of Gospel Duties, ver. 21. by constant Warnings and Admonitions to stir men up unto diligence in Obedience, and to caution them of their dangers, ver. 31. And (5) When, or at what season did he thus lay out [Page 62] himself in the discharge of this Duty? He did it night and day, ver. 31. that is, continually upon all occasions and advantages. He was one by whom God watered his Vineyard every moment. And (6) in what outward condition was he, and with what frame of Spirit did he attend his work? He was in many Temptations which befell him by the laying in wait of the Jews, ver. 19. or in continual danger of his Life by the Persecutions they stirred up against him. And as unto himself and the frame of his heart in this work, he carried it on with all humility of Mind and with many Tears, ver. 19, 31. He was not lifted up with conceits of the Glory, Greatness and Power of his Office, of the Authority over all the Churches committed unto him by Christ; but with lowliness of mind, and meekness was as the Servant of them all; with that love, tenderness, compassion and fervency as he could not but testifie by many Tears. Here is the great Example for Dispensers of the Gospel. We have not his Grace, we have not his Gifts, we have not his ability or assi­stance, and so are not able to come up unto him; but yet certainly it is our Duty to follow him though haud passibus aequis, and to conform our selves unto him according to our Opportunity and Ability. I confess I cannot but admire to think, what some men conceive concerning him or themselves? Can they say that from the first day of their coming into their Diocesses or Dignities, or Parishes or Places, they have thus behaved themselves? Have they so taught, so preached, so warned, and that with Tears, night and day all sorts of persons, whom they suppose themselves to relate unto? Have they made it their work to declare the Mysteries of the Gospel, and the whole counsel of God, and this both publickly and privately, night and day according to their Opportunities? It will be said indeed that these things belonged unto the Duty and Office of the Apostles, but those that succeed them as ordinary Overseers of the Church, may live in another manner, and have other work to do. If they should carry it with that humility of mind as he did, and use entreaties with Tears as he did, and Preach continually as he did, they should have little joy of their Office, and besides they should be even despised of the People. These things therefore they suppose not to belong unto them. Yea but our Apostle gives this whole Account concerning himself unto the ordinary Bishops of the Church of Ephe­sus, ver. 17, 28. And in the close of it tells them, that he hath shewed them all things how they ought to do, ver. 35. And what he apprehended to be the Duty of all to whom the Dispensation of the Word is committed, he manifests in his last solemn charge that he left with his Son Timothy a little before his Death, 2 Tim. 4. 1, 2. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his Kingdom, Preach the Word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and Doctrine; so ver. 5. He did no more himself than what he requires in Timothy according to the proportion of his Abilities. And the Discharge of this work is not to be mea­sured by particular Instances of the frequency of Preaching, but by that purpose, design and frame of Heart which ought to be in Ministers, of laying out them­selves to the utmost in the work of the Ministry on all occasions, resolving to spend and to be spent therein. I could easily shew on how many accounts frequency and urgency in preaching of the Word, is indispensably required of those unto whom the Work is committed, that therein the Rain may fall oft upon the Earth. But I must not too far digress. The Command of God, the Love and Care of Christ towards his Church, the Ends of Gods patience and long-suffering, the future manifestation of his Glory in the Salvation of Belicvers and the Condemnation of those that are disobedient, the Necessities of the Souls of men, the nature and kind of the way whereby God gives spiritual supplies by the Ministry of the Word, the weakness of our natural faculties of the mind in receiving, Heb. 4. 11. Isa. 28. 9, 10. and of the memory in retaining spiritual things, Heb. 2. 1. chap. 12. 5. the weakness of Grace, Rev. 7. 2. requiring continual refreshments, Isa. 27. 3. The frequency and variety of Temptations, interrupting our peace with God, not otherwise to be repelled, 2 Cor. 5. 18, 19. the design of Christ to bring us gradually unto Perfection, might all be pleaded in this case. But the Law of this Duty is in some measure written in the hearts of all faithful Ministers, and those who are otherwise shall bear their own Burdens.

[Page 63] Again, It is common to the whole Earth often to drink in the Rain that falls upon it, though but some parts only of it prove fruitful, as it will appear in the following distribution of them. Whence we may observe, that

Attendance unto the Word preached, hearing of it with some diligence, and giving of Obs. 4. it some kind of Reception, make no great difference among men; for this is common unto them who never become fruitful. This is so plainly exemplified by our Sa­viour in the Parable of the several sorts of Ground that receive the Seed of the Word, yet on various occasions lose the power of it, and never come to fruit­bearing, that it needs no farther consideration. And I intend not those only who meerly hear the Word and no more. Such persons are like Stones, which when the Rain falleth on them it makes no impression into them, they drink it not in at all. It is no otherwise I say with many Hearers, who seem not to have the least sense of what customarily they attend unto. But those are intended in the Text and Proposition who in some measure receive it, and drink it in. They give it an Entrance into their Understandings, where they become Doctrinally acquainted with the Truth of the Gospel. And they give it some entrance into their Affections, whence they are said to receive the Word with joy. And moreover they allow it some in­fluence on their Conversations, as even Herod did who heard the preachings of John Baptist gladly and did many things thereon. All these things men may do, and yet at length prove to be that part of the Earth which drinks in the Rain, and yet absolutely is barren, and brings forth Thorns and Briars. There is yet wanting the receiving of it in a good and honest Heart, which what it includes, will afterwards appear. And again, we may observe, that

God is pleased to exercise much patience towards those whom he once grants the Mercy Obs. 5. and the Priviledge of his Word unto. He doth not presently proceed against them for and on their Barrenness, but stays until the Rain hath often fallen upon the Ground. But there is an appointed season and period of time, beyond which he will not wait for them any more, as we shall see.

The Distribution of this Earth into several parts, with the different Lots and Events of them, is nextly to be considered. The first sort the Apostle describes two ways. (1) By its fruitfulness; (2) By its acceptation with God. And this fruit­fulness he farther manifests; (1) From the fruit it self which it bears, it is Herb, or Herbs; (2) From the Nature and Use of that Fruit, it is meet for them by whom it is dressed. (3) The manner of it, it brings it forth. These things we must a little open in their Order, as they be in the Text.

1. [...], it bringeth forth. [...]. This word properly signifies the bringing forth of a Woman that hath conceived with Child, [...], Luke 1. 31. And so it is constantly used in the New Testament, and not otherwise but only in this place, and James 1. 15. [...], in an elegant similitude he compareth the work of Lust in Temptation unto an Adulterous conception in the Womb of the Adulteress, when at length actual sin is brought forth. The Seeds of it are cast into the Mind and Will by Temptation, where after they are warmed, fomented and cherished, Sin that ugly Monster comes forth in the World. So is this Earth said to bring forth, as a Womb that is naturally and kindly impregnated, in its appointed season. And therefore when the Apostle speaks of the other sort, he changeth his Expression for such a word as may suit a deformed and monstrous Production. But the Native power of the Earth being cherished by the Rain that falls on it, brings forth as from a teeming Womb, the Fruits of those Seeds it is possessed withall.

2. It brings forth [...], Generans herbam; The Rhemists render it Grass, causelesly and amiss. The word signifies such green herbs as are usually produced [...]. by careful Culture, Tilling or Dressing; such as are for the proper and immediate use of men, and not of their Cattel. The same with [...] Gen. 1. 11. All sorts of useful green Herbs, whether Medicinal or for Food, or Beauty and Orna­ment.

3. The nature of this Herbal fruit is, that it is [...]. Some render it by opportuna, and some by accommoda; meet answers both. Those that use the former [...]. word, seem to respect the season wherein it brings forth the Fruit. And this is the [Page 64] commendation of it, that it makes no delays but brings forth in its proper time and season, when its Owners and Tillers have just ground and reason to expect and look for it. And it's an especial commendation of any thing that beareth Fruit; and what is out of season is despised, Psal 14. The latter word intends the usefulness and profitableness of the Fruit brought forth in what season soever it be. We may comprise both senses, and justly suppose both of them to be intended. The Syriack expresseth it by a general word, [...] which is or may be of use. And the fruits of the Earth, are not profitable unless they are seasonable. So James calls it, [...], the precious Fruit of the Earth, which the Husbandman waiteth for, until the Earth hath received the former and latter Rain, Jam. 1. 7.

Lastly, These Herbs thus brought forth are meet, [...], [...]. unto them by whom it is Tilled, or even by whom; or by whom it is also Tilled. The particle [...], is not superfluous or insignificant. It declares an Addition of Cul­ture unto the Rain. For besides the falling of Rain on the Earth, there is likewise need of further Culture that it may be made fruitful or bring forth Herbs seasonably which shall be profitable unto men. For if only the Rain fall upon it, it will bring forth many things indeed; but if it be not tilled withall, for one useful Herb, it will bring forth many Weeds. As he speaks in the case of Husbandry,

Quod nisi & assiduis terram insectabere rastris,
Et sonitu terrebis aves, & ruris opaci
Falce premes umbras, votis (que) vocaveris Imbrem,
Heu magnum alterius frustra spectabis Acervum.

The Earth must be Tilled from its nature and the Law of its Creation. And there­fore Adam was to have Tilled and Wrought the Ground in the Garden even before the Fall, Gen. 2. 16. And this is the principal concernment of him that intends to live on the Field. The falling of Rain upon the Earth is common unto the whole. That which gives a Field a peculiar Relation unto any, is, that he dresseth and fenceth and tilleth it. Unto these dressers the Herbs that are brought forth are said to be meet; they belong unto them and are useful for them; [...] may be rendered for whom, or by whom. In the first way, the chief Owner of the Ground, the Lord of the Field or Vineyard, is signified. The Ground is Tilled or Manured for his use, and he eats of the Fruits of it. In the latter sense, those who immediately work about the Ground in the Tilling of it are intended. But there is no need to distinguish in this place between Owner and Dresser. For God as he is the great Husbandman is both. He is the Lord of the Vineyard, it is his, and he dresseth and pruneth the Vines that they may bring forth Fruit, Joh. 15.

Thirdly, The Ground thus made fruitful receiveth Blessing of God. And the [...]. Blessing of God with respect unto a fruitful Field is twofold. (1) Antecedent, in the communication of Goodness, or fruit-causing virtue unto it. The smell of my Son, is as the smell of a Field which the Lord hath blessed, Gen. 27. 27. A Field that abounds with Blossoms, Flowers and Fruits yielding a sweet Savour, being so made fruitful by the singular blessing of God. But this is not the Blessing here in­tended. For it is supposed that this Field is already made fruitful, so as to bring forth useful Herbs, and therefore must be antecedently interested in this kind of Blessing, without which nothing can thrive or prosper. Wherefore (2) Gods Be­nediction is taken for a consequent acceptation, or approbation, with care and watch­fulness for a farther improvement. The Blessing of God is at large described, Isa. 27. 2, 3. And there are three things included in this Blessing of a fruitful Field. (1) The Owning, Acceptation or Approbation of it. Such a Field God owns, and is not ashamed that it should be looked on as his. And this is opposed to the Re­jection of the barren Ground afterwards mentioned; is rejected. (3) The Care, Watchfulness and Diligence that is used about it. God watcheth over such a Field or Vineyard to keep it night and day that none should hurt it, watering it every mo­ment and purging the Branches of its Vines, to make them yet more fruitful; op­posed to being nigh unto Cursing, that is wholly neglected or left unto Salt and Barrenness. (3) A final preservation from all Evil, opposed to the burning up of the barren Earth with the Thorns and Briars that grow upon it.

[Page 65] These things being spoken only of the Ground whence the comparison is taken, the application of them though not expressed unto the spiritual things intended is plain and easie. For,

1. The Ground thus dressed, thus bearing Fruit and blessed of God, are true and sound Believers. So our Saviour declares it to be in the interpretation of his own Parable to this purpose, Matth. 13. They are such as receive the Word of God in good and honest Hearts, and bring forth Fruits of it in several Degrees. Such as having been Ministerially planted and watered, have an increase wrought in them by the Grace of God, 1 Cor. 3. 6, 7.

2. There is included herein the manner how they bring forth the Fruits intended. And that is, that they bring forth in their lives what was before conceived and cherished in their Hearts. They have the Root in themselves of what they bring forth. So doth the word here used signifie, namely, to bring forth the Fruit of an inward Conception. The Doctrine of the Gospel as cast into their Hearts, is not only Rain but Seed also. This is cherished by Grace, as precious Seed, and as from a natural Root or Principle in the Heart, brings forth precious Fruit. And herein consists the difference between the Fruit-bearing of true Believers, and the works of Hypocrites or false Professors. These latter bring forth Fruits like Mushromes, they come up suddenly, have oft-times a great bulk and goodly appearance, but they are only a forced Excrescency, they have no natural Seed or Root in the Earth. They do not proceed from a living principle of them in their Hearts. The other sort do first conceive, cherish and foment them in their Hearts and Minds, whence they bring them forth as from a genuine and natural principle. This is on either side fully declared by our Saviour himself, Luke 6. 43, 44, 45.

3. There are the Herbs or Fruits intended. These are they which elsewhere in the Scripture are called the Fruits of the Spirit, the Fruits of Righteousness, of Holi­ness and the like. All that we do in compliance with the Will of God, in the course of our Profession and Obedience, is of this kind. All effects of Faith and Love, of Mortification and Sanctification, that are holy in themselves, and useful to others, whereby we express the Truth and Power of that Doctrine of the Gospel which we do profess, are the Fruits and Herbs intended. When our Hearts are made Holy, and our Lives useful by the Gospel, then are we fruitful.

4. These Herbs are said to be meet for them by whom or for whom the Earth is dressed. As it is neither useful nor safe to press similitudes beyond their principal scope and intention, and to bring in every minute circumstance into the compari­son; so we must not neglect what is fairly instructive in them, especially if the Application of things one to another, have countenance and guidance given it in other places of the Scripture, as it is in this case. Wherefore to clear the Appli­cation of this part of the similitude, we may observe,

1. That God himself is the great Husbandman, Joh. 15. 1. And all Believers are Gods Husbandry, 1 Cor. 3. 9. He is so the Husbandman as to be the Soveraign Lord and Owner of this Field or Vineyard, and he puts workmen into it to dress it. This our Saviout sets out at large in his Parable, Matth. 21. 33, &c. Hence he calls his people, his Portion, and the Lot of his Inheritance, Deut. 32. 9. He speaks as though he had given up all the world besides into the possession of others, and kept his people only unto himself. And so he hath, as to the especial blessed Relation which he intendeth.

2. It is God himself who taketh care for the watering and dressing of this Field. He dealeth with it as a man doth with a Field that is his own; This he expresseth, Isa. 5. 2. Matth. 21. 33, 34. The Dispensation of the Word, and the Communi­cation of the Spirit unto the Church, with all other means of Light, Grace, and Growth depend all on his care, and are all supreamly from him, as was shewed before. To this End he employeth his Servants to work and dress it under him, who are Labourers together with God, 1 Cor. 3. 9. because they are employed by him, do his work, and have the same End with him.

3. This Tilling or Dressing of the Earth which is superadded to the Rain, or the meer Preaching of the Gospel denoted thereby, may be referred unto three Heads. (1) The Ministerial Application of the Word unto the Souls and Consciences of men, in the Dispensation of all the Ordinances of the Gospel. This is the second great [Page 66] End of the Ministry, as the Dispensation of the Word in general, as the Rain, is the first. (2) The Administration of the Censures and Discipline of the Church. This belongs unto the dressing and purging of Gods Vineyard, and of singular use it is unto that End, where it is rightly and duely attended unto. And those who under pretence hereof instead of purging the Vineyard endeavour to digg up the Vines, will have little thanks from him for their Diligence and Pains. (3) Affli­ctions and Trials. By these he purgeth his Vine that it may bring forth yet more Fruit; that is, he trieth, exerciseth, and thereby improveth the Faith and Graces of Believers. 1 Pet. 1. 7. Rom. 5. 3, 4, 5. Jam. 1. 2, 3, 4.

4. God expecteth Fruit from this Field, which is so his own, and which he so careth for. I looked for Grapes, Isa. 5. 2. He sends his Servants to receive the Fruits of it, Matth. 21. 34. Though he stand in no need of us or our Goodness, it ex­tends not to him, we cannot profit him, as a man may profit his Neighbour, nor will he grow rich with our substance, yet he is graciously pleased to esteem of the Fruits of Gospel Obedience, the Fruits of Faith and Love, of Righteousness and Holiness, and by them will he be glorified; Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much Fruit, Joh. 15. 8. Matth. 5. 16.

5. These Fruits when they are brought forth, God approveth of, accepteth, and farther blesseth them that bear them, which is the last thing in the words. Some think there is no use of these Fruits unless they are meritorious of Grace and Glory. But Gods Acceptation of them here, is called his Benediction, his Blessing of them that bring them forth. Now a Blessing cannot be merited; it is an act of Bounty and Authority, and hath the nature of a free Gift, that cannot be deserved. What doth a Field merit of him by whom it is watered and tilled when it bringeth forth Herbs meet for his use; they are all but the Fruits of his own Labour, Cost and Pains. The Field is only the subject that he hath wrought upon, and it is his own. All the Fruits of our Obedience are but the Effects of his Grace in us. We are a subject that he hath graciously pleased to work upon. Only he is pleased in a way of infinite condescension to own in us, what is his own, and to pardon what is ours. Wherefore the Blessing of God on Fruit-bearing Believers, consists in three things. (1) His Approbation and gracious Acceptance of them. So it is said that he had respect unto Abel and his Offering, Gen. 4. 4. He graciously accepted both of his Person and of his Sacrifice, owning and approving of him, when Cain and his were rejected. So he smelt a savour of Rest from the Sacrifice of Noah, Gen. 8. 21. And to testifie his being well pleased therewith, he thence took occasion to renew and establish his Covenant with him and his Seed. (2) It is by increasing their fruit­fulness; Every Branch in the Vine that beareth Fruit, he purgeth that it may bring forth more Fruit, Joh. 15. 2. He multiplies the Seed that is sown, and increaseth the Fruits of their Righteousness, 2 Cor. 9. 10. This is the constant way of God in his Covenant dealings, with thriving fruitful Christians; he so blesseth them as that their Graces and Fruits shall more and more abound, so as that they shall be flou­rishing even in Age, and bring forth more Fruit unto the End. (3) He blesseth them in the preparation he hath made for to give them an everlasting Reward. A Reward it is indeed of Grace and Bounty, but it is still a Reward, a recompence of Reward. For although it be no way merited or deserved, and although there be no proportion between our Works, Duties, or Fruits and it, yet because they shall be owned in it, shall not be lost nor forgotten, and God therein testifies his Accep­tance of them, it is their Reward.

Where God grants Means, there he expects Fruit. Few men consider what is the state of things with them, whilst the Gospel is preached unto them. Some utterly disregard it any farther than as it is suited unto their carnal Interests and Advan­tages. Obser. For the Gospel is at present so stated in the World, at least many parts of it, that great multitudes make more benefit by a pretence of it or what belongs un­to it, and have greater secular Advancements and Advantages thereby, than they could possibly by the utmost of their Diligence and Ability in any other way, honest or dishonest, attain unto. These esteem it according to their worldly interests, and for the most part no otherwise; they are Merchants of Souls, Rev. 18. 11, 12, 13. 2 Pet. 2. 3. Some look upon it as that wherein they are really concerned, and they will both take upon themselves the profession of it, and make use of it in their [Page 67] Consciences as occasion doth require. But few there are who do seriously consider what is the Errand that it comes upon, and what the Work is God hath in hand thereby. In brief, he is by it, watering, manuring, cultivating the Souls of men, that they may bring forth Fruit unto his Praise and Glory. His business by it, is to make men holy, humble, self-denying, righteous, useful, upright, pure in heart and life, to abound in good works, or to be like himself in all things. To effect these Ends, is this holy means suited, and therefore God is justly said to expect these Fruits where he grants this Means. And if these be not found in us, all the Ends of Gods Husbandry are lost towards us, which what a doleful issue it will have the next Verse declares. This therefore ought to be always in our minds whilst God is treating with us by the Dispensation of the Gospel. It is Fruit he aims at, it is Fruit he looks for, and if we fail herein, the Advantage of the whole, both as unto our Good and his Glory, is utterly lost, which we must unavoidably account for. For this Fruit God both expecteth, and will require. This is the work and effect of the Gospel, Col. 1. 6. And the Fruit of it is threefold. (1) Of Persons in their Conversion unto God, Rom. 15. 16. (2) Of Real internal Holiness in them or the Fruits of the Spirit, Gal. 5. 22, 23. (3) The outward Fruits of Rigteousness and Charity, 2 Cor. 9. 10. Phil. 1. 11. These God looketh to, Isa. 5. 4. Luke 13. 7. And he will not always bear with a frustration. A good Husbandman will suffer Thorns and other barren Trees to grow in the Field. But if a Vine or Figg-tree be barren in his Garden, he will cut it down and cast it into the Fire. However God will not always continue this Husbandry, Isa. 28. Amos 6. 12.

Duties of Gospel Obedience are Fruits meet for God, things that have a proper and Obser. 2. especial tendency unto his Glory. As the precious Fruits of the Earth which the Hus­bandman waiteth for, are meet for his use, that is, such as supply his wants, satisfie his occasions, answer his labour and charge, nourish and enrich him; So do these Duties of Gospel Obedience, answer all the Ends of Gods Glory which he hath designed unto it in the world. Hereby, saith our Saviour, is my Father glorified, if ye bring forth much Fruit.

And we must enquire how these Fruits are meet for God. For (1) they are not so, as though he stood in any need of them unto his Glory. Our Goodness extends not unto him, Psal. 16. 2. It doth not so, as though he had need of it, or put any value on it for its own sake. Hence he rejecteth all those multiplied outward Ser­vices which men trusted unto, as if they obliged him by them, because without them or their Services he is the Soveraign Possessor of all created Beings and their Effects, Psal. 50. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. All thoughts hereof are to be rejected; see Job 22. 2, 3. chap. 35. 7, 8. (2) They are not meet for God, as if they perfectly answered his Law. For with respect thereunto, all our Righteousnesses are as filtby Raggs, most unmeet to be presented unto him, Isa. 64. 6. And if he should mark what is amiss in us or them, who should stand, Psal. 130. 3. Much less (3) are they so meet for him, as that by them we should merit any thing at his hand. This foolish Presumption is contrary to the very nature of God and Man, with that Relation between them which necessarily ensues on their very Beings. For what can a poor worm of the Earth who is nothing, who hath nothing, who doth nothing that is good, but what it receives wholly from Divine Grace, Favour, and Bounty, merit of him who from his Being and Nature can be under no Obligation thereunto, but what is meerly from his own Soveraign pleasure and goodness?

They are therefore no otherwise meet for God but in and through Christ, accord­ing to the infinite condescension which he is pleased to exercise in the Covenant of Grace. Therein doth the Lord Christ (1) Make our persons accepted, as was that of Abel through Faith in him, which was the foundation of the Acceptation of his Offering, Gen. 4. 4. Heb. 11. 4. And this is of Grace also; It is to the praise of his glorious Grace wherein he makes us accepted in the Beloved, Ephes. 1. 6. And (2) He bears and takes away the iniquity that cleaves unto them as they proceed from us, which renders them unmeet for God. This was typed out by the plate of God, wherein was inscribed Holiness to the Lord, that was on the forehead of the High Priest. It was that he might bear the Iniquity of the Holy things of the people, Exod. 28. 36, 37, 38. He bare it in the Expiation he made of all sin; and takes it away in the sight of God. And (3) He adds of the Incense of his own Mediation unto [Page 68] them, that they may have a sweet savour in their Offering to God, Rev. 8. 3. On this foundation it is that God hath graciously designed them unto sundry Ends of his Glory, and accepts them accordingly.

For (1) The Will of his Command is fulfilled thereby; and this tends to the Glory of his Rule and Government, Matth. 7. 21. We are to pray that the Will of God may be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven. The Glory that God hath in Hea­ven from the Ministry of all his holy Angels, consists in this, that they always, with all readiness and chearfulness do observe his Commands and do his Will, esteeming their doing so to be their Honour and Blessedness. For hereby is the Rule and Au­thority of God owned, avouched, exalted; a neglect whereof was the Sin and Ruine of the Apostate Angels. In like manner our Fruits of Obedience are the only Acknowledgements that we do or can make to the supream Authority and Rule of God over us, as the one Law-giver, who hath power to kill and keep alive. The Glory of an Earthly King consists principally in the willing Obedience which his Subjects give unto his Laws. For hereby they expresly acknowledge that they esteem his Laws. wise, just, equal, useful to mankind, and also reverence his Au­thority. And it is the Glory of God, when the Subjects of his Kingdom, do testi­fie unto all, their willing chearful Subjection unto all his Laws, as holy, righteous, and good, by the Fruits of their Obedience; as also that it is their principal Ho­nour and Happiness to be ingaged in his Service, Joh. 15. 14. Hereby is our Hea­venly Father glorified, as he is our great King and Law-giver. (2) There is in the Fruits of Obedience an Expression of the nature, power and efficacy of the Grace of God, whereby also he is glorified, for he doth all things to the praise of the Glory of his Grace, Ephes. 1. 6. In all the actings of Lust and Sin, in the drouth and dust of Barrenness, we represent an Enmity against him, and contrariety unto him, acting over the principle of the first Rebellion and Apostasie from him. These things in their own nature tend greatly to his dishonour, Ezek. 36. 20. But these Fruits of Obedience are all effects of his Grace, wherein he worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure. And hereby are both the power and nature of that Grace, manifested and glorified. The power of it in making fruitful the barren Soils of our Hearts, which as under the Curse, would of themselves bring forth nothing but Thorns and Briars. Wherefore to cause our Hearts to abound in the Fruits of Faith, Love, Meekness, and all holy Evangelical Obedience, is that wherein the power of Gods Grace is both manifested and magnified, Isa. 11. 5, 6, 7, 8. And they also declare the nature of God. For they are all of them things good, benigne, beau­tiful, useful to mankind, such as give Peace, Quietness, and Blessedness unto the Souls of them in whom they are, as tend to the Restauration of all things in their proper Order; and unto the relief of the Universe labouring under its confusion and vanity, Phil. 4. 8. Such I say are all the Fruits of holy Obedience in Believers; such is their nature and tendency, whereby they declare what that Grace is from which they do proceed and whose effects they are, Tit. 2. 11, 12. And hereby is God greatly glorified in the world. (3) They are meet for God and tend unto his Glory in that they express and manifest the efficacy of the Mediation of the Lord Christ in the Obedience of his Life, and the Sacrifice of his Death. These he aimed at in them, Tit. 2. 14. Ephes. 5. 25, 26, 27. It is in Jesus Christ that God will be glorified. And this is manifested in the Effects of his Wisdom and Love in his Mediation. For hereby do we declare and shew forth [...], the virtues of him who hath called us, 1 Pet. 2. 9. or the efficacious power of the Mediation of Christ, which these Fruits are the Effects and Products of. We do not only de­clare the Excellency and Holiness of his Doctrine, which teacheth these things, but also the Power and Efficacy of his Blood and Intercession, which procure them for us and work them in us. God is glorified hereby in that some Return is made unto his Goodness and Love. That a Creature should make any return unto God, an­swerable or proportionable unto the Effects of his Goodness, Love and Bounty to­wards it, is utterly impossible. And yet this men ought to take care about and sa­tisfie before they talk of a farther merit. For what can we properly merit at his hands, whose precedent Bounty we come infinitely short of answering or satisfying, in all that we can do? But this of Fruitfulness in Obedience is the way which God hath appointed, whereby we may testifie our sense of Divine Love and Goodness, and express our Gratitude. And hereby do our Fruits of Righteousness redound [Page 69] unto the Glory of God. (4) God in and by them doth extend his care, goodness and love unto others. It is his Will and Pleasure that many who belong unto himself in an especial way, and others also among the community of mankind, should some­times be cast into, and it may be always to be in a condition of wants and streights in this world. To take care of them, to provide for them, to relieve them, so as they also may have an especial sense of his Goodness, and be instrumental in setting forth his Praise, is incumbent on him who is the great provider for all. Now one signal way whereby he will do this, is by the Fruits of Obedience brought forth in others. Their Charity, their Compassion, their Love, their Bounty, shall help and relieve them that are in wants, streights, sorrows, poverty, imprisonment, exile, or the like. And so it is in all other cases; Their meekness, their patience, their sorbearance, which are of these Fruits, shall be useful unto others, under their weak­nesses and temptations. Their Zeal, their Labour of Love in teaching and instruct­ing, or preaching the Word, shall be the means of the Conviction and Conversion of others. So doth it please God by these Fruits of Obedience in some, to com­municate of his own Goodness and Love, unto the help, relief, succour and re­dress of others. For those so relieved do, or at least ought, to look on all as coming directly from God. For it is he who not only commands those who are the means of their Conveyance unto them, to do what they do, but he directly works it in them by his Grace, without which, it would not be. And all this redound­eth unto the Glory of God. This our Apostle expresseth at large, 2 Cor. 9. 12, 13, 14, 15. For the Administration of this service (that is, the Charitable and boun­tiful Contribution of the Corinthians unto the Poor of the Church of Hierusalem) not only supplieth the wants of the Saints themselves, (the thought whereof might give great satisfaction to the minds of men benign and compassionate, namely, that they have been able to relieve others) but it is abundant also by many Thanks­givings unto God; It hath this Effect upon the minds of all that are concerned in it, or do know of it, to cause them to abound in thanks and praise unto God. And he sheweth both the Grounds whereon, and the Way whereby this Praise is so returned unto God. For (1) They consider not meerly what is done, but the principle from whence it doth proceed. Whilst by the Experience of this Ministration they glo­rifie God for your professed subjection unto the Gospel. This in the first place affects them greatly, that whereas before they had only heard it may be a Report, that you or some of you were converted unto the Faith of the Gospel, they had now by this Ministration, that is, the Relief of Bounty communicated unto them, such an Evidence and Assurance, that with one consent they gave Praise and Glory to God for the Work of his Grace towards them.

And indeed this usually is the first thing which affects the minds of any of the Saints of God in any relief that God is pleased to hand out unto them by the means of others. They admire and bless God in and for his Grace towards them by whose Kindness and Compassion they are relieved. So is God glorified by these Fruits. And the second ground of their Praises was, the liberal Distribution unto themselves, as they found by Experience, and unto all men, as they were informed and believed. The Ministration its self testified their Faith and Obedience unto the Gospel, but the Nature of it, that it was liberal and bountiful, evidenced the since­rity and fruitfulness of their Faith, or the exceeding Grace of God in them, v. 14. they saw hereby that there was not an ordinary or common work only of Grace on these Corinthians engaging them into a Common Profession, and the Duties of it, which yet was a matter of great thankfulness unto God; but that indeed the Grace of God exceedingly abounded in them, which produced these Fruits of it in so plen­tiful a manner. And with respect hereunto also was Praise peculiarly rendred un­to God. Hereunto also the Apostle adds a double way whereby God was glorified distinct from the direct Attribution of Praises unto him. And by their prayer for you, which long after you, for the exceeding Grace of God in you; That is, by both these ways they glorifie God, both in their prayers for a supply of Divine Grace and Bounty to them by whom they were relieved, and in their enflamed love towards them, and longing after them, which was occasioned only by their Relief; but the real Cause, Motive, and Object of it, was the exceeding Grace of God in them, which was evidenced thereby. And by both these Duties, God is greatly Glorified. Hence the Apostle concludes the whole with that [...] of triumphant Praises to God, [Page 70] Thanks be to God for his unspeakable Gift. This, saith he, is a Gift that cannot be sufficiently declared amongst men, and therefore God is more to be admired in it. And the Apostle presseth the occasion of their joynt thankfulness in a word that may include both the Grace of God given unto the Corinthians enabling them to their Duty, and the Fruit of that Grace in the Bounty conferred on the poor Saints; both of them were the Gift of God, and in both of them was he glorified. And in this regard especially, are the Fruits of our Obedience unto the Gospel, meet for him by whom we are dressed; that is, have an especial tendency unto the Glory of God. Hence is that Caution of the Apostle, Chap. 13. 16. But to do good and communicate, forget not, for with such Sacrifices God is well pleased. Our Prayers and Praises also, as he declares in the Verse foregoing, are Sacrifices unto God, and accepted with him, ver. 15. Our whole Obedience is our reasonable Sacrifice, is a Sacrifice accep­table unto God, Rom. 12. 1. yea but in these Fruits of Benignity, Bounty, Cha­rity, doing good, and Communicating largely and liberally, God is in a peculiar man­ner well pleased and satisfied, as smelling a savour of Rest through Christ in such Sacrifices.

And I might here justly take occasion at large to press men unto an abundant fruitfulness in this especial kind of Fruit-bearing, but that the nature of our discourse will not admit it.

(6) They are meet for God, because they are as the first-fruits unto him from the Creation. When God took and rescued the Land of Canaan, which he made his own in a peculiar manner, out of the hands of his Adversaries, and gave it unto his own people to possess and inherit, he required of them that on their first Entrance thereunto, they should come and present him with the first of all the Fruits of the Earth, as an acknowledgement of his right to the Land, and his Bounty unto them, Deut. 26. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. &c. The whole Creation did by sin as it were go out of the possession of God, not of his Right and Power but of his Love and Favour: Sathan became the god of this world, and the whole of it lay under the Power of Evil. By Jesus Christ he rescueth it again from its Slavery and Bondage unto Sathan. But this he will not do all at once, only he will have some first-fruits offered unto him as an acknowledgement of his Right, and as a pledge of his En­tring on the possession of the whole. And God is greatly glorified in the present­ing of these first-fruits, at the recovery of the Creation unto himself, which is a certain pledge of vindicating the whole from its present Bondage: And it is Be­lievers that are these Fruits unto God, Jam. 1. 18. Of his own Will begat he us, with the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his Creatures. But we are not so, but in our fruitfulness. Thereby it is that there is a Revenue of Glory and Praise returned unto God from this lower part of the Creation, without which it bears nothing but Thorns and Briars in his sight. In these therefore and the like things consists the meetness of our Fruits of Obedience unto God, or his Glory. Again,

Where ever there are any sincere Fruits of Faith and Obedience found in the Hearts and Lives of Professors, God graciously accepts and blesseth them. Nothing is so small, Obser. 3. but that if it be sincere he will accept; and nothing so great but he hath an over­flowing Reward for it. Nothing shall be lost that is done for God, A Cup of cold water, the least refreshment given unto any for his sake, shall be had in remembrance. All we have and are, is antecedently due to him, so as that there can be no Merit in any thing we do. But we must take heed lest whilst we deny the Pride of Merit, we lose not the Comfort of Faith as to Acceptance of our Duties. It is a Fruit of the Mediation of Jesus Christ that we may serve God without fear in Righ­teousness and Holiness all our days. But if we are always anxious and solicitous about what we do, whether it be accepted with God or no; how do we serve him without fear? This is the worst kind of fear we are obnoxious unto, most disho­norable unto God, and discouraging unto our own Souls, 1 Joh. 4. 18. For how can we dishonour God more than by judging that when we do our utmost in since­rity in the way of his Service, yet he is not well pleased with us, nor doth accept of our Obedience? Is not this to suppose him severe, angry, always displeased, ready to take advantage, one whom nothing will satisfie? Such thoughts are the marks of the wicked Servant in the Parable, Luke 19. 20, 21, 22. where then is that in­finite [Page 71] Goodness, Grace, Condescension, Love, Compassion, which are so Essen­tial to his Nature, and which he hath declared himself so to abound in? And if it be so, what use is there of the Mediation and Intercession of Jesus Christ? what be­nefit in the promises of the Covenant? And what is there remaining that can en­courage us in and unto Duties of Obedience? Meerly to perform them because we cannot, we dare not do otherwise, a Servile Compliance with our Conviction, is neither acceptable unto God, nor any ways comfortable unto our own Souls. Who would willingly lead such a life in this world, to be always labouring and endea­vouring, without the least satisfaction that what he does will either please them by whom he is set on work, or any way turn to his own account? Yet such a life do men lead who are not perswaded that God graciously accepts of what they sin­cerely perform. A suspicion to the contrary ariseth up in opposition unto the fun­damental principle of all Religion, He that cometh unto God must believe that he is, and that he is the Rewarder of all them that diligently seek him, Heb. 11.

This is the first Principle and Foundation of all Religious Worship, which if it be not well and firmly laid in our hearts, all our supplication will be in vain. Now unless we do believe that he doth accept and bless our Duties, we cannot believe that he is such a Rewarder, or as he expressed it in the Covenant with Abraham, an exceeding great reward. But he hath descended to the lowest instances, of a little Goats hair to the Tabernacle, a Mite into the Treasury, a Cup of water to a Disci­ple; to assure us that he despiseth not the meanest of our sincere Services. But this must be spoken unto again on ver. 9. and therefore I shall not here farther con­firm it.

Some perhaps will say, that their best Fruits are so corrupted, their best Duties so defiled, that they cannot see how they can find Acceptance with so holy a God? Every thing that proceeds from them is so weak and infirm that they fear they shall suffer loss in all. And this very Apprehension deprives them of all that Consolation in the Lord which they might take in a course of holy Obedience. I answer (1) This consideration of the defilements of sin that adhere to the best of our Works or Du­ties, excludes all Merit whatever, and it is right it should do so. For indeed that cursed Notion of the Merit of good Works, hath been the most pernicious Engine for the ruine of mens Souls, that ever Sathan made use of; for on the one hand many have been so swollen and puffed up with it, as that they would not deign in any thing to be beholding to the Grace of God, but have thought Heaven and Glory as due to them for their Works, as Hell is to other men for their Sin, or the wages of an Hireling to him for his Labour, which cries to Heaven against the Injustice of them that detain it. Hence a total neglect of Christ hath ensued. Others con­vinced of the Pride and Folly of this presumption, and notwithstanding the encourage­ment unto fruitful Obedience which lies in Gods gracious Acceptation and Reward­ing of our Duties, have been discouraged in their Attendance unto them. It is well therefore where this Notion is utterly discarded by the consideration of the sinful Imperfection of our best Duties: so it is done by the Church, Isa. 64. 6. Rom. 2. 21. (2) This consideration excludes all hopes or expectation of Acceptance with God upon the account of strict Justice. If we consider God only as a Judge pronoun­cing Sentence concerning us and our Duties according to the Law, neither we nor any thing we do can either be accepted with him or approved by him. For as the Psalmist says concerning our Persons, If thou Lord mark what is done amiss, O Lord who can stand! and prays, Enter not into Judgement with thy Servant, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no Flesh living be justified. So it is with respect unto all our Works and Duties of Obedience, not any one of them can endure the Trial of God as judging by the Law, but would appear as a filthy thing. Whilst therefore persons are only under the power of their Convictions, and are not able by Faith to take another view of God and his dealings with them, but by the Law, it is impossible that they should have any comfortable Expectation of the Approbation of their Obe­dience.

Wherefore that we may be perswaded of the gracious Acceptation of all our Du­ties, even the least and meanest that we do in sincerity, and with a single Eye to the Glory of God, and that our Labour in the Lord should not be lost, we are al­ways to have two things in the Eye and View of our Faith: (1) The tenor of the Covenant wherein we walk with God; God hath abolished and taken away the [Page 72] Covenant of Works by substituting a new one in the room thereof, and the reason why he did so, was because of a double insufficiency in the Law of that Covenant unto his great end of Glorifying himself in the Salvation of sinners. For (1) It could not expiate and take away sin, which must be done indispensably, or that End could not be obtained: this our Apostle asserts as one reason of it, Rom. 8. 3. and proves at large in this Epistle afterwards. (2) Because it neither did nor could ap­prove of such an Obedience, as poor sanctified sinners were able to yield unto God; for it required Perfection, when the best which they can attain unto in this Life is but Sincerity. What then! do we make void the Law by Faith? doth not God re­quire perfect Righteousness of us? the Righteousness which the Law originally prescribed? yes he doth do, and without it the Curse of the Law will come upon all men whatever. But this also being that which in our selves we can never attain unto, is provided for in the new Covenant, by the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ unto them that do believe. So the Apostle expresly states the matter, Rom. 10. 3, 4, 5, 6. On this supposition, God in this Covenant hath provided for the Acceptance of sincere though imperfect Obedience, which the Law had no respect un­to. The sum is, That his Acceptance now shall be suited unto the operation of his Grace. He will Crown and reward all the actings of his own Grace in us; what­ever Duty therefore is principles by Grace, and done in sincerity, is accepted with God according to the Tenour of this Covenant. This therefore we are always to eye and consider as the bottom of the Acceptance of our imperfect, weak, unworthy Services. (2) Unto the same End is the Mediation of Christ to be considered in an especial manner; without respect unto him, neither we nor any thing we do is ap­proved of God. And a double regard is in this matter always to be had unto him and his Mediation; (1) That by one Sacrifice he takes away all that is evil or sinful in our Duties; whatever is of real defilement, disorder, self in them, whereby any guilt might be contracted or is so, he hath born it and taken it as unto its legal, all away. Whatever therefore of guilt doth unavoidably adhere unto or accompanieth our Duties, we may by Faith look upon it as so removed out of the way by the Sacrifice and Mediation of Christ, as that it shall be no hindrance or obstruction to the gracious Acceptation of them. (2) Whereas all that we do, when we have used our utmost endeavours by the Assistance of Grace, and setting aside the consi­deration of what is evil and sinful from the principle of corrupted Nature remain­ing in us, is yet so weak and imperfect, and will be so whilst we are but Dust and Ashes dwelling in Tabernacles of Clay, as that we cannot apprehend how the good­ness which is in our Obedience should extend its self to God, reach unto the Throne of his Holiness, or be regarded by him, the Merit of our Lord Jesus Christ doth so make way for them, put such a value on them in the sight of God, as that they receive approbation and blessing from him; for in Jesus Christ we are compleat, and God makes both us and our Duties accepted in the beloved. The considera­tion hereof added to the former, may firmly assure the Mind and Conscience of every true Believer concerning the gracious Acceptation of the least of their holy Duties, that are performed in sincerity. And this they have in such a way as (1) To exclude Merit and Boasting; (2) To keep them in an holy Admiration of Gods Grace and Condescension: (3) To make them continually thankeful for Christ and his Mediation. (4) To yield unto themselves Comfort in their Duties and Encouragement unto them.


But that which beareth Thorns and Briars, is rejected, and is nigh unto Cursing, whose End is to be burned.

In the foregoing Verse the Apostle shewed how it would be and fall out with that part of the Judaical Church which embraced the Gospel, and brought forth the Fruits of Faith and Obedience. God would Accept of them, own them, pre­serve and bless them; and this blessing of God consisted in four things: (1) In his gracious Acceptance of them in Christ and the Approbation of their Obedience, ver. 9. (2) In delivering them from that dreadful Curse and Judgement which not long after consumed the whole Remainder of that People. (3) In making use of multitudes of them to be the means of Communicating the Knowledge and Grace of the Gospel unto other Persons and Nations; a greater blessing and honour than which, they could not in this world be made partakers of. (4) In their Eternal Salvation. This being laid down, he proceeds in his Parable to declare the state and condition of the other sort of them, namely, of Unbelievers, Apostates from and Opposers of the Gospel: And this he doth in compliance with the Symbolical Action of our Saviour in cursing the barren Figg-tree, whereby the same thing was represented, Matth. 21. 19. for it was the Apostate, persecuting, unbelieving Church of the Jews, whose Estate, and what would become of them, which our Saviour in­tended to expose in that Figg-tree. He had now almost finished his Ministry among them; and seeing they brought no Fruit thereon, he intimates that the Curse was coming on them, whose principal Effect would be perpetual barrenness. They would not before bear any Fruit, and they shall not hereafter, being hardened by the just Judgement of God unto their Everlasting Ruine. So was fulfilled what was long before foretold, Isa. 6. 9, 10. as our Apostle declares, Acts 28. 26, 27. In Answer hereunto, our Apostle in this Verse gives this account of their Barrenness, and De­scription of their End through Gods Cursing and Destroying of them. And here­in also the Estate and Condition of all Apostates, Unfruitful Professors, Hypocrites and Unbelievers, to whom the Gospel hath been dispens'd, is declared and expressed.

And, as it was necessary unto his Design, the Apostle pursues his former Simi­litude, making an Application of it unto this sort of men. And (1) He supposeth them to be Earth, as the other sort are: [...], that is, [...], That Earth, that part of the Earth. So it is, and no more, It is neither better nor worse, than that which proves fruitful and is blessed. All men to whom the Go­spel is preached are every way by Nature in the same State and Condition: All the difference between them is made by the Gospel its self. None of them have any reason to boast, nor do they in any thing make themselves differ from others. (2) It is supposed that the Rain falls often on this Ground also. Those who live unprofita­bly under the means of Grace, have oft-times the preaching of the Word as plen­tifully, and as long continued unto them, as they that are most thriving and fruit­ful in Obedience. And herein lies no small Evidence that these things will be called over again another day, to the Glory of Gods Grace and Righteousness. On these suppositions two things are considerable in what is ascribed unto this Earth: (1) What it brings forth: (2) How.

First it bringeth forth, [...], Thorns and Briars: See the open­ing of the words before. In general, I doubt not but all sorts of sins are hereby [...]. intended, all unfruitful Works of Righteousness, Rom. 6. 21. Ephes. 5. 11. And the principal reason why they are here compared unto Thorns and Briars, is with respect unto the Curse that came on the Earth by Sin. Cursed be the Ground, Thorns and Thistles shall it bring forth unto thee, Gen. 3. 17, 18. whereunto barrenness or unapt­ness for better Fruits is added, Gen. 4. 12. from this Curse the Earth of its self and untilled, would bring forth nothing but Thorns and Briars, at least they would be absolutely prevalent in and over all the products of it; so the heart of man by nature is wholly over-run with evil sinful Imaginations, and his Life with vicious sinful Actions, Gen. 6. 5. Rom. 2. 10, 11, 12, 13. (2) Wherefore the bringing [Page 74] forth of Thorns and Briars, is abounding in such actings and works as proceed from the principle of corrupted Nature under the Curse. In opposition hereunto, all good actions, all acts of Faith and Obedience, are called He rbs and Fruit, be­cause they are the Fruits of the Spirit; and such Works are compared to, and called Thorns and Briars from a community of Properties with them. For (1) They are in their kind unprofitable, things of no use, but meet to be cast out, that room may be made for better. When a man hath a Field overgrown with Thorns and Briars, he finds he hath no benefit by them: Wherefore he resolves to digg them up or burn them. Of such and no other use, are the sins of men in the world. All the works of darkness are unfruitful, Ephes. 5. 11. The world is no way benefited by them, never was any man the better for his own or another mans sin. (2) Because, they are hurtful and noxious, choaking and hindering good Fruits, that otherwise would thrive in the Field. So are Thorns and Briars represented in the Scripture as grieving, piercing and hurtful, and things that are so called by their name, Ezck. 28. 24. Mic. 4. 4. Isa. 7. 25. Such are all the sins of men. All the confusion, dis­orders, devastations that are in the world, are from them alone. In general there­fore it is all sorts of sins, works of darkness, works of the flesh, that are intended by these Thorns and Briars. But yet I presume that the Apostle hath regard unto the sins which the obstinate Jews were then in an especial manner guilty of, and which would be the case of their sudden destruction. Now those as it appeareth from this whole Epistle and matter of Fact in the story, were Unbelief, Impenitency and Apo­stasie. The Thorns and Briars which were the Fuel wherein was kindled the Fire of Gods indignation unto their Consumption, were their sins against the Gospel.

Either they would not give their Assent unto its Truth, or would not amend their Lives according to its Doctrine, or would not abide with constancy in its profession. These are the especial sins, which cast those Hebrews, and will cast all that are like unto them, into the condition of Danger and Perdition here described.

