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to return, to bring home a heart unto God. Common mercies of God, though they have a leading faculty to repentance, yet the rebellious heart will not be led by them. The judgments of God, public or personal, though they should drive us to God, yet the heart, unchanged, runs the farther from God. Do we not see it by ourselves and other sinners about us? they look not at all towards him that smiles, much less do they return; or if any inore serious thoughts of returning arise upon the surprise of an affliction, how soon vanish they? either the stroke abating, or the heart, by time, growing hard and senseless under it. Indeed, where it is renewed and brought in by Christ, then all other things have a sanctified influence, according to their quality, to stir up a Christian to seek after fuller communion, closer walk, and nearer access to God: But, leave Christ out, I say, and all other means work not this way; neither the works, nor word of God sounded daily in his ear, Return, return. Let the noise of the rod speak it too, and both join together to make the cry the louder, yet the wicked will do wickedly“; will not hearken to the voice of God, will not see the hand of God lifted up'; will not be persuaded to go in and seek peace and reconcilement with God, though declaring himself provoked to punish, and to behave himself as an enemy against his own people. How many are there, that, in their own particular, have been very sharply lashed with divers scourges on their bodies or families, and yet are never a whit the nearer God for it all, but their hearts as proud, and earthly, and vain, as ever; and, let him lay on ever so much, they will still be the same; a divine virtue, only, going forth from Christ lifted up, draws men unto him; and being come unto him, he brings them unto the Father.
Reflexion 1. You that are still strangers to God, who declare yourselves to be so, by living as strangers far off from him, do not still continue to abuse c Rom. ii. 4. d Dan. xii. 10.
e Isa. xxvi, 11.
yourselves so grossly. Can you think any consolation in the sufferings of Christ yours, while it is so evident they have not gained their end upon you; have not brought you to God? Truly, most of you seem to think, that our Lord Jesus suffered rather to the end we might neglect God, and disobey him securely, than to reduce us to him. Hath he purchased you a liberty to sin; or, is not deliverance from sin, which alone is true liberty, the thing he aimed at, and agreed for, and laid down his life for ?
2. Why let we still his blood run in vain as to us? He hath by it opened up our way to God, and yet we refuse to make use of it. Oh! how few come in. They that are brought unto God, and received into friendship with him, they entertait that friendship, they delight in his company, love to be much with him: Is it so with us? By being so near, they become like him, daily know his will better, and grow more suitable to it; but, alas! in the most, there is nothing of this.
3. But even they that are brought unto God may be faulty in this, in part, not applying so sweet a privilege. They can perhaps comply, and be too friendly with the vain world, can pass many days without a lively communion with God, not aspiring to the increase of that, as the thing our Lord hath purchased for us, and that wherein all our happiness and welfare lie, here and hereafter: Your hearts cleaving to folly, and not delighting yourselves in the Lord; not refreshed with this nearness to him, and union with him; your thoughts not often on it, nor your study to walk conform to it: Certainly it ought to be thus; and you should be persuaded to endeavour it may be thus with you. 4. Remember this for your comfort
, that as you are brought unto God by Jesus Christ, so you are kept in that union by him. It is a firmer knot than the first was; there is no power of hell can dissolve it. He suffered once to bring us once unto God, never to depart again; as he suffered oncé for-all, so we are brught once for all: We may be sensibly nearer at one time than another, but yet we can never be separate nor cut off, being once knit by Christ, as the bond of our union. Neither principalities, nor powers, &c. shall be able to separate us from the love of God', because it holds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.] The true life of a Christian, is to eye Christ in every step of his life, both as his rule, and as his strength; looking to him as his pattern, both in doing and suffering, and drawing power from him for going through both; for the look of faith doth that, fetches life from Jesus to enable it for all, being without him able for nothing. Therefore the Apostle doth still set this before his brethren; and here, having mentioned his suffering in general, the condition and end of it, he specifies the particular kind of it, that which was the utmost, put to death in the flesh, and then adds this issue out of it, quickened by the Spirit.
