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 briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
~ Hebrews 6:7-8, 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, Jude 1:5, 1 John 2:19
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
~ Matthew 13:30
Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
~ Luke 17:36
On the Parable of the Ten Virgins, by Thomas Shepard. Showing That There Are Hypocrites in the Best and Purest Churches. This is an excerpt from the text.
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
~ Matthew 25:2
Ver. 2. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
From this second verse to the fifth there is set down the difference appearing between the virgins, wherein the Lord, the searcher of hearts, makes an open discovery of the particular estates of these virgins, for all the best churches especially to take notice of, to the second coming of the Lord Jesus. This difference is set down, —
1. Generally, in this second verse.
2. Particularly, in the third and fourth verses. I. Generally, in this verse.
1. That some of them were sincere and wise-hearted, to the number of five.
2. Others of them were foolish and false-hearted, to the number of five more. So that the sum is this: one half of them were indeed virgins, another half were in appearance virgins; the one part were virgins in the sight of God, who saith they are wise; the other were so in the judgment of man, and hence called foolish ones. In this general description, therefore, of them, we may note, —
First. Their description from the number of each sort, viz., five.
Secondly. From their different qualities or qualifications — holy wisdom or prudence in the one, sinful folly in the other. He does not say five were holy and five profane; five were friends to the bridegroom, five were persecutors of him; but “five were wise and five were foolish.” Why the virgins are described by the number of ten, I spake before; either because it was a perfect number, and so signifies the estate of all virgin churches, or because it was the custom not to exceed the number of ten, to honour them at their marriage. Now, why five of them were wise, and five foolish, as though the one half of them only were sincere, the other false, this seems to carry the face of truth; but I am fearful to rack and torment parables, wherein I chiefly look unto the scope, and that is this, that not one or two, but a great part of them were sincere, and a great part of them false. And hence, the observations out of these words are these, omitting all the rest.
Observ. 1. That when the churches of Christ Jesus prove virgin churches, and are most pure, yet even then there will be some secret hypocrites that” shall mingle themselves with them. Or there will be a number of hypocrites mingling themselves with the purest churches.
Observ. 2. That when the churches are virgin churches, the hypocrites in those times will be evangelical. Or the secret hypocrites of pure churches are evangelical.
Observ. 3. That there are certain special, saving qualifications of heart, whereby arises a great internal difference between sincere-hearted virgins and the closest hypocrite.
Observ. 4. That the spring, or one main principle of evangelical sincerity or hypocrisy, lies in the understanding or mind of man.
Observ. 1. That there is and will be a mixture of close hypocrites with the wise-hearted virgins in the purest churches.
This I might manifest out of several scriptures, from several times. Look but upon Josias’s time, when there was as great a reformation as under any king before him, (2 Kings xxiii. 25 😉 yet Jer. iii. 10, and iv. 3, 4. Look on the apostle’s time, and what apostasy afterward. The apostle complained of it, ” Every one seek their own.” Phil. ii. 21. “Many walk,” etc., (Phil, iii. 18, 19,) whom he could not think on “without tears.” The mystery of iniquity began to work even then. Christ manifests this by divers parables; (Matt. xxii. 14,) “Many are called,” and so called as to come in, and so sit, and not to be known till the Lord looks on them. And here the wise-hearted could not discern and keep out, but opened the door for the five foolish. Look as it is said, (Job i. 6,) ” There was a day the sons of God presented themselves before the Lord, and Satan came in also ;” so here. I shall not, do not speak of every particular church, but of the state of the churches in general. For it is possible there may be a Philadelphia, “a new Jerusalem which comes down from heaven,” a ” golden foundation,” and for a time “no hay nor stubble built upon it.” But this is rare, and not usual nor general.
Reason 1. From Satan, the ancient enemy of the purity of the church; he being an unclean creature himself, if he could he would make heaven itself unclean; but that is beyond his reach; hence he seeks to make heaven on earth unclean; hence he will get into paradise, and if he can not come in the shape of a man, yet in that of a serpent to beguile and pollute innocency there. He will follow Christ into the wilderness, and tempt him there, and hence will seek to get into churches, to pollute them. And if he can not pollute the church by unclean ordinances, he will then seek to defile it by unclean persons. Matt. xiii. 25. The tares be in Judea like the wheat, yet indeed annoy the wheat. And how come they here? They are sown there, i. e., hid for a time, and mingled, and die there, too. Who does this? Why, the enemy did it, so that Satan will do it. If there be a devil in the church, he will sow his tares.