Secondly, The manner of bringing forth these Thorns and Briars is expressed by [...] [...]. Chrysostome puts a great remark upon the difference of the words used by the Apostle; that which he applieth to the production of good Fruit, is [...], which denotes a natural conception and production of any thing in due order, time and season. But this [...], applied to the barren cursed Ground, denotes a casting of them out in abundance, not only without the use of means, but against it. The Heart of man needs not to be impregnated with any adventitious Seed, to make it thrust forth all sorts of sins, or to make it fruitful in Unbelief and Impenitency: the Womb of sin will on its own accord be continually teeming with these things. Matters being thus stated with this ground, the Apostle affirms three things con­cerning it.

First it is [...]. That is said to be [...], whereof Trial hath been made, [...] whether by the Application of suitable means unto it, it will be made useful unto any certain end, [...] is to try, to make an Experiment what any thing is, and of what use; especially it is applied to the trial that is made of Gold and Silver by Fire. [...], Isocrat. We try Gold in the Fire; that is, whether it be true and pure. Fire is the great trier and discoverer of Metals, of what sort they are, 1 Cor. 3. 13, 14, 15. And hence the Lord Christ in the trial of his Church, is compared to a Refiner with Fire, Matth. 3. 2. so Faith is tried, 1 Pet. 1. 7. And it is the word which our Apostle useth when he enjoyns us to try and search our selves as unto our sincerity in Faith and Obedience, 2 Cor. 13. 5. Gal. 6. 4. as also to make a due enquiry into the true nature of spiritual things, Rom. 12. 2. Ephes. 5. 10. not contenting our selves with a bare notion of them, but endeavouring after an Experience of their power in our own Hearts. [...] is often used by our Apostle for an Experience upon trial, Rom. 5. 4. 2 Cor. 2. 9. Phil. 2. 22. as [...] by Peter, 1 Epist. 1. 7. Hence is [...], one that upon trial is approved, found sound, and therefore is accepted, 1 Cor. 11. 19. 2 Cor. 10. 15. 2 Tim. 2. 15. Jam. 1. 12. [...], Rom. 14. 18. Accepted with God, and approved with men. Hence [...] is one rejected, disproved upon trial, reprobate, 1 Cor. 9. 27. 2 Cor. 13. 5, 6. Tit. 1. 16. The whole is expressed, Jer. 6. 29, 30. The Bellows are burnt, the Lead is consumed of the Fire, the Founder melteth in vain, Reprobate Silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them. All means were used to try to the utmost whether they were any [Page 75] true sincere mettal in them. After all they were found [...], refuse Silver, meer dross, which was therefore rejected as of no use. This ground there­fore is supposed to have had a trial made of it, and all proper means to have been used, for to make it fruitful; but whereas nothing succeeded, it is to be [...], rejected, disapproved, laid aside as to any further endeavours to make it successful; such a piece of Ground the Husband-man leaves caring for, he will lay out no more charge about it, nor take any more pains with it, for he finds in trial that it is incurable.

Secondly, It is said to be, [...], nigh unto a Curse. The Husband-man doth not presently destroy such a piece of Ground, but neglecting of it, lets it lye, [...]. further to discover its own barrenness and unprofitableness. But this he doth, so as to declare his resolution to lay it wast, and so to cast it out of the bounds of his possession; and he doth it three ways: (1) By gathering out of it all the good Plants and Herbs that yet remain in it, by transplanting them into a better Soil. (2) By casting down its Fences, and laying it wast, that all the Beasts of the Field shall lodge in it and prey upon it. (3) By with-holding all means of doing it good, by wa­tering or manuring of it. And hereby it becomes like to the barren Wilderness as it lies under the Curse, which no man careth for; It is nigh to that condition wherein it shall not be known that it was ever own'd by him or did ever belong un­to his possession. So is it unto Cursing. For as Blessing of any thing is an Addi­tion of good, so Cursing implies the taking off all kindness and all effects thereof, and therewithall the devoting of it unto Destruction.

Lastly, It is added, [...], whose End is unto burning, or to be burned, Fire makes a total and dreadful Destruction of all combustible things [...]. whereunto it is applied. Thence such Desolations are said to be Firing or Burning by what means soever they are effected. Things are consumed as if they were burned up with Fire. There is a burning of Ground which is used to make it fruit­ful, as the Poet expresseth it in his Georgicks,

Saepe etiam steriles incendere profuit agros,
At (que) levem stipulam crepitantibus urere flammis.

But it is a burning of another kind that is here intended, and this is an act of positive Indignation. He will not only shew his dissatisfaction in such barren Ground, by a neglect of it, but his Vengeance in its Destruction. And it is thus expressed, to intimate both the temporal destruction of the obstinate Jews, and the External destruction of all Unbelievers, both by Fire of several kinds.

Thus therefore the Apostle declares, that God the great Husbandman and Owner of the Vineyard, would deal with the impenitent and incredulous Hebrews.

First, He tried them, and that for a long season, by the Preaching of the Gospel. The Rain fell oft upon them, and that for the space now of 36 years or thereabouts. God did as it were Essay by outward means to make them fruitful, to bring them to Faith, Repentance and Obedience; but after this long trial, it appeared that they multiplied, as it were, under his hand the Thorns and Briars of their Unbelief, and all sorts of provoking sins. Wherefore God rejects them, declares that his Soul had no pleasure in them, that he would be at no further cost about them. And twice did our Apostle mind his Country-men in other places, that God would speedily so deal with them, Acts 11. 40, 41, 46. chap. 28. 25, 26, 27, 28. as our Saviour had often threatened them, that the Kingdom of God should be taken from them, they should no longer enjoy the means of saving Knowledge or Repentance. God laid them aside as a Field no longer fit to be Till'd. And this he did about the writing of this Epistle; for immediately hereon he began utterly to forsake them who were obstinate in their Judaisme, and all those who Apostatized thereunto from Christia­nity. And thus also in proportion he deals with all other unprofitable Hearers and Apostates. There is a time after which he casts them out of his Care, will feed them no more; provide no more that they be rained on or dressed; And if they do any more enjoy the Word, it is by accident, for the sake of some who are ap­proved, but they shall receive no Advantage by it, seeing they are no longer Gods Husbandry.

[Page 76] Secondly, On this rejection of them, they were nigh unto Cursing; that is, they were so ordered and disposed of, as that the destroying Curse of Gods Might came upon them; God had now Anathematized them, or devoted them to Destruction; and hereupon he gave them up unto all those ways and means whereby it might be hastened and infallibly overtake them. For (1) He gathered all the good Plants from amongst them; he called out and separated from them, all true Believers, and planted them in the Christian Church; so he deals with all Apostate Churches before their utter Destruction, Rev. 18. 4. (2) He took away their Fences, casting them out of his Protection, insomuch that when they were destroyed, the General of the Roman Army acknowledged that God had infatuated them, that their impregnable Holds and Forts were of no use unto them. (3) He granted them no more use of means for their Conversion. Thenceforwards they fell into all manner of sins, confusions, disorders, tumults, which ocasioned their Ruine. After the same manner will God deal with any other people whom he rejects for their rejection of the Gospel. And the World hath no small reason to tremble at the Apprehension of such a con­dition at this day.

Thirdly, In the End, this whole barren Earth was burned up: In the first place, this respects the Destruction of Hierusalem which ensued not long after, when Temple and City, and People and Countrey were all devoured by Fire and Sword, Matth. 4. 1. But yet this, like the Destruction of Sodom, was but an Emblem of the future Judgement. Hypocrites, Unbelievers, Apostates are to have another End, than what they fall into in this World. An End they shall have, wherein their Eternal condition shall be immutably stated. And this End is that they must have, to the Fire, the Fire prepared for the Devil and his Angels, they shall be gathered together and burned with a Fire that shall never be quenched, Joh. 15. 3, 4. And this final Destru­ction of all unprofitable Hearers, Unbelievers and Apostates, is that which is prin­cipally intended in the words. And we must not let this wholsome Admonition pass without some Observations from it.

Whilst the Gospel is preached unto men, they are under their great trial for Eternity. Obser. 1. The Application that is made unto them is for an Experiment how they will prove. If they acquit themselves in Faith and Obedience, they receive the Blessing of Eter­nal Life from God. If they prove barren and unprofitable, they are rejected of God and cursed by him. Nor shall they ever have any other Trial, nor shall ever any other Experiment be made of them, Heb. 10. Their Season of the enjoyment of the Gospel is their day; When that is past the Night comes on them wherein they cannot work. When these Bellows are burnt, and the Lead is consumed, the Founder Founding in vain, men are rejected as Reprobate Silver, never to be tried any more. Men do but deceive themselves in their reserve of a Purgatory when they are gone out of this world. If they are cast under their Trial here, so they must abide to Eternity. And we may do well to consider these things distinctly because our concernment in them, is very great. To this purpose observe,

1. That we are all made for an Eternal State and Condition in blessedness or wo. Men may live like Beasts, and therefore wish that they might dye like them also; But we are all made with another design, and must all of us stand in our Eternal Lot at the end of the days, Dan. 12. 13.

2. That the unchangeable determination of our Eternal state depends on what we do in this Life. There is neither Wisdom, nor Knowledge, Duty, nor Obe­dience in the Grave whither we are going. As the Tree falls, so it must lye; It is appointed for all men once to dye and after that is the Judgement. Nothing interposeth to alter our state and condition between Death and Judgement. The contrivance of Purgatory when we are gone hence, was an Invention of Sathan to delude the Souls of men with hopes of relief, when all means and ways of it were past and ir­recoverable.

3. The Trial of our future state is made by the Preaching of the Gospel unto us; and our compliance with it, or rejection of it. This is that which the Text declares on the one hand and the other; the barren Ground is rejected on this Trial.

4. It was a Fruit of Infinite Grace, Condescension and Mercy to grant a new Trial unto Sinners, under the Curse we had all cast our selves into. There God [Page 77] might have left us. So he dealt with the sinning Angels whom he spared not. And had he dealt so with all mankind, who could say unto him, what dost thou? And it is that which we must all answer for, namely, that when we were lost and fallen under the Sentence of the Holy and Righteous Law, God would propose any terms of Peace and Reconciliation unto us and give us a second Trial thereon.

5. That the especial way of this Trial doth most eminently set out this Grace and Mercy. A way it is full of infinite Wisdom, Goodness, Love, Mercy and Grace. Such as wherein all the Divine Perfections will be Eternally glorified, whether it be accepted or refused.

6. When the Gospel is preached unto any, God telleth sinners, that although they have destroyed themselves and are ready every moment to sink into Eternal Misery, yet he will out of infinite Grace and Compassion try them once more, and that by the holy terms of the Gospel. And in the preaching of the Word he doth it accordingly. And although the season of this Trial be determined with God, yet it is unto us uncertain on many Accounts: for (1) the continuance of our Lives, during which alone we are capable of enjoying it, is so; (2) We see that the Preaching of the Gospel is so also. The Lord Christ doth oft-times remove the Candle­sticks whilst they continue alive in the world among whom it was once fixed: And (3) there is a time when a Period is put unto the Efficacy of the Word for the Con­version of some, although the outward Dispensation be continued unto them, Isa. 6. 9, 10, 11. Wherefore the present season and present enjoyment of the Gospel are our Duty to consider and improve: for what is the work that therein God hath in hand towards us? Is it not to give us our Trial in the use of means as to what shall be our future condition? He hath therein undertaken us as his Vineyard, as his Husbandry, and causeth the Rain to fall upon us, and hath done so often and long; And who almost doth consider aright how great his concernment is herein? would men be so careless, negligent, formal, slothful, as they are for the most part, under the hearing of the Word, if they duely remember'd that it is their Trial for Eternity? and they know not how soon it may be over. If we lose this season, we are gone for ever. It is therefore our Wisdom to know whether our fruitfulness in Faith, Repentance and Obedience, do answer the Rain and Dressing we have had by the Dispensation of the Word. The Axe is laid at the Root of the Tree, if we bring not forth good Fruit, we shall e're long be hewed down and cast into the Fire. It is true, there is none of us do answer as we ought the Love and Care of God to­wards us herein, nor can we so do; When we have done our utmost, we are but unprofitable Servants. But there is a wide difference between a defect in degrees of Obedience, and the neglect of the whole. Where the first is, we ought to walk humbly in the sense of it, and labour after more Perfection. And if this defect be great and notable, such as is occasioned by our Lusts indulged unto, or by sloth and negligence, as we can have no evidence of our being approved of God, so it is high time to recover our selves, by new diligence and holy endeavours, or we may be cast in our Trial. But where the latter is, where men bring no Fruit meet for Re­pentance, what can they expect but to be finally and totally rejected of God. Whereas therefore we have been long most of us under this Trial, it is assuredly high time that we call our selves unto a strict account, with respect unto it. And if upon enquiry we find our selves at a loss which sort of Ground we do belong unto, because of our barrenness and leanness, unless we are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, we will give our selves no rest until we have better Evidences of our Fruit­bearing. We may do well to remember, that though the Earth on which the Rain falls, is here distributed by the Apostle into two sorts like Jeremiah's Figgs, very good, and the very bad, to one of which every one at last must be joyned, yet as to present Effects and Appearances, the Ground whereunto the Seed of the Gospel is cast, is distributed by our Saviour into four sorts, whereof one only brings forth Fruit meet for him by whom it is dressed, Matth. 13. There are several ways whereby we may miscarry under our Trial, one only whereby we may be accepted, namely, Fruitfulness of Heart and Life.

Barrenness under the Dispensation of the Gospel is always accompanied with an in­crease of sin. The Ground which brings not forth Herbs, meet for them by whom it Obser. 2. is dressed, thrusts forth Thorns and Briars. Let it be observed that spiritual barren­ness [Page 78] never goes alone. Abounding in sin will accompany it, and doth so. It may be it doth not so openly and visibly for a season, but all things will tend thereunto, and at last it will discover it self. Yea there are no sinners like them, nor sin like theirs, by whom the means of Grace are rejected, or not improved. The first Ge­neration of great provoking sinners, were those of the old World before the Flood. Unto these Noah had been a Preacher of Righteousness, 2 Pet. 2. 5. In his Ministry did the Spirit of Christ strive with them, until God affirmed it should do so no more, Gen. 6. 3. but they were disobedient and barren, 1 Pet. 3. 19, 20. And this issued in those provoking sins, which God could not bear withall but brought the Flood upon the world of ungodly. The next was these Hebrews, unto whom the Gospel had been preached; And they proved a Generation no less wicked than that before the Flood, insomuch as their own Historian affirms that he verily believed, that if the Romans had not come and destroyed them, God would have poured Fire and Brim­stone on them from Heaven as he did upon Sodom. And the third Generation of the same kind are the Apostate Christian Churches, whose condition and state is described in the Revelation. This is the issue of Barrenness, under Gods Culture and Water­ing, and it will be so; For,

(1) When men have rejected the last means of their spiritual healing, and restraint of sin, what can be expected from them but an outrage in sinning? There are three ways whereby God puts a restraint upon sin. The first is by the light of a natural Conscience. This is born with men in the principle of it, and grows into exercise, in the improvement of Reason. And where the natural workings of it are not prevented and suffocated by the horrible example of Parents and Relations living in Cursing, Lying, and all manner of Prophaneness, it is very useful in Youth to re­strain persons from sundry sins. It is so I say, until Corruptions getting strength, and Temptations abounding, Custom in sinning takes away the Edge of it, and weakens it in its Operation.

Wherefore (2) when this Restraint is broken through, God sets up the Hedge of the Law before the minds of men to deter them from sin. And this also hath a great Efficacy with many unto this End, at least for a season. But neither will meer Conviction from the Law, always give Bounds unto the Lusts of men.

Wherefore (3) the Gospel comes with a different design from them both. The utmost of their Aim and Work is but to restrain sin, but the Gospel comes to Convert the sinner; Their work is to set a damm before the Streams of sin, that of the Gospel is to dry up the Spring. But if this also as it is in this case be rejected and despised, what remains to set any Bounds unto the Lusts of men? They will find themselves at liberty to act their own inclinations to the utmost, as having cast off all regard to God in all the ways whereby he hath revealed himself. Hence you may find more honesty, and uprightness, a more conscientious abstinence from sin, wrongs, and injuries, more effects of Moral Virtue among Heathens and Ma­humetans, than among professed Christians; or persons who being unprofitable un­der the Gospel do thereby tacitely reject it. No Fields in the world are fuller of Thorns and Briars, than those of People, Nations, Churches, who profess them­selves to be Christians and are not: Suppose two Fields equally barren, let one of them be tilled and dressed, and the other be let alone, left unto its own state and con­dition. When the Field that hath been tilled shall be forsaken for its barrenness, trash of all sorts incomparably above that which was never tilled will rise up in it. This is that which at this day is such a scandal to Christianity, which hath broken up the Flood-gates of Atheism and let in a Deluge of Prophaneness on the world. No sinners like unto barren-Christians. Heathens would blush, and Infidels stand asto­nished, at the things they practise in the Light of the Sun. There was sleeping in the Bed of Uncleanness and Drunkenness among the Heathens. But our Apostle who well enough knew their course, affirms of them, That they who sleep, sleep in the Night, and they who are drunken, are drunken in the Night, 1 Thes. 5. 7. They did their shameful things in darkness and in secret, Ephes. 5. 11, 12. But alas! among Christians who have directly and wilfully despised the healing power and virtue of the Gospel; these are works of the day, proclaimed as in Sodom, and the perpetration of them is the business of mens Lives. If you would see the greatest Representation of Hell upon the Earth, go into an Apostate Church, or to persons that have had the Word preached unto them, or have heard of it sufficiently for [Page 79] their Conviction, but are not healed. The Face of all things in Christianity at this day is on this account dreadful and terrible, and bespeaks Desolation to lye at the door: the ground whereunto the waters of the Sanctuary do come, and it is not healed, is left unto Salt and Barrenness for ever. (2) It is a Righteous thing with God Judicially to give up such persons unto all manner of filthy sins and wicked­ness, that it may be an Aggravation of their Condemnation at the last day. It is the way of God to do so when more inferiour manifestation of himself, his Word and Will are rejected, or not improved. So he dealt with the Gentiles for their abuse of the Light of Nature, with the Revelation made of him by the works of Crea­tion and Providence, Rom. 1. 24, 26, 28. And shall not we think that he will, that he doth so deal with persons upon their unprofitableness under, and rejection of the highest and most glorious Revelation of himself, that ever he did make, or ever will in this world unto any of the Sons of men? It may be asked, how doth God thus Judicially give up persons despising the Gospel unto their own Hearts Lusts to do the things that are not convenient? I answer he doth it, (1) By leaving them wholly to themselves, taking off all effectual restraint from them, so spake our blessed Saviour of the Pharisees, Let them alone, saith he, they are blind leaders of the blind, Matth. 15. 14. Reprove them not, help them not, hinder them not, let them alone to take their own course; so saith God, of Israel now given up to sin and ruine, Ephraim is joyned to Idols, let him alone, Hos. 4. 14. Ezek. 29. 13. And it is the same Judgement which he denounceth against unprofitable Hearers of the Gospel, Rev. 22. 11. He which is unjust let him be unjust still, and he which is filthy let him be filthy still; go on now in your sins and filthiness without restraint. Now when men are thus left unto themselves, as there is a time when God will so leave Gospel despi­sers, that he will lay no more restraint upon them, but with-hold the influence of all consideration that should give them any effectual check or control; It were not to be conceived, what an outrage and excess of sin, the cursed corrupted nature of man will run out into, but that the world is filled with the fruits and tokens of it. And God doth Righteously thus withdraw himself more absolutely from Gospel despisers, than he doth from Pagans and Infidels, whom by various actings of his Providence he keeps within bounds of sinning subservient unto his holy Ends. (2) God pours out upon such persons a spirit of slumber, or gives them up to a pro­found security, so as that they take notice of nothing in the Works or Word of God that should stir them up to amendment, or restrain them from sin. So he dealt with these unbelieving Jews, Rom. 11. 8. God hath given them a Spirit of slumber, Eyes that they should not see. Although it be so come to pass, that many there are, whom Gods Soul loatheth, and they abhor him also, as he speaks, 2 Cor. 11. 8. so that he will have no more to do with them, yet he doth and will continue his Word in the world, and the Works of his Providence in the Government thereof. Now as in the Word there are several warnings, and dreadful threatenings against sinners, so in the Works of God there are Judgements full of Evidences of Gods displeasure against sin, Rom. 1. 18. Both these in their own Nature are suited to awaken men, to bring them to a due consideration of themselves, and so to restrain them from sin. But as to this sort of persons, God sends a Spirit of slumber upon them, that nothing shall rouze them up, or awaken them from their sins. Though it Thunder over their Heads, and the Tempest of Judgement falls so near them, as if they were personally concerned, yet do they cry peace, peace. When the Word is preached to them, or they hear by any means the Curse of the Law, yet they bless themselves as those who are altogether unconcerned in it, God gives them up unto all ways and means whereby they may be fortified in their Security. Love of sin, Contempt and Scorn of them by whom the Word of God is declared, or the Judgements of God are dreaded, carnal confidence carrying towards Atheism, the Society of other presumptuous sinners, strengthening their hands in their Abo­minations; a present supply for their Lusts, in the pleasant things of this world, I mean which are so to the Flesh, shall all of them contribute to their Security.

(3) God absolutely and irrecoverably gives them up to extream obstinacy, to final hardness and impenitency, Isa. 6. 8, 9, 10. This is no place to treat of the nature of Divine Induration. It is enough to observe at present, that where provoking sin­ners do fall under it, they are totally blinded and hardened in sin, unto their Eternal Ruine. Now when God doth thus deal with men who will not, and because they [Page 80] will not be healed and reformed by the Preaching of the Gospel, can any thing else ensue but that they will give up themselves unto all wickedness and filthiness with delight and greediness? And this wrath seems to be come upon multitudes in the world unto the utmost. So the Apostle describes this condition in the Jews when they were under it, 1 Thes. 2. 15, 16. Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own Prophets, and have persecuted us, and they please not God, and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak unto the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins al­way, for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. And they are even blind them­selves who see not this to be the condition of many in the world at this day. (3) There are especial sins that are peculiar to this sort of barren Persons, and so also Aggravations of sins that others contract not the Guilt of. Now this state and condition, at least the utmost and highest Danger of it, is so written on the Foreheads of most that are called Christians in the world, that there is no need of making any Application of it unto them. And although it be not for us to know times and seasons, or to set bounds and limits to the Patience of Christ, yet have we just reason to dread the speedy breaking forth of his severity in Judgement Spiritual or Tem­poral, upon most Nations and Churches that are called by his Name. But the Duty it is of those who make profession of the Gospel, in a peculiar manner to enquire dili­gentl, ywhether there be not growing in their own Hearts and Ways any such sins as are usually consequent unto Barrenness under the Word. If it prove so upon search, they may justly fear that God is beginning to revenge upon them the neglect of the Gospel, and unprofitableness under it. There are Degrees of this sin and its con­sequents, as we shall shew afterwards, that the Evidences and Effects of Gods dis­pleasure against it are progressive and gradual also. From some of these the sinner is recoverable by Grace, from some of them he is not, at least ordinarily, but is in­evitably bound over to the Judgement of the great day. But the last Degree is such as men ought to tremble at, who have the least care for, or love unto their immortal Souls. For whatever issue of things God may have provided in the purpose of his Grace, the Danger unto us is inexpressible. And there neither is nor can be unto any, the least Evidence, Token, or Hope that God designs them any Relief, whilst themselves are careless and negligent in the use of means for their own deliverance. It may therefore be enquired by what sort of sins this con­dition may be known in more strict Professors than the common sort of Christians in the world, and how their Barrenness under the Gospel may be discovered there­by, as the Cause by its Effects and inseparable consequents. I shall therefore name some of those sins and ways with respect whereunto such Persons ought to be ex­ceeding jealous over themselves. As (1) An Indulgence unto some secret, pleasant, or profitable Lust or Sin, with an Allowance of themselves therein. That this may be­fall such persons, we have too open Evidence in the frequent Eruptions and Disco­veries of such Evils in sundry of them. Some through a long continuance in a course of the practice of private sins, are either surprised into such Acts and Works of it as are made publick whether they will or no, being hardened in them do turn off to their avowed Practice. Some under Terrors of mind from God, fierce Reflections of Conscience, especially in great Afflictions and Probabilities of Death, do voluntarily acknowledge the secret Evils of their Hearts and Lives. And some by strange and unexpected Providences, God brings to Light, discovering the hidden works of Darkness wherein men have taken delight. Such things therefore there may be amongst them who make a more than ordinary Profession in the world. For there are or may be Hypocrites among them, Vessels in the House of God of Wood and Stone. And some who are sincere and upright may yet be long captivated un­der the power of their Corruptions and Temptations. And for the sake of such it is principally that this warning is designed. Take heed lest there be in any of you a growing secret Lust or Sin wherein you indulge your selves, or which you approve. If there be so, it may be there is more in it than you are aware of; nor will your delivery from it be so easie as you may imagine. God seldom gives up men unto such a way, but it is an Effect of his displeasure against their Barren­ness. He declares therein that he doth not approve of their Profession. Take heed lest it prove an Entrance into the dreadful Judgement ensuing. Whatever there­fore it be, let it not seem small in your Eyes. There is more Evil in the least allowed sin of a Professor, I mean that is willingly continued in, than in the [Page 81] loud and great provocations of open sinners. For besides other Aggravations, it includes a mocking of God. And this very Caution I now insist upon, is frequently pressed on all Professors by our Apostle in this very Epistle, chap. 3. 11. chap. 12. 15, 16. (2) Constant neglect of private secret Duties. This also may be justly feared lest it be an Effect of the same cause. Now by this Neglect I mean not that which is Universal. For it is sure, hard to meet with any one who hath so much Light and Conviction as to make Profession of Religion in any way, but that he will and doth pray and perform other secret Duties at one time or another. Even the worst of men will do so in Afflictions, Fears, Dangers, with Surprisals and the like. Nor do I intend interruptions of Duties upon unjustifiable occasions, which though a sin which men ought greatly to be humbled for, and which discovers a superfluity of Naughtiness yet remaining in them, yet is it not of so destructive a Nature as that which we treat about. I intend therefore such an Omission of Duties as is general; where men do seldom or never perform them but when they are excited and pressed by outward Accidents or Occasions. That this may befall Professors the Prophet declares, Isa. 43. 22, 23. And it argues much Hypocrisie in them. The principal Character of an Hypocrite being, that he will not pray always. Nor can there be any greater Evidence of a personal barrenness than this Neglect. A man may have a Mi­nisterial fruitfulness and a Personal barrenness, so he may have a Family usefulness and a Personal thriftlesness. And hereof Negligence in private Duties is the greatest Evidence. Men also may know when those sins are consequences of their Barren­ness, and to be reckoned among the Thorns and Briars intended in the Text. They may do it I say by the difficulty they will meet withall in their Recovery, if it be so. Have their failings and negligence been occasional, meerly from the Impression of present Temptations, a through watering of their Minds and Consciences from the Word, will enable them to cast off their snares and to recover themselves unto a due performance of their Duties. But if these things proceed from Gods Dereliction of them because of their barrenness, whatever they may think and resolve, their Reco­very will not be so facile. God will make them sensible how foolish and evil a thing it is to forsake him under the means of fruitful Obedience. They may think like Sampson, to go forth and do as at other times. But they will quickly find their Locks cut, and their Spiritual strength so decayed, as that they have no power for what they thought would prove so easie unto them at any time. They will find their Wills and Affections so intangled and engaged, that without a fresh supply of Grace, scarce less than that administred in their first Conversion, they cannot be delivered. So is it with all Lusts, Sins, and Negligences that are consequences of a provoking bar­renness under the Gospel. (3) A total want of some Graces both in their principle and exercise, is a great Evidence of such a Condition. Where there is any true sa­ving Grace, there is the Root and Principle of all. Some Graces may be more tried and exercised than others, and so be made more evident and conspicuous; For the occasions of their Exercise may much more frequently occur. But yet where there is any true Grace, at least where it is kept unrusty, vigorous and active as it ought to be in all profiting hearers of the Word; there every Grace of the Spirit is so far kept alive as to be in some readiness for exercise when occasion and opportunity do occur. But if in any there are some Graces that are totally wanting, that no occa­sion doth excite or draw forth to Exercise, they have just reason to fear that either those Graces which they seem to have are not genuine and saving, but meer com­mon Effects of Illumination; or that if they are true they are under a dangerous declension on the Account of their unanswerableness unto the Dispensation of the Gospel. For instance, suppose a man to satisfie himself that he hath the Graces of Faith and Prayer, and the like, but yet cannot find that he hath any grain of true Zeal for the Glory of God, nor any readiness for Works of Charity with an Eye to Gods Glory, and Love to his Commands; he hath great reason to fear lest his other Graces are false and perishing; or at least that he is signally fallen under the sin of barrenness: for in common Grace, one single Grace may appear very evident and win great honour to the Profession of them in whom it is, whilst there is a total want of all or many others; but in saving Grace it is not so; For though different Graces may exceedingly differ in their Exercise, yet all of them are equal in their Root and Principle. By these and the like considerations may Professors try their own con­cernment in this Commination.

[Page 82] Ordinarily God proceeds to the rejection and destruction of barren Professors by degrees; Obser. 1. although they are seldom sensible of it until they fall irrecoverably into ruine. This ground here is first disapproved or rejected, then it is nigh to Cursing, the Curse ensues; after which it is burned. And God doth thus proceed with them, (1) In compli­ance with his own Patience, Goodness, and long-suffering, whereby they ought to be lead unto Repentance. This is the natural tendency of the goodness and patience of God towards sinners though it be often abused, Rom. 2. 4, 5. let men and their sin be what they will, God will not deal otherwise with them, than as becomes his own goodness and patience. And this is that Property of God, without a due Con­ception whereof we can never understand aright his Righteousness in the Govern­ment of the world. Ignorance of the Nature of it and how Essential it is unto the Divine Being, is the occasion of Security in sinning and Atheism unto ungodly men, Ecclesiast. 8. 11, 12, 13. 2 Pet. 3. 3, 4. And a great Temptation it is oft­times unto them that are godly, Habb. 1. 12, 13. Jer. 12. 1, 2. Psal. 73. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22. Wherefore to direct our minds unto a due posture herein we may consider (1) That the Patience of God never came to a general issue with mankind but once since the Creation, and that was in the Flood, 1 Pet. 3. 20. And this one Example God will have to be a sufficient warning unto all ungodly sin­ners, of the certainty and severity of his future Judgement, so that no men have just Reason to be secure in their sin, 2 Pet. 3. 5, 6, 7. and therefore he hath engaged himself by promise, that he will no more deal so with mankind, be their sins what they will, until the Consummation of all things shall come, Gen. 8. 21, 22. While the Earth remaineth there shall be no more such a Curse. But there is a limited time contained therein. The Earth it self shall at length cease, and then he will exe­cute his Judgements fully on the world of Ungodly sinners. Blessed be God for that publick record of his Purpose and Patience, without which, his continuance of mankind in the world would be matter of Astonishment. (2) The Patience of God shall not come to an Issue with any Apostate Church or Nation until he himself de­clares and determines that all due means have been used for their Recovery. And the Judgement hereof, he will not leave unto the best of men, he would not do so unto Elijab himself, 2 Chron. 36. 15, 16, 17. (3) It is a difficult, glorious and great Fruit or Effect of Faith, not to repine at, but to glorifie God in his Patience towards a wicked, provoking Generation of sinners. Even the Souls of the Saints in Heaven seem to express a little too much haste in this matter, Rev. 6. 9, 10, 11. The thing which they desired was suited unto the Holiness, Righteousness, and Faithfulness of God, and wherein he had designed to Glorifie himself in his ap­pointed season, Rev. 19. 1, 2, 3. but the time of it seemed long unto them; where­fore to Glorifie God herein is a Fruit of Faith, Rev. 13. 10. The Faith and Patience of the Saints is most eminent in waiting quietly until the time of the Destruction of the Enemies of the Church be fully come. And it is so (1) Because it is accompanied with self-denial, as unto all our interest in this world, and all the desires of Nature. (2) Because the Apprehension is most true and infallible that the Righ­teousness, Holiness and Faithfulness of God, will be exceedingly glorified in the De­struction of Apostate, provoking and ungodly sinners; and this will be in particular in the Ruine of Babylon and its whole interest in the world. And this may make our desires inordinate, if not regulated by Faith. It is therefore an eminent act of Faith to give Glory unto God in the exercise of his Patience towards Apostate, barren Professors, and that which alone can in these latter days of the world give Rest and Peace unto our own Souls.

(2) God will do so to evince the Righteousness of his Judgements, both in the Hearts and Consciences of them who shall be finally destroyed, whose End is to be burned; as also of all others who shall wisely consider of his ways. God endureth all things from the world that he may be justified in his sayings and may overcome when he is judged, Rom. 3. 4. that is, not only that all he doth shall be Righteous and Holy, which is necessary from his own Essential Righteousness, whence he will not, whence he cannot do Evil; but his Works shall be so wrought, so accom­plished, as that the Righteousness of them shall be eminent and pleadable by his peo­ple against all sayings and reflections of ungodly men. Especially every thing shall be plain and visibly Righteous that he doth in this way towards barren unprofitable [Page 83] Churches which he hath formerly owned and blessed. In his dealing with them, he will leave no colour of calling his Goodness and Faithfulness into question, but will as it were refer the Righteousness of his proceedings unto all, even unto themselves. So he doth as to his dealing with the Church of the Jews when it was grown utterly barren, Isa. 5. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. So did our Lord Jesus Christ in his Parable, com­pel the wicked Jews to subscribe unto the Righteousness of God in that miserable de­struction which was coming on themselves, Matth. 21. 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40. And this God doth principally by his gradual procedure with them. His pre­cedent warnings and first degrees of Judgements Spiritual or Temporal, shall bear witness unto the Righteousness of their total ruine. Men at present through their blindness, hardness of heart, love of sin, do not it may be take notice of Gods dealing with them, and are therefore apt to complain when they are surprised with the fatal Evil. But the day will come, when their Consciences shall be awakened unto a dreadful Remembrance of all the warnings God gave them, and how slowly he proceeded in his Judgements; when their Mouths shall be stopp'd, and their Faces filled with Confusion.

(3) Gods dealings with barren Apostates being principally in spiritual Judge­ments, the issue whereof is the total removal of the Gospel from them, he will not do it at once, because others may be yet mixed among them unto whom he will have the means of Grace continued. This Abraham laid down in temporal Judge­ments as an unquestionable maxime of Divine Right, That God would not destroy the Righteous with the wicked, Gen. 18. 23, 25. which Rule yet by the way, is consined unto that kind of destruction which was to be a standing token, and pledge of the last final Judgement, and the Damnation of all ungodly men. For in other cases it will admit of some extraordinary exception, but this is the general way of Gods procedure in all Judgements Spiritual and Temporal. Now if when men openly manifest their barrenness, and daily bring forth Thorns and Briars, if God should immediately remove the Word, whilst there are amongst them a People also that are really fruitful unto his Glory; it cannot be, but that in an ordinary course of his Providence they must suffer with the rest, and that before God hath fulfilled the whole works of his Grace towards them.

This was that wherewith he satisfied and quieted the mind of Elijah when in a transport of Zeal, he complains of the horrible Apostasie of the Church of Israel, making, as the Apostle speaks, intercession against them; and applieth it unto all other seasons of the Church, Rom. 11. 2, 3, 4, 5. And we are taught in that example, that when the Patience of God towards an highly provoking people, seems to in­terfere with his threatening and the ordinary course of his Providence, to believe that there are yet among them many whose hearts are sincere for God, though for many reasons they are unknown to us. And this should stir us up unto continual prayers for the whole world. When the long-suffering of God is abused by the most, and turned into an increase of their security, yet he hath a blessed End in it, towards his own among them, 1 Pet. 3. 3, 4, 9. And this was the state of Gods present Dispensation towards those Hebrews. The most of them were obstinate Unbe­lievers, and many of them barren Apostates. But yet God continued for a while to exercise Patience towards them, and to tender the Gospel unto them. And this he did because there was a Remnant amongst them according to the Election of Grace, which were to obtain whilst the rest were hardened, as our Apostle declares, Rom. 11. And this Patience of God, the hardened wretches despised and scoffed at. But yet still God went on in his way and method, because of those amongst them, whom through that patience and long-suffering he intended to bring to Repentance and the acknowledgement of the Truth.

Further to clear up this whole matter, it may be enquired what are those Degrees in Spiritual Judgements whereby God doth ordinarily proceed against barren Pro­fessors, which are here intimated in general. And (1) In such cases God doth usually restrain the Influence of mens Light upon their own Consciences and Affecti­ons. Their Light and Knowledge which they have attained may in their Notions remain with them, but they are not at all affected with what they know, or guided by it as unto their practice. There is a time when Light and Knowledge not im­proved, do lose all their efficacy. God suffers such an interposition to be made be­tween it and their Consciences by the acting and pride of their Lusts, that it is of [Page 84] no use unto them. Whereas formerly under their Convictions, every thing they knew of the Mind of God or the Gospel pressed on them to endeavour after some conformity unto it, now it hath no power upon them, but only flotes in their Fancies and Memories. And this we see accomplished every day. Men under a barren Apostatizing state, do yet retain some of their Light and Notions of Truth, which they are sensible of no power from, nor have any use of, unless it be to en­able them to be the greater scoffers and deriders of others. Now although this comes to pass through their own sin and lusts as the immediate cause of it, yet it is a Spi­ritual Judgement of God also upon them for their sins. For he with-holdeth all the working of his Spirit in and by that Light which alone renders it effectual. His Spirit shall not strive any more therein, and then it is easie for them to rebel against the Light they have, as he speaks Job 24. 13. And let all men hence take heed, when they begin to find, that their Light and Convictions from the Word have not the same Power with them and Efficacy upon them as formerly they have had. For it is greatly to be feared lest it be a beginning of Gods displeasure upon them: See Hos. 9. 12.

(2) God deprives them of all the Gifts which formerly they received. Gifts are an Ability for the due Exercise of Gospel Light and Knowledge in the Duties of a publick concern. These they may be made partakers of, who yet prove barren and Apostates. But God will not suffer them to be long retained under a course of Back­siding. As men neglect their Exercise, so God deprives them of them, and makes that very neglect a means of Executing this Judgement on them. The Talent that was but laid up in a Napkin was taken away. And this we see exemplified both in whole Churches and in particular Persons. They lose, or are deprived of the Gifts which they had, or were among them, and are commonly filled with En­mity unto and scorn of them by whom they are reclaimed. And in these two things consists the first Act of Gods Judgement in the Rejection of the barren Ground. Here­by he evidenceth that it is [...], and such as he will regard no more.

The next is, that they make Approaches towards the Curse, and this is done two ways: (1) God having evidenced his Rejection of them, he gives them up unto the Temptation of the world, and the Society of ungodly men, whereunto they are engaged by their pleasures or profit. Men gather them, saith our Saviour, Joh. 15. 6. Their Lusts being let loose from under the Power of their Light and Convictions, especially their Love unto the world, they cast themselves into the Society of pro­phane and wicked men. Among them they wax worse and worse every day, and learn in an especial manner to hate, despise, and blaspheme the good ways of God, which before they had known, owned and professed. And God will so order things in his Providence, as that Temptations suited unto their most prevalent Lusts shall on all occasions be presented unto them, whereby they shall be further ensnared. (2) God casts them out of the Hearts and Prayers of his People. This of all other things they least value, yea they most despise. But it is one of the greatest Effects of Gods Severity towards them. So he commanded his Prophets not to pray for the People when his heart would not to be towards them, Jer. 7. 16. chap. 11. 14. chap. 14. 11. And in like cases, though not by express Command yet by his secret Providence he takes off the Hearts of his People from them whom he hath designed to ruine for their sins. And we may observe, that our Apostle himself who a long time laboured with unspeakable Zeal and most fervent supplications to God for the Incredulous Hebrews, as he expresseth himself, Rom. 9. 2, 3. chap. 10. 11. at length speaks of them as those whom he no more regarded, but looked on as Enemies of Christ only, 1 Thes. 2. 14, 15, 16. And this sets them forward in their way to­wards the fatal Curse. (3) The Curse it self ensues, which consists in three things; For (1) God takes off their Natural restraints from sin. The rebukes of a Natural Conscience, fear, shame, and the like Afflictive Affections, shall have no more power on them. So he dealt with them that sinned against the Light of Na [...]e, Rom. 1. 26, 27. and they became like those described Ephes. 4. 18, 19. No men are so visibly under Gods Curse as those who having broken through the Bonds of Nature, Modesty, Fear, and Shame, do give up themselves unto open sinning in the face of the Sun. (2) God Judicially bardens them; which contains the Life and Power of the Curse here intended; for hereby are men secured unto their final de­struction and burning. (3) Oft-times God signifies this Curse in the world, by [Page 85] wholly casting out such persons from any Interest in the Dispensation of the Word. He doth either utterly take away the Preaching of the Gospel from them, or give them up unto the conduct of those who under a pretence thereof, shall cause them to err with Lies and Delusions, which further seals them up unto their future ruine, 2 Thes. 2. 11, 12. And these are some of the ways whereby God dealeth with bar­ren Ground, with fruitless and provoking Professors, even whilst they are in this world. It is true these Judgements being Spiritual, and they being now become wholly Carnal, they are for the most part little sensible of them. God indeed doth some­times cause the Dread and Terror of his Wrath so to fall upon the Consciences of some of them, as that in this world they are made a spectacle of Divine Vengeance. But for the most part being filled with their Lusts and Sins, and Pleasures, they carry it out bravingly to the End. Howbeit few of them escape such reflections on them­selves as makes them sometimes to shrink and groan. But suppose they should be able to carry it out stoutly in this world, so that themselves should neither much feel, nor others much observe the Curse of God upon them here, yet the day is hasten­ing wherein actual Burning and that for ever, will be their Portion.

VERSES 9, 10, 11, 12.

Expositors generally agree in giving these Verses as an Instance of the great Wis­dom and Prudence used by the Apostle in his dealing with these Hebrews. Chry­sostome in especial insists upon it, making observations unto that purpose on all the considerable passages on the Context. What is really of that nature will occur un­to us, and shall be observed in our Progress. His Design in general is twofold. First, To mollifie the Severity of the preceding Commination and Prediction contained therein, that it might not have an Effect on their minds beyond his Intention. He knew that all Circumstances considered, it was necessary for him to make use of it. But withall he was careful that none of them who were sincere should be ter­rified or discouraged. For if men are disanimated in the way wherein they are en­gaged by those on whose guidance they depend, and unto whose Judgement they are to submit, it makes them despond and give over thoughts of a chearful pro­gress. Wherefore in all cases our Apostle was exceeding careful, not in any thing to make heavy or sorrowful the hearts of his Disciples, unless it were in case of ex­tream Necessity. Hence is his Apologie or Excuse as it were, to the Corinthians for having put them to sorrow by some severe reproofs in his former Letter to them, 2 Cor. 2. 1, 2. But I determined this with my self, that I would not come again unto you in heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me. He lets them know, that whatever sorrow he had put them to, it was so unto himself, no less than unto them, seeing they were the chiefest causes of his Joy and Gladness. And thus dealeth he in this place with the Hebrews. Lest they should be amazed with the terror of the preceding Com­mination, and the Prediction therein contained, of the inevitable and dreadful ruine of slothful Apostates and Hypocrites, he lets them know that he did no way therein determine or pass a Judgement on them, their state and condition. But having far other thoughts and hopes concerning them, and the End of their Pro­fession, he yet judged it necessary to excite them unto that Diligence which some among them had neglected to use, by declaring the miserable End of those who al­ways abide unfruitful under, or do Apostatize from the profession of the Gospel. Herein doth he steer a direct and equal course between the Extreams in Admonition. For he neither useth so much lenity as to enervate his Reproof and Warning; nor so much severity as to discourage or provoke those who are warned by him. In a word, he layeth weight upon things and spareth persons, the contrary whereunto is the bane of all Spiritual Admonition. Secondly, He maketh use of this Discourse for a Tran­sition unto the second part of his Design. And this was to propose unto them who were true Believers, such encouragements and grounds of Consolation, as might con­firm and establish them in their Faith and Obedience, which are the subjects of the remaining part of this Chapter. Wherefore as to make way for the severe Threat­nings which he hath used, it was necessary for him to describe the persons unto whom [Page 86] they did in an especial manner belong, so it was no less requisite that he should de­scribe those also unto whom the ensuing Promises and Consolations do pertain, which he doth in these Verses.



[...], Persuasi sumus, confidimus; Bez. persuasimus nobis, we are perswaded. [...], Syr. [...] My Brethren, Vul. Dilectissimi. Rhem. We confidently trust of you my best beloved. [...], Meliora, Syr. [...] ea quae sunt bona, pulchra, The things that are good or comely; [...], Syr. [...] and such as draw near to Life, that is, Eternal. Vul. lat. Et viciniora Saluti: Rhem. and nearer to Salvation: others generally, Et cum salute conjuncta: Ours, and such as accompany Salvation; very properly.


But we are perswaded of you, Beloved, better things, and such as accompany Salva­tion, although we thus speak.

The especial design of the Apostle in this and the following Verses, is to de­clare his good-will towards the Hebrews, his Judgement of their state and condition, the Reasons and Grounds of that Judgement, with the proper use and End of the Commination before laid down, that neither that might be neglected, nor them­selves discouraged. This Verse contains, (1) An Expression of his Love and good­will towards them. (2) His Judgement of them. (3) The Reasons of his pre­sent declaration of both these, with respect unto what he had spoken before unto them, namely, that although he had spoke it unto them, he did not speak it of them.

1. His Love and good-will he testifies in his Compellation, [...], Beloved. It is an Expression of most entire Affection, and is never used in the Gospel but to express the Love of God the Father unto his Son Jesus Christ, Matth. 3. 17. chap. [...]. 12. 18. chap. 17. 5. Mark 1. 11. chap. 9. 7. chap. 12. 16. Luke 3. 22. chap. 9. 35. chap. 20. 13. By the Apostles in their Epistles it is frequently applied unto Believers, especially by Paul, in all those written by him: we might therefore pass it over, as that word which it was usual with him to express his sincere Affections by towards all Saints. But there seems to be a twofold reason of its especial Introduction in this place, both of them respected in the Wisdom of our Apostle. (1) Perhaps, these Hebrews were ready enough to entertain Jealousies concerning him, that he had not that Affection for them which he had for others. For he had now spent a long time with and among the Gentiles for their Conversion and Edification. Among them he had planted very many Churches, and that in one Point contrary to the Judgement of most of these Hebrews, namely, in a Liberty from the Law and the Ceremonies of Moses. In this long converse and work, they might suspect that he had lost his natural Love to his Country-men, as is usual in such cases, and as he was much accused to have done. To root this evil surmise out of their minds, as he useth frequently other affectionate Compellations in this Epistle, so he here calls them his Beloved, than which he had used no Expression of greater En­dearment towards any of his Gentile Converts. And notwithstanding all the Pro­vocations and Injuries he had received from them, he gave on all occasions the highest Demonstration of the most intense Affection towards them; never opposing them nor reflecting on them with any severity, but only then and wherein they opposed the Gospel, and the Liberty thereof. This Affection was such for them as his Country-men and Kinsmen in the Flesh, as that he could willingly have died that they might be saved, Rom. 9. 2, 3. And for this he prayed continually, chap. 10. 1. And the Addition of Love that was made in him upon their Conversion cannot be expressed. (2) He hath respect unto his preceding severe Expressions, as is plain from the close of this Verse, though we thus speak. As if he had said, Notwithstan­ding [Page 87] this severe Admonition, which I have upon the consideration of all Circumstances been forced to use, yet my Heart stands no otherwise affected towards you, but as towards my Country-men, Brethren, and Saints of God. And thus,

It is the Duty of the Dispensers of the Gospel to satisfie their Hearers, in and of their Love in Jesus Christ to their Souls and Persons. Obser. 1.

