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This thou must try betwixt God and thyself, if thy heart be good, then rejoice again, yea shout for joy. Again, for thy comfort, remember yet another ground. That though the Lord judge according to works, yet he judgeth not according to the number, but according to the weight. He considereth the weight, not the number of them: that is he considereth, Is this a sound work? Cometh it from an upright heart? which is the foundation, which God respecteth. Therefore whatsoever thy works, be thou sure to preserve a good heart, and blessed art thou. Therefore it is, that one sigh, with God, which cometh from a good heart, is more accepted of him and regarded, than all those buildings and outward works, which the most part of men boast of. Not that I disallow them; O no, for they are most pleasing unto God, if they come from a good heart. But because for the most part, (chiefly the good works of the Papists,) not coming from a good heart, they are displeasing unto God. And the reason is, because nothing is further acceptable unto God, but as it runneth through the river of the heart. Now every sigh of a faithful soul to God, runneth through the river of the heart, when their good works come not that way; therefore one sigh from a good heart is more worth than all. Let us all then strive with God, that we may obtain this good heart; whereby in the midst of sorrows we may rejoice in God, and then I say with the prophet, Be glad ye righteous, rejoice in the Lord, and shout for joy, all ye that are upright of heart. So much for this time. Now let us pray, &c.
LUKE I. VER. 73, 74, 75.
The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, should serve him without fears, all the days of our life in holiness and righteousness before him.
THESE words contain God's oath unto the fathers for us, wherein old Zacharie now rejoiceth that those days were now come, wherein the promised blessing unto the fathers, and the faithful their seed (according as God had formerly sworn) was now fulfilled. That the long expected salvation of Israel had now at last fully revealed himself in his human nature. In this he rejoiceth, that according to God's oath to the fathers, the faithful should now have a full deliverance from the power and thraldom of their enemies. And in general the text containeth God's mercy to his saints; wherein we may behold the excellency and privilege of God's children above the wicked, a difference betwixt them and others. The godly (he showeth) are delivered both from the power and freedom of their enemies. Their foes now may well molest and trouble them, and be as thorns to prick and annoy them, but they shall have no power over them, yea they shall also have freedom from them at last; and this freedom to God's children is so sure that my text saith, they shall not serve God like unto the Papists (whose fearful and trembling consciences can have none assurance of their life, no comfort nor assurance of God's love), but they shall serve him joyfully without fear in full assurance of his love, wearing upon their heads the helmet of salvation, looking up boldly when their salvation appeareth; they shall serve him cheerfully without fear, and more for continuance this
their service shall be for ever, there shall be no end of the same, he who hath begun a good work in them, will also finish it, their sins shall not stay his mercies, his preventing love shall ever assist them; whom once he loveth, he shall love unto the end, he will keep and lead them in the way. This is their blessed estate that God hath sworn that they shall not only be freed from the hands of their enemies, but also that they shall serve him without fear all the days of their life, in holiness and righteousness, that is, in justification and sanctification, Christ's righteousness being imputed unto them, they shall bring forth the fruits of holiness in their conversation, they shall be holy as he is holy. This is a wonderful mercy here promised to God's children, that they shall be freed from their enemies, they shall rest assured not to be overcome of any crosses or afflictions, but at last to have a final deliverance of all. Yea also, that now (since God hath sworn it) in spite of all these enemies, they shall serve him for ever without fear, they shall have a joyful and cheerful life with peace of conscience, not being continually tortured with miserable fears, like unto the wicked. Here is the great charter of God to his child, which may make him laugh at hell, sin, and death, and in a glorious disdain triumph over them all; as also over things present and to come, principalities and powers; resolving that neither height nor depth, nor breadth, nor length, nor any other thing shall ever be able to separate them from that love which is in Christ Jesus. And beloved, here is the ground of our assurance which should comfort us to be without fear, with this valiant and brave resolution. Because it is in God who keepeth us, whatsoever we are, yet he is most powerful to accomplish his promises. It is not in me, nor in thee, nor in him; but it is in the gracious goodness of a loving and omnipotent merciful Father; who as he hath loved me freely, and chosen me from all eternity, and in time opened mine eyes, and called me from darkness into his marvellous light; so am I assured this gracious God will never leave that work imperfect, which he hath began, (because he is perfection itself,) but will go along with me, lead me in the way by his good Spirit, when I stray bring
me home again, turn all my sins to my good, bring light out
of darkness, perfection out of weakness, work to the best to me. And why so? truth, hath sworn it, he cannot deny himself, it must needs be so, that God's children should have deliverance from their enemies, and serve him for ever without fear. God hath sworn it, and it is as true as God's truth.