Object. But we see him not.
Ans it is therefore said “he went away;” his care is over; now they are sown. Look as it is the Jesuits’ policy, at this day, the end of their order is to raise up the collapsed ruins of Rome, and to bring all Christendom — and if it be possible all the world — to the hellish bondage and blind obedience of the see of Rome. Hence, some kingdoms, because they can not conquer them by power, they seek to do it by craft; hence they seek to lay their leaven and make their party within, from whom they may have intelligence, and hence they shall do well enough with them. So Satan, seeking the ruin of the church, seeks to make his party within the church, for one of these three ends chiefly.
1. Either that he may divide the church, that when any error shall be hatched, he may have his party to maintain it, and his faction to plead for it. Or, —
2. That he may corrupt it, if he can not divide it, that the tares may suck out the heart, and life, and power of godliness in the hearts of the elect; for you know it is not the brier, but the ivy, that sucks out the life and sap of the tree ; and it is not profane, pricking persecutors, but seeming friends to the church, that snck out the heart and life of it. It was not Jeroboam’s greatness, but the old prophet’s gravity and seeming piety that sucked out the spirit and sap of the young prophet. 1 Kings xiii. That so by this little leaven he may defile the whole lump, and so provoke wrath against them all.
3. If he can not do either, yet that he may blur and stain the glory of the church; for the greatest glory in the world is to see a temple built, not of stones, or gold, or pearl, but of living precious saints, holy to the Lord only and his Son, and the sight of which in heaven shall be one part of the glory in heaven. Hence, Satan will do what he can to blur it; that though the greatest glory God has shines in his church, yet that he may blur it: and hence Jude saith, “Some that crept in unawares were spots in their feasts;” and, (2 Pet. ii. 2,) “By reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”
Reason 2. From the officers chiefly of a church, who, when they should be full of eyes, as they are described, (Rev. iv.,) and these eyes should be ever watching, they are then sleeping. Matt. xiii. 25. For it is not the having, so much as the acting of grace that helps men to read and understand the book of the Scriptures, and the book of men’s hearts and lives. 2 Pet. i. 9. Hence, in affliction and temptation we know the Lord, and his mind, and our own hearts, and the world best. When Jonathan eats the honey, “his eyes are open.” Now, sometimes the watchmen are not acting, or watching, but sleeping, and hence those are taken for wheat, that indeed are but tares. The book has a fair superscription or frontispiece, and they so sleepy they do not read it through, and so either see no fault at all, or, it” any, they be but errata in the printing, and weaknesses to be borne with; or if they do, yet the man is commended, and has a name to live, when, indeed, he is dead, and so this serves the turn; and though he comes in, yet they shall do well enough with him, though, indeed, they herein have but a wolf by the ears.
Reason 3. In regard of hypocrites themselves, who must be like themselves, ever to act for their own ends; for they ever have an evil eye; now it makes for their ends, to join themselves to the purest churches of the Lord Jesus.
1. Sometimes it makes for their honour. Hence, you know the church of Sardis lost her power of life, for that is a burden; yet kept their name to live, for that is an honour. For if men live out of church fellowship, that is a great shame, and now they have little love from saints; indeed, the wicked may honouxr them, but what is that to the honour of the whole church? Who would think Saul should have cared for Samuel, that dealt so plainly and sharply with him? Yet, “O, honour me before this people;” that is the business. There are many excellent gifts Christ pours down upon his church. “Simon believes also,” (Acts viii.,) and would give any money for those gifts, that he might be wondered at as he was before. A man seeing other gifts, and the love they have thereby, even a Simon may desire such gifts, and a mighty power of grace to animate those gifts, and would give any money for this, that he may be wondered at. Some refined, polished spirits scorn honour of base men; and hence fish for it elsewhere.
2. Their gain. It is strange that Judas follows Christ for the bag. that was so poor; yet he did, until he saw, after three years and a half waiting, so little came in. So it is strange that men should seek to join poor churches for that; yet they do and will, so long as they have any lots to give, or purses to lend, or hearts to take care and provide for those that are joined to them. You shall have many poor Christian men; but be kind and bountiful to them, you may lead them into any errors, catch them at your pleasure with a silver hook, until they see their gain grows little, and respect less, and then they fall off.