2. The Apostle expresseth his Judgement concerning these Hebrews, We are per­swaded better things of you, and such as accompany Salvation; wherein we have [...]. (1) The Act of his mind in this matter, [...], we are perswaded, Chrysostome insists much on the force of this word. The Apostle, as he observes, doth not say we think or we hope, but he was fully perswaded. He lets them know that he was fully satisfied in this matter. And he useth not this word any where in his Epistles, (as he useth it often) but he intends a full and prevalent perswasion. Now this a man may have in spiritual things on three grounds. (1) By especial Revelation; so he was certain of the truth of the Gospel that was revealed unto him which he discourseth of, Gal. 1. 7, 8. (2) By the Evidence of Faith when any thing is be­lieved on grounds infallible, namely, the Revelation of the mind of God in the Scripture, or the Promises of the Gospel. So he useth this word, Rom. 8. 34. [...], for I am perswaded that neither Death nor Life, &c. This he be­lieved, and had an infallible certainty thereof, because God hath so promised. So also, 2 Tim. 1. 12. [...], I know whom I have believed, and am perswaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him. He useth the same Expression in matter of Faith, Rom. 14. 14. (3) There is a certain perswasion of mind, that is founded on moral Arguments, such as may bring a man to a full satisfaction in his mind, but yet so, as it is possible he may be deceived. Of this Nature is that per­swasion, that Trust or Confidence which we have of the good condition of other men. So our Apostle speaks of Timothy and his Faith, 2 Tim. 1. 5. The Faith that dwelt in thy Mother Eunice, [...], and I am perswaded in thee also. He was not perswaded of any sincere Faith in Timothy by especial Revelation, nor was it the object of his Faith from any express word of Scripture, but he was satisfied in it upon such unquestionable Grounds and Motives as left no room for doubt about it. Some urge to the same purpose, Phil. 1. 6. [...], being confident of this very thing, perswaded of it, that he who hath begun a good work in you will perform it to the day of Christ. But this perswasion being built on a sup­position that a good work was begun in them, was an act of Faith Infallible, built on the Promises of God, and the unchangeableness of his Covenant. His perswasion here concerning the Hebrews was of this latter kind, even that which he had sa­tisfactory reasons and grounds for, which prevailed against all contrary Objections. In like manner he speaks of the Romans, chap. 5. v. 14. [...], And I my self am perswaded of you my Brethren, that ye are full of Goodness. The Grounds of this perswasion with re­spect unto the Hebrews, he expresseth in the next Verse, where we shall consider them.

It is our Duty to come unto the best satisfaction we may in the Spiritual Condition of Obser. 2. them with whom we are to have Spiritual Communion. There is not any thing of our mutual Duties, that the Gospel more presseth, or more supposeth. And it is necessary both unto Ministers and private Christians. For the former, they are con­cerned in the Advice of the Wise man, Prov. 27. 23. Be thou diligent to know the state of thy Flock. They are not only to provide good pasture, and feeding for them, but they must know their State and Condition, that what they provide for them may be suitable and seasonable. And unto this End there were at first some in the Church, who had the immediate inspection of the state and walking of the members of it, and were thereby enabled, as Moses said to his Father in Law, Numb. 10. 31. to be instead of Eyes unto the Teachers to look into the condition of all sorts of per­sons. Nor can they without it discharge any one Duty of their Office in a due manner. For Ministers to walk towards their people at peradventure, and to fight uncertainly as men beating the Air, without an Acquaintance with their state, and [Page 88] especial consideration of their condition, and what therein is suited unto their Edification, as is the manner of many, will leave them at a great uncertainty how to give up their account. See Heb. 13. 14. Unless a man have some good satis­faction, concerning the Spiritual condition of those that are committed unto his charge, he can never approve himself among them, A workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth, to give unto all their proportion. And the work of the Ministry is not by any means more evacuated and rendered ineffectual, than when men have not a certain design to deal with their Hearers ac­cording unto what they are perswaded that their Spiritual state doth require. How shall they Instruct, How shall they warn, How shall they comfort any, but on a sup­position of an Acquaintance with the state and condition wherein they are? A ge­neral preaching at random without a special scope directed by the perswasion menti­oned, turns the whole work for the most part both in Preachers and Hearers into an useless formality. In brief, this perswasion principally regulates the whole work of the Ministry. He that is a Physician unto the bodies of men, must acquaint him­self with the especial state and condition of his Patients, as also of their distempers, wherein his Skill and Judgement is especially to be exercised. Without that let him be furnished with the greatest store of good Medicines, if he gives them out pro­miscuously unto all comers, all that he doth will be of little use. It may be his Medicines being safe, they will do no harm; And it is as probable they will do as little good. Nor will it be otherwise with the Physicians of Souls in the like case.

Four things are required to make the Dispensation of the Word proper and pro­fitable. A good Spring, a safe Rule, a distinct Design, and enlivening Affections. The first is the Dispensers own Light and Experience. He is to see in his work with his own Eyes, and not those of other men. And when he is by own Light as a Scribe unto the Kingdom of God, it is out of the good treasure of his own Heart, that he is to bring forth good things, new, and old. (2) His safe Rule is the infallible word of Truth. This must be the Touchstone of his Light and Experience. And it is suited unto his whole work, unto all the Duties of it, 2 Tim. 3. 16, 17. In nothing but what is regulated hereby are any to be attended unto, Isa. 8. 20. (3) His distinct Design lies in the due consideration of the Spiritual state and condi­tion of them unto whom the Word is to be dispensed. And herein consists the greatest part of the Ministerial skill. This is that which secretly differenceth the constant Ministerial Dispensation of the Word, from the occasional exercise of the gifts of any. And this doth God make use of, to convey unexpected relief or repose unto the Souls of men wherewith they are surprised and affected. If we have not this scope continually before us, we may run apace, but never know whether we are in or out of the way. (4) The enlivening Affections that ought to accompany the Dispensation of the Word, are Zeal for the Glory of God, and Compassion for the Souls of men. But these things must not here be insisted on. And for private Christians among themselves, their mutual Duties are referred unto Love, and the Fruits of it. That special Love which ought to be among the Disciples of Christ, as such, takes up in the Description, Injunctions and Directions of it, a great part of the Writings of the New Testament. Nothing doth the Lord Christ himself, nor his Apostles so urge upon them as this of mutual love. Upon the right discharge of this Duty he frequently declares that his honour in them and by them in this world doth principally depend. And whatever we have besides this, our Apostle declares that it is nothing, or of no use in the Church of God, 1 Cor. 13. And the greatest Evidence of the Degeneracy of Christianity in the world, consists in the open loss of this Love amongst those who make profession thereof. Now this Love is founded in our perswasion concerning the Spiritual state and condition of each other. I mean, that especial mutual Love is so, which ought to be among the Disciples of Christ as such. For although we are on other grounds, obliged unto a Love to­wards all mankind, whether Friends or Enemies, yet that peculiar Love which the Gospel so chargeth on the Disciples of Christ is an effect of, and built upon their common and mutual Interest in Christ. They are to love one another as Members of the same mystical Body, and united unto the same Spiritual Head. Whatever Love there may be on other accounts among any of them which doth not arise from this Spring and Fountain, it is not that Gospel Love which ought to be [Page 89] among Believers. And how can this be in us, unless we have a good perswasion con­cerning our mutual Interest and In-being in Christ? God forbid that any should press that peculiar intense Love, that ought to be among the Members of the Body of Christ, to take off, or derogate from that general Love and usefulness which not only the Law of our Creation, but the Gospel also requireth of us in an especial manner towards all men. Yea he who professeth Love unto the Saints, that pecu­liar Love which is required towards them, and doth not exercise Love in general towards all men, much more if he make the pretence of Brotherly Love, the ground of alienating his Affection from the residue of mankind, can have no assurance that the Love he so professeth is sincere, incorrupt, genuine, and without dissimula­tion. But this special Love is the special Duty of us all, if we believe the Gospel, and without which foundation well laid, we can rightly discharge no other mu­tual Duty whatever. Now this, as is evident, we cannot have, unless we have a perswasion of the only ground of this Love, which is our mutual Relation unto Jesus Christ. And to act this Love aright as to its object as grounded on this per­swasion, take heed of evil surmises, these are the bane of Evangelical Love, though some seem to make them their Duties. Those concerning whom we hear that they make profession of Faith and Obedience towards our Lord Jesus Christ, and know not that they any way contradict their Profession by wicked works, we are obliged to bear the same Love towards, as if we knew them sincere. For Charity hopeth all things, namely, that are good, if we have no certain evidence to the contrary. And thus in general we may have this perswasion concerning all that in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. We have no obligation in­deed hereunto, towards such as visibly and evidently walk unworthy of that high Calling whereby we are called. For concerning such our Apostle assures us, that whatever they profess, they are Enemies of the Cross of Christ, whose end is destru­ction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is their shame, who mind earthly things, Phil. 3. 18, 19. It is a dishonour, a reproach to Christ and the Gospel that we should perswade our selves that they are his Disciples, and Members of his mystical Body, whom we see to walk after the manner of the world, and to have their Conversation in the Lusts of the Flesh. These we are still to Love as those who once had, (and are yet capable of the renovation of) the Image of God upon them. But they proclaim themselves destitute of all those qualifications which are the formal object and reason of this peculiar Love.

(2) The Lord Christ hath by his Institution secured us as to a certain rule of this perswasion and love by the disposal of his Disciples into Church Societies upon such grounds as are a sufficient warranty for it. Thus our Apostle in all his Epistles un­to the Churches, Salutes, Esteems, Judgeth them all to be Saints and called in Christ Jesus. For although some of them might not be so really, and in the sight of God, yet his perswasion, and his Love being directed according to the Rule, were acceptable unto Christ. And whereas our Lord Jesus hath commanded that all his Disciples should joyn themselves unto, and walk in such Societies, were there not great confusion brought into the world in and about Gospel institutions, we should not be at a loss about this perswasion and love; for we should be obliged unto them towards all that are called Christians, until they had openly declared themselves to be Enemies of the Cross of Christ. But we are yet suffering under the confusion of a fatal Apostasie, which God in his good time will deliver his Churches from.

(3) As we cannot direct our Love aright without this perswasion, no more can we exercise any of the Duties or Fruits of it in a due manner. The Fruits of mu­tual love among Christians are either in things Spiritual which concern Edification, or in things Temporal which concern outward Relief. Of the first sort, are Admo­nition, Exhortation, Instructions, and Consolations mutually administred. Now how can any man order or make use of these in a right manner unless he have some directive perswasion of the Spiritual condition of them unto whom he doth admini­ster? It is true he may sometimes be therein mistaken, yet it is far better so to be, than never to consider what is meet and requisite with respect thereunto. And as for the Fruits of the same Love in outward things, although they ought to be brought forth in the temporal supplies of all according to our Opportunities and Abilities, yet without this perswasion they will want the quickening form and soul of them, which is a design to place our love in them ultimately on Jesus Christ.

[Page 90] We may as occasions require publickly testifie that good perswasion which we have con­cerning Obser. 3. the Spiritual condition of others, and that unto themselves. Our Apostle here acquaints these Hebrews with his good perswasion concerning them; and likewise in all his Epistles he still declares his hopes and confidence of their blessed Interest in Christ, unto whom he wrote; and spares not to give them all the Titles which really belong only to Elect Believers. Now as this is not to be done lightly, not in a way of flattering Compliance, not but upon just and firm grounds from Scripture, least of all to give Countenance unto any to continue in an evil way or practice; yet in three cases it is warrantable and requisite, (1) When it is done for their due encou­ragement. Gracious persons through their Temptations, Fears, and sense of sin, yea whole Churches upon occasion of Trials, Distresses, and Back-slidings among them, may so be cast down and despond, as to be discouraged in their Duties and Progress. In this case it is not only lawful but expedient, yea necessary that we should testifie unto them that good perswasion which we have concerning their state and condition with the grounds thereof, as the Apostle doth in this place. So in like case testified our Saviour himself concerning, and unto the Church of Smyrna; I know thy Poverty, what thou complainest of, and art ready to sink under, but thou art rich, Rev. 2. (2) It may and ought to be done for their Just Vindication. The Disciples and Churches of Christ may be falsly accused and charged, and yet it may be with so much probability or at least appearance of evil, as that they may greatly suffer in their Just Reputation, whereby the holy Name of the Lord Christ is also dishonoured. He who falsly accuseth all the Brethren before God continually, wants not Instruments to fix Calumnies upon them among men here below. In such a case it is our indispensible Duty to testifie our good perswasion concerning them, be they Persons or Churches who are so traduced. And if we do it not, we have a Copartnership in the guilt of their Enemies false Accusations. (3) When we have any necessary Duty to discharge towards them, which this testification of our perswa­sion concerning them may render more effectual, or prevent it having another end, than what we aim at, or remove any prejudice out of its way. This was the very case wherein the Apostle testifieth his perswasion concerning them unto these Hebrews. His design was to admonish them of some faults, sins and miscarriages, that had already been among them; and moreover to charge them with a Care about Apostafie from the Gospel, which the way wherein some of them were, seemed to have a tendency unto. But lest this his dealing with them which had an appearance of much severity, should have begotten prejudices in their minds against his Person and Ministry on the one hand, or too much dejected and cast them down on the other, he secures his procedure on both sides with this testification of his confidence concerning their Spiritual condition, thereby at once assuring them of his Love, and evidencing the Necessity of his Ad­monition. And herein hath he in the Example of the Wisdom bestowed on him for this End, given us an inviolable Rule of our proceeding in like cases.

The best perswasion we can arrive unto concerning the Spiritual condition of any, leaves yet room, yea makes way for, Gospel Threatenings, Warnings, Exhortations, and En­couragements. Obser. 4. There is nothing more common then to charge the ways of some, than that by perswading men of their Regeneration and Saintship, they render them secure, and the threatenings of the Gospel in an especial manner unuseful unto them. Neither is there any question but that this, as all other ways of God, and his Grace, may be abused. But those who manage the Charge in general may do well to fix it in the first place on the Apostles. For there is not any of them, but testifie the same perswasion concerning all them to whom they wrote, and there is no doubt but that their way of Preaching and Writing was the same. But yet this hindered them not from the use of all sorts of Evangelical Comminations, Exhortations and Incouragements, from whence we are to take our Example and Warranty for the same practice. This therefore lies evident in their procedure which is our In­struction and Rule, namely, that looking on men as Believers, or being perswaded of their good Spiritual condition, we yet ought to apply unto them all the means ap­pointed by Christ for the begetting, increase and continuance of Grace in them. And the reasons hereof are evident, for (1) Although that perswasion which men may have of their Spiritual condition, or which others may have or declare con­cerning them, may strengthen their peace, yet it neither doth nor ought to incline them unto security. Thou standest by Faith, saith the Apostle, be not high minded [Page 91] but fear, Rom. 11. 20. Take the peace and comfort of thy Faith, but be neither proud nor secure. Where there is any such effect hereof towards a Laodicean security, there is a just ground to suspect that the perswasion it self is a pernicious mistake. And it is the Duty of all Professors to give heed diligently lest any such root of bitterness spring up amongst them and desile them. If once a perswasion of this good condition be­gins to influence towards Security, and a neglect of Duty, then ought they to be in the highest Jealousie concerning their condition its self. (2) Whatever mens state and condition be under the Gospel, they are still obliged unto the means appointed for their Edification and preservation. Amongst all the vain Imaginations about Religious things vented in these latter days, there is none savours more rankly of Sathanical Pride, and Humane folly, than that of such a state of Perfection attainable in this Life, wherein as it is phrased, men should be above Ordinances, that is, should be vainly pussed up in their fleshly minds, above the Authority, and Wisdom and Truth of God. Whilst we are in the way under the conduct of the Gospel, we need all the Advantages it affords in our progress. Of this sort are all the Threatenings, Promises, Exhortations, Incouragements contained in it. And the proper use of Gospel Threatenings in particular, such as that here insisted on by our Apostle, I have declared at large on the first and second Verses of the fourth Chapter, and shall not here again insist thereon.

It followeth hence: (1) That whatever be the state and condition of them un­to whom we dispense the Word, or whatever we may conceive it to be, that we are not with respect thereunto to balk or wave the delivery and pressing of any Evan­gelical warning, or the severest Threatening contained in the Gospel, much less Encouragements and Motives unto Faith and Obedience, though we are perswaded they both believe and obey. For as it is not impossible but that both they and we may be mistaken in their condition, and that the severest Menaces may be their pro­per portion in the World; so be their condition what it will, all these things have not only their proper use towards them, but are necessary for them in their several kinds. For although they every one of them as singly laid down, are of the same signification in themselves, yet in their Application unto men they have a sense suited unto their condition: for Instance; The same Threatening as applied unto Unbe­lievers, tends to beget Dread, Terror, and fear of Wrath in them, to fill them with Evidences of Gods displeasure. As applied unto Believers it tends only to fill them with Reverential Fear of God, Care to avoid the sin threatened, and to excite diligence in the use of means for its avoidance. All of them are good for all. As therefore if we should always in the Dispensation of the Word insist on the Threa­tenings of the Law and Gospel, whose Denunciation multitudes do certainly stand in need of, we might weaken and discourage those whom God would not have to be discouraged: So on the other hand if out of an Apprehension that our People or Congregations are made up of Believers, we should continually insist on the Pro­mises of the Gospel, with the like Springs of Consolation, seldom or never pressing on them the Threatenings and severe Menaces thereof, we should certainly defraud them of a blessed means which God hath ordained for their Edification and Pre­servation in Faith. The holy intermixture of all these things in the Scripture it self, is to be our Rule and not any Imagination of our own.

(2) That others should not think themselves severely dealt with, when they are pressed on and urged with the severest Threatenings of the Gospel. Let them not say or think in their Hearts, this Preacher looks upon us as persons Unregenerate, or Hypocrites, perhaps out of ill-will unto us. It is certain that on such occasions, men are apt to give place to such surmises. For an Apprehension thereof, is the reason why the Apostle maketh as it were this Apology for the use of the severe foregoing Commination. As if he had said, Do not you entertain any hard thoughts or evil surmises concerning me or my dealing with you in this matter. There are other reasons of my thus dealing with you; for as unto your personal interest in the Grace of Christ, I have as yet a good perswasion, although I thus speak. And let others take heed lest they fall into any such apprehension, which will certainly defeat them of the wholsome Fruit of the Word. Sharp Frosts are needful to make the Ground fruitful, as well as the clearest Sun-shine. And if a Tree be not sometimes pressed on by the Wind, it will never well firm its Roots in the Ground. Sharp Reproofs, and earnestness in pressing Gospel Comminations are sometimes as needful for the [Page 92] best of us, as the Administration of the richest and most precious Promises, Hos. 10. 11.

Having considered in general the good perswasion of the Apostle concerning those Hebrews, we may consider in especial, his Expression of the things which he was so perswaded to be in them; And this is double, (1) [...], better things; (2) [...], such as accompany Salvation.

(1) He was perswaded concerning them, [...], Better things. There [...] seems to be a comparison included in this expression, and not only an opposition unto what was spoken. If so, then there is a supposition of some good things granted unto those treated of. This therefore cannot refer unto the Verses immediately be­fore, which express only their Barrenness and Destruction, but it must relate unto ver. 4, 5, 6. where the Spiritual Gifts collated on them are enumerated. They are Good things in themselves, but yet such Good things as may perish and they also on whom they are bestowed. Those who enjoy them may yet be barren Ground, and so cursed and burned. But the Apostle is perswaded better things of those to whom he speaks, namely, such things as accompany Salvation, such as whosoever is made partaker of shall never perish Eternally. Or [...] may be put for [...] Good things as Chrysostome supposeth. But yet neither is there any need of sup­posing an impropriety in the expression. For it is usual to express excellent things in words of the comparative Degree, although no comparison be included; espe­cially when they are made mention of with respect unto others who have no inte­rest in them.

However here is certainly an opposition unto what was before affirmed concerning others; And that may be reduced unto two Heads. (1) That they were barren and destitute of all saving Grace and Fruits. (2) That they should in the End be destroyed. These better things must be opposed to the one, or other of these, or unto them both. If they are opposed unto the first, then especial saving Grace and Fruit-bearing, such as are peculiar unto Gods Elect proceeding from the real San­ctification of the Spirit, such as no perishing gifted Hypocrites can be partakers of, are intended. If unto this latter, then those better thing respect not their Qualifi­cation but their Condition; that is, freedom from the Curse and Wrath of God, and from perishing under them. I am perswaded it will go better with you, than with such Apostates. It may be both are included: but the first is certainly in­tended, namely, that these Hebrews were not barren but such as brought forth the saving Fruits of the Spirit of Grace.

For of these things it is added, [...]. Such as accompany Solva­tion; literally, such as have Salvation, that is, such as have saving Grace in them, [...] and Eternal Salvation infallibly annexed unto them. Things that are not bestowed on any, such as are not wrought in any but those that shall be saved. That is, in brief, true Faith and sincere Obedience. For in whosoever these are found, they shall be saved by virtue of the Faithfulness of God in the Covenant of Grace. And we may observe hence,

(1) That among Professors of the Gospel some are Partakers of better things than others. They were all Professors concerning whom the Apostle discourseth in this and the preceding Verses. And yet notwithstanding any Good things that some might have had, or might be supposed to have had, others of them had better things than they. And this Difference may be observed, first in the Degrees, and secondly in the Kinds of the things intended. Spiritual Gifts are of one kind. For although there are several sorts of them, yet they have all the same general nature, they are all Gifts and no more. The difference therefore that is amongst them being not to be taken from their own especial nature, but their use and tendency un­to the common end of them all, I take it only to be gradual. For instance, to speak with Tongues and to Prophesie, are two Gifts of different sorts; But whereas they are both Gifts of the Spirit, and are designed unto the furtherance of the Go­spel and Edification of the Church, the true Difference between them is to be ta­ken from their usefulness unto this End. Those therefore who have only Gifts in the Church, as they have different Gifts, so they have some of them Better Gifts than others, some as to the especial kinds of Gifts, but mostly as to the Degrees of their usefulness unto their proper End. Hence our Apostle having reckoned up the various and manifold Gifts of the Spirit, adds this Advice unto the Corinthians [Page 93] upon the consideration of them, [...], 1 Cor. 12. 31. Covet earnestly the best Gifts. Those that tend most to the Edification of the Church. Thus ever it was, and ever it will be in the Church of God, some have had, and some have better Gifts than others. And as the whole Church is hence to learn to acquiesce in, and submit to the Soveraignty of the Spirit of God, who divideth unto every man severally as he will; so those who have received these better and differing Gifts either in their especial Nature or Degrees of usefulness, have some Duties singularly incumbent on them, and whose discharge will be required at their hands. As (1) To walk humbly with a constant care, that a sense of their Gifts and Abilities do not in their minds puff them up, fill them with conceits of them­selves as though they were somewhat, and so make them exalt themselves above their Brethren. In the Apostolical and Primitive Church, when there was nothing of that secular Grandeur, Promotion, Preferments, Dignities amongst the Ministers of the Church, as now a days fill the world with Pride and Domination, all the Danger of an hurtful Elation of mind in one above another, was from the eminency of Gifts which some had received above others. And it cannot be denied but that the abuse hereof laid the foundation of all that swelling secular Pride, and cursed Domination or Lordly Rule which afterwards pestered the Church. The two things which the Apostle Peter in one place cautions and chargeth the Elders and Guides of the Church against became their Ruine, namely, filthy Lucre, and Love of Domination over the Lords Heritage, 1 Pet. 5. 2, 3. And indeed it is a very hard and difficult matter for men totally to suppress those insinuations of a good conceit of themselves, and preferring themselves before others, which Gifts singular in their use and kind will suggest. Neither will it be effected without a constant exercise of Grace. For this cause the Apostle would not have a Novice called to the Mini­stry or publick exercise of Spiritual Gifts, namely, lest he be puffed up with Pride and fall into the Condemnation of the Devil, 1 Tim. 3. 6. Afflictions and Temptations for the most part, are a needful Ballance for eminent Gifts. This therefore the Scripture hath provided against, both warning us, that knowledge, which is the matter of all spiritual Gifts, will puff up, and forbidding us to boast in them, be­cause they are things which are freely bestowed on us, without respect unto any thing of good or worth in our selves, 1 Cor. 4. 7. And if we reckon aright those of us whose Gifts are inferiour unto those of other men, provided we use and improve what we have received unto the best advantage we are able, have no reason to envy them whose Gifts out-shine ours. For if they are gracious, they have work enough cut out for them to keep them watchful over themselves unto Humility, where yet it is to be feared that things do not always so well succeed, but that by sinful sur­prisals of self elating Imaginations, there is work made for Repentance and Trouble. Yea he who is eminently gifted, if he be not eminently humble hath but an unquiet life within doors. And if such a Person be not truly gracious, he is in the ready way to fall into the condemnation of the Devil. Such a Person is a prey to every Temptation, and will also seduce himself into all evil.

(2) It is required of such persons as to be humble, so in an especial manner to be thankful. The things whereof they are partakers are Gifts, and not to be thank­ful for Gifts, is the most proper ingratitude.

(3) A Fruitfulness proportionable unto the excellency of their Gifts. He who had received five Talents was not only obliged to Trade with them, but to get five Ta­lents more. The increase of one or two Talents would not have served his turn. To whom much is given, of him not somewhat, but much is required. The hiding of many Talents is a sin whereof there is no Instance in the Scripture; it is a sin that hath a greatness in it not to be supposed; and those who may be concerned in it, ought to tremble with the Apprehensions of it. Our Lord is coming, and alas there is none of us who have traded with his Talents as we ought to have done. We hope that in his infinite mercy and compassion he will spare and pardon, and accept of that little which we have endeavoured after in sincerity; but in the mean time we ought always to consider that labour and fruitfulness ought to be pro­portioned unto what we have received. But yet these are not the Better things here directly intended. For from them, or any thing that is in the best of them, no such conclusion can be made as that here by our Apostle, seeing he had shewed be­fore, that they might all perish and be lost.

[Page 94] Secondly, There are Spiritual things which differ in their whole kind and nature from other things, and are better than they as to their Essence and Being. Such is all saving Grace, with all the Fruits of it. I shall not now stay to prove that true saving Grace differs specifically from all common Grace however advanced in its ex­ercise by the company and help of Spiritual Gifts, much less to wrangle about what doth formally constitute a specifical difference between things. But this I say plainly, which I can prove assuredly, that true Gospel Faith and sincere Obedience are better things than the most glorious Hypocrite or most reformed unregenerate Person was ever made partaker of. In the visible professing Church all things outwardly seem to be equal. There are the same Ordinances administred unto all, the same Pro­fession of Faith is made by all, the same outward Duties are attended unto, and scandalous offences are by all avoided. But yet things are not internally equal. Many are called but few are chosen; In a great House there are Vessels of Wood and Stone, as well as of Gold and Silver. All that eat outwardly in Ordinances of the Bread of Life, do not feed on the hidden Manna. All that have their names enrolled in the Churches Book may not yet have them written in the Lambs Book. There are yet better things than Gifts, Profession, Participation of Ordinances and what­ever is of the like nature. And the use hereof in one word is to warn all sorts of Persons, that they rest not in, that they take not up with an Interest in, or Parti­cipation of the Priviledges of the Church, with a common Profession, which may give them a name to live; seeing they may be dead or in a perithing condition in the mean time.

There are according to the Tenour of the Covenant of Grace, such things bestowed on some persons, as Salvation doth infallibly accompany and ensue upon. Better things and Obser. 2. such as have Salvation accompanying of them. This Assertion is founded on the nature of the Covenant of Grace, in the first Covenant it was not so. The best things bestowed by virtue of it, might perish and did so. Many excellent things were bestowed on us when we were created in the Image of God. But they were all such things as we might lose, and did lose, and thereby came short of that Glory of God, which we were created for. But in the Covenant of Grace, there is such a disposal and concatenation of Spiritual things, that a real participation of some of them, doth infallibly conclude unto an indefeazable Interest in them all. This did the Apostle assure us in an express annumeration of them, Rom. 8. 29, 30. For instance, there is a saving Faith of this nature. For (1) It is an effect of Gods immutable purpose of Election. If that therefore cannot be changed, this cannot utterly fail and be lost. Whom he predestinates them he calls, that is, to saving Faith by Jesus Christ. Faith is of Gods Elect, and they only believe truly who are or­dained to Eternal Life. (2) The Lord Christ intercedeth that this Faith may never fail, or be utterly lost, Joh. 17. 8, 11, 15. &c. (3) The Power of God is engaged in the preservation of it, 2 Pet. 1. 3. 1 Pet. 1. 5. Ephes. 1. 19, 20. (4) The Pro­mises of the Covenant are expresly multiplied unto this purpose, Jer. 31. 32, 33. chap. 32. 38, 39, 40. And the like may be said of all other saving Graces. And on this Ground doth the Apostle call those better things that these Hebrews were made partakers of, such as accompany Salvation.

It is the Duty of all Professors strictly to examine themselves concerning their Partici­pation of those better things which accompany Salvation. Their condition is deplora­ble Obser. 3. who under an outward Profession do satisfie themselves with those common Gifts, Graces, and Duties, which are separable from Salvation. Yet that it is so with many in the world who thereon cry Peace, Peace, whilst suddain Destruction is coming upon them, is openly manifest. See the Advice of the Apostle express to this pur­pose, 2 Cor. 13. 8.

We may yet farther observe how variously the Apostle treats these Hebrews. Some­times he stiles them Holy Brethren, affirming them to be Partakers of the Heavenly Calling; so also that they had those better things in them which accompany Salva­tion. Sometimes he tells them that they were dull and slothful, and had need be taught again what are the Principles of the Oracles of God; and sets before them the final Destruction of Apostates to ingenerate a fear and apprehension of the Terror of the Lord in them. Now this variety in the Apostles treating of them [Page 95] proceeds not from present Commotions, not from any Rhetorical Artifice, but from a regular and steady Judgement concerning the condition of the whole Church. For (1) There were indeed several sorts of Professors among them answering the several Descriptions he gives of them. He spake therefore to the whole community indefinitely, leaving the especial Application of what he speaks unto themselves in particular, according as their different conditions did require. And this is the only safe and prudent way for Ministers to deal with their Flocks. For when any conceive themselves by other circumstances to be singled out for Reproof and Threatening, they commonly draw forth disadvantage to themselves thereby. (2) The best of the Hearers of the Gospel may have much to be blamed in them, although their sincerity in general ought to be highly approved. (3) Severe Threa­tenings in the Dispensation of the Gospel, are usually proposed unto them, who yet are not absolutely liable to the Penalty threatened. They do not predict what will come to pass, but warn what is to be avoided.



The Syriack renders [...] by [...] perversus, iniquus, it omitteth [...] also as doth the vulgar Latine, but expresseth [...] emphatically, [...] and that your Love. Other material differences among Translators there is not.

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the labour of that Love which you have (evidently) shewed towards his name, in that you have ministred to the Saints and do minister.

The Expositors of the Roman Church do greatly perplex themselves and others in their Comments on this Text. They generally agree in an endeavour from hence to prove the merit of works against Protestants, because the Council of Trent applies this Text to that purpose. And none are more confident herein than our Rhemists, who after their usual Reproaches of Protestants, affirm, That good works are meritorious and the very cause of Salvation, so that God should be unjust if he ren­dered not Heaven for the same. But they are greatly divided among themselves about the state of the persons and kind of the Works here intended. Some contend that the Apostle speaks to, and of such as were fallen out of a state of Justification into a state of deadly sin. And the works of which it is said that God will not for­get them, are those which they wrought in that estate from whence they were now supposed to be fallen. For on the account of those former works, God will spare them and not destroy them. And although there be no present merit in these works, whilst those who wrought them are in a state of deadly sin, yet when they shall be recovered by Penance, these works which were before mortified by their falling from Grace, and so became of no use as to present merit, shall recover their former meri­torious virtue, as if they had never been forfeited by deadly sin. This therefore is the sense which these persons would affix unto these words. Where any have been in a state of Justification, and have wrought good works therein, meritorious of Eternal Life, if they fall into deadly sin, they immediately lose all the merit and be­nefit of those works. But notwithstanding God in his Righteousness keeps the Remembrance of these works, so that when such sinners return again by Penance into their first estate, these works shall revive into a condition of merit. This sense is opposed by others. For they think those mentioned are justified persons, and the Apostle expresseth the merit of their present works, with respect unto the Righteous­ness of God. The Reader who desires to see such Chaffe tossed up and down, may find these things debated in Aquinas, Adamus, Estius, A Lapide, Ribera, Maldonat, de Tena, and others of them on the place.

How Forraign these Discourses are to the Text and Context is evident to every impartial considerer of it. They are only Chimera's hatched out of the proud [Page 96] Imaginations of the merit of their works that these mens minds are prepossessed withall. For (1) Our Apostle treats of those whom he supposeth and judgeth to be in a present good Spiritual Condition. For with respect thereunto he ascribeth unto them things that accompany Salvation, and prescribeth no other Duty unto them for the actual enjoyment of it, but only those of Faith and Love and Ministration unto the Saints, which at present he commendeth in them. What they did formerly that he affirms them to continue in the performance of, You have ministred and you do mini­ster. (2) The Apostle expresly distinguisheth them concerning whom he now speaks, from those who were now fallen off from the Profession of the Gospel, or that state of Justification which the Romanists suppose. (3) He doth not direct these persons to seek after a Recovery out of the Condition wherein they were, but incourageth them unto a continuance therein, and to shew the same Diligence unto that purpose, as formerly, to the End, ver. 12. Nothing therefore is more fond than to suppose that any thing is here taught concerning the mortification of good works as to their merit by deadly sin, and their recovery thereof by Penance, a fiction which these men dream of to no purpose.

2ly. Neither is countenance given unto the other Imagination in general con­cerning the merit of works in these words. For (1) The Design of the Apostle is only to let them know that their Labour in the work of the Lord, that their Obe­dience unto the Gospel should not be lost or be in vain. And hereof he gives them assurance from the Nature of God with whom they had to do, with respect unto that Covenant whereinto he takes them that do believe. They had been sedulous in the discharge of the great Duty of ministring unto the Saints, in particular upon the account of the Name of Jesus Christ that was upon them. These Duties had been attended with trouble, danger and charge. And it was needful to confirm them in a perswasion that they should not-be lost. This they might be two ways. (1) If themselves should fall away and not persist in their course unto the end. (2) If God should overlook, or forget as it were all that they had done. Against both these Apprehensions the Apostle secures them. From the first in that the works mentioned having been truly gracious works, proceeding from Faith and Love, they evidence their Persons to be in that state of Grace wherein they should be effectually preserved unto the End, by virtue of Gods Faithfulness in Covenant, which he further pursues towards the end of the Chapter. Nor secondly, had they the least reason to doubt of their future Reward. For who was it that called them to these Duties, and on what account? Is it not God and that according un­to the Tenour of the Covenant of Grace? and hath he not therein promised to accept their Persons and their Duties by Jesus Christ? If now he should not do so, would he not be unrighteous, must he not deny himself, and not remember his Promise? Wherefore the Righteousness of God here intended in his Faithfulness in the Promises of the Covenant. And he is not said to be Righteous in rewarding or not rewarding, but in not forgetting. He is not unrighteous to forget. Now to forget any thing doth not reflect immediately on distributive Justice, but upon Fidelity in making good of some ingagement. But not to ingage into Disputations in this place, let men acknowledge that the new Covenant is a Covenant of Grace, that the Constitution of a Reward unto the Obedience required therein is of Grace, that this Obedience is not accepted on its own account, but of the Mediation of Christ, that all mens good works will not make a Compensation for one sin; that we are to place our Trust and Confidence in Christ alone for Life and Salvation, because he is the End of the Law for Righteousness unto them that do believe; and let them please themselves for a while, in the fancy of the merit of their works, at least of the high and necessary place which they hold in their Justification before God; after all their wrangling Disputes it will be Christ and Grace alone that they will betake themselves unto, or their case will be deplorable. These things I have premised that we may have no cause to divert unto them, in the ensuing Exposition of the words.

The Apostle in this Verse gives an account of the Grounds of his Perswasion concerning these Hebrews, expressed in the Verse foregoing. And these he declares unto them partly for Encouragement, and partly that they might be satisfied in his Sincerity, and that he did not give them fair words to entice or allure them by. And the reasons he gives to this purpose may be reduced unto two Heads.

[Page 97] 1. The Observation which he had made concerning their Faith and Love, with the Fruits of them.

2. The Faithfulness of God in Covenant, whereon the final preservation of all true Believers doth depend.

These are the Grounds of that perswasion concerning their state and condition which he expressed in the foregoing words. Hence that perswasion of his was of a mixt nature, and had something in it of a Divine Faith, and somewhat only of a moral certainty. As he drew his conclusion from, or built his perswasion on Gods Faithfulness or Righteousness, so there was in it an infallible Assurance of Faith that could not deceive him. For what we believe concerning God as he hath re­vealed himself, is infallible. But as his Perswasion had respect unto the Faith, Love and Obedience which he had observed in them, so it was only a moral Assurance, and such as in its own nature might fail. For God only is [...]; and we who judge by the outward evidences of invisible things may be deceived. The Proposition from Gods Faithfulness is of infallible Truth; the Application of it unto these Hebrews of moral Evidence only. Such a Perswasion we may have in this case, which is prevalent against all Objections, a certain Rule for the performance of all Duties on our parts towards others; and such had the Apostle concerning these Hebrews.

That which in the first place he confirms his Perswasion with is, [...], their work. God is not unrighteous to forget your work. It is not any singular work, but [...] a course in working which he intends. And what that work is, is declared in that parallel place of the same Apostle, 1 Thes. 1. 3. [...]; the same expressions with those in this place, which may be reckoned unto the multitude of other Instances of Coincidences of expressions in this and the other Epistles of the same Writer, all peculiar unto him­self, arguing him to be the Author of this also. Remembring your Work of Faith and Labour of Love. The Work here intended is the Work of Faith; The whole Work of Obedience to God, whereof Faith is the principle, and that which moves us thereunto. Hence it is called the Obedience of Faith, Rom. 1. 5.

And this Obedience of Faith according to the Gospel is called there, [...], their work. (1) Because it was their chief employment, their Calling lay in it. They did not attend unto it occasionally, or when they had nothing else to do, as is the manner of some. Religion was their business, and Gospel Obedience their daily work. This was their whole, even to fear God and keep his Commandments, as it is expressed under the Old Testament. (2) Because there is work and labour in it, or great pains to be taken about it. For hereunto our Apostle in the next Verse requires their diligence, ver. 11. as Peter doth all diligence, 2 Epist. 1. 11. And we may observe in our way,

That Faith, if it be a living Faith, will be a working Faith. It is the work Obser. 1; of Faith which the Apostle here commends. This case is so stated by James that it needs no farther confirmation, Chap. 2. 20. Wilt thou know, or knowest thou not, O vain man, that Faith without works is dead? He is a most vain man who thinks otherwise, who hopes for any Benefit by that Faith which doth not work by Love. Sathan hath no greater design in the world than to abuse Gospel Truths. When the Doctrine of free Justification by Faith, through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ, was first fully revealed and declared, his great Design then was to per­swade men that there was no need of Obedience, and so they could attain any manner of perswasion of the Truth of the Gospel, or make profession thereof, they might live in sin as they pleased, and neglect all good Works and Duties of Obe­dience. And although this be now condemned by all, yet indeed is it no more but what upon the matter most do practise according unto. For they suppose that by being of this or that Religion, Papists or Protestants, or the like, they shall be saved whatever their ways and works are. So Papists, for Instance, are indeed the greatest Solifidians in the world. For to own the Faith of the Church, is enough with them to secure the Salvation of any. This Abomination having been early started was seasonably suppressed by the writing of James and John. For the former directly and plainly lays open the Vanity of this pretence, declaring, that that Faith which they professed and boasted of, was not the Faith whereby any [Page 98] should be justified before God, nor of the same kind with it. For this Faith is living, operative, and fruitful, and evidenceth it self unto all by its Works and Fruits. Whereas that Faith whereof vain men living in their sins did boast, was so far from being a Grace of the Spirit of God, that it was no other but what was in the Devils themselves, and which they could not rid themselves of if they would. The latter without expressing the occasion of it, spends his Epistle in, declaring the necessity of Love and Obedience, or keeping the Commandments of Christ. Wherefore the enemy of our Salvation being defeated in this Attempt, he betook himself unto the other extream; contending that the works of Faith had the same place in our Justification with Faith it self. And why should they not? are not Faith and they equally Acts of Obedience in us? are not Faith and they equally required by the Gospel? why may they not be supposed to have an equal influence into our Justification? at least in the same kind, though Faith on some considerations may have the pre-eminence? I say these things are speciously plea­ded; but in short the Design is not to advance works into an Equality with Faith, but to advance them into the room of Christ and his Righteousness. For when we say, we are justified by Faith only, we do not say that Faith is our Righteousness, but as it apprehends the Righteousness of Christ, as he is the End of the Law for Righteousness unto them that do believe. And this is the use that God hath de­signed Faith unto, and which in its own nature it is suited for. But bring in the works of Obedience into the same place, and they are of no use but to be imputed unto us for Righteousness, and so to possess the place of Christ and his Righteous­ness in our Justification unto their Exclusion. But all this trouble might have been spared, if men had not been too ready and prone to receive Impressions from the crafty actings of Sathan against the purity and simplicity of the Gospel. For nothing is more evidently expressed and taught therein than are these two things. (1) That we are justified freely by Faith through the Redemption that is in the Blood of Christ, and so the Imputation of his Righteousness unto us. (2) That the Faith which hath this effect, which is of this use, is living, operative, fruitful, and will evidence it self by works in Obedience unto the Commands of God. And this is that which here we contend for, namely, that a living Faith will be a working Faith. And he is a vain man that deceives himself with any thing else in the room thereof. And yet this is the course of multitudes. But yet men do not deceive themselves herein notionally but practically. I never yet met with any man in my life who professed it as his Judgement, that so he believed aright, he might live as he pleased, follow his Lusts and neglect all good Works or holy Duties of Obedience. For this implies a contradiction. So to believe, is so far from believing aright, as that it contains in it a total Rejection of the Gospel. But practically we see that the generality of men content themselves with that know­ledge they have of Religion, and that Faith which they suppose they have in Christ, without once endeavouring after amendment of life or fruitfulness in good works. Now this is not from any conclusions they draw from any Doctrines which they profess to believe, but from the power of Darkness and the deceitful­ness of Sin that ruleth in them. And it is no otherwise among them who are taught to believe that they are justified by their works. For there is not a race of greater and more flagitious sinners, than (for the most part) are the men of that Perswasion. Only for their Relief, their Leaders have provided them with a Com­mutation of some other things instead of their good works which shall do the deed for them, as Penances, Pardons, Purgatory, Confessions, Pilgrimages, and the like. But be mens Perswasion what it will, right or wrong, where sin is predominant they will be wicked, and whatever be the Object of their Faith, if it be not living in the subject, it cannot work, nor be fruitful.

We ought to look on Obedience as our work; which will admit neither of sloth nor negligence. Here lies the occasion of the ruine of the Souls of men who profels the Obser. 2. Gospel. The Duties of Profession are a thing of course unto them, and that which lies without the compass of their principal work and business in the world. This makes their Profession serve to no other end, but to make them secure in a perishing condition. Now that our Obedience may indeed be our work, it is required, (1) That the carrying of it on, the attendance unto it, and furtherance of it in [Page 99] order unto the Glory of God, be our principal design in the world. That is a mans [...], his proper work which is so. God severely threateneth those which walk with him at peradventures, Levit. 26. 21. [...] if you shall walk with me fortuito, at hap hazard, that is, without making it your principal de­sign, and using your utmost diligence and care to proceed in it in a right manner; [...] ver. 24. then will even I my self walk with you at all adventures; though I continue with you, as one walking with you in my out­ward Ordinances and Institutions; yet will I have no regard unto you, as to do you any good, yea I will sorely punish you notwithstanding the Appearance of our walk­ing together, as it follows in the place. Yet is this the course of many who please themselves in their condition. They walk with God in outward appearance by the performance of Duties in their Times, Course, and Order; but they walk at all Adventures, as unto any especial design of their minds about it. Barnabas exhorted the Disciples at Antioch, that with purpose of Heart they would cleave unto the Lord, Acts 11. 23. [...], that is, with a firm Resolution to abide in, and pursue the Obedience they were called unto. So Paul tells Timothy, that he knew his Doctrine, manner of life and purpose, 2 Tim. 3. 10. namely, how his principal aim, design and resolution was to abide in and carry on his course of Faith and Obedience. And then is any thing the object of our purpose and prin­cipal design; (1) When we subordinate all other things and occasions unto it, that they may not justle nor enterfere, nor stand in competition with it, when to us, to live is Christ, or he is the chief end of our life. When men do usually and ordi­narily suffer other things to divert them from Duties of Obedience in their season, Obedience is not their principal design. (2) When it possesseth the chiefest place in our valuation and esteem. And this it doth absolutely where we attain that frame, that whilst the work of Faith and Obedience thrives in our Hearts and Lives, we are not much moved with whatever else befalls us in this world. This was the frame of our Apostle, Acts 21. 13. Phil. 3. 7, 8. But because of the weakness, and ingagement of our natural affections unto the lawful comforts of this Life, some are not able to rise unto that height of the undervaluation and contempt of these things whilst the work of our Obedience goes on, which we ought all to aim at; yet we must say, that if there be any sincerity in making our Obedience the princi­pal design of our lives, there will be a constant preference of it unto all other things. As when a man hath many particular losses, he may be allowed to be sensible of them, yet if he have that still remaining wherein his main stock and wealth doth consist, he will not only be relieved or refreshed but satisfied therewith. But if a man who pretends much unto a great Stock and Trade in another Country, gives up all for lost upon some damages he receiveth at home in his House or Shop, it is plain he hath no great confidence in the other Treasure that he pretended unto. No more have men any especial Interest in the work of Obedience, which whilst they suppose it to be safe, do yet lose all their comforts in the loss of other things. (3) When any thing is the object of our chief design, the principal contrivances of our minds will be concerning it. And this makes the great difference in Profession and Duties. Men may multiply Duties in a course of them, and yet their Spirits not be ingaged in and about them as their business. Consider how most men are con­versant about their secular affairs: They do not only do the things that are to be done, but they beat as we say their Heads and Minds about them. And it is ob­served that however industrious in their way many men may be, yet if they have not a good contrivance and projection about their Affairs, they seldom prosper in them. It is so also in things Spiritual. The Fear of the Lord is our Wisdom; it is our Wisdom to keep his Commandments and walk in his ways. Now the principal work of Wisdom is in contriving and disposing the ways and methods whereby any end we aim at may be obtained. And where this is not exercised, there Obedi­ence is not our work. How Temptations may be avoided, how Corruptions may be subdued, how Graces may be increased and strengthened, how Opportunities may be improved, how Duties may be performed to the Glory of God, how Spiritual Life may be strengthened, Peace with God maintained, and Acquaintance with Jesus Christ increased, are the daily thoughts and contrivances of him who makes Obedience his work. (2) Actual Diligence and Watchfulness is required in our Obedience, if we do make it our work. And (3) A due consideration of what [Page 100] doth and will rise up in opposition unto it, or unto us in it, which things being com­monly spoken unto I shall not here enlarge upon them.

The second thing whereon the Apostle grounds his confidence concerning these He­brews is their labour of Love, [...]. For the words express a distinct [...]. Grace and its excrcise, and are, not exegetical of the preceding expressions. It is not your work, that is, your Labour of Love. But this Labour of Love is distinguished from their work in general, as an eminent part or instance of it. This the copulative Conjun­ction after [...] evinceth. [...]; of your work, that is, of Obedience in general, the work of Faith, and of your Labour of Love, namely, in particular and eminently, [...], as we observed, is passed by in some Translations, but without cause; The original Copies are uniform in it, and the parallel place doth expresly require it, 1 Thes. 1. 3.

There is in the remaining part of this Verse, which depends on these words;

  • 1. What the Apostle ascribes unto these Hebrews, which is the Labour of Love.
  • 2. The way whereby they evidenced this Labour of Love; they shewed it.
  • 3. The object of it, and that is the Saints.
  • 4. The formal reason and principal motive unto it, which is the name of God; for his names sake.
  • 5. The way of its exercise; it was by ministration, both past and present, in that you have ministred and do minister.

