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to that end : let men do this. Wisdom lies in preferring things according to their true worth and value : let men do so. Wisdom lies in embracing of seasons, and redeeming of time : let men practise this. Wisdom lies in looking to things in their end and issue, and not only how they appear at the present : let men do this also.
And, Secondly, I said, “Knowledge is light, ignorance is darkness.” Would you then have communion with God? You must not abide in ignorance ; but read the scriptures, inquire into the mysteries of the gospel, and know the way of coming to God, and communion with him by Christ Jesus, and to an everlasting communion with him in heaven.
And, Thirdly, “ Truth is light, and error is darkness.” Take heed therefore of false doctrines, espscially such as may tend to the obstructing this communion with God. Take heed of Socinian doctrines, in denying Christ's satisfaction, the Trinity, and the Godhead of Christ, &c. Take heed of Popish doctrines, which tell you of other merits beside the merits of Christ, other satisfaction, other mediation, and other headship of the church beside Jesus Christ, &c. Take heed of the leaven of Quakerism, which sets up the light of nature for Christ, and casts off the use of those ordinances which Christ hath appointed for our communion with God. Take heed of the old Pelagian doctrines, that set up the power of nature, and are since revived under other names, to the denial or neglect of that help of the Spirit which is necessary to our communion with God.
And, Lastly, I said, “ Holiness is light, and sin and wickedness are darkness." He therefore that would have communion with God must break off from his sin, betake himself to a course of godliness, and holy walking with God. In the apostle's time rose up a sect of carnal professors, who would talk high of fellowship with God, and yet walk after the flesh, and indulge their lusts : whom he is thought especially to refer to in this chapter, that they, thus walking in darkness, cannot have fellowship with that God who is Light.
2. The next branch of the exhortation I direct to such as are in the practice and experience of this communion with God.
First. Maintain it in what constancy you can.—The fewer interruptions are admitted therein, so much the better. Take heed of violent passions, take heed of distracting cares, take heed of diversions from duties and ordinances (which] you ought to attend unto. Take heed of the snares of bad company, of the influence of bad examples, of the carnal counsels of your own heart, of any compliances against your consciences, of any doubts and disputes in your mind about the fundamental principles of all religion, especially that Christian religion that you make profession of. And watch over the levity and instability of your own minds, which of itself alone may hinder our constancy in this duty. Yea, and the very lawful affairs of our calling, especially if much encumbered, may interrupt is berein.
Secondly. Advance it to a higher degree.—That your communion with God may grow up into a greater intimacy; such as the church, the spouse of Christ, is represented to have in the book of Canticles. He that can attain it, let him attain it. In Jacob's ladder, which stood betwixt heaven and earth, there were many rounds.
In a high mountain there are several degrees of ascent. At Mount Sinai, the people stood at the bottom; some of the priests, and the seventy elders of Israel, went up a little way ; but Moses was at the top. Let us ascend this Mount as high as we can ; only know, it is not Mount Sinai, but Mount Sion, we must ascend, to have communion with God. And be not discouraged if you meet with some difficulties in your ascent, through the natural bent of your hearts toward things below. The sweetness and advantage [which) you will reap herein, will abundantly recompense all the labour and endeavours after it.
And may not some eminent degree of communion with God be expected of such as do not only live in the times of the New Testament, but have had a long standing in the church of God? that your growth herein may in some measure be proportioned to your time and advantages for it? And that which should quicken you the
more, is the present complexion of the times both at home and abroad. We know not what days are coming. · Men's hearts are failing them for fear” of what evils “are coming upon the earth ;” as our Saviour foretold. (Matt. xxiv. 29; Luke xxi. 26.) Now, nothing will so fortify the soul against an evil day and an hour of temptation, as this communion with God. This will sweeten a prison, sweeten poverty, sweeten banishment, sweeten the very sorrows of death. This sweetened the martyrs' sufferings of old : that fellowship they had with God in those sufferings, wherein they had fellowship also with Christ in his death.
Now, let these things put you on to this great work ; and be not discouraged because of the infinite distance betwixt God and us. He is come down to us in our own nature in Christ, that we may have access to him, and his “terror not make us afraid.” (Job xxxiii. 7.) And bear what he speaks himself to our encouragement : “Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy ; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Isai. lvii. 15.) The most high God thus humbleth himself to men.
OBJECTION. “But God is invisible; and how can I have communion with one whom I see not ?”
ANSWER. It is true, we cannot have a sensible communion with him, as men have with one another ; but spirits that are invisible have converse together, as well as sensible creatures. “ God is a Spirit ;" and the soul of man is a spirit, and so may be capable of communion with that God who is a Spirit. Had not the apostle communion with invisible things, when he said, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen ?" (2 Cor. iv. 18.) And doth not the apostle Peter say, " Whom having not seen, ye love ?” (1 Peter i. 8.) And is not « faith the evidence of things not seen ?” (Heb. xi. 1.) And though in himself he is invisible, yet he made himself visible in Christ, “who is the image of the invisible God." (Col. i. 15.)
Use v. Having spoken of this communion with God, I shall add one use about the communion of saints. We know it is one of the articles of our Creed, and that which the apostle in this chapter exhorts to: “These things write we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us ;” (verses 3, 4 ;)' with us as apostles, and with us as believers.
So that the fellowship of saints comprehends their fellowship with the Father, and their fellowship with the Son, and their fellowship with the apostles, and from thence fellowship with one another.