3. Their comfort for union to the church of God, 1. Covers their sin and hides it from the eyes of the world. Thieves walk without suspicion in true men’s companies, and thus they make the “house of prayer a den of thieves ;” and this is some comfort. For hypocrites, they can carry it cleverly that none see; though God see, it is no matter. It will not be thought that a member of a church dares do such a wickedness, yet so it is sometimes. 2. Comforts their conscience in their sin; men love their lusts; but what, no respect to ordinances of Christ? yes, and so conscience is quiet, and sin lives too. Jer. vii. 3. Because there is much comfort in God’s ordinances, and in attending on God there, not only verbal, but the visible gospel is sweet, the sacraments; hence they join themselves as in John’s ministry, “You rejoiced for a season,” not only in Christ, but in communion of saints, especially in dangerous times, that a man fears the judgments of God will come in those places wherever they live without them. And now they are quiet when got into the cities of the Levites, from the pursuer of blood.
Reason 4. In regard of the saints themselves.
First. There is seen many times a divine majesty and excellency in them, which has a drawing virtue with it, that many, out of respect to that, close with them, as Gen. xxvi. 27, 28. God makes Balaam to see Israel’s glory in his tents, and he can not curse (if he might have all the world,) but must bless them.
Secondly. There is much charity which thinks no evil, that where they see evils, they cover them, where there is but little good appearing, they hope there is more than they see; the “king’s daughter” being “all glorious within.”
Thirdly. There is a spirit of humility in them, to think that others appear far better than themselves, until God discovers them, especially in that they are yet unsettled.
Fourthly. A spirit of desire to have all as near the Lord as tiny can, and though there be evils in them, yet they hope that will make them better.
Reason 5. From the Lord himself; who has, —
First. Reserved this exact separation as one part of his own glory at his second coming. Then he shall separate sheep and goats.
Secondly. Because some are very serviceable to his church, and so to Christ, as caput politicum, both in regard of outward means of subsistence, and also with edifying gifts; hence into his family he will let them come, being servants, and like carriers that carry another’s money and wealth to him, and then turns them out of doors.
Thirdly. Because of a certain real, yet not thorough work of the Lord, whereby he draws them to some fellowship with the church, the members, and some kind of fellowship with his Son; yet it not being a thorough, effectual, Almighty drawing, they prove unsound. John vi. 65.
Fourthly. That the Lord might manifest the exceeding greatness of his wrath in some; for God’s last end in all the wicked is to show the greatness of it, (Rom. ix. 21, 22,) yet in some more than others; and hence raises them up in the church to great ominency of profession, and parts, and honour, that all the saints also may admire God’s grace to themselves the more, that when “two in the field, one shall be taken, another left,” that they should sit in the same seats, and yet some called, others left; and of them that are called to leave many, and love me, and that men of great parts, and I a poor simple one to choose such a base thing, to confound the wise, the mighty. But as it is said of Pharaoh, What meant all the miracles ‘t all the humblings of heart? and yet he would not let them go; “For this cause have I raised thee up.” Exod. ix. 16. “Of all that thou hast given me,” (saith Christ,) “not one is lost, but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” So here.
Use 1. This serves to clear us in this country from a foul aspersion that is cast out of the mouths of pulpits upon us, that we hold the churches of Christ to have no hypocrites in them. We answer, that though if hypocrites could be openly and ecclesiastically discerned, they should not be received in, nor kept in, because matter fit to ruin a church is not fit to make a church; yet we say there will be tares and wheat, there will be chaff and corn, there will be wise and foolish virgins, there will be good1 and bad mingled together in the churches until the world’s end.