In the first of these the Apostle observes the Grace it self, and its exercise, their Love and its Labour.

This Grace or Duty being excellent and rare, and its exercise in Labour being highly necessary and greatly neglected, and both in conjunction being a principal Evidence of a good Spiritual condition, of an Interest in those Better things which accompany Salvation, I shall a little divert unto the especial consideration of them.

[...], Love is the second great Duty of the Life of God, which is brought to light by the Gospel. It is Faith that gives Glory to God on high, and Love that [...]. brings Peace on the Earth, wherein the Angels comprised the substance of our Deliverance by Jesus Christ, Luke 2. 14. Neither is there any thing of it in the whole world but what is derived from the Gospel.

All things were at first made in a state of Love. That Rectitude, Order, Peace and Harmony which was in the whole Creation was an Impression from, and an Expression of the Love of God. And our Love towards him was the Bond of that Perfection, and the Stability of that State and Condition. The whole Beauty of the Creation below consisted in this, namely, in mans loving God above all, and all other things in him and for him, according as they did participate of and express his Glory and Properties. This represented that Love which was in God to­wards all his Creatures, which he testified by declaring them to be all very good.

When man by sin had broken the first link of this Chain of Love, when thereby we lost the Love of God to us, and renounced our own Love unto him, all things fell into disorder and confusion in the whole Creation; all things were filled with mutual Enmity and Hatred. The first Instance of mutual Love among the Creatures was that between Angels and Men, as those which were in the nearest Alliance, and made for the same End of the Glory of God. For as the Angels rejoiced in the whole Creation of God, when those morning Stars sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy, Job 38. 7. so man being the most capable object of their Love, was their especial Delight. And man being made to love God above all, and all other things in him and for him, his principal Love must be fixed on those who had the most of the Image, and made the most glorious Representation of God. But the Bond of Love being dissolved, mutual Enmity succeeded in the room thereof. And the first Act of Angelical Obedience we read of, was their keeping man from a return into Eden, and eating of the Tree of Life, Gen. 3. 24. and men could look on them only as flaming Swords, ready to execute the wrath of God and the Curse upon him. And this state would have continued unto Eternity, had not God gathered all things again into one, both which are in Heaven and which are in Earth, even in Christ [Page 101] Jesus, Ephes. 1. to. There could never more have been any Love, nor any Duties of Love between Angels and Men, had not God restored all things by Jesus Christ. This is the only foundation of the whole Ministry of Angels in Love, Heb. 1. 14. For men themselves, mutual Enmity and hatred possessed them. And he who first acted in that frame and spirit which came upon them was a murderer, and slew his Brother. And this the Apostle proposeth as the Instance and Example of that Hatred and Enmity which is among men under the Curse, 1 Joh. 3. 11, 12. And there is no greater Evidence of any persons being uninterested in the Restauration of all things by Christ, than the want of that Love which was again introduced thereby. So the Apostle describing the condition of men in their unregenerate condition, affirms that they live in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another, Tit. 3. 3. There ensued also an Enmity between man and all the Creation here below. The sin of man had brought all things into a Condition of Vanity and Bondage, which they groan to be delivered from, Rom. 8. 20, 21, 22. And the Earth the common Mother of them all, as it were to revenge it self on men, brings forth nothing but Thorns and Thistles, Gen. 3. 18. and yields not her strength to his labour, Gen. 4. 12. Hence is all that vanity, vexation, and sore travail which the life of man is filled withall. After the entrance of this disorder and confusion, there was nothing of true original Love in the world, nor was it by any means attainable. For it all arose from the Love of God, and was animated by our Love unto him. But now all things were filled with Tokens and Evidences of the Anger, Displea­sure, and Curse of God for sin. And men were wholly alienated from the Life of God. No new Spring or Life can be given unto Love, but by a new discovery, that God was Love, and had a Love for us. For so the Apostle tells us, Herein is Love, not that we loved God but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the Propitiation of our sins, 1 Joh. 4. 10. But if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another, ver. 11. No Love could there be, until a fresh Revelation was made that God is Love; for the first which he had made in the Creation was utterly lost. And this was done by Jesus Christ.

There was some step made unto that confusion which ensued on the loss of this universal Love by the first Promise; without which, the whole lower Creation would have been an Hell, and nothing else. This was the spring of all that Love which was in the Old Testament, because it was a new discovery that there was yet Love in God towards fallen mankind. And whatever in the world may pretend thereunto, yet if it proceed not from the new Revelation and Discovery that God is Love, it is nothing of that Divine Love which is required of us. And this is only in Christ; In him alone the [...] and [...], the Benignity and Love of God unto mankind appeared, Tit. 3. 4. And here is a foundation laid and a spring opened of a Love far more excellent than that which our Nature was furnished and adorned withall in the first Creation. For the Love of God being the cause and fountain of ours, which is a compliance with the manifestation of it, the more eminently the Love of God is manifested, the more eminent is that Love which is the fruit thereof. And Gods Love is far more gloriously displayed in Christ than it was in all the works of his hands. In him alone we know not only that God hath Love, but that he is Love; that he hath Love for sinners, and that such a Love, as in the spring, means, and effects of it, is every way ineffable and incom­prehensible.

The whole of what I intend is expressed by the Apostle John, 1 Epist. cap. 4. ver. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. Beloved let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God; He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is Love. In this was manifested the Love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son 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 the Propitiation for our sins; Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another; No man hath seen God at any time, if we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his Love is per­fected in us.

All that we have before affirmed and much more, is here declared by the Apo­stle. It is Gods being Love himself which is the Eternal Spring of all Love in us. Neither could we have any thing of it, or interest in it, without some glorious effect and manifestation of the Love of God, which he also gave in sending his Son [Page 102] to be a Propitiation for our sins. And the Love which proceeds from hence, hath all the glorious Properties here ascribed unto it. Wherefore there is no such way and means whereby we may express the distinguishing Light, Grace and Power of the Gospel, no such Evidence of the reality of our Interest in God, as Love, or in the Love of God by Christ, as by and in our own Love to him and his.

The Mystical Body of Christ is the second great mystery of the Gospel. The first is his Person, that great mystery of Godliness God manifest in the Flesh. In this mystical Body we have Communion with the Head, and with all the Members; with the Head by Faith, and with the Members by Love. Neither will the first compleat our Interest in that Body without the latter. Hence are they frequently conjoyned by our Apostle, not only as those which are necessary unto, but as those which Es­sentially constitute the Union of the whole mystical Body and Communion therein, Gal. 5. 6. Ephes. 6. 23. 1 Thes. 1. 3. 1 Tim. 1. 14. chap. 1. 11. 2 Tim. 1. 13. chap. 2. 22. Wherefore without Love we do no more belong to the Body of Christ, than without Faith it self. And in one place he so transposeth them in his ex­pression to manifest their inseparable connexion and use unto the Union and Com­munion of the whole Body, as that it requires some care in their distribution unto their peculiar objects, Philem. 5. Hearing of thy Love and Faith which thou hast to­wards the Lord Jesus, and towards all Saints. Both these Graces are spoken of as if they were exercised in the same manner towards both their Objects, Christ and the Saints. But although Christ be the Object of our Love also, and not of our Faith only, yet are not the Saints so the Object of our Love, as to be the Object of our Faith also. We believe a Communion with them, but place not our Trust in them. There is therefore a variation in the Prepositions prefixed unto the respective Objects of these Graces. [...], and [...]; And this directs us unto a distribution of these Graces in their Operations unto their distinct Objects, Faith towards the Lord Jesus and Love to the Saints. But they are so mixed here to declare the infallible connexion that is between them, in the constitution of the mystical Body of Christ. This therefore is the form, life, and soul of all mutual Duties between the Members of Christs mystical Body. Whatever passeth between them in outward works wherein they may be useful and beneficial unto one another, if it spring not from this principle of Love, if it be not quickened and animated thereby, there is nothing of Evangelical Communion in it.

Whereas therefore this Grace and Duty is the peculiar Effect and Glory of the Gospel, the form and life of the mystical Body of Christ, the pledge and evidence of our Interest in those better things which accompany Salvation, I shall briefly de­clare the nature of it, and shew the reason of the necessity of its diligent ex­ercise.

Mutual love among Believers, is a fruit of the Spirit of Holiness, and effect of Faith, whereby being knit together in the Bond of entire Spiritual Affection, on the account of their joynt Interest in Christ, and participation of the same new, divine, spiritual Nature from God, do value, delight, and rejoyce in one another, and are mutually helpful in a constant discharge of all those Duties, whereby their eternal, spiritual and temporal Good may be promoted.

1. It is a fruit of the Spirit of Holiness, of the Spirit of Christ, Gal. 5. 22. It is no more of our selves than Faith is, it is the Gift of God. Natural Affections are in-laid in the constitution of our Beings. Carnal Affections are grown inseparable from our nature as corrupted. Both excited by various Objects, Relations, Occa­sions, and Interest, do exert themselves in many outward effects of Love. But this Love hath no root in our selves until it be planted in us by the Holy Ghost. And as it is so, it is the principal part of the Renovation of our natures into the Image of God, who is Love. This Love is of God; And every one that loveth is born of God, 1 Joh. 4. 7. You are taught of God to love one another.

2. It is an effect of Faith. Faith worketh by Love, Gal. 5. 6. Hence as we ob­served before, Love to the Saints is so frequently added unto Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, as the effect and pledge of it. And although it proceeds in general from Faith as it respects the Commands and Promises of God, yet it derives immediately from Faith as acted on the Lord Jesus Christ. For he being the Head of the whole mystical Body, it is Faith in him that acts it self by Love towards all the Members. Holding him the Head by Faith, the whole Body edifies it self in Love, Ephes. 4. [Page 103] 15, 18. And the more sincere, active and firm our Faith in Christ is, the more abundant will our Love be towards all his Saints. For Faith in Christ doth first ex­cite Love unto him, from whom, as it were, it descends unto all that it finds of him in any others. And our Love of the Saints, is but the Love of Christ repre­sented and exhibited unto us in them. The Papists tell us that Love or Charity is the form or life of Faith, without which it is dead. It is so far true, that accor­ding to the Apostle James, where it is not, there Faith is dead. Not that it is the life of Faith, but that Faith wherever it is living will work by Love. Faith there­fore is the life, the quickening, animating principle of Love, and not on the con­trary. And that Love which proceedeth not from, which is not the effect of, which is not enlivened by Faith, is not that which the Gospel requireth.

3. Believers are knit together in an entire Affection. This is that Cement whereby the whole mystical Body of Christ is fitly joyned together and compacted, Ephes. 4. 16. This mutual adherence is by the uniting, cementing efflux of Love. It is but an Image of the Body, or a dead carkass that men set up, where they would make a Bond for Professors of Christianity, consisting of outward Order, Rules, and Methods of Duties. A Church without it, is an heap of dead stones, and not living stones fitly compacted and built up a Temple unto God. Break this Bond of Perfection, and all spiritual Church Order ceaseth; for what remains is carnal and worldly. There may be Churches constituted in an outward humane Order, on supposed prudential Principles of Union, and external Duties of Communion, which may continue in their Order, such as it is, where there is no Spiritual Evangelical Love in exercise among the Members of them. But where Churches have no other Order, nor Bond of Communion but what is appointed by Christ, wherever this Love faileth, their whole Order will dissolve.

4. This mutual Love among Believers, springs from and is animated by their mu­tual Interest in Christ, with their Participation of the same Divine Nature thereby. It is from their Union in Christ the Head, that all the Members of the Body do mutually contribute what they derive from him unto the edification of the whole, in the exercise of Love. Hereby are they all brought into the nearest Relation to one another, which is the most effectual motive and powerful attractive unto Love. For as the Lord Christ saith of every one that doth the will of God, the same is my Brother and Sister, and Mother, Matth. 12. 18. he is dearly beloved by him, as standing in the nearest Relation unto him; so are all Believers by virtue of their common Interest in Christ their Head, as Brothers, Sisters, and Mothers to each other; as Members of the same Body which is yet nearer, whence the most intense Affection must arise. And they have thereby the same new spiritual nature in them all. In Love natural, he that doth most love and prize himself, commonly doth least love and prize others. And the reason is, because he loves not himself for any thing which is common unto him with others, but his self-love is the ordering and centring of all things unto his own satisfaction. But with this Spiritual Love he that Loves himself most, that is, doth most prize and value the Image of God in himself, doth most Love others in whom it is. And we may know whether we cherish and improve Grace in our own Hearts, by that Love which we have unto them in whom it doth manifest it self. 1 Joh. 5. 1.

5. This Love in the first place acts it self by valuation, esteem, and delight. So the Psalmist affirms, that all his delight was in the Saints and in the excellent in the Earth, Psal. 16. 3. The Apostle carries this unto the height in that Instance, wherein we ought to lay down our lives for the Brethren, 1 Joh. 3. 16. For whereas Life is comprehensive of all that is dear or useful unto us in this world, what we ought if called thereunto to part with our lives for, we value and esteem above them all. It is true, the cases wherein this is actually required in us, do not frequently occur; And they are such alone wherein the Glory and Interest of Christ are in an especial manner concerned. But such a Love as will always dispose, and when we are called enable us unto this Duty, is required to be in us if we are Disciples of Christ. So are we to prize and value them, as at least to be ready to share with them in all their conditions. For,

6. This Love acts it self by all means, in all ways and Duties whereby the Eternal, Spiritual and Temporal good of others may be promoted. And it would require a long discourse to go over but the principal Heads of those Ways and Duties which are [Page 104] required unto this End. Something will be spoken afterwards to that purpose. At present I have aimed only at such a Description of this Love, as may distinguish it from that cold, formal pretence of it in some outward Duties, which the most sa­tisfie themselves withall.

This is that Love which the Gospel so earnestly commendeth unto, and so in­dispensibly requireth in all the Disciples of Christ. This with its exercise and effects, its Labour and Fruits, is the Glory, Life and Honour of our Profession, without which no other Duties are accepted with God.

And the reason is manifest from what hath been spoken why the Apostle giveth this as a ground of his good Perswasion concerning these Hebrews, as that they had an especial Interest in those Better things from which Salvation is inseparable. For if this Love in general be so a Grace of the Gospel, if it so spring and arise from the Love of God in Christ, as that there neither ever was, nor can be the least of it in the world which is not an Emanation from that Love; and if in its especial nature it so particularly relates unto the Spirit of Christ, and our Union with him, it must needs be among the principal Evidences of a good spiritual condition. And the same will yet farther appear if we consider the grounds whereon it is inforced in the Gospel, which are principally these that follow.

1. As the Head of all other considerations the Lord Christ expresseth it as that which was to be the great Evidence unto the world of the Truth and Power of the Gospel, as also of his own being sent of God, Joh. 17. 21. That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may be­lieve that thou hast sent me. It is true there is another especial principle of the Union of Believers as they are one in God and Christ. This is that one Spirit where­by they are all united unto him as their mystical Head. But this alone is not here intended, as being that which the world can no way discern, nor consequently be convinced by. He intends therefore their Unity among themselves, the Life and Spirit and Bond whereof is this Love, as hath been declared. There is no other kind of Unity which may be among Christians, that carrieth the least conviction with it, of the Divine Mission, Truth and Power of Christ. For they may be all carnal, from carnal Principles, and for carnal Ends, wherein the world can see nothing ex­traordinary, as having many such Unities of its own. Herein therefore doth the Testimony consist which we give to the world, that Jesus Christ was sent of God. And if we fail herein, we do what we can to harden the world in its impenitency and unbelief. To see Believers live in Love according to the nature, and acting the Duties of it before mentioned, was in ancient times a great means of the Con­viction of the world concerning the Truth and Power of the Gospel, and will be so again when God shall afresh pour down abundantly that Spirit of Light and Love which we pray for. And in some measure it doth so at present. For who­soever shall consider the true Church of Christ aright, will find the Evidences of a Divine Power in this matter. For it doth and ever did consist of all sorts of per­sons in all Nations and Languages whatever. High and low, rich and poor, Jews, Greeks, Barbarians, Scythians, men of all Interests, Humours, Oppositions, dividing Circumstances, at distances as far as the East from the West, do constitute this Body, this Society. Yet is there among all these, known to each other or unknown, an ineffable Love ready to work and exercise it self on all occasions in all the ways before insisted on. And this can be from no other Principle but the Spirit and Divine Power of God, giving Testimony thereby unto the Lord Christ whose Disciples they are.

2. Our Right unto, our Priviledge in, and Evidence of our being the Disciples of Christ, depends on our mutual Love, Joh. 14. 34, 35. A new Commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one ano­ther. By this shall all men know that you are my Disciples if you have love one to ano­ther. This especial Commandment of Christ concerning mutual love among his Disciples is here and elsewhere called a new Commandment. When mankind by sin fell off from the love of God, and out of it, from loving him and being loved of him, they fell into all manner of discord and enmity among themselves, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another, Tit. 3. 3. And from the same root still springs all contention. From whence come Wars and Fightings, come they not hence, even from your Lusts, Jam. 4. 1. In the former Revelations of the Will of [Page 105] God as in the Law, there was mutual Love commanded, Envy, Hatred, and Re­venge being forbidden. But yet there was a great defect and weakness in this matter, partly in the obscurity of the Law, partly out of some forbearances which God was pleased to exercise towards that carnal people by reason of the hardness of their hearts; and partly out of their darkness that they did not understand the Spirituality and Holiness of the Commands. But the principal Imperfection of the Law in this matter was, that it gave no Example of that Love which is necessary to restore us into that condition of the Love of God and one another which we fell from. This was reserved for Christ that in all things he might have the pre-emi­nence. Until he set us the example of it in his inexpressible Love to us which is so frequently proposed unto our imitation, we could not know what kind of Love it was wherewith we ought to love one another. So saith he here, That you love one another as I have loved you; see Joh. 3. 16. Hence the Commandment of Love becomes a new Commandment; not only because it was newly revived by Christ in an especial manner, when the Doctrine of the Duties of it was cast under Phari­saical corruptions, Matth. 5. and the practice of it in the wickedness of the world, nor only because it was more plainly and clearly given by him than it had been un­der the Law, or only because he had revealed the Love of God unto us; but prin­cipally because it was now founded, established, and animated by the Example of the Love of Christ himself, which gave it a new life and nature, making it a new Commandment. And the first Observation of it is the first Evidence of the Reno­vation of all things by Jesus Christ. He came to restore and renew all things; but the work whereby he doth it, is for the most part secret and invisible in the Souls of men. What Evidence and Token of this great work is there given unto the World? It is principally this, the bringing forth of the practice of that Love, which is in a manner the fulfilling of that Original Law of our Creation which we broke and from which we fell. For so he adds, By this shall all men know that you are my Disciples, if you have Love one for another, The great Example which I have set you being that of Love, the new Commandment which I have given you being that of Love; the design I have to accomplish in and by you being the Reno­vation of Love, how shall or can men otherwise know you to be my Disciples but by your mutual love? Without this therefore we can no way evidence our selves to be the Disciples of Christ. And this one consideration is of more weight with me, than a thousand wrangling Disputes that would furiously drive men into such outward forms and compliances which they call Love.

3. This mutual Love is that wherein the Communion of Saints doth consist. How great a thing that Communion is, appears from the place which the acknowledge­ment of it hath always had in the ancient Creeds of the Church. I do not say this Communion doth consist solely therein. There belongs unto it a common participa­tion of the same sanctifying Spirit, and a common Interest in the same spiritual Head Christ Jesus, as to its principles, and common participation of the same Ordinances as to its exercise. But herein doth this Communion among themselves principally consist. That it hath no concernment in an outward compliance with certain Rites and Ceremonies that are invented not for the life of Unity, but for a shew of Uniformity, I suppose all men are well enough satisfied. But this is the Order of the Communion of Saints. The foundation of it is laid in a joynt par­ticipation of the same quickening Spirit, and Union with Christ thereby. It is acted and exercised by Love arising from this Spring; and it is expressed in our joynt participation of the same Ordinances of Worship. Hence it is apparent that where this Love is not, there is no Communion of Saints nor any thing belonging there­unto. For our participation together in the same Ordinances is no part thereof, unless the influence of our Original Communion in the participation of the same Spirit, be conveyed thereunto by Love, by which alone it is acted. This the Apo­stle fully expresseth; Ephes. 4. 15, 16. But speaking the Truth in Love we may grow up into him in all things which is the Head even Christ; from whom the whole Body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joynt supplieth, according to the effe­ctual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the Body unto the edifying of it self in Love. There is not a more eminent description of the Communion of Saints, especially as united in Church Order, in the whole Scripture. And we see that it begins and ends in Love, and so is carried on from first unto last. The [Page 106] Spring and Fountain of it lies in our Relation unto, and Union with Christ the Head. And we are said to grow up into him in all things, when we expresly de­rive all from him, and direct all to him, when in the increase of every Grace, our Union with him is more express and confirmed, and our likeness with, nearness to him is enlarged. From him as from the Head, the whole Body and every Mem­ber thereof, hath all those spiritual supplies, whereby their Union with him is ex­pressed, and their Communion among themselves is acted and carried on. For the Union and Communion of the Church doth not consist in things of outward Or­der, and supposed Decency, but in the fit joyning and compacting of all the Mem­bers in the same Body, by an effectual communication of spiritual Supplies from Christ the Head which do naturally cast every part of the Body into that place and use which is designed unto them. But what do the Saints themselves as Members of this Body? why every joynt, every principal person on the account of Gifts, Grace, or Office, yea every part, every member, contributes to the Edification of the whole, and the increase of Grace in it, which is the end of all this Communion. But how is this done, how is their part acted? saith the Apostle, it is done by Love. The foundation of it lies in their speaking the Truth in Love, [...], holding, believing, professing the Truth, so as to exercise mutual Love thereby. In whatsoever we manage the Truth, in all that we have to do in the Profession of it, in speaking, preaching, conference, instruction, it is all to be managed in Love to the whole Body, or we had as good let it alone. And the End of all is Edification in Love; that is, either by Love, [...] for [...], which is frequent; or in Love, seeing in the increase or inlargement thereof doth our Edification principally consist. For as Love edifieth, 1 Cor. 8. 1. is the principal means of the Edification of the Church; so it is it self in its increase a principal part of Edification. A Church abounding in Love, is a Church well built up in its Faith. And this also farther evinceth the necessity of this Duty and Grace. The Communion of Saints in any thing else with­out this is a deceitful figment.

4. Without this Love we are of no use in the Church of God. Some men seem to be very useful by their Gifts, and I wish that none do pride themselves in them, or bear themselves high upon them. For of themselves they are apt to puff us up. But the very Truth is, that without this Love, and the constant exercise of it, they are of little or no use unto the true spiritual Edification of the Church. This our Apostle doth not only plainly affirm, but also so largely argue, as we need not fur­ther insist upon it, 1 Cor. 13. For he doth not only compare the most excellent Gifts of the Spirit with it, preferring it above them all; but also declares that with­out it, no man by virtue of those Gifts is of any better use in the Church, than a little sounding Brass, or a tinkling Cymbal, ver. 1, 2, 3. Wherefore we may consider,

5. That whatever Grace any man seem to have, whatever Profession he make, of whatever use he appear to be, if he have not this Love, if he live not in the ex­ercise of it, he hath indeed no Grace in Truth, nor any real Interest in the Benefits of the Gospel. Faith where it is sincere worketh by Love, Gal. 4. and that which doth not so is vain, dead, and useless, Jam. 2. 14, 15, 16. If we love one ano­ther, we are born of God, and know God; if we do not, we know not God, whatever we pretend, for God is Love, 1 Joh. 4. 7, 8. And many other considerati­ons of the like nature might be called over, from whence it is manifest what ground the Apostle had to lay so great weight as he doth on that Love which he hath observed among the Hebrews.

I cannot pass by this subject wholly without a little farther pressing the necessity of the obtaining and due exercise of this Grace. I know not how it comes to pass, but so it is, that men are harrassed continually about want of Love, with Writings keen and invective, yet little Fruits do we see to come thereof. And the plain reason of it is, because the Love which men so contend for, is confined to that practice in, and of Ecclesiastical Communion, whose measures they have fixed to themselves. If you will do thus and thus, go in such or such ways, so or so far, leave off such ways of Fellowship in the Gospel as you have embraced and think according unto the mind of God, then you have Love, else you have none at all. How little either Unity or Love hath been promoted by such Principles and Pra­ctices, is now evident; yea how much Divisions, Animosities, and mutual Alie­nations [Page 107] of minds and affections have been increased by them. For my part I should be sorry that any man living should out-go me in earnest desires that all the people of God were agreed and united, as in Faith and Love, so also in the same way of Worship, in all things; However I know my desires unto that End are sincere. But that there can be no Love, or no due exercise of it, until that be accomplished, I am not perswaded, I do not believe; yea I judge that if ever it be, it will rather be the effect and fruit of Love; than the cause of it. Let us therefore all lay hold on the present season, and not lose the exercise of Love whilst we contend about it. I know no way wherein I judge that any who fear God in the world do walk at this day, that is in and of it self inconsistent with Gospel Love, or a real Obstru­ction to the exercise of it. If any such there be, it is really to be abhorred. And the more semblance there is of such an Evil in any opinion, way, or practice, the more it is to be suspected. But to charge this upon the gathering of Professors of the Gospel and Obedience unto Christ, into particular Congregations, or especial Societies for Church Administrations, hath an appearance at least of Envy, Ill-will, and Ignorance. For none of the Institutions of Christ, such as this is, can either directly or by any just consequences, obstruct that Love which he requireth of his Disciples, and which indeed they are all suited to promote. And this of parti­cular Churches is an effect of the Wisdom of Christ providing a way for the con­stant and due exercise of that Love towards some which is to be extended unto all as opportunities are offered. And those who would perswade us to forsake these Assemblies, and to break up their Societies, that returning into the larger Commu­nion of the many, we may have and exercise Love, do but perswade us to cast away our Food that we may be strong, and to throw away our Cloathes that we may be warm.

Let us therefore not wait for other seasons, nor think any outward thing previ­ously necessary unto the due discharge of this great Duty of the Gospel. We are in our way, let us go about our work. And I shall only at present give a few Cauti­ons against the common hinderances of it, because it must yet be spoken unto again immediately.

1. Take heed of a froward natural temper. Wherever this is predominant, it either weakens Love, or sullies the Glory of its exercise. Some good persons have naturally so much of the Nabal in them, that a man scarce knows how to converse with them. They mingle all the sweet fruits of Love with so much harshness and sowrness, as makes them ungrateful unto those who most need them. I think it is a mistake, that Grace only subdues our sinful corruptions; it will if cared for and used as it ought, cure our natural Dispositions, so far as any evil, or occasion of evil is as it were incorporated with them. If it maketh not the froward, meek, the angry, patient, the peevish and morose, sweet and compliant, how doth it make the Leopard lye down with the Kid, and the Wolf dwell with the Lamb, Isa. 11. 6. And it is not enough considered how great a Lustre is put upon the exercise of Love, when it is accompanied with a natural condescension, compliance and be­nignity.

2. Watch against the disadvantages of an outward condition. Those of high degree are usually encompassed with so many circumstances of distance, that they know not how to break through them unto that familiarity of Love that ought to be among Believers. But as the Gospel on all civil or secular accounts leaves unto men all their Advantages of Birth, Education, Offices, Power, manner of converse, free and entire, so with respect unto things purely Spiritual it lays all level among Believers. In Jesus Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, but all are one in Christ, and it is the new Creature alone that makes the difference. Hence in all affairs of the Church we are forbid to have any re­spect unto the outward state and condition of men, Jam. 2. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. We all serve the same common Lord and Master, who when he was rich, for our sakes became poor. And if we for his sake lay not aside the consideration of all our Riches with that distance of mind and conversation from the poorest Saints, his Disciples. I speak not now of the laying out of mens wealth for the use of the poor, but of lowliness of mind in condescending unto a Brotherly Communion in Love with the meanest of them. Let therefore the greatest know, that there is no Duty of Spiritual Love that unbecomes them. And if their state and condition keep them [Page 108] from that Communion of Love which is required of all Believers, it is their Snare and Temptation. If they converse not familiarly with the lowest of them as they have occasion, if they visit them not when it is requisite, if they bear them not in their Hearts and Minds as their especial Church Relation requires, they sin against the Law of this holy Love.

3. Watch against provocations. Whilst we and others are encompassed with the Body of our Infirmities, we shall meet with what we may be prone so to esteem. Where men are apt to turn every Infirmity, every failing, every neglect, and it may be every mistake, into a provocation and to take offence thereat, never expect any thing of Love from such Persons. For as their frame is a fruit of pride, and self-conceit, so it is diametrically opposite unto all the principal actings of Love de­scribed by our Apostle, 1 Cor. 13. 4, 5, 6, 7.

4. Take heed of resting satisfied in the outward Duties of Love, without the inward workings of it, as also in an apprehension of inward Affections without outward Fruits. Men may have a Conviction that all the outward Duties of Love, in warning, admonishing, comforting, relieving with outward supplies are to be at­tended unto, and may accordingly be exercised in them, and yet exercise little real Love in them all. Hence our Apostle supposeth that a man may give all his Goods to feed the poor, and yet have no Charity, 1 Cor. 13. 2. All Fruit partakes of the nature of the Root. If the good we do in these kinds proceed only from Conviction of Duty, and not from fervent Love, they will prove but Hay and Stub­ble that will burn in their Trial.

Secondly, With this Love as an eminent Adjunct of it, the Apostle expresseth [...]. the labour of it, the labour of Love, [...]; laboriosa charitas; laborious Love, saith Beza. Laboris ex charitate suscepti, Eras. the labour undergone on the account of Love, that is, in the exercise of it. [...] is such a kind of labour as is at­tended with much difficulty and trouble, a painful labour. A lazie Love like that described by the Apostle, Jam. 2. 15, 16. and which most men satisfie themselves withall, is no evidence of a saving Faith. But we are here taught, that Love if it be true is laborious and diligent: or, Great and difficult labour is required unto Love in its due exercise. It is not unto Love it self absolutely but unto its exercise that this labour is required; yet this exercise is such as is inseparable from the Grace it self. And this is necessary upon the account of the Difficulties that lye in its way, and the Oppositions that it meets withall. These make a work laborious and painful. Faith and Love are generally looked on as easie and common things; But it is by them who have them not. As they are the only Springs of all Obedience towards God, and Usefulness towards men, so they meet with the greatest oppositions from within and from without. I shall name some few of those which are most effectual, and least taken notice of. As,

1. Self-love; This is diametrically opposed unto it. Self-love is the making a mans self his own Centre, the beginning and ending of all that he doth. It makes men grudge every drop of good that falls besides themselves; and whoever is under the power of it, will not willingly and chearfully do that for another, which he thinks he can do for himself. This is the measure of self; whatever is added unto it, it doth not satisfie; it would still have more: and whatever goeth from it, on one account or other it is too much, it doth not please. Unless this be in some good measure subdued, mortified, and cast out, there can be no exercise of Love. And hereunto labour is required. For man being turned off from God is wholly turned into himself. And without an holy violence unto all our Affections as naturally de­praved, we can never be freed from an inclination to centre all in self. And these things are directly contradictory. Self-love, and Love of the Saints, are like two Buckets, proportionably unto the rising of the one, the other goeth down. Look unto what degree soever we arise in self-love, whatever else we do, and what­ever our works may be, to the same proportion do we sink in Christian Love.

2. Evil surmises rise up with no small efficacy against the exercise of Love. And they are apt on various accounts to insinuate themselves into the minds of men when they are called unto the discharge of this Duty. One thing or other from this depraved Affection which our nature is obnoxious unto, shall be sug­gested to weaken our hearts and hands in what we are about. And it requires no [Page 109] small spiritual labour to cast out all such surmises, and to give up our selves to the conduct of that Charity which suffereth long and is kind, which bear­eth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things, 1 Cor. 13.

3. Distrust of Gods Promises as to supplies for our selves. Men are afraid that if they should inlarge themselves in a way of Bounty towards others, which is one Duty of Love, they may in time be brought even to want themselves, at least, as unto that proportion of supplies which they judge necessary. It were endless to recount the sacred Promises which give assurance of the contrary. Nor can any one Instance in the whole world be produced unto this purpose. But these are looked upon as good words by the most, but are not really believed. Yea men are apt to deceive their Souls in supposing they believe the free Promises of God con­cerning Grace and Mercy, whilst they believe not those which are annexed unto Duty. For he who believeth not any Promises of the Gospel, believeth none. Faith doth as equally respect all Gods Promises, as Obedience doth all his Commands. And it was a good design in a Reverend Person who wrote a Discourse to prove from the Scripture and Experience, That largeness in Charity is the best and safest way of thriving in this world.

4. Where the Objects of this exercise of Love are multiplied, Weariness is apt to befall us, and insensibly to take us off from the whole. The Wisdom and Pro­vidence of God do multiply Objects of Love and Charity to excite us to more acts of Duty; and the corruption of our Hearts with self-love useth the consideration of them, to make us weary of all. Men would be glad to see an end of the trouble and charge of their Love, when that only is true which is endless. Hence our Apo­stle in the next Verse expresseth his desire that these Hebrews should not faint in their work, but shew the same diligence unto the full assurance of hope unto the end. See Gal. 6. 9. And if we faint in spiritual Duties because of the increase of their oc­casions, it is a sign that what we have done already, did not spring from the proper Root of Faith and Love. What is done in the strength of Nature and Con­viction, howsoever vigorous it may be for a season, in process of time will decay and give out. And this is the reason why so many fail in the course of their Profession. All Springs of Obedience that lye in Convictions and the improvement of natural Abilities under them, will at one time or other fade and dry up. And where we find our selves to faint or decay in any Duties, our first enquiry should be after the nature of their spring and principle. Only the Spirit of God is living water that never fails. So the Prophet tells us, that even the Youths shall faint and be weary, and the Young men shall utterly fail, Isa. 40. 30. They who seem to be the strongest and most vigorous in the performance of any Duties, yet if they have nothing but their own strength, the Ability of nature under Convictions to trust unto, they will and shall faint and utterly fail. For that such are intended is ma­nifest from the opposition in the next words; But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as Eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint, ver. 31. If our Strength and Duties be de­rived by Faith from God, the more we engage in them, the more it will be in­creased. The way of the Lord is strength to the upright, Prov. 10. 29. Where we are upright in the way of God, the very way it self will supply us with new strength continually. And we shall go from strength unto strength, Psal. 84. 7. from one strengthening Duty unto another, and not be weary. But hereunto diligence and labour also is required.

From these and the like considerations it is that the Apostle here mentioneth the industrious labour of Love that was in the Hebrews, as an evidence of their saving Faith and Sincerity.

The next thing expressed in these words is the Evidence they gave of this labour of Love, and the means whereby the Apostle came to know it. They shewed it, [...] [...], ye have shewed or manifested it. The same word that James useth in the same case, [...], chap. 2. 18. shew me thy Faith by thy works, declare it, make it manifest. And a man may shew a thing two ways: (1) By the doing of it. (2) By declaring what he hath done. He that works visibly in his calling shews his work by what he doth. And he who works in secret may declare it as he hath occasion. It is in the first sense that the Hebrews shewed their labour of Love, [Page 110] and that James requires us to shew our Faith and Works. The things themselves are intended which cannot but be manifest in their due performance. To shew the labour of Love is to labour in the Duties of it, as that it shall be evident. Yet this self-evidencing power of the works of Love, is a peculiar property of those that are some way eminent. When we abound in them, and when the Duties of them are above the ordinary sort and rate, then are we said to shew them, that is, they become conspicuous and eminent. To that purpose is the command of our Sa­viour, Matth. 5. 16. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorifie your Father which is in Heaven. Not only let it shine, but let it so shine, which respects the measure and degree of our Obedience; and herein are we required so to abound that our works may be evident unto all. If they will take no notice of them for their good, if they will revile us and reproach us for our good works, as though they were evil works, which is the way of the world to­wards most Duties of Gospel Obedience, they themselves must answer for their Blindness; our Duty it is so to abound in them, as that they may be discerned and seen of all who do not either shut their Eyes out of prejudice against what we are, or turn their faces from them out of dislike of what we do. Nothing is to be done by us that it may be seen; but what may be seen is to be done that God may be glorified. Wherefore these Hebrews shewed the work of Faith, and the labour of Love, by a diligent attendance unto, and an abundant performance of the one and the other.

3. The End, or Reason, or Cause of their performance of these Duties, which [...]. gives them spirit and life, rendring them truly Christian and acceptable unto God, is added, [...], towards his name. Some would have [...], to be put for [...], in his name; which also may bear the sense here in­tended. But towards his name is more emphatical. And we may observe (1) That in this place it respects not the whole work of these Hebrews, the work of Faith be­fore mentioned, but it is peculiarly annexed unto the labour of Love, The labour of Love towards his name. (2) That it was the Saints that were the immediate object of that Love; as is declared in the words ensuing, in that you have ministred to the Saints and do minister. Wherefore it is a Love unto the Saints on the account of the name of God that is intended. And this Love unto the Saints is towards the name of God on three accounts: (1) Objectively: Because the name of God is upon them; They are the Family that is called after his name. Of him the whole Family of them in Heaven and Earth is named, Ephes. 3. 15. They are the Family of God, or Houshold of God, chap. 2. 19. The Saints of the most high, Dan. 7. 27. The Name of God is upon them, and therefore what is done unto them is done towards the Name of God whether it be good or evil. (2) Formally; because their Relation unto God is the Reason why they laboured in Love towards them. This is that which gives this Love its especial nature, when it is exercised towards any, meerly on the account of their Relation unto God, because they are his, be­cause his name is called on them. (3) Efficiently; The Name of God is his Au­thority and Will; God requires this labour of Love of us; it is his Will and Command; and therefore whatever we do in the discharge of it, we do it towards his Name, that is, with a due reverence of, and regard unto his Will and Autho­rity. The whole therefore of this Duty rightly performed begins and ends with the name of God. Hence we may observe; That,

It is a due regard unto the Name of God that gives Life, Spirituality and Acceptance Obser. 1. unto all the Duties of Love which we perform towards others. Great things have been done in the world, with a great appearance of Love, which yet have been all lost as to the Glory of God, and the spiritual Advantage of them by whom they have been done. Some have been lost from a principle of Superstition, some from a de­sign of Merit, some from vain Glory or a desire of Reputation, by being seen of men. And many other ways there are whereby men may lose the benefit of what they have wrought. Now whereas this labour of Love is a Duty which hath so many difficulties attending it as we have before declared, it is of the highest con­cernment unto us to take care that what we do therein be not lost. Unless it be done with respect unto the Command of God, and so be a part of the Obedience of Faith, unless it be influenced with a regard of their Relation unto God, and his [Page 111] peculiar concernment in them towards whom our Love is exercised, it will not endure the Trial, when the Fire of it shall consume all Hay and Stubble. What we do in this kind is so to be done as that the Lord Christ may own it as done un­to himself in the first place.

Again, There is the Object of this Love in its exercise, and they are [...], the Saints. And they are considered either as to their general condition and qualification, which is expressed, they are Saints; or as unto their particular state and circumstances, they are such as stand in need to be ministred unto.

1. They are Saints. There is nothing more evident than that all true Believers, and all those who upon their Profession are presumed so to be, are in the New Testament stiled Saints. For [...] are the same with [...], Rom. 1. 7. [...], Heb. 2. [...], 1 Cor. 1. 2. Saints are the same with called and sanctified in Jesus Christ. Every Believer is sanctified; and every one who is not sanctified, is no true Believer; so that Believers and Saints are the same. But the Atheism of this Age hath made it a Reproach among many once to use the name; and with some this Appellation is restrained unto such as are canonized or deified by themselves. Chrysostome is express to our purpose on this place. [...]. Hearing these things, I beseech you let us minister unto the Saints. For every Believer, in as much as he is a Believer, is a Saint. Although he be a secular person (which he mentions in opposition to their Imagination who confined Saintship unto Monks) he is a Saint; which he proves by Testimonies that they are sanctified. These Saints therefore were the Disciples of Christ, Pro­fessors of the Gospel, presumed in Charity to be true Believers and therefore real Saints.

2. They are supposed to be in such an outward condition as to stand in need of being administred unto; they were in some kind of wants or distresses. And such was in an especial manner the condition of the Saints at that time among the Hebrews. Their Poverty was such as that our Apostle in many places, perhaps in all where the Gospel had success, made collations for them. And as he pressed the Gentile Believers unto a contribution unto this purpose, with weighty Arguments, Rom. 15. 25, 26, 27. so he looked on his Duty herein of so great importance that he earnestly requests that his discharge of it might be accepted with God and by the poor Saints themselves, ver. 30, 31. And where any Churches had largely mini­stred in this kind, he rejoyceth in it, as that which would tend unto the unspeak­able advancement of the Glory of Gods Grace, 2 Cor. 9. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. And this Duty was the Apostle most careful in, as that wherein he gave a Testimony unto the change of the Church Estate of the Old Testament. All the Jews before all the world over did send their Oblations in things dedicated, Silver and Gold, unto the Temple. And if they made any Proselytes among the Gentiles, the first thing they did was to cause them to acknowledge their Obedience by sending Gifts to the Treasury of the Temple; and that this was done from all parts of the Ro­man Empire was known and complained of. Wherefore our Apostle declares that the Old Church state was now changed, and that the believing Saints were become the only Temple of God. And therefore from all those whom he made Proselytes of, or won to the Faith of Christ, he calleth a Benevolence for that Temple or the poor Saints in Judea. This therefore was an eminent Duty in that place and at that season. For this Poverty and these Exigencies they were cast under on many accounts. For at that time they were under great Oppressions, and Deva­stations by the Covetousness and Rapine of their Rulers, or the Roman Gover­nours of them. And the whole Nation was every day vexed by seditious persons and prevailing multitudes of Robbers. And these things were common unto them with others. But moreover, they were exposed in particular for the profession of the Gospel unto great persecution, wherein in an especial manner their Goods were spoiled, and their persons brought under various distressing Calamities, as our Apostle declares, chap. 10. 32, 33, 34. Besides generally those who gave up their names unto Christ were of the lower sort of the people, the poor among them re­ceiving the Gospel. All these things declare their wants to have been great, besides other incidents of life that might befall them unto their distress. These were [Page 112] they unto whom the Hebrews ministred, whose condition put an eminency on that Duty.

But it may be said, That if this were their state, how could any of them, or how could the Church in general thus labour in Love, by administring unto the wants of others, when they themselves were even overwhelmed with their own? I answer, (1) We do not I fear sufficiently understand what was the frame and spirit of those first Believers; and out of how very little of their own they would admi­nister unto the greater necessities of others, that there might be no lack in the Body. So the Apostle tells us that in the Church of Macedonia, when they were under Trials, Afflictions, Persecutions, their deep Poverty abounded with the Riches of Libera­lity, 2 Cor. 5. 2. In their own great Poverty and under Persecution they contributed largely unto the necessity of others. For us who are apt to think that there are so many things necessary that we may minister unto the poor Saints, as so much wealth at least, so much provision for our own Families, peace and some kind of quietness in what we enjoy, it is no wonder if we cannot so easily understand what is affirmed of that labour of Love which was among the Primitive Believers. They gave freely and liberally out of their Poverty and amidst their Troubles, we can scarce part with superfluities in Peace. (2) It is not improbable but that there might be some in the Church who escaping the common calamities of the most, were able to contribute bountifully to the necessity of others; and their discharge of Duty is reckoned by the Apostle unto the whole Church, whilst in the rest there was a willing mind, whence they were judged and accepted according to what they had, and not according to what they had not. And those who have Ability in any Church should do well to consider the Honour and Reputation of the whole Church in the sight of God and man depends much on their Diligence and Bounty in the discharge of this Duty. Hence is that peculiar direction of our Apostle unto Timothy with respect unto this sort of persons; Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, or trust in uncertain Riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy, that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, 1 Tim. 6. 17, 18. (3) The contribution of outward things is but one way of ministration unto the Saints, but one part of this Duty. There are spiritual Aids and Assistances in visiting, exhorting, com­forting that belong thereunto. And herein all may be sedulously conversaut, though poor and low in the world. (4) It is very probable that the whole Church was very careful and diligent in looking out for help and assistance where it was needed, beyond what they had Ability to supply. And hereby did they no less exercise their Love, than in what they did personally themselves. For it is an Ordinance of Christ, that where Churches are disenabled through persecution or poverty to minister unto the necessities of the poor among them, they should seek for relief from other Persons or Churches walking in the same Profession of the Faith and Order of the Gospel with themselves. Wherefore (5) The intendment of this Expression is, that they industriously exercised Love towards all the Saints, every one according to his Ability and Capacity, and more is not re­quired.

Lastly, The especial manner of the exercise of this labour of Love is called Ministration, and the especial Object thereof is the Saints, of whom we have spo­ken already. And concerning this Ministration the Apostle ascribes it unto them with respect unto what was past, and what they did at present, both which were ne­cessary to found the Judgement on which he made concerning them; You have mi­nistered and you do minister.

[...] is a laborious and industrious Ministry. And this in the Church is twofold. (1) Of Especial Office. (2) Of Common Love and Charity. The rise, occasion and institution of an especial Office or Ministry towards the poor is at large declared, Acts 6. and mentioned afterwards by our Apostle as an abiding Ordinance, Rom. 12. 7. 1 Tim. 3. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. And this Ministration is comprised herein though not solely intended. For what is done by these Deacons, being done in the name and by the appointment, and out of the Charity of the Church, is to be esteemed the Ministration of the Church it self. And though there be a peculiar Faithfulness and Diligence required in the persons called unto this Ministration, yet the Ministration it self will abound or be straitened according [Page 113] as the whole Church dischargeth its Duty. But the common Ministration of Bro­therly Love, what every one doth or ought to do in his own person is here in­tended. And therein six things may be considered not here to be insisted on. As (1) The Root, Spring, and Cause of it, which is Love. (2) The manner of its performance, which is with labour and diligence. (3) The Object of it, or the Saints in wants, troubles, straights, or necessities. (4) The acts of it which are many and various; the chief whereof are, (1) Visiting of them. (2) Advice and Counsel. (3) Consolation. (4) Supplies of their wants by outward things. (5) Endeavours in the use of means for their full relief: (1) With God in con­tinual Prayers and Supplications, (2) With men according unto our Interests and Advantages, not being ashamed or afraid to own them in their poverty, distresses, and sufferings. (6) The Rule of this Ministration is every mans (1) Opportu­nity, (2) Ability, (3) Especial call by objective circumstances. But these things I must not here enlarge upon.

