« FöregåendeFortsätt »
carry away high thoughts of God, for the better regulating of our life, in the intervals of duty.
Secondly, Let us consider the pleading arguments in prayer: and they are all taken from God himself. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever.
Observ. This teaches us to take our encouragement from God only in prayer, to draw our arguments from the con sideration of what God is. This is a large field to fill our mouths with arguments, and to furnish us with suitable pleas in prayer.
Quest. May we not plead with God upon any thing in ourselves? Ans. (1.) We may not plead upon any worthiness in ourselves or any other creature, Dan. ix. 18. • We do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.' 1 Tim. ii. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.' (2.). Though in our pleading we may bring in both our evil and our good, yet the force of the plea or argument is not to be laid on either of them, but on something in God himself answerable thereto. David, brings in the greatness of his sin, in his plea for pardon; but the stress of the plea lies not there, but on God's own name, to be magnified greatly by the pardon of great sin, Psal. xxv. 11. For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity: for it is great.' Hezekiah brings in his upright walking in the plea for prolonging his life, Isa. xxxviii. 3. Remember now, O Lord,' says he, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.' But the stress of it lay on God's faithfulness in that promise, 1 Kings viii. 25. • Therefore now, Lord God of Israel, keep with thy servant David, my father, that thou promisedst him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel; so that thy children take heed to their way, that they walk before me, as thou hast walked before me.'
Now, the plea for hearing, here put in our mouths, is threefold.
1. The kingdom is the Lord's. The stress of the argument from this is, Therefore thou mayest do it, thou hast full authority to grant us whatsoever thou wilt, Matth. xx. 15. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own ?"
2. The power is the Lord's. Therefore thou canst do whatsoever we ask, over the belly of all opposition, and how. ever hopeless it be in itself, Eph. iii. 20. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.'
3. The glory is the Lord's. Therefore thou wilt do it, since thou lovest thy glory, and wilt have glory for evermore from answering our petitions, Josh. vii. 9. What wilt thou not do unto thy great name?"
III. Let us consider the concluding word, Amen. It imports two things. (1.) Our desire to be heard, q. d. so be it, Rev. xxii. 20. Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus.' And the believer uses this word properly as a testimony of his desire, when by faith he is enabled and emboldened to plead with God, that he would fulfil his requests, 2 Chron. xx. 6, 11. (2.) Our confidence and assurance that we shall be heard; q. d. so certainly it shall be, Rev. i. 7. Even so Amen.' And the sincere Christian uses the word with great propriety in the conclusion of his prayers, in testimony of his assurance to be heard, when he is by faith emboldened quietly to rest upon the Lord, that he will fulfil the desires of his heart, 2 Chron. xiv. 11.
I conclude all with a very few inferences.
Inf. 1. Be fervent and importunate with God in prayer, and set yourselves to plead and pray, as men that are in the deepest earnest about a thing on which their highest interests are suspended, Jam. v. 16. If earnestness and importunity are any where required, here they are highly, nay, absolute ly requisite.
2. Let not complaints justle out praises from your prayers, but still remember that every day affords you as much matter of praise as of request. God's mercies are new every morning; let therefore the sacrifice of praise be a part of the daily sacrifice ye offer unto God. Never bow a knee unto God for supplicating a mercy from him, without praising him for what mercies ye enjoy. This is a very promising way of obtaining the requests ye make at the throne of grace in the confidence of faith.
3. Deeply consider what a God he is with whom you have to do, to fill your mouth with arguments. Pleas in prayer may be fetched, and faith will fetch them, from every divine
attribute and perfection; and faith will improve these pleas in such a inanner as to procure the good things it applies to the throne for. What wilt thou not do unto thy great name?' is a standing plea for faith, which can never be rejected. Mercy, holiness, justice, truth, &c. all magnified by the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, will be never-failing pleas in the mouth of the prayer of faith.
4. Lastly, Use not Amen superficially at the end of your prayers, but with earnestness and faith. As for those who think it superstition to say Amen, they are ignorant of the word of God; and I would recommend to them to consult their Bible and Catechism, in order to cure them of that senseless conceit.