Use 2. Of Advice. To the watchmen of the churches; nay, to all that profess themselves to be their brethren’s keepers, to all that are wise-hearted virgins, not to lavish your charity too far; it is a precious grace, and you have little enough for them that are sincere; but to bear a jealous heart, and to labor for a quick, discerning eye to find out them that will mingle themselves among you. This was the commendation and honour of the Ephesians. Rev. ii. 2. I confess it is a sinful extreme to cry down all the virgins as foolish when there be “five wise.” Satan will seek to break the bond of brotherly love by sowing false reports and horrible suspicions; and it is a hard thing for a Paul, after the Lord has rapt him up to the third heaven in revelations, not to be puffed up, and in seeing himself at a distance from other men, not to despise and condemn them that have not risen so high as he. A false heart, when he sees more than others, as he thinks, now thinks highly of himself, as some great reformer of churches and the world, especially if a man of shallow head; and hence censures and condemns all that do not magnify him, and reverence his judgments and the dust of his feet. And yet it is another sinful extreme to swallow down all flies that be in the cup, and to think too charitably of every one that does profess. Children that have no children themselves will make children of clouts, and then love them; and hence many a soul lies bleeding to death, because they have such tender friends as will not search them. And I doubt not but many in hell may say, O that I should live among such and such. and they never deal faithfully with me.
Object. If a man walk fairly, should I censure him?
Ans. No; but yet maintain a holy jealousy over them, as Paul did over the Galatians. This stands with love, as it was with Job, chap. i. 5. As it is with chirurgeons, it is love to cut to the quick. Love them because they appear to be Christ’s, and are so to thee, and this shall have a reward; but yet be jealous in love, because there be that hid which was never yet seen.
1. It may be thou mayst save a soul, and they will love thee; or else thou shalt clear justice by being a witness against them.
2. It is the chief work for Christ here, there being no profane ones among us, to overthrow the kingdom of hypocrisy, as well as of civility and profaneness.
3. You will save the Lord a purging and cleansing time; for, when Christ purges not with the Holy Ghost in his saints and ordinances, he will with fire. Here I might give rules for discerning men’s spirits; as, —
First. Mark their speech; for “by thy words thou shalt be justified;” and many times one word will give a light to see all, as in Simon Magus; as with men in a labyrinth found out by one thread.
Secondly. Mark them that you see not grappling with sin and temptation; for if we see them without that they are not yet tried, therefore observe them here; here is their trial when time of temptation comes.
Thirdly. Get thyself to stand at a distance from sinful men, from all the world. “We know we are of God.” 1 John v. 19. As men that are in the water look only to themselves, but standing safe on shore, they see others drowning. I speak this because I fear the churches are so busy about their own things, that their watch is not kept; if they see no gross sin, then all is well.
Use 3. Hence, be not offended if you see great cedars fall, stars fall from heaven, great professors die and decay. 1. Do not think they be all such. 2. Do not think the elect shall fall. Truly some are such, that when they fall, one would think a man [truly sanctified might fall away, as the Arminians think. 1 John ii. 19, “They were not of us.” I speak this because the Lord is shaking, and I look for great apostasies towards; for God is trying all his friends through all the Christian world. In Germany, what profession was there. Who would have thought of it? The Lord, who delights to manifest that openly which was hid secretly, sends a sword, and they fall; others in other places receive the word with joy, the Lord sends persecution, and fearing men more than the filth of sin and anger of Christ, they fall. Others stand it out there, and suffer, and venture hither, and, Issachar-like, see rest is good, and crouch under their burdens, and so they fall. Others have had sweetness in ordinances; the Lord departs, and so they fall. Others have corrupt hearts, and received the truth in the form, not in love, and stood in defence of the truth, not in love of the truth; the Lord lets error loose, and they fall. Well, never be offended at this; I am not, because I never knew man fall but he loved some lust, and was never broken from sin; and although this is not seen when they do fall, it offends not me.
Use 4. O, therefore, search your own hearts. When Christ said to the disciples, “One shall betray me,” “Lord, is it I?” say they; so, when not one, but many, Lord, is it I? O, many a Christian lies fast asleep, never comes to a thorough search, a strict watch. Do but consider this; 1. That in churches, nay, purest churches, many may lie hid, not discerned. 2. Thou mayst be one. 3. If thou beest, that of all men living none shall so deeply sink in hell. 4. That all ordinances shall tend to this end, and all thy joys, all thy afflictions; and therefore, O, search, before the Lord search, and say, Lord, as no man’s punishments and plagues can be like mine, nor sins, if I perish, so if pardoned, loved, never any shall have such cause to bless thee. And, therefore, take not up with weak and groundless hopes, but love that hand that smites and wounds thee; for this discovery is to awaken thee. But you have so much business you will not, can not, etc. Consider what a fearful thing it is to be hung up as for a gazing-stock to saints, so an everlasting terror to the damned themselves.