This is that on the Observation whereof the Apostle grounds his perswasion con­cerning these Hebrews expressed in the Verse foregoing. And herein he gives us the true character of a Church of sound Believers. They are such a Society as being called into the Fellowship and Order of the Gospel do walk in Faith, ex­pressing it in Fruits of Obedience, carefully and diligently exercising Love towards one another, on the account of the name of God, especially with a continual re­gard unto them who suffer or are in any distress. These are the things indeed which accompany Salvation. And we may observe in our passage,

That it is the Will and Pleasure of God that many of his Saints be in a condi­tion Obser. 1. in this world, wherein they stand in need of being ministred unto. Hereof as to the distinction of persons, why these shall be poor, afflicted, tempted, tried in the Fire and not others, no direct reason can be given but the Soveraignty of God which is to be submitted unto. And those whose especial Lot it is to be thus exercised, may do well to consider always; (1) That this Will and Pleasure of God is ac­companied with infinite Wisdom and Holiness, so as that there is no unrighteous­ness therein. (2) That they shall not be final losers by their poor afflicted condi­tion. God will make all up unto them both here and to Eternity. And if there were no more in it but this, that they are brough thereby unto a clearer foresight of, and more earnest longings after Eternal Rest and Glory, they have a sufficient recompence in their hands for all their sufferings. (3) That God might have put them with others into such Pastures here only to have been fatted against the day of slaughter. Let them but consider how much Spiritual and Eternal Mercies wherein they are interested do exceed things Temporal, they will find they have no cause to com­plain. (4) Whereas it is for the Glory of God and the Benefit of the Church that some should be peculiarly in an afflicted condition, they ought even to rejoyce that God hath chosen them to use them as he pleaseth unto those Ends. But for the thing it self the Reasons of it are revealed and manifest. For (1) God hereby gives Testimony unto all, that the good things as they are esteemed of this world, are no Tokens or Pledges of his Love, and that he hath better things in store for them whom he careth for. He doth hereby cast contempt on the desirable things of the world, and testifieth that there are better things to be received even in this life, than whatever is of the number of them. For had not God better things to bestow on his Saints in this world than any the world can afford, he would not with-hold these from them, so far at least as that they should be straightened in their want. Wherefore in this Dispensation of his Providence he doth testifie unto all, that internal spiritual mercies, such as his Saints enjoy, are incomparably to be preferred above all things of that kind wherein he keeps them short, 2 Sam. 23. 5. (2) He maketh way hereby for the vigorous fruitful exercise of all the Graces of his Spirit, namely, in the various conditions whereinto the Members of the Church are cast. And let every one look to it and know, that according unto his outward condition in the world, whether it be of want or abundance, there is peculiar exercise of Grace unto the Glory of God required of him. It is expected from all that are high or low, rich or poor, free or in di­stress, not only that they live in the exercise of all Grace in general, but also that they diligently endeavour an abounding fruitfulness in those Graces, whose exercise their especial condition calleth for. And secondly we are here taught that,

[Page 114] The great Trial of our Love consists in our regard unto the Saints that are in distress. Obser. 2. That is the Foundation of the commendation of the Love of these Hebrews; they ministred unto them. Either Love or at least an appearance of Love will be easily preserved where we have little or no need of one another. But when the exercise of it proves costly, when it puts us unto charge or trouble, or into danger, as it doth more or less when it is exercised towards them that are in distress, then is it brought unto its trial. And in such a season we have experience that the Love of many is so far from bringing forth more fruit, as that the very leaves of it fall off, and they give over its profession. Wherefore,

It is the Glory and Honour of a Church, the principal Evidence of its spiritual Life, Obser. 3. when it is diligent and abounds in those Duties of Faith and Love which are attended with the greatest difficulties. From hence doth the Apostle commend these Hebrews, and firmly perswades himself that they were endued with those better things which accompany Salvation. For hereby, as we might shew, (1) God is singularly glo­rified, (2) The Gospel is peculiarly promoted; (3) An especial lustre is put upon the Graces of the Spirit, and (4) All the Ends of Sathan and the World in their Persecutions, are utterly frustrated.

And these things have we spoken concerning the first ground of the Apostles per­swasion of the good spiritual estate at present of these Hebrews, and their future Eternal safety, namely, that work of Faith and labour of Love which he had ob­served in them.

The other ground of his Perswasion is taken from the Righteousness of God; God is not unrighteous to forget your work. I intimated before that the word used [...] by the Apostle to express the frame of his mind in this matter, [...], we are perswaded, ver. 9. is applied sometimes to denote the infallible certainty of Faith, and sometimes the moral certainty of Charity. In this place it hath respect unto a double object or reason. (1) What was in the professing Hebrews, their Faith and Love. Hereof he could have no assurance or certainty beyond a moral perswasion, or the satisfaction of a charitable Judgement. But on this supposition his perswa­sion had another object, namely, the Righteousness of God in the stability of his Promises, whence he had infallible assurance, or did conclude infallibly unto what he was perswaded of.

The Righteousness of God sometimes denotes the absolute Rectitude and perfect Goodness of his Nature; and hereunto all other Acceptations of the Word as ap­plied unto God are to be reduced. Sometimes the Equity of the holy Dispen­sations of his Justice, whereby he renders unto every one what is their due, accor­ding unto the nature of things and his holy Appointments, is so called. And sometimes particularly his Vindictive Justice whereby he avengeth sin, and punisheth sinners is so expressed. Sometimes, yea frequently, the Fidelity of God in keeping and accomplishing his Promises, is called his Righteousness. For it belongeth un­to the absolute Rectitude of his nature so to do. So saith the Apostle, If we con­fess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, 1 Joh. 1. 9. The forgive­ness of sins is on all accounts an Act of mercy which is contradistinguished unto Righteousness in Judgement strictly so called, Jam. 2. 13. Wherefore that Righ­teousness which is exercised in the pardon of sin, is no other but the Faithfulness of God in the Promises of the Covenant; He hath promised that he who confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall find mercy. Hence it is just with God to forgive their sins who do so. And this is the Righteousness that is here principally intended. For the Righteousness whereby God rewardeth the works that are wrought in men by his own Grace, is the same with that whereby he forgiveth their sins, equally respecting the Covenant and the Promises thereof. For without the consideration hereof, strict or exact Righteousness, could he neither pardon sin, nor reward our works, which being imperfect do no way answer the Rule which it doth or can proceed by. In this sense is God here said, not to be unrighteous to forget their work, that is, to be Righteous so as not to forget it; He will have that respect unto it which he hath graciously promised in the Covenant, because he is Righteous, that is, Faithful in his Promises. And that no other Righteousness can be here intended, is evident from hence, because no work of ours doth answer the Rule of any other Righteousness in God.

[Page 115] Again, We must enquire what it is, not to forget their work. And this [...] may respect either the preserving of it for the present or the future rewarding of it.

(1) It is not an unfrequent Temptation unto Believers, that God so far dis­regards them as not to take care of Graces or Duties in them, to cherish and pre­serve them. See the complaints of the Church to this purpose, Isa. 40. 27, 28. chap. 49. 14. God hath forgotten me. This is here denied; God is not unrighteous to forget us or our work, so as not to cherish and preserve it. So the Apostle expresseth the same Perswasion concerning the Philippians as he doth here of the Hebrews, chap. 1. 6. Being confident of this very thing that he which hath begun a good work in you, will preserve it until the day of Jesus Christ; He is not unrighteous to forget it. God hath in the Covenant of Grace promised to preserve the Faith and Love of his People, that they should not perish nor be lost. Wherefore having begun a good work, and you having made some good progress in compliance with his Grace, he is not unrighteous so as to forget his Covenant Ingagement, but will preserve you and your Graces in you unto the End; which is the sum of that great Prayer of the Apostle for all Believers, 1 Pet. 5. 10.

2. Respect may be had herein to the future and final Reward of the Faith, Love, and Works of Believers. For this also belongs unto Gods Covenant. And it is so of Grace, as that the Righteousness of God wherein it is due unto us, can be no other but that of his Faithfulness in his Promises. For neither we nor our works are capable of an Eternal Reward by the way of merit, i. e. that the Reward should be reckoned unto us not of Grace but of Debt, Rom. 4. 4. And that which utterly overthrows such an Apprehension is, that God himself is our Eternal Re­ward, Gen. 15. 1. And I leave it unto others to consider how they can deserve that Reward. Whether of these senses he will embrace, the Reader is left to de­termine for himself. The former seems to me more suited to the design of the Apostle, and scope of the place. For he is satisfying these Hebrews that he made another Judgement of them, than of those Apostates whose condition he had be­fore described. And this he doth on two Grounds. First, That they were actually made Partakers of sincere saving Grace, and therein things that accom­pany Salvation; and then that God in his Faithfulness would preserve and secure that Grace in them against all Oppositions unto the End. Following this sense of the words we may learn that

Our Perseverance in Faith and Obedience though it require our Duty and Constancy therein, yet it depends not on them absolutely, but on the Righteousness of God in his Obser. 4. Promises. Or if we had rather embrace the other sense of the words, then are we sufficiently instructed, That

Nothing shall be lost that is done for God or in Obedience unto him. He is not unjust to forget our labour of Love. And,

The certainty of our future Reward depending on the Righteousness of God, is a great Encouragement unto present Obedience.



There is not much difficulty as to the signification of these words, and therefore both ancient and modern Translations generally are agreed in the Interpretation of them. The Vul. Lat. renders [...], by ostentare sollicitudinem. But ostentare is most frequently used for ostendere gloriandi causa, as Festus saith, though properly it seem to be a frequentative, to shew often, and is improper in this place. Nor doth sollicitudinem well answer [...], which the Syriack renders by [...]; Sedulity, Diligence, Industry. Studium ostendere say most, and most properly. [...]. Syr. [...] ad complementum, to the compleating or perfection of Hope. Vul. Lat. Ad expletionem Spei, which our Rhemists render by, the Accomplishing of Hope; the fulfilling of Hope. Bez. Ad certam spei persuasionem, whereunto answers our Translation, to the full assurance of Hope. Others, ad plenam spei certitudinem, most properly.

[...], is earnestly to desire; whence is [...], concupiscence, libido, an earnest, [...] and mostly an impetuous desire. So the Philosopher defined [...], that it was [...], which Cicero renders, Ira, libido puniendi; both from the Original de­rivation of it; a desire that invades the mind, an earnest vehement desire.

[...], We render and: and we desire; but yet, or moreover. The same with [...] what is more largely expressed, 2 Pet. 1. 5. [...], and besides all this, besides what is past.

[...], to manifest, that is, evince it unto all by the same performance of [...] Duties; that no decay in Faith or Love might be observed in them, or suspected of them.

[...] is rendered study, diligence, endeavour. But it is such a Diligence as hath [...] an earnestness accompanying it: that is, as it were making haste in pressing towards the End and Accomplishment of any thing or business. And it doth always de­note great and earnest diligence with study and desire. It is used to this purpose, 2 Pet. 1. 5.

[...], is, saith Hesychius, [...], firmitas, certitudo; stability. It is plena fides, plena persuasio, certa fides. A sure, stable, firm, certain Faith, or per­swasion. [...] The Vulgar Latine constantly renders this word, as also the Verb [...], by some word denoting filling or compleating, taking its signification from the first part in the Composition. But whatever be the native signification of the single words whereof it is compounded, or with respect unto what Allusion soever the signification was first fixed, it is certain that in the best Authors as in the Scripture, it expresseth a full satisfactory perswasion of mind, or the highest assurance in any thing which from the nature of it we are capable of.

And we (earnestly) desire that every one of you do manifest the same diligence, unto the full assurance of Hope unto the End. Ver. 11.

Although the Apostle in these words and those ensuing, as is usual with him, taketh a prospect towards his further progress, making way by them and in them unto his discourse concerning Melchisedec, which he hath intermitted, whence some would here begin the third part of the Chapter; yet he plainly pursues his former Argument and gives an express account of his whole design therein. For first he manifests directly what was his intention in proposing unto them that terrible Com­mination and prediction concerning Apostates, ver. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Although for cer­tain ends he spoke those things unto them, yet he lets them know that he spake them not of them. He thought not that they were such at present as he had described, nor that that would be their future Lot or Portion, which he had threatened and foretold. As he had freed them from any fears or apprehensions of that nature in the two Verses foregoing, so in these he declareth what was his certain purpose and intention in the use of that Commination. Now this was solely thereby to [Page 117] excite and provoke them unto a diligent persevering continuance in Faith and Love with their fruits and effects, which is the first and principal End whereunto the proposal of such Threatenings is designed and sanctified of God. All that I have said, is unto this End.

Again, He had newly given an account of his real thoughts and Judgement con­cerning them and their spiritual condition. And upon his satisfaction therein, as that which was attended with things which accompany Salvation, he had given them assurance of a blessed Issue of their Faith and Profession, from the Faithfulness of God, making therein an Application of the Promises of the Gospel unto them. Hereon he lets them know what by the Appointment of God and the Law of our Obedience, is required of them, that they might answer the Judgement which he had made concerning them, and bring them unto the enjoyment of the Promises proposed unto them. And this was that diligent progress in Faith and Obedience un­to the end which he describes in this and the next Verse.

And herein the Apostle with great Wisdom acquaints these Hebrews with the proper end and use of Gospel Threatenings and Promises, wherein men are apt to be mistaken and so to abuse the one and the other. For Threatenings have been looked on, as if they had no other end or use but to terrifie the minds of men, and to cause them to despond, as if the things threatened must unavoidably come upon them. Hence some have fancied that they belong not unto the Dispensation of the Gospel as it is to be preached unto Believers; and few have known how to make a due Application of them unto their Consciences. And it is to be feared that the end and use of Gods Promises hath been so far mistaken, as some have suf­fered themselves to be imposed on by the deceitfulness of sin, and to be influenced by the consideration of them, into carelesness and security, as though, do what they would, no evil could befall them. But our Apostle here discovereth the joynt end of them both towards Believers or Professors of the Gospel, which is to stir up and encourage them unto their utmost constant persevering diligence in all Duties of Obedience. And it is no small part of the Duty and Wisdom of the Ministers of the Gospel to instruct their Hearers in, and press upon them the proper use and due improvement of the Promises and Threatenings of God.

In this Verse, or the words of it which are an Exhortation unto Duty, we may observe, (1) The connexion of it unto the former discourse; And (2) The Duty ex­horted unto, The same diligence. (3) The manner of its performance; That they would manifest or shew it. (4) The end aimed at in that Duty, The full assurance of Hope. (5) The continuation of it, unto the end. (6) The manner of his Exhorta­tion unto it, we desire. But though the words may be thus resolved, I shall open the parts of them in that order wherein they lye in the Text.

1. For the connexion of these words with the foregoing, and therein the occasion of this discourse in the particle [...], it hath been spoken unto already. [...] It is not here adversative but rather illative, as was before declared.

2. The next thing occurring in the words is the manner of the Exhortation, [...], we desire. Chrysostome is large in this place in the consideration of this [...] word, and the wisdom of the Apostle in the use of it. From him Oecumenius ob­serves a difference between [...] and [...]. For they suppose that the word here used includeth both intense Affections, and earnest, diligent, actual desire. And that it doth intend an earnest desire, we shewed in the consideration of the word foregoing. And the word is never used in the New Testament, but either in a bad sense, to express the impetuous acting of Lust, as Matth. 5. 28. Gal. 5. 17. Rom. 1. 1. or a most fervent desiring of any thing that is good, Luke 15. 16. Luke 16. 21. chap. 17. 22. chap. 22. 15. And such ought to be the desire of Mini­sters towards the profiting of their people. There will be a dead, cold, lifeless Ad­ministration of the Word, where Ministers have not ardent desires after the profiting and stability of the Hearers. How were it to be wished that all who are called unto the care and charge of the Souls of men, would continually propose unto them­selves the example of this Apostle! Do we think that the care, solicitude, watch­fulness, tender Love and Affections, earnest and fervent desires of their good, ex­pressed in Prayers, Tears, Travails and Dangers, which he every where testifieth towards all the Churches under his care, were Duties prescribed unto him alone, or Graces necessary for him only? Do we not think that they are all of them required [Page 118] of us, according unto our measure, and the extent of our employment? The Lord help men and open their Eyes before it be too late, for either the Gospel is not true, or there are few who in a due manner discharge that Ministry which they take upon them.

I say without this earnest and fervent desire after the profiting and Salvation of our people, we shall have a cold and ineffectual Ministry among them. Neither is it our sedulity or earnestness in Preaching that will relieve us, if that be absent. And this desire proceeds from three Principles, and that which pretends thereto and doth not so, is but an Image and counterfeit of it. And these are, (1) Zeal for the Glory of God in Christ. (2) Real Compassion for the Souls of men. (3) An espe­cial Conscientious regard unto our Duty and Office with respect unto its Nature, Trust, End and Reward. These are the Principles that both kindle and supply fuel unto those servent desires for the good of our people, which oyle the Wheels of all other Duties and speed them in their course. According as these Principles flourish or decay in our minds, so will be the acceptable exercise of our Ministry in the sight of Christ, and the profitable discharge of it towards the Church. And we have as much need to labour for this frame in our Hearts, as for any thing in the outward discharge of our Duty. We must in the first place take heed unto our selves, if we intend to take heed to the Flock as we ought, Acts 20. 28. And herein especially do we, as we are charged, take heed to the Ministry we have received that we do fulfill it, Col. 4. 17.

3. The Persons exhorted unto the Duty following, are expressed by [...], [...]. every one of you. He had so a care of the whole Flock, as to be solicitous for the good of every individual person among them. As our Lord Jesus Christ gives an account unto his Father, that of all those who were committed unto his per­sonal Ministry in this world, he had not lost any one; only the Son of Perdition, he who was designed to Destruction; so our Apostle laboured that if it were possible not one of those whom he watched over should miscarry. And it is of great advantage when we can so mannage our Ministry that no one of those that are com­mitted unto us, may have any just cause to think themselves disregarded. And moreover he shews hereby that the Argument here insisted on concerned them all. For he doth not suppose that any one of them were in such a condition of security and perfection, as not to stand in need of the utmost diligence for their preservation and progress; nor any to have so fallen under decays, but that in the use of diligence they might be recovered. So should the Love and Care of Ministers be extended unto all the Individuals of their Flocks, with an especial regard unto their respective Conditions, that none on the one hand grow secure, nor any on the other hand de­spond or be discouraged.

4. The Duty exhorted unto, wherewith we must take, [...].

5. The manner of its performance, is, that they would shew the same diligence. [...], Ostentare: V. L. that is, to make shew of, ostendere, to shew forth, to manifest. Praestare, Eras. to act, to perform; so the word is sometimes used, Joh. 10. 32. [...], many good things have I shewed you: that is, wrought and performed among you. 2 Tim. 4. 14. [...], Alexander the Copper-smith shewed me many evils: did me much evil. It is so to do any thing as that the doing of it may be evident and manifest. And the Apostle respects not only the Duty it self but the Evidence of its Performance whereon his Judgement and Perswasion of them was grounded. Continue in the performance of these Duties to give the same evidence of your state and condition as formerly.

And the Duty it self he expresseth by [...], idem studium, the same di­ligent [...]. endeavour. Chrysostome much insists on the Apostles Wisdom in this ex­pression, the same diligence: for by it he both insinuates his approbation of what they had done already, and manifests that he required nothing of them to secure their future condition, but what they had already experience of. You have used diligence in this matter, continue so to do, which yet is not so to be interpreted as though the Apostle limited them unto their former measures. But warning them to remit in nothing which before they had ingaged into, he encourageth them to proceed and grow therein. That indeed which the Apostle approves in them and exhorts them unto a continuance in, is the work of Faith and labour of Love in ministring unto [Page 119] the Saints. But here he expresseth the manner wherein they had attended unto those Duties, and which they must continue in unless they intended to desert the Duties themselues; namely, with diligence and alacrity of mind. For such were the Oppositions and Difficulties that they would assuredly meet withall, as we have before declared, that unless they used all diligence and watchfulness, they would more or less faint in their Duty. And we may observe that,

Our Profession will not be preserved, nor the work of Faith and Love carried on unto the Glory of God and our own Salvation, without a constant studious diligence in the pre­servation Obser. 1▪ of the one and the exercise of the other. The Reasons hereof are manifest from what hath been discoursed before concerning the greatness and difficulty of this work, and the opposition that is made unto it. Our Apostle knew nothing of that lazie kind of Profession which satisfies the generality of Christians at this day. They can shew all diligence in their Trades, in their Callings, in their Studies, it may be in their Pleasures, and sometimes in the pursuit of their Lusts: But for a watchful diligence, an earnest, studious endeavour in and about the Du­ties of Religion, the work of Faith and Love, they are strangers unto it, yea cannot be perswaded that any such thing is required of them or expected from them. For the Duties of Divine Worship, they will attend unto them out of Cu­stom or Conviction. For some Acts of Charity they may perhaps be sometimes drawn unto, or for their Reputation they may do like others of their Quality in the world. But to project and design in their minds how they may Glorifie God in the Duties of Faith and Love, as the liberal man deviseth liberal things, to keep up an earnest bent and warmth of Spirit in them, to lay hold on, and rejoice in all Opportunities for them, all which are required unto this diligence, they utterly reject all such thoughts. But what do we imagine? Is there another way for us to go to Heaven than what was prescribed unto the Primitive Believers? Will God deal with us on more easie terms; or such as have a farther compliance with carnal ease and the flesh, than those that were given to them of Old? We shall but fool­ishly deceive our selves with such Imaginations? But let no man mistake; These two Principles are as certain and as sacred as any thing in the Gospel. (1) Unless there be in us a work of Faith in personal Holiness and a labour of Love towards others, there is nothing in us that accompanies Salvation or will ever bring us thereunto. Let pro­phane persons deride it whilst they please, and worldlings neglect it, and careless Professors fancy to themselves an easier way unto a blessed Eternity, this will be found to be the Rule whereby they must all stand or fall for ever. (2) That this work of Faith and labour of Love will not be persisted in nor carried on without studious diligence and earnest endeavours. Now unto this diligence is required; (1) The ex­ercise of our minds with respect unto the Duties of Faith and Love. (2) In study­ing the Rule of them, which is the word of God, wherein alone the matter of them all and the manner of their performance are declared. (2) In studying and obser­ving the occasions and opportunities for their exercise. (2) Watchfulness against Op­positions, Difficulties and Temptations, is also a part of this Duty; for the rea­sons whereof our Observations on the preceding Verse may be considered. (3) Rea­diness to conflict with, and to go through the dangers and troubles which we may meet withall in the discharge of these Duties. And, as it is evident, all these ar­gue a frame of mind continually intent upon a design to Glorifie God, and to come unto the end of our course in Rest with him. That nominal Christianity which despiseth these things, will perish with the real Author of it, which is the Devil.

Again, The Apostle exhorts them to shew the same diligence which they had done and which they continued in the exercise of; whence it appears that,

Ministerial Exhortation unto Duty is needful even unto them who are sincere in the practice of it, that they may abide and continue therein. It is not easie to be appre­hended Obser. 2. how Gods Institutions are despised by some, neglected by others, and by how few duly improved; all for want of taking right measures of them. Some there are who being profoundly ignorant are yet ready to say, that they know as much as the Minister can teach them, and therefore it is to no purpose to attend [Page 120] unto Preaching. These are the thoughts, and this is too often the Language of per­sons prophane and profligate, who know little, and practise nothing of Christia­nity. Some think that Exhortations unto Duties belong only unto them who are negligent and careless in their performance; and unto them indeed they do belong, but not unto them only as the whole Scripture testifieth. And some it may be like well to be exhorted unto what they do, and do find satisfaction therein. But how few are there who look upon it as an Ordinance of God whereby they are enabled for, and kept up unto their Duty, wherein indeed their use and benefit doth con­sist. They do not only direct unto Duty, but through the Appointment of God, they are means of communicating Grace unto us for the due performance of Duties.

4. The immediate end of the exercise of this diligence is, that we may attain [...], [...] to the full assurance of Hope. And three things we must consider to come unto the mind of the Apostle in these words. (1) What is that Hope which he intends. (2) What is the full assurance of this Hope. (3) How it is attainable in the exercise of this diligence.

1. The Hope here intended, is a certain assured expectation of good things pro­mised, through the accomplishment of those Promises, accompanied with a love, desire and valuation of them. Faith respects the Promise, Hope the thing promised; where­fore it is a fruit and effect of Faith; it being the proper acting of the Soul to­wards things believed as good, absent and certain. Wherefore where our Faith be­gets no Hope, it is to be feared it is not genuine; and where our Hope exceeds the evidence or assurance of our Faith, it is but presumption. Now this Hope con­cerns things absent and future, for as our Apostle saith, if we already enjoy any thing why do we hope for it. And this is the order of these things. God hath in his Promises declared his Goodness, Purpose and Grace in the great things he will do unto all Eternity for Believers; namely, that they shall be perfectly delivered from every thing that is grievous or evil in sin or trouble, and be brought into the full enjoyment of Everlasting Glory with himself. In these Promises Faith resteth on the veracity and power of God. Hereon the Soul considereth those good things which are so promised and now secured by Faith, as yet absent and unenjoyed. And the actings of the Soul towards them in desire, love, valuation, and a certain expectation of them as believed, is this Hope. There may be a pretence of great Hope where there is no Faith as it is with the most. And there may be a profession of great Faith, where there is no true Hope, as it is with many. But in them­selves these things are inseparable and proportionable. It is impossible we should believe the Promises aright, but that we shall hope for the things promised. Nor can we hope for the things promised, unless we believe the Promises. And this discards most of that pretended Hope that is in the world. It doth not proceed from, it is not resolved into Faith in the Promises, and therefore is presumption. Yea none have greater hopes for the most part than such as have no Faith at all.

The great use, benefit and advantage which Believers have by this Grace, is the supporting of their Souls under the troubles and difficulties which they meet withall upon the account of the Profession of what they do believe, Rom. 5. 4, 5. 1 Cor. 15. 19. 1 Thes. 1. 3. Hence in our Christian Armour it is called the Helmet, Ephes. 6. 17. The Helmet of Salvation, that is, the Hope of Salvation, as it is expounded 1 Thes. 5. 8. And for an Helmet the Hope of Salvation. And this is because it bears off and keeps us from being wounded with the sharpness and weight of those stroaks, which do and will befall us in Troubles, Persecutions and Afflictions. And hence it is manifest that a valuation and esteem of the things hoped for, are of the Essence of Hope. For whatever expectation we have of them, if we do not so value them, as to find a satisfactory relief in them in all our Troubles, and that which may out­ballance our present sufferings, Hope is not genuine and truly Evangelical. And this was now the condition of the Hebrews. They were exposed unto much Tri­bulation upon the account of the Profession of the Gospel. And the Apostle fore­saw that they were yet to be exercised with things more grievous and terrible. That which they had to relieve themselves in this condition, to lay in the Ballance against all the evils they suffered or had to conflict withall, were the things that were promised by Christ unto them that believe and obey him. Wherefore an [Page 121] assured expectation of these things so infinitely above and beyond what they lost or underwent at present, was absolutely necessary as to their supportment, so unto their encouragement unto a continuance in their Profession. This alone was able to preserve them from fainting and despondencies under a confluence of evils, which also God himself directs unto, Isa. 35. 3, 4. Wherefore this Duty our Apostle fre­quently exhorts the Hebrews unto in this Epistle, as that which was peculiarly suited unto them, and necessary for them in their present condition. And he lets them know that in its due exercise, it would not only relieve and support them, but enable them in the midst of all their troubles to rejoyce and glory; as hath been declared on chap. 3. 6.

2. There is the [...] of this Hope. The full assurance of it. Hope hath its degrees as Faith hath also. There is a weak, or a little Faith, and a strong or great [...] Faith. So there is an imperfect and a more perfect Hope. This full assurance is not of the Nature or Essence of it, but an especial degree of it in its improvement. A weak imperfect Hope will give but weak and imperfect Relief under Trouble. But that which riseth up unto the full assurance, will compleat our Relief. Where­fore as Hope it self is necessary, so is this degree of it especially where Trials do abound. Yet neither is Hope in this degree absolute, or absolutely perfect. Our minds in this world are not capable of such a degree of assurance in spiritual things, as to free us from Assaults to the contrary, and impressions of Fear sometimes from those Assaults. But there is such a degree attainable as is always victorious, which will give the Soul peace at all times, and sometimes fill it with joy. This therefore is the assurance of Hope here intended. Such a fixed, constant, prevailing Perswasion proceeding from Faith in the Promises, concerning the good things promised, our Interest in them, and certain enjoyment of them, as will support us and carry us com­fortably through all the difficulties and troubles we have to conflict withall. And with­out this it is not possible that we should carry on our Profession to the Glory of God and the Gospel in the times of Affliction and Persecution. For although the least degree of sincere hope will preserve from utter Apostasie, yet unless it be confirmed and fortified, and so wrought up unto this full assurance, it cannot be, but that great and sore Trials, Temptations and Persecutions will at one time or other take such impressions on our minds, as to cause a manifold failing in the Du­ties of Profession, either as to matter or manner; as it hath fallen out with not a few sincere Believers in all Ages.

3. It is to be enquired how the diligence before described tends unto this assurance of Hope. And it doth so three ways. (1) It hath its efficacy unto this purpose from Gods Institution. God hath appointed this as the way and means whereby we shall come to this assurance. So is his Will declared, 2 Pet. 1. 10, 11. Give diligence to make your Calling and Election sure, for if you do these things you shall never fall; For so an entrance shall be administred unto you abundantly into the everlasting King­dom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is the same diligence with that here in the Text which is intended, as is evident by the Verses foregoing. And this hath God appointed as the means to secure unto our selves our Calling and Election which the good things we hope for do infallibly accompany. And hereby we shall be carried through all difficulties into the Kingdom of God and of Glory. (2) It hath a proper and natural tendency unto this end. For by the use of this diligence, Grace is increased in us, whereby our evidences of an Interest in the Promises of the Gospel are cleared and strengthened. And herein doth our assurance of Hope con­sist. (3) By our diligent attendance unto the Duties of Faith and Love, every sin will be prevented whereby our Hope would be weakened or impaired.

5. The last thing expressed in the words is the continuance in this Duty, which [...] is required of us; and that is [...], unto the end. For these words belong not unto them that go immediately before, namely, the assurance of Hope, which some supposing have rendered them harshly and improperly, unto its perfection. The assurance of Hope unto perfection, or until it be perfected. But the words plainly belong unto the precept it self, shewing the same diligence unto the end. There is no time nor season wherein we may be discharged from this Duty; no condition to be attained in this life wherein this diligence will not be necessary for us. We must therefore attend unto it until we are absolutely discharged of this whole warfare. And he who is discouraged because he cannot have a Dispensation [Page 122] from this Duty in this world, he hath an Heart that draweth back and his Soul is not upright in him. And we may observe,

Whereas there are degrees in spiritual saving Graces and their Operations, we ought Obser. 1. continually to press towards the most perfect of them. Not only are we to have Hope, but we are to labour for the assurance of Hope. It is one of the best evidences that any Grace is true and saving in its nature and kind, when we labour to thrive and grow in it, or to have it do so in us. This the nature of the new Creature, whereof it is a part, inclineth unto; This is the end of all the Ordinances and Institutions of the Gospel, Ephes. 4. 13. Hereby alone do we bring Glory to God, adorn the Gospel, grow up into conformity with Christ, and secure our own Eter­nal welfare.

Hope being improved by the due exercise of Faith and Love, will grow up into such an Obser. 2. assurance of Rest, Life, Immortality and Glory as shall outweigh all the Troubles and Persecutions that in this world may befall us, on the account of our Profession or other ways. There is nothing in the world so vain as that common Hope whereby men living in their sins do make a Reserve of Heaven when they can continue here no longer. The more it thrives in the minds of any, the more desperate is their condition; it being only an endless Spring of Encouragements unto sin. Its beginnings are usually indeed but small and weak; but when it hath been so far cherished as to be able to defeat the power of Convictions, it quickly grows up into Presumption and Security. But this Hope which is the Daughter, Sister and Companion of Faith, the more it grows up, and is strengthened, the more useful is it unto the Soul, as being a living Spring of Encouragements unto stability in Obedience. For it being once fully confirmed it will on every occasion of Trial or Temptation give such a present existence in the mind unto future certain Glories, as shall deliver it from snares and fears, and confirm it in its Duty. But this also must be spoken unto after­wards.



[...] segnes, slothful, dull; [...], sitis, efficiamini, be or become, or be made. Syr. [...] ut non praecidatur, ut non abscindatur; that it be not cut off; which Interpreters refer unto the diligence before mentioned. The Translation in the Polyglott renders it, ne (que) torpescatis, as following the Translation in the Jayan Bibles without choice or alteration. Inded [...] is used sometimes in the same sense with [...] to be weary, to loath; to be affected with trouble, Hab. 2. 3. whence sloth and neglect of diligence ensues. But its proper and usual significa­tion is to cut off; the same with the Hebrew [...], That you be not slothful. [...]; imitatores; and so the Rhemists render it, imitatores; which being a word not much in use among us, and when it is used commonly taken in an ill sense, Followers doth better as yet with us express what is intended. Who by Faith, [...]; Syr. [...] in length of Spirit; Longanimitatem, pa­tientiam, patientem animum, lenitatem. Longanimity, Patience, a patient mind, for­bearance; It is plain that the same Grace is intended in all these various expressions, whose nature we shall enquire into, [...]. Syr. [...] fuerunt Haeredes Promissionis; were Heirs of the Promise; refer­ing it to Believers under the Old Testament. Vul. Lat. Haereditahunt Promissiones, who shall inherit the Promises, which must respect present, sincere, persevering Be­lievers. Beza, Haereditario jure obtinent Promissionem. Others, Obtinent promissam Haereditatem; and, Haereditatem accipiunt promissionis, which Schmidius chooseth as most exact, though without reason. That of Beza is proper, for [...], is, jure Haereditario obtinere; see our Exposition on chap. 1. 4. We, inherit the Promises.

Verse 12.

That you be not slothful, but followers of them, (their Example) who through Faith and patient long-suffering inherit the Promises.

This Verse puts a full close to the former Exhortation built on the description given of unprofitable and Apostate Professors. And here is withall an entrance made into a discourse of somewhat another nature, but intended and applied un­to the same end and purpose. We may therefore consider it as a continuation of the former Exhortation, inforced with a new Argument of great importance. For,

1. The Apostle gives a Caution against an Evil or Vice directly opposite unto the Duty he had been pressing unto, and which if admitted, would obstruct its dis­charge, That you be not slothful. And therein the series of that discourse hath its connexion with the beginning of ver. 11. We desire, that you be diligent, and that you be not slothful; diligence and sloth being the opposite virtue and vice which are the matter of his Exhortation.

2. He gives a new direction and encouragement unto them for the performance of the Duty exhorted unto, which also guides them in the manner of its perfor­mance. And herein he coucheth an Introduction to a discourse of another nature which immediately ensues, as was observed. But be ye followers.

3. This direction and encouragement consists in the proposal of an Example of others unto them, who performed the Duty which he exhorts them unto. And as for their direction he declares unto them how they did it, even by Faith and Pati­ence; so for their Encouragement he minds them of what they obtained thereby, or do so, they inherited the Promises of God.

1. The Apostle cautions the Hebrews against that which would, if admitted, frustrate his Exhortation and effectually keep them off from the Duty exhorted un­to. [...]. [...], that you be not segnes, molles, ignavi, heavy and slothful. He had before charged them that they were [...], chap. 5. 11. dull or slothful in hearing, not absolutely but comparatively, they were not so diligent or industrious therein as they ought to have been; or the Reproof concerned some of them only. Here he warns them not to be [...], slothful in works or working in practical Duties. We are slothful in hearing when we do not learn the Truths of the Gospel with diligence and industry, when we do not take them into our minds and understandings by the diligent use of the means appointed unto that end. And we are slothful in practice when we do not stir up our selves unto the due exercise of those Graces, and discharge of those Duties, which the Truth wherein we are instructed directs unto, and requires of us. And this sloth is opposed [...], ver. 11. a diligent and sedulous endeavour in the performance of our Duty. Shew diligence, and be not slothful. And this Vice our Holy Apostle according to his great wisdom and care frequently warns the Hebrews against in this Epistle. For he knew that the utmost intension of our spirits, the utmost dili­gence of our minds and endeavours of our whole Souls are required unto an useful continuance in our Profession and Obedience. This God requireth of us, this the nature of the things themselves about which we are conversant deserveth, and necessary it is unto the end which we aim at. If we faint or grow negligent in our Duty, if careless or slothful, we shall never hold out unto the end; or if we do continue in such a formal course as will consist with this sloth, we shall never come to the blessed end which we expect or look for. The Oppositions and Difficulties which we shall assuredly meet withall from within and without, will not give way unto faint and languid endeavours. Nor will the holy God prostitute Eternal Rewards unto those who have no more regard unto them, but to give up them­selves unto sloth in their pursuit. Our course of Obedience is called running in a Race, and fighting as in a Battel, and those who are [...] on such occasions, will never be crowned with Victory. Wherefore upon a due compliance with this caution, depends our present Perseverance and our future Salvation. For,

[Page 124] Spiritual Sloth is ruinous of any Profession though otherwise never so hopeful. The Obser. 1. Apostle was perswaded of good things and such as accompany Salvation concerning these Hebrews; but yet he lets them know that if they intended to enjoy them, they must not be slothful. Sloth is a vicious Affection, and one of the worst that the mind of man is subject unto. For where it takes place and is prevalent, there is no good Principle or Habit abiding. There is not any thing, any Vice amongst men, that the Heathen who built their Directions on the light of Nature, and the Observation of the ways of men in the world, do more severely give in Cautions against. And indeed it were easie to manifest that nothing more increaseth the degeneracy of mankind than this depraved Affection, as being an in-let unto all sordid Nices, and a perfect obstruction unto all virtuous and laudable Enterprizes. But what shall he say who comes after the King? Solomon hath so graphically de­scribed this Affection with its vile nature and ruinous effects, in sundry passages of the Proverbs, that nothing need or can be added thereunto. Besides it is Spiritual Sloth only that we have occasion to speak unto.

Spiritual Sloth is an habitual indisposition of mind unto Spiritual Duties in their proper time and season, arising from unbelief and carnal Affections, producing a neglect of Duties, and Dangers, Remisness, Carelesness or Formality in attendance unto them or the performance of them. The beginning of it is prejudicing negligence, and the end of it is ruining security.

1. It is in general an indisposition and unreadiness of mind, and so opposed unto the entire principle of our spiritual warfare. Fervency in Spirit, Alacrity of mind, Preparation with the whole Armour of God; and therein girding up the Loins of our minds, endeavouring to cast off every weight and the sin that doth so easily be­set us, are required to be in us constantly in the course of our Obedience. But this Sloth is that which gives us an indisposition of mind in direct opposition unto them all. So it is described, Prov. 26. 15. A Person under the power of this vicious Distemper of mind, is indisposed to every Duty, which makes them grievous unto him.

2. When it comes unto the height of it, it is habitual. There is no man but may be occasionally indisposed unto spiritual Duties. The most healthy and athletick constitution is subject unto the incursion of some distempers. Sometimes bodily Infirmities may indispose us, sometimes present Temptations may do so. Such was the Indisposition which befell the Disciples in the Mount, Matth. 26. 40, 41. which yet was not without their sin, for which they were reproved by our Saviour. But where these things are occasional, when those occasions are endeavoured to be pre­vented or removed, persons overtaken with them may not be said to be ab­solutely slothful. There may be many actual Faults where there is not an ha­bitual Vice.

3. But there is this Sloth in a dangerous degree,

1. When this is generally the frame of the mind, when it hath such an unrea­diness unto holy Duties as that it either neglects them, or is cold and formal in the performance of them. This was the temper of Laodicea, Rev. 3. 15. She did enough outwardly to satisfie her self; but in such a way and manner as all that she did was disapproved by Christ. Lukewarmness is the soul and form of sloth.

2. When Persons are generally uncompliant with such outward means as they can­not but acknowledge do contain warning from this, and Invitation unto another frame. So the Spouse acknowledgeth, that it was the Voice of her beloved that knocked, saying, Open to me my Spouse, my Love, my Dove, my undefiled, for my Head is filled with with dew, and my Locks with the drops of the night, Can. 5. 2. Both the Voice, and the Love, and the long waiting of Christ were manifest unto her, and she com­plies not with him but makes her excuses, ver. 2, 3. And the sloth of Persons will be reckoned in proportion unto the means of diligence which they do enjoy. Some may not be sleepy, worldly, careless, slothful at as cheap a rate of Guilt as others, though it be great in all.

3. When Persons are as it were glad of such occasions as may justifie and satisfie their minds in the omissions of Duties or opportunities for them. This casts off the Duty prescribed unto us, Heb. 12. 1. which yet is indispensably necessary unto the [Page 125] attaining of the end of our Faith. When men will not only readily embrace occa­sions offered unto them to divert them from Duty, but will be apt to seek out and invent shifts, whereby they may, as they suppose, be excused from it, which cor­rupt nature is exceedingly prone unto, they are under the power of this vicious habit. Especially is this so, when men are apt to approve of such Reasons to this end, which being examined by the Rules of Duty, with the tenders of the Love of Christ, are lighter than vanity. So it is added of the slothful Person, who hides his hand in his bosom; that he is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can ren­der a reason, Prov. 26 15, 16. He pleaseth himself with his foolish pretences for his sloth, above all the reasons that can be given him to the contrary. And such is the reason pleaded by the Spouse when overtaken with this frame for a season, Cant. 5. 3.

4. When there is a great neglect of our own prayers, when at any time we have been enabled to make them. So the Spouse in whom we have an Instance of a surprisal in­to this evil, prays earnestly for the coming and approach of Christ unto her, chap. 4. 16. in the holy Dispensations of his Spirit. But when he tenders himself unto her desire, she puts off the entertainment of him. So do men pray for Grace and Mercy sometimes. But when the seasons of the communication of them do come, they are wholly regardless in looking after them. They put off things unto another season, and meet oft-times with the success mentioned Cant. 5. 6.

5. When in conflicts about Duties the Scale is often turned on the side of the flesh and unbelief. Sometimes it is so when Duties are considered as future, and sometimes as present. When Duties are considered as future, Difficulties and Objections against them, as for matter or manner, time or season, or degree, one thing or other will be suggested by the Flesh. Grace in Believers will move for an absolute com­pliance. If the contrary reasons, insinuations and objections prevail, the Soul consults with flesh and blood, and is under the power of spiritual sloth. And so are men by frivolous pretences and arguings from self and the world, kept off from the most important Duties. And sometimes there is a conflict in the entrance of the Duties of Gods Worship, as praying, hearing the word, and the like. Grace stirs up the Soul to diligence, spirituality, and vigour of spirit. The Flesh in all things is contrary unto it. Usually to give place unto the Flesh so as to be brought under the power of a cold formality is an evidence of a prevalent sloth.

2. Although this sloth may have various causes and occasions, yet the principal of them are those which I have mentioned, namely, Unbelief and Carnal Affe­ctions.

(1) Unbelief is the principal cause of it, as Faith is of that Diligence and Watchfulness which are opposed unto it. Yea by Faith alone are we excited unto the acting of all other Graces, and the performance of all other Duties. As it is in its nature to quicken us unto them, so it alone takes in all other motives unto vigorous Obedience. Wherefore all Indispositions unto Duty arise from Unbelief. This weakens the efficacy of every thing that should excite us unto it, and increaseth every difficulty that lies in the way of it. As Faith will remove Mountains out of our way or help us to conquer the greatest Oppositions, so Unbelief will make Mountains of Mole-hills, it will make every hindrance like an unconquerable diffi­culty. The Soul made slothful by it, cries, there is a Lion in the way, a Lion in the Streets, Prov. 26. 13. And its whole way is as an Hedge of Thorns, chap. 15. 19. that is, so grievous and troublesome that he cares not to take one step in it. Hence is the opposition in these words, that, ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through Faith, &c. If we grow slothful it is an assured Evidence of the decay of Faith.

(2) Carnal Affections do variously promote this evil frame of mind. Love of ease, wealth, profit, pleasure, will quickly make men spiritually slothful. Where these are prevalent, every thing in the way of Holiness and Obedience is difficult and irksome. Strange Representations will be made unto the mind of all Duties, if not in general, yet in all instances that offer themselves. They are difficult, or tedi­ous, or unseasonable, or needless, or the loss we make at present may be retrieved at another time. Every prevalent Carnal Affection will be heard in the case, and hath something to offer to deter the mind from its Duty. And the secret aversa­tion of the flesh from Communion with Christ in Duties, works in all of them. [Page 126] Wherefore if we see a man slothful, negligent, careless in the Duties of Reli­gion, we may be sure that one carnal Affection or other is powerful in him.

3. As to the general effects of this spiritual Sloth they may be reduced unto these three Heads.

(1) A neglect of known Duties in matter or manner. Known Duties of Professors are either publick or private; And I call them known because they are both acknow­ledged by all so to be, and themselves are under the Conviction of their so being. But where this sloth is predominant, clear Duties will be debated. What more clear Duty, than that we should open our hearts unto Christ when he knocketh; or diligently receive those Intimations of his Love and his Mind which he tender­eth in his Ordinances? Yet this will a Soul dispute about and debate on, when it is under the power of sloth, Cant. 5. 2, 3. And it doth so actually when it doth not take diligent heed unto the Dispensation of the word. Wherefore omission of Duties in their seasons and opportunities, whether publick or private, whether of Piety or Charity, of Faith or Love, or the performance of them without life and delight, meerly to comply with custom, or satisfie Convictions, is an evidence of a Soul growing up under a sinful sloth, unto a ruining security.

(2) Regardlesness of Temptations and Dangers by them, is another general effect hereof. These beset us on every hand; especially they do so with reference unto all Duties of Obedience. In watchfulness against them, a conflict with them and prevalency over them, doth our warfare principally consist. And without a due regard unto them we can neither preserve the Life, nor bring forth the fruits of Faith. Herein spiritual sloth will make us careless. When men begin to walk as if they had no Enemies, as if in their course of life, their converse, their callings and occasions, there were no Snares nor Temptations, Spiritual sloth hath possessed their minds.

(3) Weariness and heartless despondencies in a time of Troubles and Difficulties, is another effect hereof. And unto these Heads may all its particular pernicious effects and consequences be reduced.

And this brief Description of Spiritual sloth in its Nature, Causes and Effects, is a sufficient Eviction of our Assertion, so that I need no farther con­firmation.

Secondly, In the positive Directions given, and the Encouragement adjoyned, [...]. there is an Example proposed, and a Duty enjoyned with respect thereunto. The Persons whose Example is prescribed are mentioned here only indefinitely, be fol­lowers of them, which in the ensuing Verse, he brings down to the Instance of Abraham. For dealing with them who greatly gloried in having Abraham for their Father, no example more pertinent and cogent could be proposed unto them, to let them know that Abraham himself obtained not the Promises any other way, than what he now proposeth unto them. And as our Saviour had told them, that if they would be the Children of Abraham they must do the works of Abraham, otherwise their boast of his being their Father would stand them in no stead; so our Apostle shews them the like necessity of his Faith and Patience in particular. Besides, he was in the next Chapter of necessity to prefer Melchisedec as a Type of Christ, before him, and above him. Andtherefore as he had in an alike case before dealt with Moses, he would take the advantage hereof giving him his due commendation, that he might not seem to derogate any thing from him. And this he doth in that Instance where­in he becameto have his greatest honour, or to become the Father of the faithful.

The Persons therefore included in the particle [...], are the [...]. Patriarchs of the Old Testament. It is true, it is so expressed as that those who were at present real, sincere, sound Believers might be intended, or those who had fallen asleep in the Faith of the Gospel. But as he deals on all occasions with these Hebrews with Instances and Examples out of the Old Testament, as we have seen and considered it at large in the third Chapter, so his immediate expressing of Abraham as the principal of those which he intended, confines his Design unto those under that Dispensation. Plainly he designs them, whom unto the same purpose he enumerates afterwards in particular with the Instances of their Faith, chap. 11. Nor is there any difficulty in the variety of his expressions concerning them. Of those in the Eleventh Chapter he says, that all died in Faith and obtained [Page 127] a good report on the account thereof, but received not the Promises, ver. 13, 39. Of those in this place, that through Faith and Patience they inherited the Promises. But it is one thing to receive the Promises, and another to inherit the Promises. By receiving the Pro­mises, chap. 11. the Apostle respects the actual Accomplishment of the great Promise concerning the exhibition of Christ in the Flesh. This they neither did nor could receive who died before his Incarnation. But the inheriting of the Promises here in­tended, is a real participation of the Grace and Mercy proposed in them with Eternal Glory. This they all received, being saved by Faith even as we, Acts 15. 10, 11. Heb. 4. 2.

Concerning these Persons he proposeth to them the way that they took, and the end that they attained. The way they took, was by Faith and Patience, or long­suffering.

Some think that here is an [...]; and that a constant enduring Faith is [...]. only intended. But their Faith and the constant exercise of it against oppositions is rather proposed unto them under the name of Faith. For that by [...] a distinct Grace or Duty is intended, is manifest from ver. 15. where Abrahams car­riage upon his believing and receiving the Blessing is expressed by [...], after he had patiently endured.