And thus, by the good hand of God upon me, I have finished what I'intended by way of illustration of the great doctrines of the Christian religion, with respect to faith and practice, as compendized, from the Holy Scriptures, in our Shorter Catechism. I am sensible of many defects in the prosecution of such a large work; for who is sufficient for these things? but I have endeavoured, according to the measure of grace given unto me, to declare unto you what I am persuaded is truth, agreeable to the word of God, the rule and standard of all religious truth. And I would now ask you, What entertainment have ye given to the great and important truths laid before you, from the Lord's word, in the course of these sermons, in which I have been engaged a considerable part of several years? Do ye now believe? Have ye embraced these doctrines with a divine faith, a faith of the operation of God? have ye received the truths into your hearts? and are your hearts moulded into the image of them? Are they become the food and nourishment of your souls, so as ye are made to esteem them more than the food that is necessary for the support of your natural life? Are they written on your hearts, and impressed on your consciences, so as to become an effective principle of new obedience? Is the effect of them the sanctification of your hearts and lives? and is the result of the whole an earnest desire to know the truth more fully and clearly, and to regulate every motion and desire of your hearts, every word of your mouths, and every action of your lives, by the truth, so as ye may be enabled through grace to do the whole will of God? if VOL. III. 3 S
these catechetical discourses have not produced some such effects upon you, or any of you, alas ! they have been all lost as to any saving benefit to your souls, and will be a swift and terrible witness against you in the day of the Lord Jesus. O, Sirs! consider, bethink yourselves, recollect the great and important truths I have been laying before you, drawn from the pure and uncorrupted fountain of the Lord's word, and let them have a suitable and lasting influence on your hearts and lives. If ye imprison the truth, and hold it in unrighteousness, by resisting and opposing its effect, which is sanctification, John xvii. 17. and refusing to let it rule over you, and raising up your lusts against it, and so unrighteously smothering and suppressing it, ye do so at a terrible risk:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness,' Rom. i. 18: It is very probable that many of you at least have acquired more knowledge of the principles of religion, than ye had formerly; and I am obliged to own, that your knowledge of the truths thereof is as much generally, as ever I observed in other places. But is it sanctifying saving knowledge, or only merely speculative, floating in your heads, without having a due and efficacious influence upon your hearts? Alas! I must say, that truth is held prisoner with a witness among us, and that our lives are not answerable to our light, and I am much afraid it bring wrath on the place. I therefore earnestly beseech and exhort one and all of you, to study to know the truth as it is in Jesus, to have a heart experimental knowledge thereof, a real feeling and sensation of the sweetness, virtue, and excellency thereof, in your minds, so as ye may taste indeed that the Lord is good. This knowledge alone will be available to your salvation, while all other knowledge is quite useless and unprofitable as to any salutary effect. For says our Lord, John xvii. 3. This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.' But the further pressing of this experimental knowledge of Christ, I must defer to another occasion, with which I shall conclude this work.
A DISCOURSE ON THE EXPERIMENTAL KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST.
PHIL. iii. 10.-That I may know him.
MERE speculative knowledge of Christ, and of the great doctrines of the gospel, however laboriously ac quired and extensive it may be, is of small importance in itself, and quite vain and ineffectual, if it be not sanctified, and issue in an experimental knowledge of Christ, and a real feeling of the beauty, excellency, and efficacy of divine truth on the heart. A man may have a competent, nay, a very extensive acquaintance with the whole doctrines of the Christian religion, as laid down in the holy scriptures, and of which we have an excellent compend in the shorter Catechism, which I have been endeavouring to explain to you for a series of years; yet if you have not the experimental knowledge of Christ, all your knowledge is in vain as to the salvation of your souls. I therefore come, as a conclusion of the whole, to press this experimental knowledge upon you, as what alone will be available for any saving purposes.
In the preceding verse, the apostle speaks of the gain he received in Christianity in point of justification, flowing from the soul's closing with Christ, and renouncing all other; and here he speaks of that gain in point of sanctification. And first, more generally, That I may know him. Might not the Philippians hereupon have said, And do not you know Christ, who have preached him so long? There are two ways of knowing, one by hearing of a thing, another by sight and feeling; one by the relation of another, another by experience, as one knows honey, and all the virtues of it, by report, which he believes, another by tasting it himself. The apostle knew Christ by faith, when he first believed in him; and here he would have the spiritual feeling and experience of him, finding by experience him to be what he has heard and believed him to be. He had something of this, but he would still have more.
The doctrine arising from the text is,