Containing a Discovery of Gospel Hypocrites.
Observ. 2. That the most hidden hypocrites of the purest churches under the gospel are evangelical, or gospel hypocrites.
For these that were foolish were not such as in appearance rested in the law, or in a covenant of works, but they had escaped those entanglements, and now were virgins that plead their interest in, and their communion, and fellowship, and love-knot with Christ; they had now their lamps ready, and made much preparation for him, and they did wait for him, and verily looked to have eternal fellowship with him their beloved, insomuch that they took their flight so high towards heaven and Christ, that they passed for a time the discerning of the wise; for you must know, that where the gospel comes, there are two sorts of enemies against it.
1. Open; and those arc your justiciaries, that, seeking to establish their own righteousness, and being puffed up with it, can. with pretended good consciences in doing God service, oppost the righteousness of God.
2. Secret and subtle enemies, yet seeming friends; and these are your carnal gospelers, that cry down all their own righteousness, and cry up Christ, and see nothing in themselves, as there is good cause so to think, and look for all from Christ; and yet these, when the Lord comes to search, are found false; and these are the worms that grow in this wood, in this building, in those churches. Thus it was in Christ’s time, the church of the Jews had left their gross idolatries; yet this was their stumbling-stone, they sought to establish their own righteousness, and hence be came to his own, and his own received him not, and hence were cut off for this their unbelief; but others (divers sorts of them) did receive him, believed in him. John ii. 23. Many took hold on Christ, and he took no hold on them, wondered at him, and entertained him when others did reject him, as Capernaum did, yet under his woe. And these are the spots of evangelical purity, wens in the bodies of the best constituted churches. Look but upon Christ’s own family. John vi. 69, 70. The disciples professed when others departed, “Lord, to whom should we go? Thou hast words of life;” yet saith he, “I have chosen you indeed to be for me, but one is a devil;” viz., Judas the deacon stood not on his own righteousness, but was for Christ, and followed him; and yet in this evangelical angel without is a devil within, because he still harboured his lusts within. This the apostle Paul foresaw. Acts xx. 29, 30. Some wolves without should come, and also some cankers within should fret, that should draw many disciples after them, (in a church bought by Christ’s own blood,) “speaking perverse things,” pretending to draw disciples after Christ, but it is indeed after themselves; and Paul laments this — ” Many walk,” i. e., profess Christ and his cross, “yet enemies to it.” Phil. iii. 19. This Christ foretells. Luke xiii. 25, 26. Many seek, many knock, and at last cry, “Lord, Lord, open,” and in their lifetime they pleaded communion with Christ; “Depart, ye workers of iniquity.” Jude 4, certain men are crept in, turning grace into lasciviousness; for this is the very form of an evangelical hypocrite — in denying his own righteousness, to establish his sin, it is advancing Christ to advance his lust. The epistles of James and John are antidotes against this kind of poison, and I look on them as lamps hung up to discover these men, not but that these men are indeed under a covenant of works; for there be but two sorts of men, and two ends of all men, hence but two covenants; hence those that are not indeed under grace are under the law, and under the curse; but because the most subtle hypocrites appear or seem to be under grace, and their external operations are chiefly evangelical, hence I call them evangelical hypocrites.
Reason 1. In regard of the power of the word and gospel of life and spirit in such churches; for the gospel where it comes, as it advanceth the glorious and everlasting righteousness of Christ, so it knocks under foot all man’s, as a means subservient to that end, and it coming with power and light, it would be too gross for hypocrites to maintain life by works; hence Christ is that which they look unto; for Christ when he preached, not only many “believed because of his miracles,” but ” when they heard his word,” (John viii. 30; Matt . xiii.,) in the parable of the tower, the word came with much power, that they received it with joy, and did believe, but fell by their lusts. And look as it is with the sun, there comes light and heat with it, so there comes,—
1. Truth to the mind, and conquers the judgments of hypocrites, that there is no life, good, righteousness, but in Christ, nor salvation but by Christ.
2. There comes some goodness of the gospel to the heart, that men hearing and seeing salvation wrapped up there, O, that is sweet and good. and hence their affections and hearts are in some measure conquered by the power of the over-dazzling truth; and hence hypocrites, being thus conquered, partly being of this opinion, partly tasting some good of it, desire it out of self-love, expect it out of self-delusion, and profess themselves virgins out of these principles.