make all things
God, who is the
Then, for the first point we may consider God's infinite mercy in our justification, that there being in us nothing worthy of his love, yet he accepteth of us in his beloved Son Christ Jesus, applying and imputing unto us his righteousness, as though it were our own, thereby reconciling us unto him. And here consider the difference betwixt the wicked and God's children. The reprobates consider not their wicked and fearful estates, and therefore, if at any time they fear nothing, it is because of their security, not knowing the danger, and therefore go on in their wicked courses; but the godly they only do, and can truly fear God, yet so that this slavish fear is far from them, they only have this privilege not to fear their enemies' power. The wicked man again hath no peace, still fearing one thing or other, living amongst the midst of his foes, every moment ready to be devoured. From whence this doctrine may be raised, that a man in his natural estate is left in the hands of his enemies. God's children for all this, knowing that they are freed and redeemed, fear not, yea they live without fear, knowing that they are redeemed from the curse of the law, and that Christ hath made them free. All they in the mean time are in a dreadful estate who know not the same, who have no life in them. So John speaketh, "He" that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life, and he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life," and what more? "But the wrath of God abideth upon him," he who is not ingrafted in Christ, there remaineth no comfort for him, he is left in the hands of his greatest enemies. God's wrath abideth on him, which how fearful it is, oh! who can imagine? to have a full cup of God's wrath prepared for him. In the meantime, what do the godly, how do they escape his wrath? Why they b John, chap. 3. ver. 36.
a Gal, chap. 3. ver. 13.
have made an appeal from the throne of justice, to the throne of mercy. This is the first cause, why they fear not, they have again and again, yea continually they appeal thus unto Christ, transferring the burden of their sins upon him, on whom was laid the iniquities of us all, and with whose stripes (as the prophet speaketh) we are healed. Here do they find assured peace and rest, having life in the Son. So saith St. John in his first Epistle, "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." Therefore, being in the Son they fear not so good a friend, but dare boldly without fear expect his coming to judgment. Oh, but say the wicked, what talk unto me of these fears, I find no such matter in me, I am free from these terrors, but poor wretches, are they free from these terrors, why then are they surely reserved to be the very butt of God's wrath, at whom he may shoot the preparations of his fury. No marvel I say, that a wicked man have no sense and feeling of these things, nor what that cruel wrath is, reserved for sinners in the life to come; for their understandings and minds are blindedd by the God of this world, that they should see that glorious light which should awaken them from their security. With the godly it is far otherwise, for they both know the danger, and from what they are freed by Christ, their eyes are opened, and yet they live without fear. A second reason whereof is because although they sometimes have plunges, and seem to fear, yet doth not this continue, but they gather again full strength against all fears, considering that it was the end of Christ's coming to deliver them from all fears, he being made sin for them, which knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, as St. Paul to the Corinthians speaketh. But the wicked are more brutish than Balaam's ass, they are in the midst of the danger, and yet see not the same, like unto Balaam, who saw not the danger, when yet the poor ass was afraid of the angel of the Lord, which stood in her way; yea all wicked men live in such dangers, com
c 1 John, chap.5. ver. 12.
e 2 Cor. chap. 5. ver. 21.
d 2 Cor. chap. 4. ver. 4.