What was that Faith, or of what kind which is here ascribed unto the Patri­archs, is evident from the Context. For it was that Faith which had the especial Promise of God in Christ for its Object. Not a general, not a common Faith, but that which respected the Promise given from the foundation of the world, and ex­presly renewed unto Abraham. Some amongst us wholly deny this kind of Faith, and beyond the belief of the truth or veracity of God in general, will not allow an especial Faith with respect unto the Covenant and the Promise of Grace in Christ Jesus, whereas indeed there is no other Faith true, useful, saving, and pro­perly so called in the world. It is true, this especial Faith in the Promise, sup­poseth Faith in general with respect unto the truth and veracity of God, nor can be without it. But this may be, and is in many where the other is not, yea where it is despised. This therefore was the Faith which was here recommended and proposed unto us. The especial Object of it was the Messiah, or Christ him­self as a Saviour from sin, with this especial limitation, as to come afterwards. The formal reason of it was the Truth of God in his Promises, with his unchange­ableness and infinite power to give them an Accomplishment. And the means of ingenerating this Faith in them was the Promise it self. By this Faith were they justified and saved, Gen. 15. 6. But it may be enquired how this Faith could be proposed unto us for an Example, seeing it respected the future Exhibition of Christ, and we are to respect him as long since come in the Flesh. But this circumstance changeth nothing in the nature of the things themselves: For although as to the actual Exhibition of the Messiah they looked on it as future, yet as to the Benefits of his Mediation, they were made present and effectual unto them by the Promise. And the Faith required of us doth in like manner respect the Lord Christ and the Benefits of his Mediation; and by his actual Exhibition in the Flesh, is not changed in its nature from what theirs was, though it be exceedingly advantaged as to its Light.

The next thing ascribed unto them is [...]. Patience, say we, that is, [...]; but these Graces are expresly distinguished, 2 Tim. 3. 10. [...]; [...]. Faith, Long-suffering, Patience; so plainly Col. 1. 11. [...]; unto all patience and long-suffering. And in very many places it is recommended as a special Grace and Duty, 2 Cor. 6. 6. Gal. 5. 22. Ephes. 4. 2. Col. 3. 12. And it is often also ascribed unto God, Rom. 2. 4. chap. 9. 22. to Christ, 1 Tim. 1. 16. [...] is properly [...] longanimis; or as James speaks, [...], chap. 1. 19. slow to anger, op­posed unto [...], hasty, soon angry, bitter in Spirit. It is a gracious sedate frame of Soul, a tranquillity of mind on holy spiritual grounds of Faith, not subject to take provocations, not to be wearied with opposition. Wherefore although the Apostle saith in like manner in another place, that we have need of Patience, that after we have done the will of God we may receive the Promise, chap. 10. 36. yet the longanimity here intended is distinct from it. For as Patience is a gracious submissive quietness of mind in undergoing present troubles and miseries; so this [...], or longani­mity, [Page 128] forbearance, tolerance or long-suffering, is a sedate, gracious disposition of mind to encounter a series of Difficulties and Provocations, without being exasperated by them so as to desert, or cease from the course wherein we are ingaged. So where it is ascribed unto God, it signifies that goodness of his Nature, and purpose of his Will, that notwithstanding their manifold provocations, and as it were, daily new surprisals, yet he will bear with sinners, and not divert from his course of good­ness and mercy towards them. And with us it hath a twofold object. For (1) In the course of our Faith and Profession we shall meet with many Difficulties and Op­positions, with many Scandals and Offences. These men are apt to take distast at, to dislike, and so to be provoked, as to leave the way wherein they meet with them. Upon various surprising occasions, they fret themselves to do evil, Psal. 37. 8. So David was [...], very short spirited when upon the breach that God Righ­teously made on Uzza, it is said that the thing which God had done displeased David. But this is that Grace whereby the Soul of a Believer is kept from taking offence, or admitting sinful provocations from cross Accidents, Oppositions, Injuries, Scandals, Disappointments. So is the Duty of it prescribed unto us in particular with respect unto one another, Ephes. 4. 2. Besides (2) There are sundry things in the Promises of God whereof Believers earnestly desire if it were possible, a pre­sent Accomplishment, or a greater degree of evidence in their Accomplishment, or a greater speed towards it. Such are the full subduing of their Corruptions, suc­cess against or freedom from Temptations, deliverance of ehe Church from Trou­bles and the like. Now when these things are delayed, when the Heart is ready to be made sick by the deferring of its hopes, the Soul is apt to despond, to give over its expectations, and if it do so, it will quickly also forsake its Duties. The Grace which keeps us up in a quiet waiting upon God for the fulfilling of all that concerns us in his own time and season, that preserves us from fainting and sinful despondencies, is this [...], this long-suffering or forbearance.

These were the ways whereby they came to inherit the Promises. The Heathen of old fancied that their Hero's or Patriarchs by great, and as they were called, Heroick Actions, by Valour, Courage, the Slaughter and Conquest of their Ene­mies, usually attended with Pride, Cruelty and Oppression, made their way into Heaven. The way of Gods Hero's, of the Patriarchs of his Church and People unto their Rest and Glory, unto the enjoyment of the Divine Promises, was by Faith, Patience, Long-suffering, Humility, enduring Persecution, self-denial, and the spiritual Virtues generally reckoned in the world unto pusillanimity, and so de­spised. So contrary are the Judgements and Ways of God and men even about what is good and praise-worthy. Observe as we pass on, That

Faith and patient long-suffering are the only way whereby Professors of the Gospel may attain Rest with God in the Accomplishment of the Promises. It is a sad conside­ration which way and by what means some men think to come to Heaven, or carry themselves as if they did so. They are but few who think so much as a naked Profession of these things to be necessary thereunto. But living avowedly in all sorts of sins, they yet suppose they shall inherit the Promises of God. But this was not the way of the holy men of old, whose example is proposed to us. Some think Faith at least to be necessary hereunto. But by Faith they understand little more than that they profess the true Religion, about which there are so many contests in the world.

This was not the Faith of Abraham, that is, this alone was not so. Wherein it consisted and how it was acted we shall have occasion afterwards to declare. But what do men think of the long-suffering before described? Their Relief against it, is to trust in such a Faith as stands in no need of it. For that common Faith which most men content themselves withall, seldom or never puts them upon the exer­cise of patient long-suffering. It is against the actings of a lively Faith that those Oppositions arise which the exercise of that other Grace is needful to conflict with­all. And I shall give some few instances of it wherein the necessity of it will be made to appear. For if I should handle it at large, all the Difficulties that lye in the way of our Profession would fall under consideration: Of Faith we shall treat afterwards. And,

1. It is necessary with respect unto those Reproaches which the Profession of a saving Faith will expose men unto. It hath done so always, and will do so whilst [Page 129] this world continues. And they are usually cast on Believers in so great variety on all sorts of occasions, as that it would be a long work to call over the principal of them. For they are the chief effects of the Endeavours of Sathan as he is the accuser of the Brethren. I shall instance only in those of one kind. And they are those which on their Straights, Difficulties and Temptations, the world reflects upon, as if their Profession of Faith in God were vain, false and hypocritical. When men said unto David, Where is now thy God? or what is become of thy Religion and Profession, thy pretended Trust in God? he says, it was a killing Sword in his Bones, it pierced deep and pained greatly, Psal. 42. 10. And it is spo­ken in the Person of our Saviour, Reproaches have broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness, Psal. 69. 20. And this was the Reproach that was cast upon him on the Cross, as the next words manifest, They gave me Gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me Vinegar to drink, ver. 21. And this Reproach was that which we In­stance in, They shook the Head at him, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him, let him deliver him seeing he delighted in him, Psal. 22. 118. Matth. 27. 43. And what befell the Lord Christ on the Cross, teacheth the Church what it is to expect under it. In this condition patient long-suffering is our only Relief. If that be not in exercise, we shall either faint and despond, or fret our selves to do evil, or say in our hearts, we will do unto others what they have done unto us. But hereby is the Soul delivered. It is not made stupid and senseless of the sharpness and evil of them; David was not so, nor was Christ himself; nor is it the Will of God that we should put them off with a careless regardlesness. The Glory and Honour of God and the Gospel are so far concerned in them, and God so designs them for the exercise of our Faith, as that they are not to be despised. But it will give a quietness and evenness of Spirit under them, so that no Duty shall be obstructed, nor that satisfaction which we have in the ways of God be any way impeded. And in this case this patient long-suffering worketh three ways. (1) By committing our whole cause to God; as it did in Christ, 1 Pet. 2. 23. (2) By patient waiting for the pleading of our Cause under a sense of our own sin, and an acknowledgement of the Righteousness of God, Mic. 7. 9, 10. (3) By supporting the Soul with a testi­mony of its own sincerity, 1 Cor. 4. 3, 4.

2. With respect unto Violence and Persecutions. These also, that Faith which tends to the enjoyment of the Promises, will expose men unto. And they prove great trials, sometimes from their violence and sometimes from their continuance. Some come with the fury of a Storm, as if they would bear down all before them; Such were the Primitive Persecutions, and that at this day in many places under the Papal Power. Others by their long duration in wasting, vexing, consuming Trou­bles, are designed gradually to wear out the Saints of the most high, Dan. 7. 25. And what havock hath been made in all Ages by them of the one sort and of the other, is known unto all. The number of Apostates in such seasons hath for the most part exceeded that of Martyrs. And many have insensibly withered and grown utterly weary, under Troubles of a long duration, when they could apprehend no end of them. Here we have need of patient long-suffering, if we intend to inherit the Promises. This is that Grace which calmeth and supporteth the Soul under all these pressures. (1) By keeping and preserving it from darkening, disturbing Affections, and passions of Anger, worldly sorrow, carnal fear, and the inordinate Love of present things. Hereby in patience we possess our Souls, Luke 21. 19. which if dis­orderly Affections do as it were once carry out of our power, and possess the con­duct of them, we shall quickly be at a loss in our Profession. (2) By enabling us to take a sedate prospect of Eternal things, of the good things promised, and their glorious excellency in comparison unto what here we suffer in, 2 Cor. 4. 16, 17, 18. (3) By preserving of us from all irregular ways and attempts for deliverance. For without this Grace we shall choose either not to suffer, and so disinherit our selves of the Promises; or shall not suffer in a due manner unto the Glory of God or our own advantage; or shall turn aside unto unlawful Reliefs.

3. It is necessary with respect unto our waiting for the Accomplishment of many great Promises concerning the Kingdom of Christ and Interest of the Gospel in this world. That there are such Promises on record in the Scripture, and as yet unfulfilled, is I suppose generally granted. However I speak of them who are satisfied in their [Page 130] minds beyond all hesitation, that such there are; and of such as lived before the Accomplishment of some of them, who are proposed for our Example. For so did the Fathers under the Old Testament who lived before the coming of Christ in the Flesh. In these Promises and their Accomplishment Believers find themselves greatly concerned; and those who are not so, do disavow an Interest in the spiri­tual Body of Christ and his Glory in the world. Now because their Accomplish­ment is deferred beyond the desires and expectations of men, as was of old the Promise of the coming of Christ, many Temptations do ensue thereon. And not a few have there been on the one hand who have in sad Instances made haste and an­tedated the Accomplishment in unwarrantable Practices; pretending unto Faith, they have renounced patient long-suffering; and not fewer have cast away all ex­pectation of them on the other hand, as though they would never be fulfilled. Herein therefore we have also need of patient long-suffering. Without it we shall fall into one of the extreams mentioned, both of which are attended with dangers ruinous unto Profession: See Habbak. 2. 1, 2, 3, 4. With respect unto these things the days of the Gospel are the time of the Kingdom and Patience of Jesus Christ, Rev. 1. 9. He hath begun to set up his Kingdom, and it shall never be prevailed against, Dan. 7. 27. But yet many things that belong thereunto, especially unto its tranquillity and extent are as yet unfulfilled, and whilst they are so, many out­rages are committed in the world against his Rule and Interest. Wherefore it is at present the Time of his Patience as well as of his Raign. And therefore are we re­quired to keep the word of his Patience, Rev. 3. 10. or to abide in the Faith of those things concerning which he exerciseth Patience in the world. So is it said with respect unto the Judgements which God in his own time will execute on the Antichristian persecuting world. He that leadeth into Captivity, shall go into Captivity; he that killeth with the Soword, must be killed with the Sword; here is the Patience and Faith of the Saints, Rev. 13. 10. While these things are accomplishing, and until they are accomplished, during that large season, until their end be, the Saints must exercise patient long-suffering, added unto Faith in the Promises, or they will not see the end of them. And this patient long-suffering with respect unto the Accom­plishment of these Promises produceth these four effects. (1) A quiet resignation of all times and seasons unto the Soveraignty of God. The Soul possessed of it, quiets it self with this; it is not for me to know the times and seasons which God hath put in his own hand, Deut. 29. 29. (2) A due valuation of present enjoyments, which is especially required since the coming of Christ in the Flesh. (3) A ready Appli­cation of mind unto present Duties, Joh. 21. 22. (4) Waiting in Prayer for what we have not yet received.

4. It is necessary also with respect unto our own personal Obedience and all the principal concerns of it. There are three things which Believers principally aim at in the course of their Obedience. (1) That their corruptions may be throughly sub­dued. (2) That their Graces may be quickened and strengthened unto all fruitfulness. (3) That Temptations being removed their spiritual Consolations may abound. These are the things which they are continually pressing after, longing for, and endea­vouring. And sometimes in some, if not all of them, they seem to have made so great a progress as to be ready for an entrance into perfect Rest. But yet again they find new Storms arise; Corruptions grow strong, and Grace is under Decays, Temptations abound, and Consolations are far away. Yea and it may be they are frequently exercised with these changes and disappointments. This fills them with many perplexities and oft-times makes them ready to faint. Unless this patient long-suffering accompany us in our whole course, we shall not finish it with Glory to God, or Comfort to our own Souls.

But it may be enquired on what Grounds, and for what Reasons the Apostle doth propose unto these Hebrews the Example of their Predecessors in this matter. Wherefore he doth it, or he might do it for these ends: (1) That they might know that he exhorted them unto nothing, but what was found in them who went before them whom they so loved and admired. And this he afterwards unto the same end confirms with many Instances. (2) Unto nothing but what was needful unto all who were to inherit the Promises. For if these things were required of their Progenitors, persons so high in the Love and Favour of God unto that end, how could they imagine that they might be dispensed withall as to their obser­vance. [Page 131] (3) To nothing but what was practicable, which others had done, and was therefore possible, yea easie for them through the Grace of Christ to com­ply withall.

Thirdly, The Apostle for their encouragement unto the Duties mentioned, ex­presseth [...]. the end which those others attained in the practice of them. [...]; who inherit the Promises. It speaks in the present Tense, but principally intends those who lived before, as we have declared. And the Apostle here expresseth the way whereby in the use of the means we come to the enjoyment of the Promises. And this is by Inheritance. We neither merit it, nor purchase it, but inherit it. And how come we to inherit it? By the same way as any other comes to an Inheritance, namely, by being the true Heirs unto it. And how do we become Heirs of this Inheritance? meerly by Gods gratuitous Adoption; so our Apostle declareth fully this whole matter, Rom. 8. 15, 16, 17. Ye have received the Spirit of Adoption whereby we cry Abba Father; The Spirit it self beareth witness with our Spirit that we are the Children of God. And if Children then Heirs of God, and joynt Heirs with Christ. God by free and gratuitous Adoption makes us his Children. All Gods Children are Heirs; he hath an Inheritance for them all. This Inheritance is promised unto them; and therefore their enjoyment of it is called inheriting of the Promises. Wherefore the Grace of Adoption is the Foun­dation, cause, and way of our receiving promised Grace and Glory. And with respect hereunto it is that God is said not to be unrighteous in our Reward, ver. 10. For having freely adopted us and made us Heirs, it belongs unto his Faithfulness and Righteousness to preserve us unto our Inheritance. Only we are such Heirs as have means assigned unto us for the attaining of our Inheritance, which it is our Duty to apply our selves unto.

They inherited [...], the Promises. Camero and Grotius on this Text ob­serve, that where the Fathers under the Old Testament are spoken of in this mat­ter, there the Promises are mentioned; But where Believers under the New Testa­ment are spoken of, there it is called the Promise in the singular number. I shall not give their Reasons why it is so, because they are certainly mistaken in their Obser­vation. For both is the Promise on the one hand mentioned with respect unto them, as Heb. 11. 39. and the Promises frequently with respect unto us, 2 Cor. 7. 1. 2 Pet. 1. 4. Wherefore those expressions are used promiscuously, as is evident by our Apostle, chap. 11. ver. 13, and 39. Because they all sprang from one Original Promise, and all centred in him, in whom and by whom they were to be accom­plished and made effectual, being all yea and Amen in him; and because that one which concerned his Person and Mediation did virtually include all the rest, they are all of them frequently intended and included under the name of the Promise in the singular number. But because God was pleased to let out as it were sundry Ri­vulets of Grace and Bounty, originally stored in the first great Promise, by several particular grants and instances, partly for the Representation of that fulness of Grace which he intended to exhibit thereby; partly for the Encouragement of our Faith and its Direction in the Application of the Grace promised, on various particular occasions; And because he was pleased frequently to renew the same great original Promise, as to Abraham and David; there are many of them, and are called the Promises; and by reason of their Union in the same Covenant whoever is really in­terested in any one of them, is so in all.

By the Promises here the things promised are intended. To inherit the Promises, is to be made partaker of the things promised. And the matter of these Promises was all Grace and Glory. That which is here especially regarded is their full complement in Everlasting glorious Rest with God by Christ. This is proposed unto the Hebrews, and they are encouraged to expect it by the Ex­amples of those who went before them in Faith and Patience. Wherefore he requires,

Lastly, That they should be [...], imitatores eorum. Imitatores is not used [...]. in our Language, and when it is, it rather signifies mimicks, or contains some re­flection of blame or weakness, than what it is here applied unto. Wherefore we render it followers, that is, in doing what they did, treading and walking in their steps, as our Apostle expresseth it, Rom. 4. 12. as we are to follow the steps of Christ, 1 Pet. 2. 21. It is to think we hear them saying unto us what Abimelech [Page 132] did to his Soldiers, Judges 9. 48. What you have seen us do make haste and do as we have done.

All Believers, all the Children of God have a right unto an Inheritance. How they came by this right was before declared: It is by that Adoption whereby they are Obser. 1. made Children of God, and all Gods Children are Heirs, as the Apostle affirms. And this Inheritance is the best and the greatest on the account of security and value. (1) Let an Inheritance be never so excellent and valuable, yet if it be not secure, if a mans Title unto it be not firm and unquestionable, if he may be defeated of it by fraud or force, which things all Earthly Right and Titles are obnoxious unto, it takes off the worth of it. But this Inheritance is conveyed, settled, and secured by the Promise, Covenant, and Oath of God, 2 Sam. 23. 5. Rom. 4. 16. These secure this Inheritance from all possibility of our being defeated of it. (2) The value of it is inexpressible. It is a Kingdom, Matth. 25. 34. Jam. 2. 5. Salvation. Ileh. 1. 14. The Grace of Life, 1 Pet. 3. 7. Eternal Life. Tit. 3. 7. God himself who hath promised to be our Reward, Rom. 8. 17.

The providing of Examples for us in the Scripture which we ought to imitate and follow, is an effectual way of teaching and a great fruit of the care and kindness of God Obser. 2. towards us. The use of Examples to be avoided in sin and punishment the Apostle declared and insisted on in the third Chapter, which we have also improved as we are able. Here he proposeth those which we are to comply with, and conform our selves unto, which afterwards, chap. 11. he farther presseth in very many particular Instances. And as there is a great efficacy in Examples in general which hath been spoken uoto on chap. 3. so there are many advantages in those which are proposed unto our Imitation in the Wisdom of the holy Spirit. For (1) the things and Duties which we are exhorted unto are represented unto us as possible, and that on terms not uneasie or grievous. Considering all the Difficulties and Oppositions from within and without that we have to conflict withall, we may be ready to think it impossible that we should successfully go through with them, and come off safely at the last. To obviate this despondency is the design of the Apostle in that long series of Examples which he gives us chap. 11. For he undeniably demonstrates by Instances of all sorts, that Faith will infallibly carry men through the greatest difficulties they can possibly meet with in the Profession and Obedience of it. There is no more required of us, than such and such persons by the Testimony of God himself, have successfully passed through. And if we follow them not, it is no­thing but Spiritual Sloth, or the Love of the world and sin, that retards us. (2) Great Examples do naturally stir up and animate the minds of men who have any thing of the same Spirit with them by whom they were performed, to do like them, yea to out-do them if it be possible. So Themistocles said that Miltiades's Victory against the Persians would not let him sleep. Being a person of the same kind of courage with him, it stirred him up in a noble emulation, to equal him in an hazar­dous and successful defence of his Country.

But then it is required, that there be the same Spirit in us as was in them, whose Examples are proposed unto us. Let the examples of persons Valiant and Heroical, in their great and noble Actions be set before men of a weak and pusil­lanimous nature or temper, and you will amaze or affright but not at all encourage them. Now the Spirit and Principle wherewith the Worthies of God, whose Ex­ample is set before us were acted withall, was that of Faith. In vain should we encourage any unto a following or imitation of them, who hath not the same Spirit and Principle. This the Apostle requireth hereunto, 2 Cor. 4. 13. We having the same Spirit of Faith according as it is written, I believed and therefore have I spoken; we also believe and therefore speak. Had we not the same Spirit of Faith with them, we could not do as they did. And we may take a Trial hereby whether our Faith be genuine or no. For if their Examples move us not, excite us not, unto the like Duties of Obedience with them, it is an evidence that we have not the same Spirit of Faith with them. As the Courage of a Valiant man is enflamed by a noble Example, when a Coward shrinks back and trembles at it. On this supposition there is great force in that direction, Jam. 5. 10. Take my Brethren the Prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord for an Example of Suffering, [Page 133] Affliction and Patience. Let a Minister of the Gospel who is made partaker in his measure of the same Spirit, conside how Elijah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, and the rest of those Holy Souls who spake in the name of the Lord, carried themselves under their Afflictions and Trials, and it will inflame his Heart to ingage chearfully in the like Conflicts. (3) These Examples are so repre­sented unto us, as plainly to discover and point out where our Dangers lye on the one hand, and where our Assistance and Relief lye on the other. These two rightly considered and understood in all our Duties, will give us the best directions we can possibly receive. When we know our Dangers and our Reliefs aright, we are half way through our Difficulties. When these are out of mind, when we know them not, on every occasion we fall under surprisals and troubles. Now in the Examples proposed unto us, there is with­all through the wisdom and care of the Spirit of God, represented unto us, the Temptations which befell those who are so our patterns, the Occasions of them, their Advantages, Power or Prevalency, wherein they missed it, or failed, exposing themselves unto the power of their Spiritual Enemies; and on the other hand what course they took for Relief, what Application they made unto God in their Difficulties and Distresses, and wherein alone they reposed their confidence of success. These things might be confirmed by ma­nifold Instances. (4) There is in them also made known what Interveniences and Disturbances in our course of Obedience may befall us, which yet ought not to make us utterly despond, and give over our Profession as fruitless and hopeless. I confess great Wisdom and Caution is to be used in the conside­ration of the sins and falls of the Saints under the Old Testament, that they be no way abused to give countenance unto sin, either before or after its Commission. We know not their Circumstances, their Light, their Grace, their Temptations, their Repentance, nor what was the Indulgence of God towards sin­ners, before the fulness of the Dispensation of Grace came by Jesus Christ. But this is certain in general, that if every great sin or fall, when any is overtaken therein by the overpowering of Temptations, were absolutely in­consistent with that course of Obedience which leads unto the Inheritance of the Promises, the Holy Ghost would not without any particular exception as to their persons, have recorded such things in the lives of them whom he proposeth for our Example. (5) The certain end of a Course of Holy Obedience is in them proposed unto us. All those holy Souls that are now at rest with God in Glory, as having inherited the Promises, were sometimes as we are, conflicting with Corruptions and Temptations, undergoing Reproaches and Per­secutions, labouring in Duties and a constant course of Obedience unto God. If therefore we follow them in their Work, we shall not fail to partake with them in their Reward.

VERSE 13, 14, 15, 16.

In the close of the foregoing Verse the Apostle expresseth the end of all his Ex­hortations, what they tended unto, and what would be the advantage of all that complied with them in Faith and Obedience. And this was the Inheriting of the Promises, or the enjoyment of the things promised by God, unto them that believe and obey. Of all that entercourse that is between God and sinners, the Promise on the part of God is the sole Foundation. Thereby doth God express his Good­ness, Grace, Truth, and Soveraign Power unto men. Herein all supernatural Re­ligion and all our concernments therein, are founded, and not on any thing in us. And on our part the Inheritance of the Promises in the effects of those holy Pro­perties of God towards us, is the end of what we look for and aim at in all our Obedience. Wherefore the Apostle having arrived in the series of his Discourse unto the mention of this great period of his whole design, he stays awhile to con­sider and explain it in these Verses.


[...]. Syr. [...] When he promised unto him. V. L. Abrahae nam (que) promittens; For promising to Abraham. Most, Deus enim pollicitus Abrahae: for God promising unto Abraham, which expresseth the sense in­tended; and that word, when, which we add, is included in [...].

[...]; Ad verbum; quoniam per neminem ha­buit majorem jurare. Seeing by none he had a greater to swear. V. L. Quoniam neminem habuit, per quem juraret majorem. Rhem. Because he had none greater by whom he might swear. Erasm. Bez. Cum non possit per quemquam majorem jurare. Ours: Be­cause he could swear by no greater: [...] is rather quum than quoniam. To make up the sense, se may be added, none greater than himself. And so the Syriack reads, [...] quoniam non erat ipsi qui major prae se ut juraret per illum; or in the Neuter Gender, majus and illud. Seeing there was no­thing to him greater than himself that he might swear by it. All to the same purpose.

[...], juravit per semet ipsum. Syr. [...]; He sware by his Soul; which though it may be an Hebraisme, yet we shall find that God sometimes in his Oath makes mention of his Soul.

[...]; The Syriack omits the particles [...], which yet are the only note of Asseveration in the words. The Vulgar Lat. renders it by nisi; unless, which is retained by Erasmus, the sense whereof we shall afterwards enquire into. Certe, surely; Arab. I have sworn assuredly. Benedicens, or benedicendo benedicam, blessing, I will bless.

[...]; Syr. [...]; he restrained his Spirit; preserved himself by Faith from being hasty, or making haste.

[...]; adeptus est, nactus est, assequutus est, obtinuit, con­secutus est; all which words are used by Interpreters. Syr. [...] he received. Pro­missum, promissionem, repromissionem; He obtained the Promise.

[...]; Syr. [...] the Sons of men; men of all sorts. [...]. Vul. Lat. Per majorem sui. Sui is added if not needlesly, yet barba­rously.

[...]; Contradictionis, controversiae, litis, contentionis; strife; [...], finis, rather as Bez. Terminus. [...], ad confirmationem; Eras. ad con­firmandum; juramentum, jusjurandum, adhibitum. Syr. [...], The true solution of every contention between them is by an Oath. Arab. A lawful Oath is the decision of every controversie between them.

Verse 13, 14, 15, 16.

For when God made Promise to Abraham; (God promising unto Abraham) be­cause he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing, I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee; and so after he had patiently endured he obtained the Promise. For men verily swear by the greater, and an Oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

[...]; For; Expositors agree that this causal Connexion doth not infer a reason or enforcement of the preceding Exhortation unto Faith and directly: But it gives an [...] account wherefore he proposed unto them the Examples of their Fore-fathers, as those who through Faith and Patience inherited the Promises. For that they did so really and truly he proves by an Instance above all exception, producing the Example of one which he knew would be most forcible and prevalent with them. It is evident that they by Faith and Patience obtained the Promise, for so did Abra­ham, the grounds whereof he particularly declares.

But this in my Judgement compriseth not the whole scope and design of the Apostle in the Introduction of this Example. He hath yet a farther aim in it which we must enquire into. Wherefore (1) having carried on his paraenetical discourse concerning fruitfulness in Profession, with constancy in Faith and Patience, unto a Declaration of the end of all Graces and Duties, which is the enjoyment of the Pro­mise, he takes occasion thence to declare unto them the nature of the Gospel, and the Mediation of Christ therein proposed unto them, unto constancy in the Faith and Profession whereof he had so exhorted them. To this end he lets them know that they were nothing but the Accomplishment of the great Promise made unto Abra­ham, which as themselves acknowledged to be the Foundation of all their hopes and expectations, so also that it had not been before perfectly fulfilled. In that Promise both the great blessing of Christ himself, and the whole work of his Me­diation were included. Wherefore on this account doth he insist so largely on this Promise and the confirmation of it, and issueth his discourse in the Introduction of Christ according unto it. (2) He further designs to manifest that the Promise as to the substance of it belongs no less unto all Believers than it did to Abraham, and that all the benefits contained therein are by the Oath of God secured unto them all.

There is in the words, observing as near as we can their order in the Text, in the distribution; (1) The Person unto whom the Promises were made, and who is proposed for the example of the Hebrews, which is Abraham. (2) The Promise made unto him, which is that of Christ himself and the benefits of his Mediation. (3) The confirmation of that Promise by Oath of God; God sware. (4) The especial nature of that Oath, God sware by himself. (5) The reason hereof, because he had none greater by whom he might swear. (6) The end of the whole on the part of Abraham; He obtained the Promise by patient waiting or enduring. (7) The Assu­rance of the Promise on the part of God as confirmed by his Oath, by a general maxime of things among men, grounded on the Light of Nature and received in their universal practice; For verily men swear by the greater, &c.

1. The Person to whom the Promise was made is Abraham. He was origi­nally [...]. called Abram; [...] Pater excelsus, an high or exalted Father. God changed his Name upon the most signal Renovation of the Covenant with him into [...] Abraham, Gen. 17. 5. The reason and added signification whereof is given in the next words; for a Father of many Nations have I made thee. [...] is a multitude, and God now declaring that Abra­ham should not only be the Father of all the Nations that should proceed naturally from his Loyns, but of all the Nations of the world that should afterwards embrace and imitate his Faith, interserts the first letter of Hamon a multitude into his name, that it might be unto him a perpetual memorial of the Grace and Favour of God, as also a continual confirmation of his Faith in the Promises, the Truth and Power of God being always suggested unto him by the name that he had given him.

Now Abraham was the most meet on many accounts to be proposed as an Ex­ample unto this people. For (1) Naturally he was the Head of their Families, their [Page 136] first peculiar famous progenitor, in whose Person that distinction from the rest of the world began, which they continued in throughout all their Generations; and all men are wont to pay a great Reverence and Respect to such persons. (2) It was he who as it were got them their Inheritance which was first conveyed unto him, and they came in upon his Right. (3) Because the Promise now accomplished was first signally given unto him, and therein the Gospel declared, in the Faith whereof they are now exhorted to persevere. (5) The Promise was not given him meerly on his own account or for his own sake; but he was singled out as a pattern and example for all Believers. And hence he became the Father of the Faithful, and Heir of the World.

2. That which is affirmed concerning this Person is, that God made Promise unto [...]. him; [...]. Of the Nature of Divine Promises I have treated on Chap. 4. 1, 2. In general they are express Declarations of the Grace, Goodness, Pleasure, and Purpose of God towards men for their good and advantage. That here intended was that for the substance of it God made unto Abraham, Gen. 12. 2, 3. I will bless thee and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing, and I will bless them that bless thee and curse them that curse thee: and in thee shall all the Families of the Earth be blessed. And this same Promise was confirmed unto him by the way of a Covenant, Chap. 15. 3, 4, 5. And more solemnly, chap. 17. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. For chap. 15. it is only promised that he should have a natural Seed of his own, and that a Stranger should not be his Heir. But here his name is changed into Abraham, he is made Heir of the world, and many Nations are given in to be his spiritual Posterity. But because together with the Promise our Apostle designs to give an account and commendation both of the Faith and Obedience of Abraham, he calls not out that grant of this Promise which was preventing, renewing, and calling, antecedent unto all his Faith and Obedience, and communicative of all the Grace whereby he was enabled thereunto, as expressed chap. 12. but he takes it from that place where it was renewed and established unto him after he had given the last and greatest evidence of his Faith, Love, and Obedience, chap. 22. 16, 17, 18. [...] By my self have I sworn saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not with-held thy Son, thine only Son; [...]; That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will mul­tiply thy Seed. Thus God gave out unto him the fulness of the Promise by degrees. First he mentions only his own person without any Declaration how the Promise should be fulfilled in his Seed, Chap. 12. 2, 3. Then he expresly adds the mention of his Seed in the way whereby the Promise should be accomplished, but no more, Chap. 15. 5. And at length he lets him know the extent of his Seed unto Believers of all Nations, chap. 17. 5. To all which a farther confirmation by the Oath of God, and the Extent of the Promise is added, Chap. 22. 15, 16, 17, 18. So are we to embrace, and improve as he did the first dawnings of Divine Love and Grace. It is not full Assurance that we are first to look after, but wait for the confirmation of our Faith in compliance with what we have received; If we either value not, or improve not in thankful Obedience the first Intimations of Grace, we shall make no progress towards greater enjoyments. And in the Apostles expression of this Pro­mise we may consider,

1. The manner of the expression. 2. The nature and concernments of the Promise it self.

In the manner of the expression there are the Affirmative particles; [...]; certe, truly. They answer only directly unto [...] in the Hebrew; but the Apostle includes [...]. a respect unto what was said before, [...]; In my self have I sworn. And [...] is sometimes used for [...] that is, truly; in way of an Asseveration, Job 34. 31. [...]; which we render, Surely, it is meet to be said unto God I have born, I will not offend, and that properly. And [...] was of common use in the Greek Tongue in Assertory Oaths. So Demosthenes, [...]; He sware [...] that he would destroy Philip. The Vulgar Latine renders it by nisi, that is, [...], contrary to the sense of the Ancients, Chrysostome, Oecumenius, and Theophylact, as some of the Expositors of the Roman Church do acknowledge. But yet that manner of expression denotes a sense not unusual in the Scripture. For there is an Intimation in it of a reserved Condition rendring the saying ensuing a most sacred Oath. Unless I bless thee, let [Page 137] me not be trusted in as God, or the like. But the formality of the Oath of God is neither in Genesis nor here expressed; only respect is had unto what he affirms, by my self have I sworn. Surely, undoubtedly.

The Promise it self is expressed in those words, [...], &c. Blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. Our Apostle renders the words of Moses exactly, Gen. 22. 17. Only where it is said there, I will multiply thy Seed, he expresseth it by I will multiply thee, which is all one, or to the same purpose; for he could be no way multiplied, but in his Seed; and he proceedeth no farther with the words of the Promise, as being not concerned in what followeth. For although his Seed was actually multiplied, yet it was Abraham himself who was blessed therein. The Vulgar Latine in this place reads, Benedicens benedicam, blessing I will bless; but in Genesis hath only benedicam and multiplicabo. Hence divers of the Roman Expositors, as Ribera, Tena and others, give sundry reasons why the Apostle changed the ex­pression from what was used in Moses, where it is only said I will bless thee, into blessing I will bless thee. And which I cannot but observe, Schlictingius who followeth in this place the Exposition of Ribera, complies with him also in that Observation: aliis quidem verbis (saith he) promissionem hanc apud Mosem extulit: But all this is but the mistake of the Vulgar Interpreter on Gen. 22. For the words in the Origi­nal have the Reduplication rendered by the Apostle, which the Lxx also observe. And this Reduplication is a pure Hebraisme vehemently affirming the thing promised, and hath in it the nature of an Oath. It also intends and extends the matter pro­mised. Blessing I will bless thee; I will do so without fail, I will do so greatly without measure, and eternally without end. And this kind of Asseveration is com­mon in the Hebrew, Gen. 2. 17. [...] In the day thou eatest thereof dying thou shalt dye; thou shalt assuredly dye; be certainly ob­noxious unto Death; it may be also that the double Death temporal and eternal is included therein. See Gen. 37. 33. 2 Kings 2. 23. 1 Sam. 23. 22. Josh. 24. 10. Jer. 23. 17. Dan. 11. 10.

We have need of every thing that any way evidenceth the stability of Gods Promises to Obser. 1 be represented unto us, for the encouragement and confirmation of our Faith. As God redoubled the word at the first giving out of the Promise unto Abraham for the strengthening of his Faith, so is the same here expressed by the Apostle that it might have the same effect upon us. And two things especially God seems to impress upon our minds in this vehemency of expression. (1) The sincerity of his Inten­tions without reserve. (2) The stability of his Purposes without alteration and change. It is to signifie both these, that such emphatical vehement expressions are used even among men, and both these Unbelief is apt to question in God. He that believeth not maketh God a liar, 1 Joh. 5. 10. He is a lyar who in his Promises intendeth not what his words signifie, but hath other reserves in his mind; and he who having promised changeth without cause. Both these doth Unbelief im­pute to God, which makes it a sin of so hainous a nature. The first time God used this kind of Reduplication it was in his threatening of Death unto the Trans­gression of the Command, Gen. 2. 17. In the day thou eatest thereof dying thou shalt dye. And that which Sathan deluded our first Parents by, was in perswading them that there was not sincerity in what God had said, but that he had reserved to him­self, that it should be otherwise. The Serpent said unto the woman [...] dying ye shall not dye, Gen. 3. 4. But this being directly contrary unto what God had expresly affirmed, how could Sathan imagine that the Woman would im­mediately consent unto him against the express words of God? Wherefore he useth this Artifice to prevail with her, that although God had spoken those words, yet he had a Reserve to himself that it should not be unto them indeed as he had spoken, ver. 5. By these means Unbelief entered into the world, and hath ever since wrought effectually in the same kind. There is no Promise of God so plainly expressed but Unbelief is ready to suggest innumerable exceptions why it should have such reserves accompanying of it, as that it doth not belong unto us. Most of these exceptions we gather from our selves, and were it not for them we sup­pose we could believe the Promise well enough. But the truth is, when we are called to believe, when it is our Duty so to do, when we pretend that we are [Page 138] willing and desirous to do so, were it not for such and such things in our selves, it is the sincerity of God in his Promises we all in question: and we think that al­though he proposeth the Promise unto us, and commandeth us to believe, yet it is not his intention and purpose that we should do so, or that we should be made par­takers of the good things promised. By the purpose of God I do not here intend the Eternal purpose of his Will concerning the effects and events of things, about which we are called to exercise neither Faith nor Unbelief, until they are mani­fested. But the whole Rule of our Duty is in Gods Command, and the Faith re­quired of us consists in this, that if we comply with what God prescribeth, we shall enjoy what he promiseth; if we believe, we shall be saved. And herein to question the Truth or Sincerity of God, is an high effect of Unbelief. This distrust there­fore God removes by the Reduplication of the word of the Promise, that we might know he was in good earnest in what he expressed. The like may be spoken con­cerning the stability of the Promises, with respect unto change, which because it must be particularly afterwards spoken unto, shall be here omitted. And these things we have need of. If we think otherwise we know little of the nature of Faith or Unbelief, of our own weakness, the efficacy of the Deceits of Sathan, or the mani­fold oppositions which rise up against believing.

2. For the Promise it self here intended or the matter of it, it may be consi­dered two ways. (1) As it was personal unto Abraham, or as the Person of Abra­ham was peculiarly concerned therein. (2) As it regards all the Elect of God and their Interest in it; of whom he was the Representative. As this Promise was made personally unto Abraham, it may be considered, (1) With respect unto what was Carnal, Temporal and Typical. (2) Unto what was Spiritual and Eternal typed out by those other things. As unto what was Carnal and Typical, the things in it may be referred unto two Heads. (1) His own temporal prosperity in this world. Gods Blessing is always [...] an addition of good unto him that is blessed. So it is said Gen. 24. 1. God hath blessed Abraham in all things; which is explained ver. 35. in the words of his Servant, The Lord hath greatly blessed my Master and he is become great, and he hath given him Flocks and Herds, Silver and Gold, God increased him in Wealth, Riches and Power until he was esteemed as a mighty Prince by the people among whom he dwelt, Gen. 23. 6. And this in the Blessing was a Type and Pledge of that full Administration of Grace and Spiritual things, which was principally intended. (2) What concerned his Posterity where­in he was blessed. And herein two things were in the Promise both expressed at large.

(1) The greatness of their number; They were to be as the Stars of Heaven or as the Sand by the Sea-shore; that is, innumerable.

(2) Their success and prosperity; that they should possess the Gates of their Ene­mies; which principally respected the mighty successes which they had and Con­quests which they made under the conduct of Joshua and afterwards of David.

In both these things were they Typical of the more numerous Subjects of the Kingdom of Christ, and of his spiritual Conquest for them and in them of all their spiritual Adversaries. See Luke 1. 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75.

In these two Branches of the Promise the Faith of Abraham was greatly exercised as unto the Accomplishment of them. For as unto the first or multiplication of his Posterity, though he lived after this about 70 years, yet he never saw any more than two persons, Isaac and Jacob that were interested in this Promise; For although he had other Children and Posterity by them, yet in Isaac only was his Seed to be called, as to this Promise. He had therefore during his own days no outward visible pledge or appearance of its Accomplishment; and yet however he lived and died in the Faith thereof. And as unto the latter, of their prosperity and success, he was told before, that they should be in Affliction and Bondage for 400 years. Yet looking by Faith through all these difficulties in its proper season, he inherited the Pro­mise.

And he was a great Example herein unto all Believers under the New Testament; For there are many Promises remaining as yet unaccomplished, and which at pre­sent as in other Ages, seem not only to be remote from but as unto all outward means to be cast under an impossibility of accomplishment. Such are those as con­cerning the calling of the Jews, the coming in of the fulness of the Gentiles, with the [Page 139] enlargement and establishment of the Kingdom of Christ in this world. Concerning all these things, some are apt to despond, some irregularly to make haste, and some to reject and despise them. But the Faith of Abraham would give us pre­sent satisfaction in these things and assured expectation of their Accomplishment in their proper season.

Secondly, The peculiar Interest of Abraham in this Promise as to the spiri­tual part of it may also be considered; and hereof in like manner there were two parts.

1. That the Lord Christ should come of his Seed according to the flesh. And he was the first person in the world, after our first Parents, to whom in the order of nature it was necessary, to whom the Promise of the Messiah to spring from them was confirmed. It was afterwards once more so confirmed unto David, whence in his Genealogy he is said in a peculiar manner to be the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. For unto these two persons alone was the Promise confirmed. And therefore is he said in one place to be the Seed of David according to the Flesh, Rom. 1. 3. and in another, to have taken on him the Seed of Abraham, Heb. 2. 16. Herein lay Abrahams peculiar Interest in the spiritual part of this Promise, He was the first who had this priviledge granted unto him by especial Grace, that the promised Seed should spring from his Loyns. In the Faith hereof he saw the Day of Christ and rejoiced; this made him famous and honourable throughout all Genera­tions.

2. As he was thus to be the natural Father of Christ according to the flesh, whence all Nations were to be blessed in him or his Seed; so being the first that received or embraced this Promise, he became the spiritual Father of all that do believe, and in them the Heir of the world in a spiritual Interest, as he was in his carnal Seed the Heir of Canaan, in a political Interest. No men come to be accepted with God but upon the account of their Faith in that Promise which was made unto Abraham, that is, in him who was promised unto him. And we may observe That,

The Grant and Communication of spiritual Priviledges is a meer act or effect of Sove­raign Grace. Even this Abraham who was so exalted by spiritual Priviledges, seems Obser. 1. originally to have been tainted with the common Idolatrie which was then in the world. This account we have, Josh. 24. 2, 3. Your Father dwelt on the other side of the Flood in old time, Terah the Father of Abraham, and the Father of Nachor, and they served other Gods. And I took your Father Abraham from the other side of the Flood. It is true, the charge is express against Terah only; but it lying against their Fathers in general on the other side of the Flood, and being added that God took Abraham from the other side of the Flood, he seems to have been involved in the Guilt of the same sin whilst he was in his Fathers House and before his Call. Nor is there any account given of the least preparation or disposition in him unto the state and Duties which he was afterwards brought into. In this condition, God of his Soveraign Grace first calls him to the saving knowledge of himself, and by de­grees accumulates him with all the Favours and Priviledges before mentioned. Hence in the close of his whole course he had no cause to glory in himself neither before God nor men, Rom. 4. 2. For he had nothing but what he gratuitously re­ceived. Indeed there were distances of time in the collation of several distinct Mercies and Blessings on him. And he still through the supplies of Grace which he received under every mercy, so deported himself, as that he might not be un­meet to receive the succeeding mercies whereof he was to be made partaker. And this is the method of Gods communicating his Grace unto sinners. His first Call and Conversion of them is absolutely gratuitous. He hath no consideration of any thing in them that should induce him thereunto. Neither is there any thing requi­red unto a condecency herein. God takes men as he pleaseth, some in one condi­tion and posture of mind, some in another; some in an open course of sin, and some in the execution of a particular sin, as Paul. And he indeed at the instant of his call was under the active power of two of the greatest hinderances unto Con­version that the heart of man is obnoxious unto. For first he was zealous above measure of the Righteousness of the Law, seeking earnestly for Life and Salvation by it; and then he was actually ingaged in the persecution of the Saints of God. These [Page 140] two qualifications constant resting in Legal Righteousness, with rage and madness in persecution, than which there are not out of Hell more adverse principles unto it, were all the preparations of that Apostle unto converting Grace. But after that this Grace which is absolutely free and Soveraign is received, there is an order in Gods Covenant which for the most part he observeth in the communication of ensuing Graces and Priviledges; namely, that Faith and Obedience shall precede the increase and enlargement of them. Thus was it with Abraham who re­ceived his last great signal Promise and Priviledge, Gen. 22. upon that signal Act of his Faith and Obedience in offering up his Son upon Gods Command.

As it was with Abraham, so is it with all those who in any Age are made parta­kers of Grace or spiritual Priviledges.

Secondly, The Promise here intended as to the spiritual part of it may be con­sidered with respect unto all Believers; of whom Abraham was the Representative. And two things are contained therein.

1. The giving and sending of the Son of God to take on him the Seed of Abraham. This was the life and soul of the Promise; the ancient and first ex­pressed regard of Divine Grace unto sinners. In thy Seed shall all the Nations of the Earth be blessed; that is, the Seed of the Woman shall break the Serpents head. The Incarnation of the Son of God promised from the Foundation of the world, shall be fulfilled in thy Seed, he shall take on him the Seed of Abraham. So our Apostle argues, Gal. 3. 16. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the Promises made, he saith not unto Seeds as of many, but as of one, and thy Seed which is Christ. For the Pro­mise which is made concerning Christ in one sense, is made unto him in another. As to the benefit and effects of the coming of Christ it was made concerning him unto Abraham and all his Seed, but as unto the first grant, intention and stability of the Promise it is made unto Christ himself, with respect unto that Everlasting Cove­nant which was between the Father and him, in his undertaking the work of Medi­ation. Or the Lord Christ may be considered either as the undertaker of the Cove­nant with God, and so the Promise was made unto him; or as the Accomplish­ment of the terms of it for us, so the Promise was concerning him.

2. The nature of the benefit which is to be received by Christ thus promised; and that in general is a Blessing, in thy Seed shall they be blessed. And two things are comprised in this Blessing, as the Springs of other mercies innumerable. The Promise of Christ himself was the fountain, and all other Promises were particular streams from it, especial Explications and Applications of that Promise. (1) The removal of the Curse of the Law which was come on all men by reason of sin. The Curse could not be removed but by a Blessing; and that which doth it is the greatest of Blessings, as that was the greatest of Curses and Miseries. (2) The bringing in of a blessed Righteousness, on the account whereof we might be accepted with God. See Gal. 3. 13, 14, 15.