Reason 2. In regard of the power of evangelical examples in the five wise virgins; for look as it is with living men when the sun shines upon their heads, they cast their shadows that follow them; so when the Lord Jesus shines upon the souls of his own people, almost every honest, sincere-hearted man will cast his shadow that will be like him; hence hypocrites in those churches which are commonly rather led by example than by rule, will be very like them, and imitate them; if they should not, what communion could they have with them, or what love could they receive from them? For there is a mighty power in eminent examples to overbear hypocrites, that if they will turn themselves into any form, they must into theirs, as in Joash; for there are two things in the carriage of the saints.
1. There is a condemning power in it; hence men fear to live unlike them.
2. There is a winning virtue in it, an attractive virtue; hence men endeavour to be and live like them, to be of the same mind, the same heart with them; and hence others take them, and they take themselves, to be sincere, and hence they are evangelical gospel hypocrites that lie hid in these churches; hence, (Zech. viii. 23,) “Many shall take hold of a Jew’s skirt, (I doubt not but some false ones,) We have heard God is with you.”
And as Christ when lifted up and risen, so saints draw hypocrites to them.
Reason 3. Because the gospel brings the greatest and sweetest consolations with it. Hence a man, under the terror of the law and sense of curse for his sin, will make his last refuge hither, and hide himself under the wing of the gospel, not so much out of love to Christ or gospel, but because they serve his turn, and give him ease. Like men scorched with heat, and almost ready to die, the shadow of a tree is now very comfortable, and therefore there they sit; so these. Or, as men with scalded arms, they put them into water, which gives them ease, no cure; but because it gives them ease, there they keep them; so here. Men have been scalded with wrath; O, now gospel is very sweet, and so are eased by it, never cured by it. Therefore, here you shall find them disclaim all works, and cry up grace only; where the purest churches are, there are usually great awakenings, there God is very near men, and made most manifest to men’s consciences, and there are most foul plagues, contempt of the Spirit of grace, and hence most dreadful torments of conscience, and fearful lookings for of judgment. Now, hence it comes to pass, when Christ is offered, and general notice given to men’s minds, that yet there is hope and mercy for great sinners; this fills them with joy and peace, as John’s hearers, (John v. 35,) and hence they believe as the stony ground that had some ploughing, and hence received the word with joy, and believed. Ps. lxvi. 3. It is a prophecy of the kingdom of Christ, Antichrist tormented the consciences of men. Rev. ix. Men have no peace within nor without. Luther is raised up, and preacheth the doctrine of free grace, which a world of men looking to their ease reject; others in truth receive it; for some time before his death he cries to God that he may not live to see the ruins that were coming on Germany for their contempt. The law is the ministry of death; the gospel propounds great privileges, with much more sweetness to sinners, and hence hither men fly.
Reason 4. Because the gospel yields the fairest colours for a man’s sloth, and strongest props for that. Hence you shall see I them walking in this garden; for/the last sin God conquers in a man is his sloth. When the swine have no swill to eat, yet you shall find them in the mire of sloth; this “slays the foolish.” Hence, the best hypocrite will plead the gospel, it is troublesome to the flesh to bear a daily sense of the sins and wants of the soul. Hence, you shall, Capernaum, receive Christ, and wonder at his doctrine; and yet Christ upbraids them, “they repented not.” Matt . xi. 20. It is troublesome, nay, impossible, for a man to break his chains and get his soul loosed from his lusts, and free for the Lord. The gospel shows all fullness in Christ, and that he must do all; a slothful, false heart, therefore, closeth with Christ as the end, but neglects him in the means. Why? Christ must do alL say they, and hence, if Christ do drop upon their heart*., well and good; if not, it is Christ’s fault; he is a hard master that gathers where he did not sow, and hence wrapped it up. A man’s false heart is weary of the yoke of Christ, and hence would fain be eased of it. Now, the gospel promiseth liberty from the bondage and curse of the law, and a slothful heart can find out reasons to free himself from the rule of it, as part of Christian liberty, “this is our liberty in Christ Jesus.” 2 Pet. ii. 19. And they rejoice exceedingly that the law is dead, as they did (Rev. xi. 10) for the death of witnesses, because they tormented them. I say again, they rejoice not because the Lord makes them like himself, and because of his image restored by the gospel, and because they feel the power of it, but because they are free from the power of it. It is an old deceit, yet subtle to rejoice, and love, and bless Christ, because he will pardon sin, though I lie and live in them. Or, if they do not free themselves from it, the gospel shows the law within closing with the law without, to be an evidence the Lord will not impute it, and that it is not they, but sin in them. Hence, a slothful heart will continue in his sloth, and to ease himself of trouble, for sin and obedience too, say, it is not he, but sin. And hence, Arminius makes a strange interpretation of Rom. vii. Because he saw German professors plead that for themselves, the Israelites entered not into Canaan, unbelief caused it. And why did that shut them out? O, there were walled towns and difficulties, and this was the last shock, and hence, they fell off; so it is in hypocrites now. The safest place to lie asleep is in Christ’s lap.