All saints and churches that hold fellowship with these three, ought to have fellowship among themselves. To bring-in new doctrines, or new rules of worship, not delivered by the apostles, is to forsake communion with the apostles. The terms of communion laid by the apostles for the churches of Christ, ought to be kept inviolable in all churches to the end of the world, and be the foundation of their communion among themselves. And, for my part, I can hold communion with any church where these are maintained, though there may be some circumstantial differences either in opinion or practice; especially if they are not imposed as necessary.
For this hath made such wofül divisions in the church,—the making things unnecessary and doubtful the necessary terms of church-communion. Was the church of Rome itself the truly ancient, catholic, and apostolic church, as she styles herself, I could have communion with it. They that leave the apostles, shake the foundation of the church's stability, and forsake the centre of its unity. The Lord help us all to understand the way of peace and union, in this miserably-divided age !
Use vi. Lastly. And now, from all that hath been said, we may take a prospect of heaven.—Heaven is not a Turkish Paradise : it is communion with God that is the very heaven of heaven ; as the loss of it is the very hell of hell! And this makes heaven not desirable to the carnal man, who hath no desire after or delight in communion with God. But it doth commend it the more to the spiritual man, that he shall then enjoy that, in its highest perfection, which he hath been pursuing and had the foretastes of in this world.
BY THE REV. JOHN SINGLETON, A.M.
SOMETIME STUDENT OF CHRIST CHURCH, OXFORD.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PREPARE TO MEET GOD
WAY OF HIS JUDGMENTS OR MERCIES ?
Father, glorify thy name.
-John xii. 28.
In this chapter we find the Lord Jesus under two very different exercises : in the one attended with much solemnity, in the other under great perplexity; much courted, much cast down; highly honoured, and exceedingly troubled : and he beareth both with wonderful equanimity. He is feasted at Bethany ; (verses 1, 2 ;) anointed with oil of spikenard, “very costly;" (verse 3 ;) rideth triumphantly into Jerusalem. (Verses 12—19.) His disciples bless and entertain him upon the way with hosannas ;. (verse 13; Matt. xxi. 8, 9;) strangers desire to see him, and give him their acknowledgments; (John xii. 20, 21 ;) and the multitudes throng after him, (verse 12,) and strow his way with palm branches. (Verse 13.) But immediately the scene is changed. As our blessed Lord was not much affected with these things, so, contrary to all expectation, he enters upon a discourse of another nature : “ The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.” (Verse 23.) Why ? had he not been glorifying throughout this chapter ?”' Yea ; but not comparably to what he here intends : as if he had said, “My feast, my triumph, my applause, bear no proportion to the glory I am hasting to. These are but dull, low glories to what is at hand. The hour is come,' that is, “is near," ««that the Son of man should be glorified :' glorified upon the cross, by expiating the sins of his elect; glorified thereupon in heaven at the right hand of the Father.”
Christ had his eye upon a higher glory, which would redound to him upon the performing and finishing [of] our redemption. And a true Christian frame overlooks present comforts and honours from men, and fixeth mainly upon the honour to be received from God, in the way of obedience, here and hereafter.
Nor will our Lord Jesus pass over this meditation till he have improved it :
1. Inferring thence the fruitfulness of his death : “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone : but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit ;” (verse 24 ;) alluding to the propagation of his church by his death.
2. The proportionable advantage of the death of his saints for his sake and testimony, and the disadvantage of forbearing and refusing to suffer for his name : “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me ; and where I am, there shall also my servant be : if any man serve me, him will my Father honour." (John xii. 25, 26.)
But passing thence to the consideration of his dreadful agony and passion ensuing, his thoughts are at a stand, his “soul is troubled ;” yea, the extremity of his grief stopped his mouth ; so amazing, so astonishing was the foresight of his sufferings !
At last prayer breaks out: “Father, save me from this hour ; and is presently corrected : " But for this cause came I unto this hour.” (Verse 27.) As if he had said, “I would escape, but must not resist thy will. I would save myself, yet not without a salvo to thy purpose and counsel. I am in a strait between nature and faith, between fear and subjection, between death and duty. 1. Mere trouble is no sin.—Christ's soul was troubled,"
τεταρακ- . Tai, as water when it is muddied. (John v. 4, 7.) Not that there was any mixture of sin in his trouble : it was such as might consist with his pure, unspotted nature. If grief be not groundless, if not extravagant, not tainted with unbelief, or [the] effect of disobedience ; it is but nature's weakness. Grace induceth no stoical stupidity; it is no property of the gospel to make men senseless.
2. Fear of death, and sense of the wrath of God, are of all things most perplexing.-"Now is my soul troubled." Now I am to conflict with the Father's anger, men's malice, and death’s pains and terrors ; and now, not my
flesh only, but “my soul is troubled.” 3. Extreme distress of spirit is of an amazing nature.—Christ had not the freedom of prayer: “What shall I say?" and then what he did say was corrected. (Matt. xxvi. 39, 42.)
4. No extremity can ordinarily, or should really, put a holy soul by the plea of or hope in his relation to God.—Christ calls God « Father :
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. xxvii. 46.)
5. Prayer must be suited to the occasion.—"Save me from this hour,” &c.
A great argument against most forms is, that a holy soul cannot relish them, nor can I see how God accepts them, because they are impertinent, or not full to the case.
6. In our extremities we may be importunate, must not be peremptory, with God in prayer.–Our Saviour here prayed not more heartily than submissively: Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. xxvi. 39.)
Our text is the result of the Lord's wrestling, both with his own soul, and with his father. Here is, first, Christ's prayer :
“ Father, glorify thy name.” And the Father's answer in the next words : but I meddle not with that now.
In the text we have two things: 1. The compellation : “Father." 2. The petition : “Glorify thy name." 1. The compellation : "Father."
Father.” Prayer ought to be ushered in with some suitable title of God, which is expressive of his supremacy,