Before we proceed we may observe two things in general concerning this Pro­mise. (1) That this was the Life of the Church of the Old Testament, the Spring of its continuance unto its appointed season, which could never be dried up. How many times were that whole people, the posterity of Abraham, at the very brink of Destruction? For sometimes they fell generally into such terrible provoking sins, as that their utter casting off might have been justly expected by Angels and men; sometimes they were in the just Judgement of God given up unto such wasting Desolations in their Captivities, as that they were wholly like dry bones on the face of the Earth without hopes of a Resurrection. Yet mercy, patience, and power wrought through all and preserved them in a Church state until this Pro­mise was accomplished. This it was alone, or the Faithfulness of God therein whence all their healing and recoveries did proceed. And when this Promise was once fulfilled, it was beyond the power of all the world to keep them unto their former condition. All depended on the issue of this Promise, in whose fulfilling all things were to be cast into a new mold and order. (2) This was that which preserved the Spirits of true Believers among them from ruining Despondencies in the times of the greatest Apostasies, Calamities, and Desolations of the People. They had this Promise still to plead, and rested therein, notwithstanding all the Interveniencies which oft-times seemed to render the case of that people very desperate. See their Faith expressed, Micah 7. 18, 19, 20. Isa. 7. 13, 14, 15. chap. 5. 3. Luke 1. 70, [Page 141] 71, 72, 73. And I would hope there is mercy lies treasured in the Bowels of this Promise not yet brought forth toward the remainders of the Posterity of Abraham according to the Flesh. Who knows but that by virtue of the ingaged Love and Faithfulness of God declared in this Promise, these withered Branches may revive, and these dead bones rise again? Our Apostle placeth the Hopes of it on this ground alone, that as touching the Election they were beloved; they were beloved for the Fathers sake, Rom. 11. 28. As to Profession they were then vsibly falling off; but as to Election, as to Gods purpose concerning them, the Love which he bare to their Fathers, ingaged unto Abraham in this Promise, will one day find them out, and bring them in unto a plentiful share in this Blessing.

Wherefore on all accounts the Instance chosen by the Apostle was of singular use unto the Hebrews, and singularly suited unto their present condition. For as they received many Advantages from his personal Priviledges who was their Father according to the Flesh; so they succeeded unto him in the spiritual part of the Pro­mise; and therefore as the like Duties of Faith and Obedience and Perseverance were required of them as of him, so they in the performance of them had assurance given them in his success, that they also should inherit the Promise. So the Apo­stle applies his discourse ver. 17, 18.

Where the Promise of God is absolutely ingaged, it will break through all Difficulties. and Obser. 2. Oppositions unto a perfect Accomplishment. No Promise of God shall ever fail or be of none effect. We may fail or come short of the Promise by our Unbelief; but the Promises themselves shall never fail. There have been great seasons of Trial in many Ages wherein the Faith of Believers hath been exercised to the utmost about the accomplishment of the Promises; but the Faithfulness of God in them all hath hitherto been ever Victorious, and it will be so for ever. And this Trial hath arose partly from Difficulties and Oppositions, with all Improbabilities of their Accomplishment on rational accounts, or with respect unto visible means; partly from a misunderstanding of the nature of the Promises, or of the season of their Accomplishment. Thus in the first great Promise given unto our Parents after the Fall, how soon was their Faith exercised about it. When they had but two Sons the one of them slew the other, and the survivor was rejected and cursed of God. From whom should now the promised Seed be expected to proceed and spring? Is it not probable that they were oft-times ready to say, where is the Promise of his coming? And yet indeed this which seemed to overthrow and disannul the Promise, was only a means of its farther confirmation. For the death of Abel upon his offering his acceptable Sacrifice, was a Type of Christ and his suffering in his my­stical Body, 1 Joh. 3. 12. When the wickedness of the world was come unto that height and fulness that God would not spare, but destroyed all the Inhabitants of it excepting eight persons, the very destruction of the whole Race of mankind seemed to threaten an Annihilation of the Promise. But this also proved unto its confir­mation. For after the Flood God established it unto Noah, accompanied it with a Covenant and gave a visible Pledge of his Faithfulness therein to abide for ever, Gen. 9. 11, 12. For although that Covenant in the first place respected temporal things, yet as it was annexed unto the first Promise it represented and assured the spiritual things thereof, Isa. 54. 8, 9, 10. This great Promise was after limited unto the person of Abraham, namely, that from him should spring the blessed Seed. Yet after it was given unto him, many and many a year passed over him, before he saw the least hope of its Accomplishment. Yea he lived to see all natural ways and means of fulfilling it utterly to fail; Sarahs Womb being dead and his Body also; so that he was past and beyond all hope of having it fulfilled in the or­dinary course of nature. And the Faith which he had in hope was against hope, Rom. 4. 18, 19. Hence he complained that after all his long and wearisome Pilgrimage he went Childless, Gen. 15. 2. and fell into no small mistakes in the matter of Ha­gar and Ishmael. Yet after all, the Promise made its way unto its own Accom­plishment. And by the signal victory it had herein against all oppositions, assured it self unto the Faith of all succeeding Generations, as is here expressed by the Apostle. Afterwards when the Promise was confined unto Isaac, by that word, in Isaac shall thy Seed be called, and Abraham now drawing apace towards the Grave, he is commanded to slay this Isaac and offer him in Sacrifice unto God. This in­deed [Page 142] was the greatest appearance under the Old Testament of the absolute disan­nulling and frustration of the Promise. And Abraham had no relief for his Faith under this Trial, but only the Omnipotency of God, which could produce effects that he could no way apprehend, as raising of him up again from the dead, or the like. But this also proved in the issue so great a confirmation of the Promise, as that it never received any thing of the like nature, before nor after, until its actual accomplishment. For hereon was it confirmed by the Oath of God, whereof we shall treat immediately; the Sacrifice of Christ illustriously represented, and an In­stance given of the infallible victorious success of Faith whilst against all difficulties it adheres unto the Truth of the Promise. What was the condition with the Faith of the best of men when the Lord Christ was in the Grave? At how great a loss they were, and how their Faith was shaken to the utmost, the two Disciples ex­pressed unto the Lord Christ himself as they went to Emmaus, Luke 24. 21. We trusted that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel, and for what they had heard then reported of his Resurrection they said they were astonished at it, but could not arrive at any positive actings of Faith about it. And this befell them when they were speaking to Christ himself, in whom the Promise had received its full Accomplishment. After this also when the Gospel began to be preached in the world, it appeared that it was rejected by the generality of the Jews, and that they also thereon were rejected from being the people of God. This made a great hesi­tation in many about the Promise made unto Abraham concerning his Seed and Po­sterity, as though it were of none effect. For now when the full Accomplishment was declared, and innumerable persons came in unto a participation of it, those unto whom it was peculiarly made, neither would be, nor were sharers of it. This great Objection against the Truth of the Promise our Apostle lays down; Rom. 9. 6. not as though the Word of God had taken none effect, in answer whereun­to he spends the three ensuing Chapters. And he doth it by letting of us know that the Objection was grounded on a mistake of the Persons unto whom the Pro­mise did belong; which were not the whole carnal Seed of Abraham but only the Elect of them, and all Nations whatever. And there are yet Promises of God on Record in the Scripture not yet fulfilled, that will and do exercise the Faith of the strongest and most experienced Believers, concerning whose Accomplishment our Lord Jesus Christ says, When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find Faith in the Earth? The Faith, hope and expectation of most will be at an end, before they are fulfilled; and that because of the insuperable difficulties that seem to lye in the way of their Accomplishment. Such are those which concern the destruction of Antichrist, the calling of the Jews, the spreading of the Gospel unto all Nations, and the flourishing of the Church in Peace and Purity. These things as to all out­ward appearance seem as remote from Accomplishment, as they were the first day the Promise was given, and the difficulties against it increase continually. And yet notwithstanding the Promise shall break through all difficulties, at the end it shall speak and not lye; The Lord will hasten it in its time, Isa. 20. 22. Before its proper time, its appointed season it will not be; but then the Lord will hasten it that no opposition shall be able to stand before it.

From this state of the Promises three things have fallen out. (1) That in all Ages the Faith of True Believers hath been greatly and peculiarly exercised, which hath been to the singular advantage of the Church. For the exercise of Faith is that whereon the flourishing of all other Graces doth depend. And from hence hath there been a Treasure of fervent Prayers laid up from the beginning, which shall in their proper season have a fruitful return. In that Faith and Patience, in those Supplications and Expectations, wherein in every Age of the Church the Faithful have abounded with respect unto the difficulties that have lain in the way of the Promise, hath God been exceedingly glorified; as also they were the means of drawing forth new encouragements and assurances as the comfort of the Church did require. (2) Hence it was that in most Ages of the Church there have been mockers and scoffers, saying, Where is the Promise of his coming, for since the Fathers fill asleep all things continue as from the beginning of the Creation, 2 Pet. 3. 4. The Fathers were they who received the Promises; especially that of the coming of Christ. These they preached and declared, testifying that they would be accom­plished, and that great alterations should be wrought in the world thereby. The [Page 143] sum of what they so declared was, That the Elect of God should be delivered, and that Judgement should be executed on ungodly men, by the coming of the Lord, Jude 14, 15. But what now is become of these Fathers, with all their great Promises and Preachments upon them? Things go on in the same course as they did in the beginning, and are like to do so to the end of the world; what, we pray, is this Promise of his coming you have so talked of? Such Scoffers have most Ages abounded withall; and I think none more than that wherein our Lot is fallen. Observing that all things are in a most unlikely posture to an eye of carnal reason for the Accomplishment of the great Promises of God that are upon Record in the Word, they scoff at all who dare to own an expectation thereof. (3) Some through haste and precipitation have fallen into manifold mistakes of the Promise on the same account. Some have feigned to themselves other things than God ever promised; as the generality of the Jews looked for a carnal Rule, Glory and Do­minion at the coming of the Messiah which proved their temporal and eternal Ruine. And it is to be feared that some are still sick of the same or like Imaginations. And some have put themselves on irregular courses for the Accomplishment of Promises, walking in the Spirit of Jacob and not of Israel. But whatever of this or any other kind may fall out by the unbelief of men, all the Promises of God are Yea and Amen, and will make their way through all difficulties unto an assured Accom­plishment in their proper season.

Thus it is also with respect unto our Faith in the Promises of God as unto our own especial and personal Interest in them. We find so many difficulties, so many oppositions, as that we are continually ready to call in question the Accomplish­ment of them; and indeed few there are, that live in a comfortable and confident assurance thereof. In the times of Temptation, or when perplexities arise from a deep sense of the guilt and power of sin, and on many other occasions, we are ready to say with Sion, The Lord hath forsaken us, our way is passed over from him, as for our part we are cut off.

In all these cases it were easie to demonstrate whence it is that the Promise hath its insuperable efficacy, and shall have its infallible Accomplishment, but it must be spoken unto under the particular wherein the confirmation of the Promise by the Oath of God is declared. Again,

Although there may be priviledges attending some Promises, that may be peculiarly ap­propriated Obser. 2. unto some certain persons, yet the Grace of all Promises is equal unto all Be­lievers. So Abraham had sundry personal Priviledges and Advantages communica­ted unto him in and by this Promise, which we have before re-counted, Yet there is not the meanest Believer in the world, but he is equally partaker of the spiritual Grace and Mercy of the Promise with Abraham himself. They are all by virtue hereof made Heirs of God and Co-heirs with Christ whose is the Inheritance.

The next thing considerable in the words, is the especial confirmation of the Pro­mise made to Abraham by the Oath of God. For God—when he could swear by no greater he sware by himself. And sundry things we must enquire into in this pe­culiar dispensation of God unto men, namely, in swearing to them.

1. The Person swearing is said to be God. God sware by himself. And ver. 17. in [...] the Application of the Grace of this Promise unto Believers, it is said, that God inter­posed himself by an Oath. But the words here repeated are expresly ascribed unto the Angel of the Lord, Gen. 22. 15, 16. And the Angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of Heaven the second time, and said By my self have I sworn saith the Lord. So it is said before ver. 11. The Angel of the Lord called unto him out of Heaven and said Abraham; and adds in the close of ver. 12. thou hast not with-held thy Son, thine only Son from me. He is called an Angel that speaks, but he still speaks in the name of God. Three things are insisted on to assoil this difficulty. (1) Some say that he spake as a Messenger and Ambassador of God in his name, and so assumed his Titles, although he was a meer created Angel: For so a Legate may do, and use the name of him that sends him. But I do not see a sufficient foundation of this supposition. An Ambassador having first declared that he is sent, and from whom, may act in the Name and Authority of his Master; but not speak as if he were the same person. But here is no such Declaration made, and so no provision laid in against Idolatry. For when one speaks in the Name of God, not as from [Page 144] God, but as God, who would judge but Divine Honour and Religious Worship were due unto them, which yet are not unto Angels however gloriously sent or employed, Rev. 19. 10. chap. 22. 9. Wherefore (2) It is said that this Angel doth only repeat the words of God unto Abraham as the Prophets were wont to do. And those of this mind countenance their Opinion with those words used by him, ver. 16. [...] saith the Lord; the words whereby the Prophets solemnly ushered in their messages. But yet neither will this solve the difficulty. For these words, saith the Lord, are often used in the third person, to express him unto us whom in all our Duties we regard, when God himself is introduced speaking. See Gen. 19. 24. Zech. 2. 8, 9. And he who called unto Abraham the second time, ver. 15. is the same with him who first called unto him, ver. 11, 12. and he speaks expresly in the name of God; Thou hast not with-held thy Son from me. Besides in each place this Angel is said to speak from Heaven; which expresseth the Glory of the person that spake. Where­ever God makes use of created Angels in messages unto the Children of men, he sends them unto the Earth; but this speaking from Heaven is a description of God himself, Heb. 12. 25. Therefore (3) By this Angel no other Angel is to be understood, but the great Angel of the Covenant the second person of the Trinity, who thus appeared unto the Fathers under the Old Testament. See this proved at large in our Tenth Exercitation in the first Volume of our Exposition on this Epistle. He it was that spake and sware by himself. For when a meer Angel sweareth, he swears always by one greater than himself according to the rule of our Apostle in this place, Dan. 12. 17. Rev. 10. 5, 6.

Secondly, It may be enquired when God did thus swear: [...]; [...]. promising he sware. He did not first promise, and afterwards confirm it with his Oath. He gave his Promise and Oath together; or gave his Promise in the way of an Oath. Yet are they distinctly considered, nor is it the meer vehemency of the Promise that is intended. For in the next Verse the Apostle calls the Promise and the Oath two things, that is, distinct from one another; [...], two Acts of God. But although he hath respect principally unto that especial Promise which was given with an Oath, yet by the same Oath were all the Promises of this kind given before unto Abraham equally confirmed; whence it may be applied un­to all the Promises of God as it is in the following verses. That which is di­rectly intended is that whereof the story is expressed, Gen. 22. ver. 15, 16, 17, 18. upon his Obedience in offering up his Son. And this was the last time that God immediately and solemnly made Promise unto him after he had gone through all sorts of Trials and Temptations (whereof the Jews give ten particular Instances) and had acquitted himself by Faith and Obedience in them all. Thus did God in his infinite Goodness and Wisdom see good to give him the utmost assurance of the Accomplishment of the Promise, whereof in this Life he was capable; And although it was an Act of Soveraign Grace, yet had it also the nature of a reward, whence it is so expressed, Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not with-held thy Son, thine only Son. Of the same nature are all those assurances of Divine Love and Grace, with the peace and joy that accompany them, which Believers do re­ceive in and upon the course of their Obedience.

Thirdly, The Expression of this Oath may be also considered. The Apostle only mentions the Oath it self, with respect unto the ancient Record of it, but expresseth not the formal terms of it. He sware by himself saying; The Expression of it Gen. 22. 16. is [...]; By my self have I sworn saith the Lord. And we may consider two things concerning the Oath of God. (1) Why he sware. (2) How he swears.

For the first of these, whereas all the Oaths of God are in the confirmation of his Promises or his Threatenings, the reason and nature of those which respect his Threatenings hath been declared at large on chap. 3. And that which concerns the Promises will return unto us, ver. 17. where it must be spoken unto.

2. How he swears; whrein also two things are comprised; (1) The manner of his swearing, and (2) the Nature of his Oath.

1. The manner of swearing is twofold. (1) That which positively expresseth and ingageth what is sworn by; and (2) That wherein an imprecation or execration is im­plyed or expressed. The first the Latines express by per; per Deum; the Greeks by [...] and [...], to the same purpose; The Hebrews prepose the letter [...] unto the [Page 145] thing sworn by. So here [...] that is, by my self. Sometimes there is no expression to that purpose, only God affirms that he hath Sworn, for he is every way his own witness, 1 Sam. 3. 14. I have sworn unto the House of Eli. So Psal. 132. Isa. 14. 24. Sometimes he expresseth some of the Properties of his Nature, as Psal. 89. 35. [...] Juravi per sanctitatem meam; I have sworn by my Holiness. So Amos 4. 2. By my self; Jer. 22. 5. Isa. 45. 23. chap. 43. 13. By his right hand, and the arm of his strength; Isa. 62. 8. By his great name; Jer. 44. 23. By his Soul; Jer. 51. 14. and by the excellency of Jacob; Amos 8. 7. that is himself only. For all the holy Properties of God are the same with his Nature and Being. For that form of an Oath wherein an Imprecation is used, the expression of it is always Elliptical in the Hebrew Tongue, whereas other Languages abound with cursed and prophane Imprecations. And this Elliptical form of expression by [...] si, is often used by God himself, 1 Sam. 3. 14. I have sworn to the House of Eli; [...] if the Iniquity of the House of Eli be purged, Psal. 89. 36. I have sworn unto David by my Holiness, [...]; if I lye unto David. So also Psal. 95. 11. Psal. 132. 2, 3. Isa. 14. 24. And this kind of expression is retained by our Apostle; chap. 3. 12. To whom I sware in my wrath, [...]; if they shall enter into my Rest. As also it is made use of by our Saviour, Mark 8. 12. [...]. Verily I say unto you, if a sign shall be given unto this Generation. There is herein a Rhetorical [...], where something for Honours or Reverence sake is re­strained, silenced, and not uttered. As, if it be so, then let me not be trusted, be­lieved or obeyed.

Secondly, For the Nature of this Oath of God it consists in an express engagement of those Holy Properties whereby he is known to be God, unto the accomplishment of what he promiseth or threateneth. By his Being, his Life, his Holiness, his Power, is he known to be God; and therefore by them is he said to swear, when they are all engaged unto the fulfilling of his word.

Fourthly, There is a reason added why God thus sware by himself. It was be­cause he had none greater whereby he might sware. And this reason is built upon this maxime; That the Nature of an Oath consisteth in the Invocation of a Superiour in whose power we are. For two things we design in that Invocation of another. (1) A te­stimony to be given unto the Truth we assert. (2) Vengeance or Punishment of the contrary upon us. Wherefore we do ascribe two things unto him whom we invo­cate in an Oath. (1) An absolute Omnisciency, or Infallible knowledge of the Truth or Falshood of what we assert. (2) A Soveraign Power over us, whence we expect Protection in case of Right and Truth, or Punishment in case we deal falsly and treacherously. And this respect unto punishment is that alone which gives force and efficacy unto Oaths among mankind. There is a Principle ingrafted in the minds of men by Nature, that God is the supream Rector, Ruler and Judge of all men and their Actions; as also that the Holiness of his Nature with his Righteousness as a Ruler and Judge, doth require that Evil and Sin be punished in them who are under his Government. Of his Omnipotent power also, to punish all sorts of Transgressors, the highest, greatest, and most exempt from humane Cog­nizance, there is an alike conception and presumption. According as the minds of men are actually influenced by these Principles, so are their Oaths valid and useful and no otherwise. And therefore it hath been provided that men of profligate lives, who manifest that they have no regard unto God nor his Government of the world, should not be admitted to give Testimony by Oath. And if instead of driving all sorts of persons, the worst, the vilest of men on sleight or light, or no occasions, unto swearing, none might be in any case admitted thereunto, but such as evidence in their Conversations, such a regard unto the Divine Rule and Government of the world as is required to give the least credibility unto an Oath, it would be much better with humane Society. And that in-road which Atheisme hath made on the world in these latter Ages, hath weakened and brought in a laxation of all the Nerves and Bonds of Humane So­ciety. These things belong unto the Nature of an Oath amongst men, and without them it is nothing. But wherefore then is God said to swear, who as the Apostle speaks, can have no greater to swear by, no Superiour unto whom in swearing he should have respect? It is because as to Infinite Omniscience, Power and Righteousness, the thing respected in an Oath, God is that [Page 146] Essentially in and unto himself, which he is in a way of external Government unto his Creatures. Wherefore when he will condescend to give us the utmost security and assurance of any thing which our Nature is capable of antecedent unto actual enjoyment, in and by the express ingagement of his Holiness, Veracity and Immutability, he is said to swear or to confirm his Word with his Oath.

The end and use of this Oath of God is so fully expressed ver. 17. that I must thither refer the consideration of it.

Ver. 15. The Event of this Promise giving, and Oath of God on the part of Abraham is declared. And so after he had patiently endured he obtained the Promises.

[...]; And so; This was the way and manner of Gods dealing with him, [...]. and this was the way on the other side how he carried it towards God. And the manner of his deportment or the way whereby he attained the end proposed, was [...]; He patiently endured; after he had patiently endured, or rather pati­ently [...]. enduring. The word hath been spoken unto before. [...] longanimus, lentus, tardus ad iram. One that is not quickly pro­voked, not easily excited unto Anger, hasty Resolutions, or any distempered passion of mind. And sundry things are intimated in this word.

1. That Abraham was exposed to Trials and Temptations about the Truth and Accomplishment of this Promise. If there be not difficulties, provocations and delays in a business, it cannot be known whether a man be [...] or no, he hath no occasion to exercise this Longanimity.

2. That he was not discomposed or exasperated by them so as to wax weary, or to fall off from a dependance on God. The Apostle explains fully the meaning of this word, Rom. 4. 18, 19, 20, 21. Against Hope he believed in Hope, that he might become the Father of many Nations; according unto that which was spoken, so shall thy Seed be. And being not weak in Faith, he considered not his own Body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarahs Womb; He stag­gered not at the Promise of God through Unbelief, but was strong in Faith giving Glory to God. And being fully perswaded that what he had promised he was able also to per­form. Continuing in a way of Believing, as trusting to the Veracity and Power of God against all Difficulties and Oppositions was his [...], or patient endurance.

3. That he abode a long season in this state and condition, waiting on God and trusting unto his Power. It is not a thing quickly tried whether a man be [...], one that will patiently endure or no. It is not from his Deportment under one or two Trials, that a man can be so denominated. The whole space of time from his first call to the day of his death, which was just an hundred years, are here included. Wherefore this word expresseth the Life and Spirit of that Faith of Abraham, which is here proposed to the Hebrews as their Example.

(2) The end of the whole was, that [...]; compos factus est [...]. Promissionis; obtinuit Promissionem; He obtained or enjoyed the Promise. Sundry Expositors refer this obtaining of the Promise to the Birth of Isaac, a Son by Sarah, which he so long waited for and at length enjoyed; for this was the principal Hinge whereon all other priviledges of the Promises did depend. But Isaac was upwards of 20 years old, at that time when the Promise was confirmed by the Oath of God, which the Apostle hath respect unto. It cannot therefore be that his Birth should be the thing promised. Besides he twice informs us, chap. 11. ver. 13, 19. that the Ancient Patriarchs among whom he reckoneth Abraham as one, received not the Pro­mises. That which he there intends is their full Accomplishment in the actual ex­hibition of the promised Seed. It is not therefore a full actual enjoyment of the thing promised that is here intended, as it would be, if it respected only the Birth of Isaac. Wherefore Abrahams obtaining the Promise was no more but his enjoy­ment of the Mercy, Benefit, and Priviledge of it, in every state and condition, where­of in that state and condition he was capable.

If therefore we take a view of the Promise as it was before explained, we shall see evidently how Abraham obtained it, that is, how it was every way made good unto him, according as the nature of the thing it self would bear. For as unto his own personal Blessing whether in things Typical or Spiritual, he obtained or enjoyed it. As [Page 147] things were disposed in the Type, he was blessed and multiplied in that increase of Goods and Children which God gave unto him. Spiritually he was justified in his own person, and therein actually enjoyed all the Mercy and Grace which by the promised Seed, when actually exhibited, we can be made partakers of. He who is freely justified in Christ, and therewithall made partaker of Adoption and Sancti­fication, may well be said to have obtained the Promise. And hereon dependeth Eternal Glory also, which our Apostle testifieth that Abraham obtained. For that part of the Promise, that he should be the Heir of the world, and the Father of all that Believe, it could not be actually accomplished in his own days; wherefore therein he obtained the Promise in the assurance he had of it, with the Comfort and Honour which depended thereon. As a pledge of all these things he saw the posterity of Isaac, in whom they were all to be fulfilled. Some things therefore there were in the Promises which could not be actually accomplished in his days; such were the Birth of the Blessing Seed, the numerousness and prosperity of his Children according to the Flesh, the coming in of a multitude of Nations to be his Children by Faith. These things he obtained in that assurance and comforta­ble prospect which he had of them through believing. They were infallibly and unchangeably made sure unto him, and had their Accomplishment in their proper season, Isa. 60. 22. And we may observe that,

1. Whatever difficulty and opposition may lye in the way, patient endurance in Faith and Obedience will infallibly bring us unto the full enjoyment of the Promises.

2. Faith gives such an interest unto Believers in all the Promises of God, as that they obtain even those Promises, that is, the benefit and comfort of them, whose actual Accomplishment in this world they do not behold.

Ver. 16. For men verily swear by the greater, and an Oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

The Apostle in these words confirms one part of his Intention, of the stability of a Divine Promise confirmed with an Oath, by a general maxime concerning the Nature and Use of an Oath among men; and withall makes a transition into the second part of his Discourse; or the Application of the whole unto the use of them that Believe. And therefore sundry things, an Observation whereof will give us the sense and explication of them, are to be considered. As,

1. The Reason why God in his gracious Condescension unto our Infirmities is [...]. pleased to confirm his Promise with an Oath, is introduced by the particle [...], For, which gives an account of what was spoken ver. 13. and the reason intended consists herein; That by the Light of Nature witnessed unto by the common con­sent and usage of mankind, the ultimate, supream and most satisfactory way of giving assurance unto, or confirming what is spoken, or promised, is by an Oath. And the Apostle argueth not meerly from what men do by common consent as it were among themselves, but what the Law and Order of all things, in subjection unto God, doth require. For whereas men do or ought to acknowledge his su­pream Rule and Government over all, when their own rights and concerns can­not be determined and peaceably fixed by reason or testimony, or any other In­strument whereof they have the use, it is necessary that an Appeal be made unto God for his Interposition, wherein all must acquiesce. This therefore being amongst men the highest assurance and ultimate determination of their thoughts, the holy God intending the like assurance in Spiritual things confirms his Promise by his Oath, that we may know from what we centre in as to our own occasions, that there can be no accession of security made thereunto.

2. There is in the words the internal manner and form of swearing amongst men, they swear by a greater, a Nature above them, superiour unto them, in whose [...]. power and at whose disposal they are; which hath been spoken unto.

3. The use of an Oath among men is declared; and therein (1) The subject matter of it, or what is the occasion and subject which it respects. And this is [...]. [...], which we have rendered strife; contradiction between two or more. When one party avers one thing, and another another, and no evidence ariseth from the matter controverted about, nor any of its circumstances, there must of necessity be amongst them [...], an endless strife, and mutual [Page 148] contradiction, which would quickly bring all things to violence and confusion. For if in matters of great concernment and especial Interest, one man positively asserts one thing, and another another, and no Evidence arise from circumstances to state aright the matter in difference, it must come to Force and War, if there be no other way of bringing all parties unto an Acquiescency; for he who hath pe­remptorily asserted his right will not afterwards voluntarily forego it, not only be­cause of the loss of his just claim as he apprehends, but also of his Reputation, in making an unjust claim thereunto. In such cases an Oath is necessary unto the Go­vernment and Peace of mankind, as without which strifes must be perpetuated, or ended by force and violence. This the Apostle respects when he saith, an Oath amongst men is an end of strife. There is therefore unto a lawful Oath required, (1) A just occasion, or a strife amongst men otherwise undeterminable. (2) A law­ful Rule, or Government with power to propose, and to judge about the difference on the Evidence thereof; or a mutual consent of persons concerned. (3) A solemn Invocation of God, as the supream Governour of the world, for the interposition of his Omniscience and Power, to supply the defects and weaknesses that are in the Rules and Rulers of humane Society.

4. This brings in the end of an Oath among men, and that is to be [...]; [...]. that is, to put bounds and limits to the Contentions and mutual con­tradictions of men, about Right and Truth not otherwise determinable, to make an end of their strife.

5. The way whereby this is done is by interposing the Oath [...], for the avowing of the truth, rendering it firm and stable in the minds of men which [...]. did before fluctuate about it.

If this be the nature, use, and end of an Oath amongst men, if under the con­duct of natural Light, they thus issue all their differences and acquiesce therein; certainly the Oath of God wherewith his Promise is confirmed, must of necessity be the most effectual means to issue all differences between him and Believers, and to establish their Souls in the Faith of his Promises, against all oppositions, difficulties and temptations whatever, as the Apostle manifests in the next Verses.

As these words are applied unto, or used to illustrate the state of things between God and our Souls, we may observe from them,

(1) That there is, as we are in a state of Nature, a strife and difference between God and us.

(2) The Promises of God are gracious proposals of the only way and means for the ending of that strife.

(3) The Oath of God interposed for the confirmation of these Promises is every way sufficient to secure Believers, against all Objections and Temptations, in all Streights and Trials, about Peace with God through Jesus Christ.

But there is that in the words absolutely considered which requires our further enquiry into, and confirmation of the Truth therein. There is an Assertion in them, that men use to swear by the greater, and thereby put an end unto strife and contentions between them. But it may yet be enquired whether this respects mat­ter of Fact only, and declare what is the common usage among men; or whether it respect Right also, and so expresseth an approbation of what they do; And moreover whether upon a supposition of such an Approbation, this be to be ex­tended to Christians, so that their swearing in the cases supposed be also approved. This being that which I affirm with its due limitation, I shall premise some things unto the understanding of it, and then confirm its truth.

An Oath in the Hebrew is called [...], and there are two things observable about it: (1) That the Verb to Swear, is never used but in Niphal a passive Con­jugation; [...]. And as some think this doth intimate that we should be passive in swearing, that is, not to do it unless called, at least from circumstances com­pelled thereunto; so moreover it doth, that he who swears hath taken a burden on himself, or binds himself to the matter of his Oath. And it is derived from [...] which signifies seven; because as some think an Oath ought to be before many Wit­nesses. But seven being the sacred, compleat or perfect number, the name of an Oath may be derived from it, because it is appointed to put a present end unto dif­ferences. The Greek calls it [...], most probably from [...], as it signifies to bind or strengthen. For by an Oath a man takes a Bond on his Soul and Con­science [Page 149] that cannot be loosed ordinarily. And the Latine words, juro and jusjuran­dum, are plainly derived from jus; that is, Right and Law. It is an Assertion for the confirmation of that which is right, and therefore loseth its nature and becometh a meer prophanation when it is used in any other case but the confirmation of what is just and right.

And the nature of an Oath consists in a solemn confirmation of what we affirm or deny by a Religious Invocation of the Name of God, as one that knoweth and owneth the Truth which we affirm. As far as God is thus invocated in an Oath it is part of his Worship, both as required by him and as ascribing Glory to him. For when a man is admitted unto an Oath, he is as it were so far discharged from an earthly Tribunal, and by common consent betakes himself to God, as the sole Judge in the case. By what particular expression this Appeal unto God and Invocation of him is made, is not absolutely necessary unto the nature of an Oath to determine. It sufficeth that such expressions be used as are approved and received signs of such an Invocation and Appeal among them that are concerned in the Oath: only it must be observed that these signs themselves are natural and not Religious unless they are approved of God himself. Where any thing pretends to be of that na­ture, the Authority of it is diligently to be examined. And therefore that custom which is in use amongst our selves, of laying the hand on the Book in swearing, and afterwards kissing of it, if it be any more but an outward sign which custom and common consent hath authorised to signifie the real taking of an Oath, it is not to be allowed. But in that sense, though it seem very inconvenient, it may be used until somewhat more proper and suited unto the Nature of the Duty may be agreed upon, which the Scripture would easily suggest unto any who had a mind to learn.

The necessary qualifications of a lawful and a solemn Oath are so expressed by the Prophet as nothing need to be added to them, nothing can be taken from them, Jer. 4. 2. Thou shalt swear the Lord liveth, that is, interpose the name of the living God, when thou swearest, in Truth, in Judgement and in Righteousness. (1) Truth is required in it, in opposition unto falshood and guile. Where this is otherwise, God is called to be a Witness unto a lye; which is to deny his Being. For he whom we serve is the God of Truth, yea Truth it self Essentially. (2) It must be in Judgement also that we swear; not lightly, not rashly, not without a just cause, that which is so in it self, and which appears unto us so to be; or by Judgement the contest it self unto whose determination an Oath is interposed, may be intended. Thou shalt swear in such a case only as wherein something of weight comes to be determined in Judgement. Without this qualification swearing is ac­companied with irreverence and contempt of God, as though his Name was to be invocated on every slight and common occasion. (3) In Righteousness we must also swear, which respects the matter and end of the Oath, namely, that it be Right and Equity which we intend to confirm; or else we avouch God as giving countenance unto our wickedness and injustice.

These things being premised I do affirm, That where matters are in strife or controversie among men, the peace and tranquillity of humane Society in general, or par­ticular, depending on the right determination of them, it is lawful for a Christian or a Believer being lawfully called to confirm the truth which he knows by the interposition or invocation of the Name of God in an Oath, with this design to put an end unto strife. For our Apostle in this place doth not only urge the common usage of mankind, but he layeth down a certain maxime and principle of the Law of Nature whose ex­ercise was to be approved amongst all. And if the practice hereof had not been lawful unto them unto whom he wrote, that is, Christians who obeyed the Gospel, he had exceedingly weakened all that he had designed from his Discourse concerning the Oath of God by shutting it up with this Instance, which could be of no force un­to them, because in that which was unlawful for them to practise, or to have an experience of its efficacy. Wherefore I shall manifest these two things, (1) That a solemn Oath is a part of the natural Worship of God which the Light of Nature leads unto, and is not only lawful, but in some cases a necessary Duty unto Christians and posi­tively approved by God in his Word. (2) That there is nothing in the Gospel that doth contradict or controul this Light of Nature and Divine Institution, but there is that whereby they are confirmed. For the first we have the Example of God himself, [Page 150] who as we have seen is said sundry times to swear, and whose Oath is of signal use unto our Faith and Obedience. Now if men had not had a sense and under­standing of the Nature, Lawfulness, and Obligation from the Light of Nature of an Oath, this would have been of no use nor signification unto them. It is true that God did expresly institute the Rite and Use of swearing in Judgement among his people at the giving of the Law, and gave directions about the causes, manner, and form of an Oath, Deut. 6. 16. chap. 13. 20. Exod. 22. 8. from thence the use of an Oath and consequentially of the Oath of God might be known. But the most solemn swearing of God was before the Law, as in that Instance which our Apostle insists upon of his Oath unto Abraham. The Nature and Force hereof could no otherwise be discovered but by the Light of Nature, wherein God farther enlightened and instructed men by his own Example.

2. In compliance herewith, holy men and such as walked with God before the giving of the Law, did solemnly swear when occasion did require it, and they were lawfully called. So Abraham sware to Abimelek, Gen. 21. 15. and gave an Oath unto his Servant, Gen. 24. 3. 9. So Jacob sware with Laban, Gen. 31. 52. And Joseph sware unto his Father, Gen. 47. 31. And these had no respect unto any legal Insti­tution, so that their practice should be thought to be reproved in those passages of the Gospel which shall be mentioned afterwards.

3. That Oaths were in use and approved of under the Law and the Administration thereof, is not by any denied, and they are commended who did solemnly practice according to the Command. Isa. 65. 16. Psal. 63. 12. which of it self doth suffi­ciently evidence that there is no evil in the nature of it; for God did never permit much less approve any thing of that kind. And those who judge an Oath to be unlawful under the New Testament, do suppose that the Lord Christ hath taken away the principal Instrument of humane Society, the great means of preserving Peace, Tranquillity and Right, though in its own Nature good and every way suited to the Nature of God and man.

4. There is in the New Testament nothing against this practice, yea there is much to confirm it, although considering the foundations whereon it is built, it is sufficient that there is not any thing in the Gospel contrary unto it, as it was a positive Institution, nor can be any thing in the Gospel contrary unto it as it is a dictate of the Light of Nature. But (1) That Prophecy Isa. 45. 23. doth belong and is expresly applied unto Believers under the New Testament. I have sworn by my self, the word is gone out of my mouth in Righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. See Rom. 14. 11. This hath respect unto what God had of old prescribed, Deut. 6. 13. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God and serve him, and shalt swear by his Name. This now saith the Prophet shall in the days of the Gospel be observed throughout the world, which it could not be in case it were not lawful for Christians in any case to swear by that holy Name. And that in like manner is a promise concerning the Calling and Con­version of the Gentiles under the New Testament, Jer. 12. 16. And it shall come to pass if they will diligently learn the ways of my people to swear by my Name, the Lord liveth (as they caused my people to swear by Baal) then shall they be built in the midst of my people; Now this can be no direction, no encouragement unto the Converts of the Gentiles, if it be not lawful for them so to swear, if it be not their Duty when lawfully called thereunto. Yea if God promiseth that they shall swear by his Name, and the Gospel should forbid them so to do, where should they find rest and assurance unto their Obedience.

2. The Apostle Paul doth solemnly swear unto the truth of his own Affirma­tions concerning himself, and his sincerity in them, Rom. 9. 1. 2 Cor. 1. 23. It was not concerning any Doctrines he taught that he did swear. They needed no confirmation by his Oath; as deriving all their Authority and Assurance from Di­vine Revelation. But it was concerning his own heart and purpose, whereof there might be much doubt and hesitation, yea presumption contrary to the truth; when yet it was of great concernment to the Church to have them truly known and stated. And in this case he confirms his Assertion by an Oath, which wholly takes off all pretence of a general Rule, that an Oath is unlawful under the New Testa­ment, with those who will not make the Apostle a Transgressor.

[Page 151] 3. Had an Oath been unlawful under the New Testament God would not have continued the use of it in any kind, lest Christians should thereby be drawn to act against the Rule and his Command. But this he did in that of the Angel, who lifted up his hand unto Heaven and sware by him who liveth for ever and ever, Rev 10. 5, 6. To give a great and an approved example of that which in no case we may imitate, doth not become the Wisdom of God, and his Care towards his Church.

Add unto all these considerations the express Approbation given in this place by our Apostle unto the practice of solemn swearing among men to confirm the truth, and to put an end unto strife, and the lawfulness of an Oath will be found suffi­ciently confirmed in the New Testament as well as the Old.

There are two places in the New Testament which are usually pleaded in opposi­tion unto this Liberty and Duty. The first is in the words of our Saviour, Matth. 5. 33, 34, 35, 36, 37. Ye have heard that it hath been said of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thy self, but thou shalt perform unto the Lord thine Oath. But I say unto you, Swear not at all, neither by Heaven for it is Gods Throne, nor by by Earth for it is his Foot-stool, neither by Hierusalem for it is the City of the great King, neither shalt thou swear by thy Head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black: but let your Communication be yea, yea, nay, nay, for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil. And unto these words of our Saviour the Apostle James hath respect chap. 5. 12. But above all things, my Brethren, swear not, neither by Heaven, neither by Earth, neither by any other Oath, but let your yea be yea, and your nay be nay, lest you fall into Condemnation.

Answ. It is evident that this place of James is derived from, and hath respect unto the words of our Saviour; it being an express Inculcation of his Precept and Direction on the same reason. The same Answer therefore will serve both places, which will not be difficult from the observation of the Reasons and Circumstances of our Saviours discourse. And to this end we may observe,

(1) That all things prohibited by our Saviour in that Sermon to the Jews, were in themselves and by virtue of the Law of God antecedently unlawful. Only whereas the Pharisees by their Traditions and false Interpretations of the Scripture in a compliance with their own wickedness and covetousness, had perswaded the body of the Church, and brought them into the practice of much lewdness and many sins; and by their Ignorance of the true spiritual nature of the Law, had led men unto an Indulgence unto their internal Lusts and Corruptions, so they break not forth into open practice; our Saviour rends the veil of their Hypocrisie, discovers the corruption of their Traditions and Interpretations of the Law, de­clares the true Nature of sin, and in sundry Instances shews how and wherein by these false glosses, the body of the people had been drawn into Soul-ruining sins, whereby he restored the Law, as the Jews speak, unto its pristine Crown. Let any of the particulars mentioned by our Saviour be considered, and it will be found that it was before unlawful in it self, or declared so in the positive Law of God. Was it not evil, to be angry with a Brother without a cause, and to call him Racha and Fool, ver. 22. was it not so to look on a woman to Lust after her, or were such un­clean desires ever innocent? That therefore which is here prohibited by our Savi­our, Swear not at all, was somewhat that was even then unlawful, but practised on the false glosses of the Pharisees upon the Law. Now this was not solemn swearing in Judgement and Righteousness, which we have proved before not only to have been lawful, but appointed expresly by God himself.

(2) Our Saviour expresly limiteth his Precept unto our Communication, Let your Communication be yea, yea, nay, nay, ver. 37. There was then amongst men, and that countenanced by the Pharisees, a cursed way of mixing Oaths with mens or­dinary Communication. This blasphemous wickedness, as it was a direct vio­lation of the Third Commandment, so it was frequently rebuked by the Prophets. But as other publick sins, it grew and increased among the people until their cor­rupt leaders in compliance with them, began to distinguish what Oaths in common Communication were lawful, and what were unlawful, what were obligatory and what were not. To eradicate this cursed practice our Saviour gives this general Prohibition unto all that would be his Disciples, Swear not at all, that is, in Commu­nication, which is the first design of the Third Commandment. And as there is no­thing [Page 152] which more openly proclaims a Contempt of Christ and his Authority among many who would be esteemed Christians than their ordinary customary swearing and Cursing by the Name of God, and other Hellish Imprecations which they have in­vented in their daily Communication; so possibly the observation of the greatness of that evil, its extent and incurableness, hath cast some on the other ex­tream. But it is no property of a wise man by avoiding one extream, to run into another.

(3) The Direction and Precept of our Saviour, is given in direct opposition unto the corrupt Glosses and Interpretations of the Law introduced by Tradition, and made Authentick by the Authority of the Pharisees. This is evident from the express Antithesis in the words, You have heard what hath been said of old time, but I say unto you: Now these were two, (1) That there was no evil in an Oath at any time, but only in swearing falsly. This they gathered, (as they fathered their most absurd apprehensions on some pretext of Scripture) from Deut. 19. 12. Ye shall not swear by my Name falsly, neither shalt thou prophane the Name of thy God. From hence they concluded that Gods Name was not prophaned in swearing, unless a man sware falsly, that is, forsware himself. And this also they restrained prin­cipally unto promises by Oaths, or Vows to be performed unto God, which turned to their Advantage who had the disposal of things sacred and devoted. This they judged to comprise the whole of the Prohibition in the Third Commandment, but most falsly, and unto the hazard of the Souls of men. For not only the using or interposition of the Name of God in a false matter which is Perjury, but also the using of it in vain, that is, without just cause, or reason, or call, lightly and vainly, is expresly forbidden. Herein our Saviour interposeth his Divine Interpretation, and in opposition unto the corrupt exposition of the Pharisees, declares that not only false swearing by the Name of God in Judgement or otherwise is forbidden in the Command; but also that vain interposition of the Name of God in our Communication is utterly prohibited. And it is hence evident unto me, that no man ought voluntarily to take an Oath unless the matter in controversie be undetermi­nable without it, and the Authority be lawful that requires it. (2) Aiming to comply with the Lusts and Corruptions of men, (as the great Artifice of all false Teachers consists in the accommodation of Doctrines to the blindness and preva­lent sins of men) they had found out a way how they might swear, and swear on without the guilt of Perjury, did they swear never so falsly; And this was not to swear by the Name of God himself, which if they did and sware falsly, they were perjured, but by the Heavens, or by the Earth, or Hierusalem, or the Temple, or the Altar, or their own Heads; for such kind of Oaths and Execrations were then, as also now in use in the ordinary Communication of men. But herein also the filthy Hypocrites had a further reach, and had insinuated another pestilent Opinion into the minds of men, tending to their own advantage. For they had instructed them, that they might freely swear by the Temple, but not by the Gold of it, and by the Altar, but not by the Gift that was upon it, Matth. 23. 16, 17, 18, 19. For from the Gold offered in the Temple, and the Gift brought unto the Altar, did advantage arise unto these covetous Hypocrites, who would therefore beget a greater veneration in the minds of men towards them, than to the express Institu­tions of God themselves. In opposition unto this corruption our Saviour declares, that in all these things there is a tacit respect unto God himself; and that his Name is no less prophaned in them, than if it were expresly made use of. These are the things alone which our Saviour intendeth in this Prohibition; namely, The Interposition of the Name of God in our ordinary Communication, without cause, call, warrant, or Authority, when no necessity requireth us thereunto; where there is no strife otherwise not to be determined, or which by consent is to be ended; And the usage of the names of Creatures Sacred or Common in our Oaths without mentioning of the Name of God. And there are two Rules in the Interpretation of the Scripture which we must in such cases always carry along with us. (1) That universal Affirmations and Negations are not always to be universally understood, but are to be limited by their occa­sions, circumstances and subject matter treated of. So where our Apostle affirms, that he became all things unto all men; If you restrain not the Assertion unto things indifferent, false conclusions may be drawn from it, and of evil consequence. So is the Prohibition of our Saviour here to be limited unto rash and temerarious [Page 153] swearing; or it would be contrary to the Light of Nature, the Appointment of God, and the Good of Humane Society. (2) It is a rule also of use in the Inter­pretation of the Scripture; That where any thing is prohibited in one place, and allowed in another, that not the thing it self absolutely considered is spoken unto, but the different modes, causes, ends and reasons of it are intended. So here in one place swearing is forbidden, in others it is allowed, and examples thereof are proposed unto us; wherefore it cannot be swearing absolutely, that is intended in either place; but rash causeless swearing is condemned in one, and swearing in weighty causes, for just ends, with the properties of an Oath before insisted on, is recommended and approved in the other. I shall shut up the discourse with three Corollaries from it.

(1) That the custom of using Oathes, Swearing, Cursing or Imprecation in common Communication, is not only an open transgression of the Third Commandment which God hath threatened to revenge, but it is a practical Renunciation also of all the Authority of Jesus Christ who hath so expresly interdicted it.

(2) Whereas swearing by the Name of God in Truth, Righteousness and Judge­ment is an Ordinance of God for the end of Strife amongst men; Perjury is justly reckoned among the worst and highest of sins, and is that which reflects the greatest disho­nour on God, and tendeth to the ruine of Humane Society.

(3) Readiness in some to swear on sleight occasions, and the ordinary Impositions of Oaths on all sorts of persons, without a due consideration on either hand of the Nature, Ends and Properties of lawful swearing, are Evils greatly to be lamented, and in Gods good time among Christians will be reformed.

VERSE 17, 18, 19, 20.

In this last part of the Chapter two things are further designed by the Apostle. (1) An Explication of the purpose and end of God in his Promise, as it was con­firmed by his Oath; and therewithall and from thence he makes Application of the whole unto all Believers, seeing the mind and will of God was the same towards them all, as they were towards Abraham to whom the Promise so confirmed was made in particular. (2) A confirmation of the whole priviledge intended by the Introduction of the Interposition of Christ in this matter; and this is expressed in a Transition and return unto his former discourse concerning the Priesthood of Christ.

17. [...].

18. [...].

19. [...],

20. [...].

[...], in quo, qua in re, Syr. [...] propter hoc, quapropter. Some have re­spect unto the thing it self spoken of, some unto the reasons of things spoken.

[...], Abundantius volens; volens ex abundanti, Syr. [...] maxime voluit, abunde voluit, would abundantly.

[...]. M. S. [...], ostendere, manifestly to set forth.