Reason 5. From the mighty cunning of Satan, the strength of whose kingdom is made and continued by peace. Luke xi. 41. Hence, “he will turn himself into an angel of light,” and suffer men to go to Christ and the gospel, to avoid the search, that they may be Christ’s in appearance, and his indeed. 2 Cor. iv. 4. He has a mighty power over men to blind them; for there be three things which trouble men usually, and make them question their estates, and the gospel quiets and absolves them from all.
1. Conscience, that cries dolefully sometimes, These sins shall have these woes. Yes. unless I believe; but I believe, and trust to Christ, and flee to God’s mercy.
2. Ministry, that cries and searcheth into the deepest windings^ of men’s hearts, that men can not but see that Christ has eyes of flaming fire to see through them. Now, hence men avoid the stroke and power of all ministry; thus it is with me, thus it will be with me; but I believe and trust to Christ. And hence, men bear back like brazen walls all blows.
3. God’s judgment seat. What though men see you not, yet God seeth. Why, they have sinned, they confess, but Christ has suffered; they have sinned, but they trust, etc., (Micah iii. 11,) “Is not the Lord among us?” Look as it was with Joab, ” he runs to the horns of the altar,” yet there he perisheth, there he would die, there was the last refuge from search and death; so here.
Use 1. Hence, do not think your estates good, because you look only for justification by Christ, and look only to God’s free grace, and count of grace in Christ . It is a common error for men to think, being they be of this opinion, only to look for grace in Christ; to think that, therefore, their estates are false, and they are justified by Christ. Why, there may be such a power of word and spirit to conquer their judgments, as those Papists that have been pleading against it have been overcome by it. Thou mayst receive the notions of it in thy head, but the power of it never into thy heart.
Object. 1. lJut my heart has been affected with this to see when my sins deserve death; yet there is mercy for the vilest in Christ.
Ans. Thou mayst taste and joy, and yet fall off at last.
Object. 2. But I have fellowship with the Lord Jesus.
Arts. Thou mayst eat and drink in his presence, and yet be bid, ” Depart; I know you not, a worker of iniquity.”
Object. 3. But I have “escaped the pollution of the world,” (2 Pet. x. 20,) and that through this knowledge of Christ, his love has much moved me to part with my sins.
Ans. It may lx3 so, and it may wash thee from all external pollutions, and yet thy swinish nature remain still hidden from thee, but seen of an all-seeing God.
Object. 4. But I look for Christ, and wait for him, and desire him. and all that are wise think well of me.
Ans. You may do all this, and yet you may be found foolish, for all this. Evangelical work, which is accompanied with salvation in some, it may be hypocritical in thee; and therefore take heed you do not take shows for substance. For, look, as in the gospel God’s utmost perfection of wisdom and love appears, so the most hidden and admirable delusions of Satan are evangelical. There his power is employed to undermine, and so to keep his head. O that we could but imagine and set before our eyes the amazing condition of such a man, whose plagues shall be made wonderful, that has been troubled with sin a long time, at last looks to Christ, and there rests, and so hears all sermons, and there still sleeps, and considers often that his ways are evil, but never suspects his faith to be evil; then he comes to die, and then looks for Christ; at last the wick or snuff dies, and sun sets, and darkness approaches, and then suddenly slips into hell, where he sees Christ and saints afar off. And what has deceived them? O, their faith has deceived them, to see Christ shaking them off as dust. O, they wish, O that I had known or feared this before. And will you not fear now? As for you, profane ones, that can scoff, and drink, and break Sabbaths, and live idly, your judgment is writ upon your foreheads; but, O, take heed, you that have escaped these pollutions, lest you deceive yourselves here. To show you that deceit particularly, it is not my lime yet, but go along, and think sadly of it; I may look for justification by Christ, and wait for Christ, and yet perish. O, let me be sure I get such a faith as will not deceive me here. Should not a man, you will say, trust Christ? Yes, when you can in truth; but thy trust may be but presumption.