It is at once the strongest engagement, and the strongest encouragement. Was He, our Head, crowned with thorns, and shall the body look for garlands? Are we redeemed from hell and condemnation by him, and can any such refuse any service he calls them to? They that are washed in the Lamb's blood will follow him whithersoever he goess; and, following him through, they shall find their journey's end overpay all the troubles and sufferings of the way. These are they, said the elder who appeared in vision to John', which came out of great tribulation; tribulation, and great tribulation, yet they came out of it, and glorious too, arrayed in long white robes. The scarlet strumpet, as follows in that book, dyed her garments red in the blood of the saints: But this is their happiness, that their garments are washed white in the blood of the Lamb. · Once take away sin, and all suffering is light;
Rom. viii. 37, 38. & Rev, xiv, 4. h Rev. yii. 14.
now, that is done by this, his once suffering for sin; they that are in him shall hear no more of that as condemning them, binding them over to suffer that wrath that is due to sin. Now, this puts an invincible strength into the soul for enduring all other things, how hard soever.
Put to death.] This the utmost point, and that which men are most startled at,' to die, and a violent death, put to death; and yet he hath led in this way who is the Captain of our salvation. In the flesh.] Under this second, his human nature, and divine nature and power, are differenced. Put to death in the flesh is a very fit expression, not only (as is usual) taking the flesh for the whole manhood, but because death is most properly spoken of that very person, or his flesh: the whole man suffers death, a dissolution, or taking to pieces, and the soul suffers a separation or dislodging; but death, or the privation of life and sense, belongs particularly to the flesh or body: But the Spirit, here opposed to the flesh or body, is certainly of a higher nature and power than is the human soul, which cannot of itself return to re-inhabit and quicken the body.
Put to death.] His death was both voluntary and violent; that same power that restored his life could have kept it exempted from death; but the design was for death. He therefore took our flesh, to put it off thus, and offered it up as a sacrifice; which, to be acceptable, must of necessity be free and voluntary; and, in that sense, he is said to have died even by that same Spirit, that here, in opposition to death, is said to quicken him, Through the eternal Spirit, he offered himself without spot unto God. They accounted it an ill boding sign when the sacrifices came constrainedly to the altar, and drew back; and, on the contrary, were glad in the hopes of success, when they came cheerfully forward; but never sacrifice came so willingly all the way, and from the first step knew whither he was going. Yet, because no other sacrifice would serve, he was most content: Sacrifices and burnt offerings thou didst not desire : Then said I, Lo I come, &ck. He was not only a willing sacrifice, as Isaac, bound peaceably, and laid on the altar, but his own sacrificer: The beasts, if they came willingly, yet offered not themselves; but he offered up himself; and thus, not only by a wlllingness far above all those sacrifices of builocks and goats, but by the eternal Spirit, he offered
i Heb. ix. 14.
himself. Therefore he says, in this regard, I lay down my life for my sheep; it is not pulled from me, but I lay it down; and so it is often expressed, by [ávébav] he died; and yet this suits with it, [bavatw@ins] put to death: yea, it was also expedient to be thus, that his death should be violent, and so the more penal, so as to carry the more clear expression of a punislıment, and such a violent death as had both ignominy and a curse tied to it; and this inflicted in a judicial way, (though as from the hands of men most unjustly), that he should stand, and be judged, and condemned to death as a guilty person, carrying in that the persons of so many that should otherwise have fallen under condemnation, as indeed guilty: He was numbered with transgressors (as the Prophet hath it), bearing the sins of many'.
Thus, then, there was in his death external violence joined with internal willingness : But what is there to be found but complications of wonders in our Lord Jesus? Oh! high inconceivable mystery of godliness! God manifested in the flesh! Nothing in this world so strange, and sweet, as that conjuncture, God man, humanitas Dei! What a strong foundation of friendship and union betwixt the person of man and God, that their natures met in so close embraces in one person! And then, look on, and see so poor and despised an outward con: dition through his life; yet, having hid under it the majesty of God, all the brightness of the Father's glory; and this the top of all, that he was * Psal. xl. 6, 7.
| Isa. liii. ult.