[...], Immutabilitatem consilii, Bez. Immobilitatem, An. V. Lat. Rhem. The stability; which answers neither of the words used, which are more emphatical. Syr. [...] That his Promise should not be changed. [...] is that which cannot be altered nor transposed into any other state.

[...], intervenit Juramento, An. fide jussit jurejurando, Bez. Interpo­sitionem fecit jurejurando, interposuit jusjurandum. Vul. Lat. Rhem. He interposed an Oath. Not properly, for [...], is, He himself came between, or in the midst; [Page 154] He interposed himself, and gave his Oath. From [...], is [...], Interventor, fide­jussor, interpres, [...], pacificator. Thence is [...], mediatorem ago, pa­cificatoris partes ago, to interpose a mans self by any means to confirm and establish peace, which was here done, [...], with an Oath. The word is used in this place only in the New Testament, as [...] is no where used but by Paul, Gal. 3. 19, 20. 1 Tim. 2. 5. Heb. 8. 6. 9. 15. 12. 24.

[...], ut per duas res immutabiles, or immobiles: Rhem. that by two things unmoveable. Syr. which are not changed, or ought not to be; by two immutable things, [...], fortem consolationem habea­mus; fortissimum solatium; validam consolationem habeamus, haberemus. [...] Syr. that great consolation should be to us. [...] denotes such a power and strength in that which is denominated by it, as is prevalent against op­positions and difficulties, which is most proper in this place.

[...], confugientes, qui confugimus, qui cursum eo corripimus; Bez. who have hastened our course or flight. Qui huc confugimus; Ours, who have fled for refuge. And indeed [...] with [...] is not used but for to fly to a shelter, refuge or protection. Hence [...] is refugium, a refuge that any one be­takes himself unto in time of danger.

[...], ad tenendum propositam spem, to hold the proposed hope. Obtinere, to obtain; Syr. [...] that we may hold. Ut spem propo­sitam retineamus; Bez. ad obtinendam spem propositam; Ours most properly, to lay hold upon; for [...] is, injecta manu fortiter tenere or retinere.

[...], safe and firm, firm and stable. Syr. [...] which holds our Soul that it be not moved, expressing the effect and not the nature or adjuncts of the means spo­ken of.

[...]. Et incedentem, ingredientem, introeuntem, us (que) ad interiora velaminis. Vul. ad interius velaminis, us (que) in ea quae sunt intra velum. Bez. Some respect the place only, some the things within the place, which entereth into that within the Veil. Syr. [...] and entereth into the faces of the Gate; so that Interpreter always calleth the Veil, the faces of the Gate, Port, or Entrance of the Temple, namely, the most holy place, because it was as a face or frontispiece unto them that were to enter. See Matth. 27. 51.

[...]: Ubi praecursor pro nobis introivit. But quo is better, not where but whither, Rhem. The precursor for us: Syr. [...] where before Iesus is entered for us, which determines the ambiguity of [...], not our forerunner is entered, but the forerunner is entered for us.

Verse 17, 18, 19, 20.

Wherein God willing more abundantly to manifest unto the Heirs of Promise the Immu­tability of his Counsel, interposed himself by an Oath; That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to deceive, we might have strong (prevailing) consola­tion, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us; Which we have as an Anchor of the Soul both safe and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the Veil, Whither the forerunner is for us entred, Jesus made an High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Sundry things are observable in these words. (1) The Introduction unto the Ap­plication of the foregoing discourse to the use of all Believers. Wherein, (2) The design of God in the confirmation of his Promise by his Oath, which was to ma­nifest the Immutability of his Counsel. And this is amplified, (1) By the frame, pur­pose or mind of God therein; He was willing. (2) By the manner how he would declare his mind herein, more abundantly; namely, than could be done by a single Promise. It gave not a further stability unto his word, but manifested his willing­ness to have it believed. (3) The persons are described unto whom God was thus willing to shew the Immutability of his Counsel; who are the Heirs of Promise; that is, all and only those who are so. (4) The way is expressed whereby God would thus manifest the Immutability of his Counsel, namely, by two immutable things, that is, his Promise and his Oath. Which (5) are proved to be sufficient [Page 155] Evidences thereof from the Nature of him by whom they are made and given; It was impossible that God should lye. (6) The especial end of this whole design of God, with respect unto all the Heirs of Promise, is said to be that they might have strong Consolation. And thereon they are (7) further described by the way and means they use to obtain the Promise and the Consolation designed unto them there­in, they fly for refuge to the hope set before them. The Efficacy whereof is (8) de­clared from the Nature of it, in comparison unto an Anchor, which we have as an Anchor; further amplified, (1) from its Properties, it is sure or safe and sted­fast; and also (2) from its use; It enters into that within the Veil. And this use (9) is so expressed that occasion may be thence taken to return unto that from which he had digressed chap. 5. 12. namely, the Priesthood of Christ. And (10) The mention thereof he so introduceth according to his usual manner, as also to manifest the great benefit and advantage of our entring by hope into that within the Veil, namely, (1) Because Christ is there. (2) Because he is entred thither as our forerunner. (3) From the Office wherewith he is there vested, called a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec, as he had declared chap. 5. 12. all which must be opened as they occur in the Text.

[...], that is, say many, [...], for which cause, respect may be had unto the [...] words immediately foregoing, An Oath among men is unto them an end of strife; so a reason is thence inferred why God should interpose himself by an Oath in this matter. And the words are rendered by some as we have seen; propter quod, or propterea, in for propter is not unusual. And this then is the coherence, Whereas mankind doth consent herein, that an Oath in things capable of no other proof or demonstration, shall end controversies, satisfie doubts, and put an issue to contra­dictions, differences and strife; God took the same way in an infinite gracious condescension to give full satisfaction in this matter unto the Heirs of Promise. For what could they require further? Will they not rest in the Oath of God, who in doubtful cases do and will acquiesce in the Oaths of men? what way could be more suited unto their Peace and Consolation? And such is Gods Love and Grace that he would omit nothing that might tend thereunto, though in such way of condescension as no Creature would or could, or ought to have expected, before in­finite Wisdom and Mercy had declared themselves therein. Or this expression may respect the whole subject matter treated of; and so the words are rendered in quo or in qua re, in which case or matter. And this our Translation seems to respect, rendering it wherein. Then the words direct unto the Introduction of the end of Gods Oath, expressed in the words following, In this matter God sware by himself, that thereby the Heirs of Promise, might not only be setled in Faith, but more­over receive therewithall strong Consolations; And this import of the words, we shall adhere unto.

[...], God willing. Hereunto all that follows is resolved, It is all [...]. founded in the Will of God. And two things may be denoted hereby, (1) The In­clination and disposition of the mind of God, he was free, he was not averse from it. This is that which is generally intended, when we say we are willing unto any thing that is proposed unto us; that is, we are free, and not averse unto it; so may God be said to be willing, to have an Inclination and an Affection unto the work, or to be ready for it, as he speaks in another place, with his whole Heart and with his whole Soul, Jer. 32. 41. But although there be a Truth herein, as to the Mind and Will of God towards Believers and their Consolations, yet it is not what is here peculiarly intended. Wherefore (2) A determinate act and purpose of the Will of God is designed herein. [...], is God purposing or deter­mining. So is the same Act of God expressed by [...], Rom. 9. 22. what if God willing to shew his wrath; that is, purposing or determining so to do. And this [...], as it respects [...]; is the same with [...], Ephes. 1. 11. wherefore God willing, is God in Soveraign Grace and from especial Love, freely purposing and determining in himself, to do the thing expressed, unto the Relief and Comfort of Believers.

The Soveraign Will of God is the sole spring and cause of all the Grace, Mercy and Consolation, that Believers are made partakers of in this world. So is it here pro­posed; Obser. 1. thereinto alone is all Grace and Consolation resolved. God wills it [Page 156] should be so. Man being fallen off from the Grace and Love of God, and being every way come short of his Glory, had no ways left in nor by himself, to obtain any Grace, any Relief, any Mercy, any Consolation. Neither was there any the least Obligation on God, in point of Justice, Promise or Covenant, to give any Grace unto, to bestow any Mercy or Favour upon Apostatized sinners; wherefore those things could have no rise, spring or cause, but in a free gracious Act of the Soveraign Will and Pleasure of God. And thereunto in the Scripture are they constantly assigned, whether absolutely, that Grace is bestowed on any, or com­paratively, on one and not another, it is all from the Will of God. For herein is Love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us first, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins, 1 Joh. 4. 10. Christ himself with all the Grace and Mercy we have by him, is from the free Love and Will of God. So is our Election, Ephes. 1. 4, 5. Our Vocation, 1 Cor. 1. 26, 27. our Regeneration, Joh. 1. 13. Jam. 1. 18. Our recovery from sin, Hos. 14. 4. So is our Peace and all our Consolation, whence he is called the God of all Grace, 1 Pet. 5. 10. and the God of Patience and Consolation, Rom. 15. 5. the Author and Soveraign disposer of them all.

So is it also with respect unto Grace and Mercy considered comparatively as collated on one and not another, Rom. 9. 15, 16. 1 Cor. 4. 7. there is no other Spring or Fountain of any Grace or Mercy. It may be some may hope to educe Grace out of their own wills and endeavours, and to obtain mercy by their own Duties and Obedience: But the Scripture knows no such thing, nor do Believers find it in their experience.

Let them who have received the least of Grace and Mercy know from whence they have received it, and whereunto they are beholding for it. A due considera­tion of this Soveraign Spring of all Grace and Consolation will greatly influence our minds in and unto all the principal Duties of Obedience. Such as thank­fulness to God, Ephes. 1. 3, 4, 5. Humility in our selves, 1 Cor. 4. 7. Compassion to­wards others, 2 Tim. 2. 25, 26.

Let those who stand in need of Grace and Mercy, (as who doth not) expect them wholly from the Soveraign Will and Pleasure of God, who is gracious unto whom he will be gracious, Jam. 1. 5. our own Endeavours are means in this kind for obtaining Grace in the measures and degrees of it; but it is the Will of God alone that is the cause of it all, 2 Tim. 1. 9.

2. What God was thus willing unto is expressed, and that was more abundantly to declare the Immutability of his Counsel. And we may enquire concerning it, (1) What is meant by the Counsel of God; (2) How that Counsel of God was, and is Immutable. (3) How it was declared so to be. (4) How it was abundantly so declared.

(1) The Counsel of God is the Eternal purpose of his Will, called his Counsel because of the infinite Wisdom wherewith it is always accompanied. So that [...]. which is called the good pleasure which he had purposed in himself, Ephes. 1. 9. is termed the Counsel of his Will, ver. 11. Counsel among men, is a rational delibera­tion about causes, means, effects, and ends according to the Nature of things ad­vised about, and the proper Interests of them who do deliberate. In this sense Counsel, is not to be attributed unto God. For as the infinite Soveraign Wisdom of his Being admits not of his taking Counsel with any other; so the infinite simplicity of his Nature and Understanding comprehending all things in one single Act of his Mind, allows not of formal Counsel or Deliberation. The first there­fore of these the Scripture explodes, Isa. 40. 13. Rom. 11. 34. and although in the latter way God be frequently introduced as one deliberating or taking Counsel with himself, it is not the manner of doing, but the effect, or the thing done is in­tended. So it is in like manner where God is said to hearken, to hear, to see, whereby his infinite Knowledge and Understanding of all things are intended, those being the Mediums whereby we who are to be instructed do come to know and understand, what so we do. Whereas therefore the End of Counsel, or all rational Deliberation, is to find out the true and stable Directions of Wisdom, the Acts of the Will of God being accompanied with infinite Wisdom are called his Counsel. For we are not to look upon the Purposes and Decrees of God as meer Acts of Will and Pleasure, but as those which are effects of infinite Wisdom, and [Page 157] therefore most reasonable, although the reasons of them be sometimes unknown unto us. Hence the Apostle issueth his discourse of Gods Eternal Decrees of Ele­ction and Reprobation in an admiration of the infinite Wisdom of God whence they proceeded, and wherewith they were accompanied, Rom. 11. 33, 34, 35, 36.

In particular the Counsel of God in this place, is the holy, wise Purpose of his Will, to give his Son Jesus Christ to be of the Seed of Abraham, for the Salvation of all the Elect, or Heirs of Promise; And that in such a way, and accompanied with all such good things, as might secure their Faith and Consolation. This is the Coun­sel of God, which contained all the Grace and Mercy of the Promise, with the securing them unto Believers.

(2) Of this Counsel, it is affirmed that it was immutable, not subject unto change. [...], is quod [...] nequit, that cannot be altered. But the design of God here was not to make his Counsel unchangeable, but to declare it so to be. For all the Purposes of God, all the Eternal Acts of his Will considered in themselves are Immutable. See Isa. 46. 10. Psal. 33. 11. Prov. 19. 21. chap. 21. 30. and their Immutability is a necessary consequent of the Immutability of the Nature of God, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning, Jam. 1. 17. The strength of Israel is not a man that he should repent, 1 Sam. 15. 29. And in opposi­tion unto all change or mutability it is said of God [...], Psal. 102. 27. which the Apostle renders by [...], thou art He always, in all respect one and the same. Hence among the Jews [...] He is a Name of God, expressing his immutable self-subsistence. But it will be said that there are in the Scriptures many Declarations of Gods altering his Purpose and Counsels, and repenting him of what he had before determined, being grieved at what he had done, Gen. 6. 6. 1 Sam. 2. 30.

It is agreed by all, that those expressions of repenting, grieving, and the like, are figurative, wherein no such Affections are intended as those words signifie in created Natures, but only an event of things like that, which proceedeth from such Affections.

And as to the changes themselves expressed, the School-men say not amiss, Vult Deus mutationem, non mutat voluntatem, He willeth a change, he changeth not his Will.

But fully to remove these Difficulties; the Purpose of God and the Counsels of his Will, may be considered either in themselves, or in the Declaration that is made concerning their Execution. In themselves they are absolutely immutable, no more subject unto change than is the Divine Nature it self. The Declarations which God makes concerning their Execution or Accomplishments are of two sorts.

(1) There are some of them wherein there is necessarily included a respect unto some antecedent moral Rule, which puts an express condition into the Declarations, although it be not expressed, and is always in like cases to be understood. Thus God Commands the Prophet to declare, that yet forty days and Niniveh should perish, Jonah 3. 4. Here seems to be an absolute Declaration of the Purpose of God without any condition annexed; a positive prediction of what he would do, and should come to pass. Either God must change his Purpose or Niniveh must be overthrown. But whereas this destruction was foretold for fin, and impenitency therein, there was an antecedent moral Rule in the case, which gives it as compleat a condition as if it had been expressed in words. And that is, that Repentance from sin, will free from the punishment of sin; so that the prediction had this limitation by an antecedent Rule, unless they Repent; And God declares that this Rule puts a condition into all his Threatenings, Jerem. 18. 7, 8. And this was the course of Gods dealing with the House of Eli, 1 Sam. 2. 30. God doth neither suspend his Purpose on what men will do, nor take up conditional resolutions with respect thereunto; He doth not purpose one thing, and then change his Resolutions upon contingent emergencies; for he is of one mind and who can turn him, Job 23. 13. nor doth he determine, that if men do so on the one hand, that he will do so; and if otherwise, that he will do otherwise. For instance, there was no such Decree or Purpose of God, that if Niniveh did Repent it should not be destroyed; and if it did not Repent it should perish. For he could not so purpose unless he [Page 158] did not foresee what Niniveh would do; which to affirm, is to deny his very Being and Godhead. But in order to accomplish his Purpose that Niniveh should not perish at that time, he threatens it with Destruction in a way of prediction, which turned the minds of the Inhabitants to attend unto that antecedent moral Rule which put a condition into the prediction, whereby they were saved.

(2) In the Declaration of some of Gods Counsels and Purposes as to the Exe­cution and Accomplishment, there is no respect unto any such antecedent moral Rule, as should give them either Limitation or Condition. God takes the whole in such cases absolutely on himself, both as to the ordering and disposing of all things and means unto the end intended. Such was the Counsel of God concerning the sending of his Son to be of the Seed of Abraham, and the blessing that should ensue thereon. No alteration could possibly on any account be made herein, neither by the sin nor unbelief of them concerned, nor by any thing that might befall them in this world. Such was the Counsel of God, and such the Immutability of it here intended, as it was absolutely unchangeable in it self, so as to mans concerns and interest in it, it was attended with no condition or reserve.

3. This Immutability, God was willing [...], to shew, manifest, declare, [...] make known; It is not his Counsel absolutely, but the Immutability of his Counsel, that God designed to evidence. His Counsel he made known in his Promise. All the gracious actings of God towards us, are the executing of his holy Immutable Purposes, Ephes. 1. 11. And all the Promises of God are the Declarations of those Purposes. And they also in themselves are Immutable, for they depend on the Es­sential Truth of God, Tit. 1. 2. In hope of Eternal Life which God that cannot lye promised before the world began. Gods Essential Veracity is engaged in his Promises. And they are so expresly the Declaration of his Purposes, that when God had only purposed to give us Eternal Life in Christ, he is said to have promised it; namely, before the world began. And this declareth the Nature of Unbelief, He that be­lieveth not God, hath made him a Liar, 1 Jo. 5. 10. because his Essential Truth is engaged in his Promise. And to make God a Liar is to deny his Being, which every Unbeliever doth as he is able. But whereas God intended not only the con­firmation of the Faith of the Heirs of Promise, but also their Consolation under all their Difficulties and Temptations, he would give a peculiar evidence of the Immutability of that Counsel which they embraced by Faith as tendered in the Promise. For what was done did not satisfie the fulness of Grace and Love which he would declare in this matter, no though it were done so abun­dantly; But,

4. He would do it [...], more abundantly, that is, beyond what was ab­solutely [...]. necessary in this case. The Promise of God who is the God of Truth, is sufficient to give us Security. Nor could it be by us discovered how the Goodness of God himself should require a further procedure. Yet because some­thing further might be useful, for the reasons and ends before declared, he would add a further Confirmation unto his Word. And herein as the Divine Goodness and Condescension are evidently manifested, so it likewise appears what weight God lays upon the assuring of our Faith and Confidence. For in this Case he swears by himself, who hath taught us not so to use his Name but in things of great con­sequence and moment. This is the sense of the word if it respect the Assurance given, which is more abundant than it could be in or by a single Promise. But [...] may refer unto God himself, who gives this Assurance; and then it is as much as ex abundanti, when God who is Truth it self, might justly have re­quired Faith of us on his single Promise, yet ex abundanti, from a superabounding love and care he would confirm it by his Oath; Either sense suits the Apostles design.

3. It is declared who they were to whom God intended to give this Evidence [...]. of the Immutability of his Counsel, and that is, [...], to the Heirs of Promise, that is, Believers, all Believers, both under the Old and New Testament. It may be indeed that those of the Hebrews were in the first place intended. For unto them did the Promise belong in the first place, as they were the natural Seed of Abraham, and unto them was it first to be declared and proposed upon its Accomplishment, Acts 2. 29. Acts 3. 25. Acts 13. 46. But it is not they alone who are intended. All the Children of the Faith of Abraham are [Page 159] Heirs also, Gal. 4. 27, 28. It is therefore with respect unto all Believers absolutely, that God confirmed his Promise with his Oath, though the natural Seed of Abraham was respected in the first place, until they cut off themselves by their Unbelief. See Luke 1. 72. Micah 7. 20.

Believers are called Heirs of the Promise on a double account; (1) With respect unto the Promise it self. (2) With respect unto the matter of the Promise or the thing promised. This distinction is evidently founded on Chap. 11. ver. 13, 17, 39. compared. For look in what sense they are said to be Heirs of the Promise, therein they are not actually possessed of it. For an Heir is only in expectancy of that whereof he is an Heir. Wherefore take the Promise in the first sense for­mally, and it is the Elect of God as such, who are the Heirs of it. God hath de­signed them unto an Interest therein, and a Participation thereof; and he confirmed it with his Oath, that they might be induced and encouraged to believe it, to mix it with Faith, and so come to inherit it, or to be made actual partakers of it. To this purpose our Apostle disputeth at large, Rom. 9. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. In the latter sense taking the Promise materially for the thing promised, they are Heirs of it who have an actual Interest in it by Faith; and partaking of the present Grace and Mercy wherewith it is accompanied, as pledges of future Glory, have a Right unto the whole Inheritance. Thus all Believers, and they only, are Heirs of the Promise, Rom. 8. 17. Heirs of God, that is, of the whole Inheritance that he hath provided for his Children. And I take the words in this latter sense; for it is not the first believing of these Heirs of the Promise that they might be justified which is intended; but their establishment in Faith whereby they may be comforted or have strong consolation. But whereas this Declaration of the Immutability of Gods Counsel is made in the Promise of the Gospel which is universal, or at least indefinitely proposed unto all, how it comes here to be cast under this limitation, that it is made to Elect Believers, or the Heirs of Promise only, shall be immedi­ately declared.

4. What God did in this matter for the ends mentioned is summarily expressed, [...]; he interposed himself by an Oath, fidejussit jurejurando. He that [...]. confirmeth any thing by an Oath is fidejussor, one that gives security to Faith. And fidejussor in the Law is Interventor, one who interposeth or cometh between, and ingageth himself to give Security. This state of things is therefore here sup­posed. God had given out that Promise whose Nature we have before declared. Hereon he required the Faith of them unto whom it was given, and that justly. For what could any reasonably require further to give them sufficient ground of assu­rance? But although all things were clear and satisfactory on the part of God, yet many fears, doubts, and objections would be ready to arise on the part of Be­lievers themselves, as there did in Abraham unto whom the Promise was first made, with respect unto that signal Pledge of its Accomplishment in the birth of Isaac. In this case though God was no way obliged to give them further Caution or Se­curity, yet out of his infinite Love and Condescension, he will give them a higher Pledge and Evidence of his Faithfulness, and interposeth himself by an Oath; he mediated by an Oath, he interposed himself between the Promise and the Faith of Be­lievers, to undertake under that solemnity for the Accomplishment of it. And swear­ing by himself he takes it on his Life, his Holiness, his Being, his Truth, to make it good. The Truths which from these words thus opened we are instructed in, are these that follow.

The Purpose of God for the saving of the Elect by Jesus Christ, is an Act of Infinite Wisdom as well as of Soveraign Grace. Hence it is called the Counsel of his Will, Obser. 1. or an Act of his Will accompanied with Infinite Wisdom, which is the Counsel of God. And among all the holy Properties of his Nature, the manifestation of whose Glory he designed therein, there is none more expresly and frequently men­tioned than his Wisdom. And it is declared,

(1) As that which no created understanding of Men or Angels is able perfectly to com­prehend, neither in the Counsel, nor in the Effects of it. Hence our Apostle shut­teth up his Contemplation of the ways, paths, and effects of this Wisdom with that Rapture of Admiration Rom. 11. 33, 34, 35, 36. O the depths of the Riches both of the Wisdom and Knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his Judgements, and his [Page 160] Ways past finding out? For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his Counsellor? or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompenced unto him again. For of him and through him, and to him are all things, to whom be Glory for ever, Amen? The whole issue of our Contemplation of the Wisdom of God in the Eternal projection of our Salvation by Jesus Christ, is only an Admiration of that Abysse which we cannot dive into, with an humble Ascription of Glory to God there­on. And as to the especial effects of this Wisdom, the Angels themselves desire to bow down, with an humble diligence in their enquiry into them, 1 Pet. 1. 12. And on these considerations our Apostle concludes that without all controversie the work hereof is a great mystery, 1 Tim. 3. 16. which we may Adore but cannot Com­prehend. See the Name of Christ, Isa. 9. 6.

(2) As that wherein God hath expresly designed to Glorifie himself unto Eternity. This is the end of all the free Acts, and Purposes of the Will of God, neither can they have any other, though all other things may be subordinate thereunto. Now no Property of the Divine Nature is so conspicuous in the disposal of things unto their proper end, as that of Wisdom, whose peculiar work and effect it is. Where­fore the great end which God will ultimately effect, being his own Glory in Christ, and the Salvation of the Elect by him, the Wisdom whereby it was contrived must needs be Eminent and Glorious. So the Apostle tells us, Then is the End when Christ shall have delivered up the Kingdom unto God, even the Father, and he also in his humane Nature subjects himself unto him, that God may be all in all, 1 Cor. 15. 24, 28. that is, when the Lord Christ hath finished the whole work of his Media­tion, and brought all his Elect unto the enjoyment of God, then shall God be all in all; or therein, or thereby he will be for ever exalted and glorified; when it shall be manifest how all this great work came forth from him, and is issued in him, Jude 25. 1 Tim. 1. 17.

(3) The whole work is therefore expresly called the Wisdom of God, because of those Characters and Impressions thereof that are upon it, and because it is a peculiar effect thereof. So our Apostle tells us, that Christ crucified is the Power of God and Wis­dom of God, 1 Cor. 1. 24. and that the Gospel whereby it is declared, is the Wis­dom of God in a mystery, 1 Cor. 2. 7. and the whole intended is both expresly and fully laid down, Ephes. 3. 8, 9, 10, 11. Unto me who am less than the least of all Saints is this Grace given, that I should Preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable Riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery which from the be­ginning of the world, hath been hid in God who created all things by Jesus Christ. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold Wisdom of God, according to the Eternal Purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. The purpose mentioned in the close of these words, is the same with the Counsel of Gods Will in this place. And this Pur­pose was the Fountain, Spring, and Cause of all those glorious and admirable things, whose Declaration was committed unto the Apostle, as the great publisher of the Gospel unto the Gentiles; by the effects whereof such mysteries were un­folded, as the Angels themselves in Heaven, did not before understand. And what was it (saith the Apostle) that was declared, manifested and known thereby? It was [...], the manifold Wisdom of God, or the Infinite Wis­dom of God, exerting it self in such wonderful variety of holy, wise Operations, as no mind of Men nor Angels can comprehend. And,

(4) On this account are all the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge said to be hid in Jesus Christ, Col. 2. 3. There is not only in him, and the work of his Me­diation, the Wisdom of God, that is, both exerted and manifested, but all the Treasures of it; that is, God will not produce any effects out of the stores of his infinite Wisdom, but what is suitable and subservient unto what he hath designed in and by Jesus Christ. And may we not,

(1) Hence see the horrible depravation of Nature which by sin is befallen the minds, reasons, and understandings of men. For from hence alone it is that this Purpose of God which was an Act of Infinite Wisdom, that the work which he hath wrought pursuant thereof, whereon are impressed the Characters of his manifold Wisdom, are esteemed folly, or foolish things unto them. So far are men by Na­ture from seeing an excellency of Divine Wisdom in them, that they cannot suf­fer them to pass as things tolerably rational, but brand them as foolish, or folly [Page 161] it self. This our Apostle declares and at large insisteth on, 1 Cor. 1. Had the mind of man fixed on any other Reason for the rejection of this Counsel of God, some excuse might be pretended for it, but to reject that as folly which God sets forth and declares as the principal Instance of his Infinite Wisdom, this discovereth the horrour of its depravation. And those in whom this blindness is prevalent may be referred unto three sorts.

(1) Such as by whom the Gospel is absolutely rejected as a foolish thing unbe­coming the Wisdom of God to propose, and their own Wisdom to receive. As this was the state of the Jews and Pagan world of old, and as it is the condition of the Mahumetans and Reliques of the Heathens at this day; so I wish that the Poison and Contagion of this wickedness were not further diffused. But alas we see many every day who on the account of their outward Circumstances live in some kind of compliance with the Name and Profession of the Gospel, who yet discover themselves sufficiently to hate, despise and contemn the Mystery of it, and the Wisdom of God therein.

(2) Such as own the Gospel in the Letter of it, but look on the Mystery of it, or the Counsel of God therein as foolishness. Hence all the principal parts of it, as the Incarnation of Christ, the Hypostatical Union of his Person, his Sacrifice and Oblation, the Attonement and Satisfaction made by his Death, the Imputation of his Righteous­ness, the Election of Grace, with the Power and Efficacy of it in our Conversion, are all of them either directly exploded as foolish, or wrested unto senses suited unto their own low and carnal Apprehensions. And this sort of men do swarm amongst us at this day like to Locusts when a North-East-Wind hath filled every place with them.

(3) There are multitudes whose choice of their outward Conditions being prevented by the Providence of God, so that they are brought forth and fixed where the Gospel passeth currant in the world without any open controul, who do see no reason why, with the first sort, they should openly reject it, nor will be at the pains with the second sort to corrupt it, but yet practically esteem it a foolish thing to give place unto its power on their hearts, and do really esteem them foolish who labour so to do. And this is openly the condition of the generality of those, who live under the Dispensation of the Gospel in the world.

I have named these things only to reflect thereby on that horrible depravation which by corruption of Nature is come upon the minds and reason of mankind. And it is in none more evident than in those who most boast of the contrary. And,

(2) We may learn from hence, that there is no greater Evidence of thriving in spiritual Light and Understanding, than when we find our Souls affected with, and raised unto an holy Admiration of the Wisdom and Counsel of God which are declared in the Gospel.

The Life and Assurance of our present Comforts and future Glory depend on the Obser. 2. Immutability of Gods Counsel. To secure those things unto us, God shews us that Immutability. Our own endeavours are to be used to the same End, for we are to give all diligence to make our Calling and Election sure. But all depends on the unchangeable Purpose of the Will of God, which alone is able to bear the Charge of so great a work. But this must be further spoken unto on the next Verse.

The Purpose of God concerning the Salvation of the Elect by Jesus Christ, became Obser. 3. Immutable from hence, that the Determination of his Will was accompanied with infinite Wisdom; It was his Counsel. All the certainty that is amongst men as to the Ac­complishment of any End designed by them, depends on the exercise of Wisdom in finding out and applying suitable means thereunto. And because their Wisdom is weak in all things, and in most no better than folly, whence generally they fix first on ends unprofitable, and then make use of means weak and unsuited unto their purpose, it is, that all their affairs are wrapped up in uncertainties, and most of them end in disappointments and confusion. But as God fixeth on those Ends which perfectly comply with his own infinite Holiness and Soveraignty, whence they [Page 162] are necessarily good and holy; so he doth not first do so, and then make choice of various means that proffer themselves unto those Ends. But in his infinite Wisdom Ends and Means lye before him in one Vein; and fall together under his unalter­able Determination. Two things therefore may be considered in the Wisdom of God giving Immutability to his Counsel concerning the Salvation of the Elect by Jesus Christ.

(1) Thereby he saw at once not only whatever was needful for the Accomplishing of it, but that which would infallibly effect it. He chose not probable and likely means for it, and such as might do it, unless some great obstruction did arise, such as whose efficacy might be suspended on any conditions and emergencies; but such as should infallibly and inevitably reach the End intended. In the first Covenant wherein God had not immutably decreed to preserve mankind abso­lutely in their Primitive Estate, he made use of such means for their preservation, as might effect it, in case they were not wanting unto themselves, or that Obedience which they were enabled to perform. This man neglecting, the means appointed of God as to their success depending thereon by Gods own Appointment, that End which in their own Nature they tended unto was not attained, and that because God had not immutably determined it. But now whereas God engaged himself in an unchangeable-Purpose, in his infinite Wisdom he fixeth on those means for its Accomplishment, as shall not depend on any thing, whereby their efficacy might be frustrated. Such was his sending of his Son to be Incarnate, and the Dispensation of Grace of the New Covenant, which is in its Nature infallibly effectual unto the End whereunto it is designed.

(2) God in his infinite Wisdom foresaw all the Interveniencies on our part that might obstruct the certain Accomplishment of the Promise. The Promise was first given indefinitely unto all mankind in our first Parents. But soon after the wickedness of the whole world, with their absolute contempt of the Grace of the Promise was such, as that any Creature would conceive that it would be of none effect, being so visibly, so universally rejected and despised. But a perfect View hereof lying under the Wisdom of God, he provided against it for the Immuta­bility of his Purpose and Infallibility of his Promise, by singling out first one, then another, and at last the whole Posterity of Abraham, towards whom the Promise should be accomplished. But yet after a long season, there came the last and uttermost trial of the whole matter. For the generality of the Seed of Abraham rejected the Promise also, whereby it appeared really to have been fru­strated, and to be of none effect, as our Apostle declares in his Answer to that Objection, Rom. 9. 6. But instead of changing his Purpose, God then more fully discovered wherein the Immutability of his Counsel did consist, and whereon it did depend, as Gal. 3. 8. And this was, that all along, and under all those Aposta­sies, he ever had, and ever will have in the world an Elect people chosen by him before the foundation of the world, in and towards whom his Purpose was Im­mutable and his Promise Infallible. No Interveniency can possibly shake or alter what hath been settled by infinite Wisdom. There is not a particular Believer but is made so sensible of his own unworthiness, that at one time or another he cannot but be almost brought to a loss, how it should be, that such a one as he should ever inherit the Promise. But God foresaw all that hath befallen us, or will do so; and hath in his infinite Wisdom provided against all Interveniencies that his Purpose might not be changed, nor his Promise frustrated.

Infinite Goodness, as acting it self in Christ, was not satisfied in providing and preparing good things for Believers, but it would also shew and declare it unto them for their pre­sent Obser. 4. Consolation. God was willing to shew to the Heirs of Promise; and the end was that they might have strong Consolation. As it is with a good wise Father and an Obedient Son. The Father is possessed of a large and profitable Estate. And as the son hath a present allowance suitable to his Condition, so being Obedient he hath a just expectation, that in due time he shall enjoy the whole Inheritance; this being usual amongst men, and that which the Law of Nature directs unto; For Parents are to lay up for their Children, and not Children for their Parents. But the whole being yet absolutely in the Fathers power, it is possible he may other­wise dispose of it, and it may not come to the right Heir. But now if his Father [Page 163] seeth his Son on some occasion to want Encouragement, or he be to put him on any difficult Service where he may meet with Storms and Dangers, he will shew unto him his Deeds of Settlement, wherein he had irrevocably confirmed unto him the whole Inheritance. So God deals with Believers, with his Children in this case. He is Rich in Grace, Mercy and Glory, and all his Children are Heirs of it, Coheirs with Christ and Heirs of God, Rom. 8. 17. that is, of the whole Inheritance that God hath provided for his Children; This they have an expecta­tion of by the Promise according to the Law of the New Covenant. But although their state be thus secured by their being Heirs of the Promise, yet God knowing that they have a difficult work and warfare to go through withall, and what it is to serve him in Temptations, for their Encouragement and Consolation, he produceth and sheweth them his irrevocable Deed of Settlement, namely, his Promise confirmed by his Oath, whereby the whole Inheritance is infallibly secured unto them, He was free and willing to shew it unto the Heirs of Promise. At first God gave out a meer Precept as the Declaration of his Will, and a Promise couched in a Threatening. This was that which Divine Goodness acting in a way of Na­ture did require, and whereof man had no cause to complain. For as the mind of God was sufficiently declared therein, so man in himself had no grounds of discouragements from a compliance therewith. And God might so deal with us all, giving out the whole Revelation of his Will in a systeme of Precepts, as some seem to suppose that he hath done. But things are now changed on two Accounts.

For (1) It was herein the peculiar Design of God to glorifie his Goodness, Love, Grace, and Mercy by Jesus Christ, and he will do it in an abundant manner. He had before glorified his Eternal Power and infinite Wisdom in the Creation of the World and all things therein contained, Psal. 19. 1, 2, 3. Rom. 1. 21. And he had glorified his Holiness and Righteousness in giving of the Law accompanied with Eternal Rewards and Punishments. But Grace and Truth (in the provision of it, and the Accomplishment of the Promise) came by Jesus Christ, Joh. 1. 18. And therefore that the Lord Christ in all this may have the preheminence, he will do it in an abundant and unconceiveable manner, above the former Declarations of his Glory in any other of his Attributes. Hence in the Scripture the Commu­nication of Grace is expressed in words that may intimate its exceeding, and passing all understanding, Rom. 5. 20. [...]; Grace did by Christ more than abound. To abound expresseth the largest comprehensible Mea­sures and Degrees; But that which doth more than abound, who can conceive? 1 Tim. 1. 14. [...], The Grace of our Lord did more than abound; it exceeded all comprehension. So that Glory which is the Effect of this Grace, is said to be given, [...], 2 Cor. 4. 17. that is, in an excellency and exceeding greatness no way to be conceived. So plainly the Apostle calls the Grace of God in Christ, [...], Ephes. 2. 7. excelling Riches. That we may know his meaning, he calls it again, chap. 3. 8. [...], Riches whereof there is no Investigation. In the pursuit of this design to exercise and manifest the infinite fulness of his Love and Goodness, he will not satisfie himself with a meer declaration of his Will, but he will have those concerned in it, to know it, to understand it, to have the present Comfort of it; and because they could not do that without satisfaction in the Immutability of his Counsel, he evidenceth that unto them by all means possible. And thereby he sufficiently manifests how willing he is, how well pleasing it is unto him that our Faith in him should be firm and stedfast.

(2) Man is now fallen into a condition of Sin and Misery. And herein is he filled with so many Fears, Discouragements, and Despondencies, that it is the diffi­cultest thing in the world to raise him unto any hopes of Mercy or Favour from God. In this lost forlorn estate, Divine Goodness by an infinite Condescension accommodates it self unto our weakness and our distresses. He doth not there­fore only prepose his Mind and Will unto us, as unto Grace and Glory, but useth all ways possible to ingenerate in us a Confidence of his willingness to bring us unto a participation of them. He doth every thing that may direct and encou­rage us to take a stedfast view of the Excellency and Immutability of his Counsel in this matter. Hence a great part of the Scripture, the Revelation of Gods Will, is taken [Page 164] up in Promises, Exhortations, Invitations, Discourses and Expressions of Love, Kind­ness, and Compassion. And in particular, although the Promise it self was an abun­dant Security for Faith to rest upon as to the Immutability of Gods Counsel, yet to obviate all pretences, and cast out all excuses, he confirms it with his Oath. And although he did this in particular and expresly unto Abraham, yet he takes all Believers who are his Seed into a participation of the same priviledge with him, and manifests how that in swearing unto him, he sware also unto them all. And two things do hence naturally issue.

1. The unspeakable encouragement unto Believing, which is given unto all unto whom this Counsel of God and its Immutability is proposed. The Es­sential Truth of God and his Oath, are openly and manifestly engaged unto these two things. (1) That nothing but Unbelief shall keep off any from the enjoyment of the Promise. (2) That all Believers, whatever difficulties they may meet withall in themselves, or objections against themselves, shall certainly and infallibly enjoy the Promise and be saved. And the Immutability of Gods Counsel herein he hath made so evident, that there is no room for any Ob­jection against it. This is tendered unto you unto whom the Gospel is pro­posed. Greater Encouragement unto Believing, and more certainty of the Event, you shall never have in this world, you cannot have; God will not, God cannot give. All persons not yet come up unto Believing, unto whom this Peace with God is preached, are distinguished into two sorts; Them that are nigh, and them that are far off, Ephes. 2. 17. This, in the first place ex­presseth the Jews and Gentiles; but in a parity of Reason must be extended unto others. Some are comparatively nigh; such as have been affected with the Word, and brought into enquiries whether they should believe or no; And there are some afar off, who as yet have taken little notice of these things. Herein is both a Call and Encouragement unto both. To the first to deter­mine their Wills in the choice of Christ in the Promise; unto the other to look up unto him though from the Ends of the Earth. But I must not en­large.

2. It discovers the hainous Nature of Unbelief. The Gospel which is a mes­sage of Love, Peace, Mercy, and Grace, yet never makes mention of Unbelief but it annexeth Damnation unto it. He that believeth not shall be damned. And although they shall also perish unto whom the Gospel is not preached, Rom. 2. 12. yet the Gospel though it speaks not exclusively unto others, yet prin­cipally it declares the inevitable destruction, the Everlasting Damnation of them who believe not when the Promise is declared to them, 2 Thes. 1. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. however, it declares that they shall fall under a sorer death and destructi­on than any others, 2 Cor. 2. 16. And the reason of this Severity is taken partly from the Nature of Unbelief, and partly from the Aggravation of it. The Nature of Unbelief consists in a refusal of the Testimony of God, so making him a Liar, 1 Joh. 5. 10. and in esteeming that which he proposeth as his Power and Wisdom to be weakness and folly. Hence there is no way of Sin or Rebellion against God whatever, that casts such Scorn and Indig­nity upon him. So that it is in it self the greatest of sins, as well as the root and cause of them. Yet such is the blindness of corrupted Nature, that many who will boggle at other sins, especially such as look with a severe threatening Aspect on a Natural Conscience, as Adultery, Theft, and Murder, yet concern themselves not at all in this Unbelief, but rather approve them­selves in their Infidelity. Yet is there not one unto whom the Gospel is preached, but if he do not really receive the Lord Christ as tendered in the Promise, he doth what lies in him to declare God to be a Liar, foolish in his Counsels, and weak in his Operations. And what account this will come unto is not hard to discern. Moreover, It is from the Aggravations that it is accompanied withall, from the Nature of the thing it self, and the way where­by it is proposed unto us. How shall we escape if we neglect so great Salva­tion? Heb. 2. 3. We may look only on that which lies before us; namely, the Infinite Condescension of Divine Goodness in shewing, manifesting, and declaring the Immutability of his Counsel by Oath. Whereas therefore he hath done all to this End that was possible to be done, and more than ever would have en­tred [Page 165] into the Heart of any Creature to desire or expect, the woful condition of Unbelievers, both as to this sin and misery which will follow thereon, is in­expressible. For those that will despise all that God will do, yea all that he can do, to give them assurance of the Truth and Stability of his Promises given in a way of Grace, have no reason to expect, nor shall receive any thing, but what he will do and can do in a way of Justice and Vengeance.

It is not all mankind universally, but a certain number of persons under certain Qualifications, to whom God designs to manifest the Immutability of his Counsel, Obser. 5. and to communicate the Effects thereof. It is only the Heirs of Promise whom God intendeth. But herein two things are to be considered. (1) The out­ward Revelation or Administration of these things; and (2) Gods Purpose therein. The former is made promiscuously and indefinitely unto all to whom the Gospel is preached. For therein is contained a Declaration of the Immu­tability of Gods Counsel and his Willingness to have it known. But if God did design the Communication of the Effect of it, in the same latitude with the outward Administration of it, then must he be thought to fail in his Pur­pose towards the greatest part of them who receive it not. This is that which the Apostle disputes upon Rom. 9. Having supposed that the generality of the Jews, of the Posterity of Abraham according to the Flesh, were cut off from the Promise by Unbelief, and declared his sense thereon, ver. 1. he raiseth an Objection against that supposition, ver. 6. that if it were so, the Promise of God was of none effect; for unto them all it was given and de­clared. Hereunto the Apostle answers and replies in that and the following Verses, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. And the substance of his Answer is, that although the Promise was promiscuously proposed unto all, yet the Grace of it was intended only unto the Elect, as he also farther declares, chap. 11. 7. But why then doth God thus cause the Declaration to be made promiscuously and indefinitely unto all, if it be some only whom he designs unto a Participation of the effects of his Counsel and good things promised? I Answer,

Let us always remember that in these things we have to do with him who is greater than we, and who giveth no Account of his matters. What if God will take this way of procedure, and give no reason of it? who are we that we should dispute against God? Wherefore our Apostle having at large discoursed this whole matter, and pleaded the absolute freedom of God to do what­ever he pleaseth, winds up the whole in a resignation of all unto his So­veraignty, with a deep Admiration of his unsearchable Wisdom, wherein it is our Duty to acquiesce, Rom. 11. 33, 34, 35. But yet I may add,

That the Nature of the thing it self doth require this Dispensation of the Pro­mise indefinitely to all, though the benefit of it be designed to some only. For the way whereby God will give a participation of the Promise unto the Heirs of it, being by the Administration of his Word, and such means as are meet to work on the minds of men, to perswade and prevail with them unto Faith and Obedience, He would not do it by immediate Revelation or Inspiration, and the like extraordinary Operations of his Spirit alone. but by such ways as are suited to glorifie Himself and his Grace in the Rational minds of his Creatures capable thereof. Now this could no way be done, nor can unto this day, but by the Declaration and Preaching of the Promise with Commands, Motives, and Encouragements unto Believing. In this work all those whom He employs are utterly ignorant who they are who are Heirs of the Promise, until they are discovered by their actual Believing: wherefore they have no other work, but in the first place to propose the Pro­mise promiscuously unto all that will attend unto it, leaving the singling out of its proper Heirs unto the Soveraign Grace of God. So the Word is preached unto all Indefinitely, and the Election obtains whilst the rest are hardened.

God alone knows the due measures of Divine Condescension, or what becomes the Divine Nature therein. Who could have once apprehended, who durst Obser. 6. have done so, that the Holy God should swear by himself to confirm his Word [Page 166] and Truth unto such worthless Creatures as we are? Indeed there is yet a more transcendent act of Divine Condescension, namely, the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Glory whereof will be the Object of the Admiration of Men and Angels unto Eternity. For alas! what created Understanding could ever have raised it self unto a thought, that the Eternal Word should be made Flesh? God alone who is infinitely Wise, only Wise, knew what became the Holiness of his Being, and his Goodness therein. And so is it in its measure in this of his Oath. And as we are with holy Confidence to make use of what he hath done in this kind, seeing not to do so, is to despise the highest expression of his Good­ness; so we are not in any thing to draw Divine Condescension beyond Divine Ex­pressions.

So unspeakable is the weakness of our Faith, that we stand in need of uncon­ceivable Obser. 7. Divine Condescension for its Confirmation. The Immutability of Gods Counsel is the Foundation of our Faith; until this be manifest it is impossible that ever Faith should be sure and stedfast. But who would not think that Gods Declaration thereof by the way of Promise, were every way sufficient thereunto? But God knew that we yet stood in need of more; not that there was want of sufficient Evidence in his Promise, but such a want of stability in us, as stood in need of a superabundant Confirmation, as we shall see in the next Verse.

Verse 18.

That by two Immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lye, we might have a strong Consolation, who have fled for Refuge to lay hold upon the Hope set before us.

Two things in general the Apostle further designs in this Verse. (1) That the Declaration which God had made of the Immutability of his Counsel in this matter was every way sufficient and satisfactory. (2) What was the especial End and Design which he had therein, towards the Heirs of Pro­mise?

For the first, He doth it by declaring the Evidence given and the Nature [...]. of it, which consisted in two Immutable things. [...] is an Act or Deed, such as we make and deliver when we convey any thing from one to another. An Instrument of an Assurance. This is the Promise and the Oath of God. Security is given by them; both from their own Nature, and also because they are two; two Witnesses whereby the thing intended is established. But what need was there of two such things? Is it because one of these was weak, infirm, alterable, such as may be justly challenged, or excepted against; that the other is added to strengthen and confirm it? No, saith the Apostle, both of them are equally Immutable. Wherefore we must still carry along with us, the infinite and unconceive­able Condescension of God in this matter, who to obviate our Temptati­ons, and relieve us under our weaknesses, is pleased to give this Variety unto his Divine Testimony, which he did ex Abundanti; not only beyond what he was any way obliged unto, but whatever we could desire or expect.

For (2) this makes the Evidence absolute, and uncontroulable, that as they are two things which are produced to make it good, so they are both of them equally Immutable; such as neither in their own Nature, nor in their Execu­tion were any way exposed or liable unto Alteration. For the Promise it self was absolute, and the thing promised depended on no Condition in us, on nothing without God himself. For there was in the Promise it self, all the Springs of all that is good, and of Deliverance from all that is Evil, so that on every side it brings along with it the Condition of its own Accomplishment. But whereas God in the Covenant of Works did give no Promise unto Man­kind but what was Conditional, and suspended on such things on our part, as might or might not be, whence it came to pass that we sinned and came [Page 167] short of it; God in the giving out of this Promise, which is the foundation of the Covenant of Grace, to assure us that it is utterly of another nature, and such as on no occurrence is liable unto change, confirms it with his Oath.

Moreover the Apostle confirmeth this Testimony yet further from the Na­ture of him by whom it was given. [...]; In