Use 2. Take not up, therefore, every opinion and doctrine, from men or angel, that bears a fair show of advancing Christ; for they may be but the fruits of evangelical hypocrisy and deceit, that, being deceived themselves, may deceive others too. Matt vii. 15, ” Beware of them that come in sheep’s clothing, in the innocency, purity, and meekness of Christ and his people, ” but inwardly are wolves, proud, cruel, censorious, speaking evil of what they know not; by their fruits you shall know them.” Do’ not think, beloved, that Satan will not seek to send delusions among us; and do you think these delusions will come out of the Popish pack, whose inventions smell above ground here? No; he must come, and will come, with more evangelical finespun devices. It is a rule observed among Jesuits at this day, if they would conquer religion by subtlety, never oppose religion with a cross religion, but set it against itself; so oppose the gospel by the gospel; and look, as churches pleading for works had new invented devised works, so when faith is preached, men will have their new inventions of faith. I speak not this against the doctrine of faith where it is preached, but am glad of it; nor that I would have men content themselves with every form of faith; for I believe that most men’s faith needs confirming or trying, but I speak to prevent danger on that hand. For it was that which Christ did foretell, (Matt. xxiv. 24,) “Many false Christs should arise,” i. e., such as should misapply Christ, that had a spirit for Christ, which was a spirit against Christ, and would ” deceive, if it were possible, the very elect;” for coming with Christ’s Spirit, they dare not oppose them, lest they op^”pose the Spirit of Christ. The only remedy is to hold to Christ’s I word, and not to depart one hair’s breadth from it, (Rev. iii. 10,) land to a word well understood, and then dispute no more. Satan comes to Eve, and bids her eat; no, God forbid; yet eat to be like gods; he dazzled her with that which was not; now she fell. Take the truth from what the word saith, and depart not from it.
Use 3. Here see the dreadful estate of all them that be found false-hearted in the purest churches, and that in these three respects : —
First. That they should so horribly forsake and blaspheme the name of God, to make the glorious gospel of God- and all the sweet doctrines of grace a cover for their hypocrisy and sin, as indeed it is; for were it not for this, they might be found out in their sins, but now they are beyond the discovery of all men or means.
Secondly. That they should be so lamentably forsaken of God, as to be left, —
1. To the most subtle and spiritual hypocrisy in the world, which, being most cross to God, shall receive most fierce and searching wrath; for, as divines say of Christ, he was forsaken in soul, because man had sinned with his soul; so God’s wrath will search deep in their hearts, whose hearts have guilefully departed from the Lord.
2. That he should lead them so far, and yet in the main forsake them, O, this is heavy wrath, for a man to be led in the daylight of the gospel, almost to the end of his journey, and at last the sun sets, and he left to wilder.
Thirdly. In regard of the cries of the very gospel itself against them. O that the precious gospel of God, coming with so much peace, love, grace, mercy, should win them to be hypocrites, but never to be friends. Beloved, as there is vengeance of the law. and of the temple, so there is vengeance of the gospel when the soul shall be drawn before the tribunal of Christ, and shall stand there quaking, all sins set in order before you, and your mouth shall be stopped. What say you then for your lite? O, grace and mercy, Lord; O, now shall the gospel come forth and say. All this I did, I spake, I strove, I comforted, I terrified, and yet he hath opposed the Lord, and me he hath made a cover for all these evils; and therefore, Lord, let him never be comforted more. John iii. 19. O, Christ hath heavy things against these times, that take light of the gospel to see to commit their sin by. And, therefore, lament your present estates, you that know yourselves nought, never yet drawn to Christ, never yet humbled at the feet of Christ, and look up to the Lord, whatever misery he inflicts, not to suffer thee to be deceived here; not only to have such a faith as may catch hold on Christ, but he on thee, and come unto the light to manifest the hidden enmity there. Never was yet man deceived but he that was willing to be deceived, that would not use the means, and search.