Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
~ James 5:7, Leviticus 25:21,Psalm 24:5
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
~ Luke 6:46
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day. And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
~ Genesis 3:17-18, Jeremiah 17:6, Jeremiah 44:22, Ezekiel 20:47, Malachi 4:1
The Danger of a Loose, Careless, and Unfruitful Profession, by Thomas Goodwin. This is an excerpt from his work, “Of Gospel Holiness in the Heart and Life”. Book Four, Chapters 1-5.
The danger of a loose, careless, and unfruitful profession; or the danger of men’s living under the dispensation and enjoyment of the ordinances of the gospel; viz., the preaching of the word, the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, and church communion, if they live in sin, indulge their lusts, or be unfruitful.—Two cases resolved: 1. How far a regenerate man is capable of sinning against knowledge; 2. Wherein the sin against the Holy Ghost differs from other sins against knowledge.
Chapter I. The Text in Hebrews 6:7-8, explained.
The text in Heb. 6:7, 8, explained, with some observations from it.
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 and is to be burned.
~ Hebrews 6:7-8
My design is to convince men of what great moment and consequence the ordinances of God are to the souls of them that live under the dispensation of them, for a blessing or a curse, according as they are fruitful and obedient under them and improving of them, or remiss and negligent; and by this consideration, to move them to all strictness and holiness of conversation. To this end I have taken this text.
1. The apostle speaks to professors that had long lived under the doctrine and means of salvation, who yet had made but small proficiency. Thus he speaks in the foregoing chapter, ver. 12, ‘Whenas for the time ye ought to be teachers, you have need of one to teach you again which be the first principles.’ Yea, and they were fallen back to this (as those words imply), to become ‘such as have need of milk.’ Whereupon he exhorts them, chap. 6:1, to ‘go on to perfection,’ namely, both in knowledge and holiness.
2. And he lays before them the danger that professors are in, if the means of grace have not their due effect; and this danger he sets before them in the example of many that have been enlightened and fall away, and are never renewed again to repentance.
3. He represents the condition of men under a similitude of the earth (to which he compares men’s hearts), when it either proves fruitful or barren. Those hearts that drink in the rain and bring forth fruit, have a blessing to bring forth more fruit; and, on the contrary, that earth or those hearts that bring forth thorns upon often drinking in that rain, are rejected and then cursed. The equity of this proceeding is taken from the same and like law, that by the same reason the fruitful should receive a blessing, by the same the unfruitful should have a rejection, for so both God and man use to do with the earth in like cases. When man hath bestowed his pains to till it, and God seconding man’s labour hath sent his rain upon it, and it brings forth nothing but thorns, then it comes to pass, and that deservedly, that man rejects it (as the word is) and God curseth it; and the end or issue of it, is to be burned, together with its thorns.
I shall now open the particulars of this similitude, and unto what the allusion thereof should refer. Here is earth bringing forth of thorns, upon having the rain falling on it, rejected, cursed, and whose end is to be burnt, and the estate of men that fall away compared thereunto. What is there in other scriptures?
No one place will help us to understand all of these jointly, but some places will give light unto the one, some unto the other.
More immediately Paul had in his eye the parable of our Saviour concerning the thorny ground: Mat. 13:22, 23, ‘He also that received seed amongst the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.’ The thorny ground, the third ground, as it is termed, notes out the highest sort of those temporaries that fall away; and answerably, it is the highest sort of those temporaries, and the eminentest gifts of them, Paul had been speaking of: ver. 4, ‘For it is impossible that those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,’ &c. And as Christ there differenceth a good hearer’s heart (the fourth ground) from this thorny ground, that the good earth receives the word, brings forth fruit sixty and an hundredfold, so answerably in this place, the earth that is fruitful is said to be blessed, that is, to bring forth more fruit, but that which doth not is cursed and rejected. And again, as in the parable of the thorny ground this is added, that ‘they bring not fruit to perfection,’ that is, mature, kindly ripe, Luke 8:14, so upon this place interpreters have generally made the like observations, that of the good earth it is here said, τίκτουσα, it begets its fruits, brings them forth as a mature birth; of the other, the thorny, it is said, ἐκφέρουσα, it casts them out as abortive; so Grotius. And the different cause of these events in both places is in like manner resolved into the difference of the soil itself; for in all these sorts of grounds the seed sown is the same, the rain that falls the same; but there are said to be thorns in the one, that is, the roots of lusts remaining unpulled up, and these grow up again after the tops have been cut off, and insensibly draw away the sap, and so their hearts are never regenerated. The other is a good ground or soil, where lusts are parted with, and the heart changed, 2 Peter 1:14, and ‘made partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’ And thus Paul distinguisheth of these here, declaring professedly, that those that fall away never had true and saving graces: ‘We hope better things of you, and things that accompany salvation,’ instancing in their ‘labour of love,’ which the enlightenings in those other had not. Paul’s hope of these hearers, that the issue of them would be different from the other, lay in this, that although their standing at a stay and not thriving was a shrewd, ill sign, yet notwithstanding that, he believed that they should never so apostatise as those others had done, because this apostasy befalls only those that never had honest and changed hearts, nor a work that had salvation in it; but he hopes better things of them, and to have been wrought in them, and things that have salvation annexed to them; as if he had said, When I consider that first work upon you, how sound and thorough it was: Heb. 10:32–34, ‘When I but call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; partly, whilst ye were made a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.’ He knew God would certainly revive them again; but yet in the mean time, to quicken them, he lays before them, and minds them of the example of those that fall away.
2. That other part of the similitude, ‘the earth that brings forth thorns is nigh unto cursing,’ alludes manifestly to the state of the earth before the fall, and after the fall, compared together. Before the fall, the earth was so blessed of God, that it was fruitful with very small pains, by virtue of that first word of blessing, Gen. 1. Paradise is termed the garden of God, because so eminently blessed of God. And thus it is with man’s heart: his soul was planted, in the original constitution of it, a paradise unto God, planted with a right seed, out of which all graces rose up and grew, and man so long inherited a blessing from God; but falling from God, then, on the contrary, to shew how cursed man himself was, God cursed the very earth itself to bring forth thorns. Now as Adam was a type of Christ, and his world of Christ’s world, so even this instance also represents what falls out under the dispensation of the gospel. Although man be fallen in Adam, yet to them that live under the gospel God sends his word and Spirit to manure them once more, and try if they will be fruitful (so you have it both in Isa. 5 and in the parable of the vineyard) God sends messengers and dressers early and late; and now the second time of itself it brings forth thorns, then (as of trees, Jude says, ver. 12) it is ‘twice dead,’ and so twice cursed, first in Adam through his fall, then by their falling from a second work which they have lost.
3. For that other piece of the similitude, ‘whose end is to be burnt.’ It may be an allusion to the condition of the earth in Sodom and Gomorrah; for as the inhabitants of those cities are made types of men under the gospel, Jude 7, so here their land or earth may also be supposed to be so. Now, Gen. 13:10, it is said of that land for the fruitfulness of it, that it was ‘watered as the garden of God.’ So then, as the inhabitants of that land, the men of Sodom, are in Jude made ‘examples of the vengeance of hell fire,’ so the curse that befell that earth for their sakes, that was once the nearest resemblance of the earth in the state of innocency, may be considered to have been singled out by God to make it the shadow of the hearts of those most eminent professors, whom proving unfruitful, God above all other curseth. For, lo, this place and soil is not only turned into a barren wilderness, as the psalmist threatens, but into a lake (as hell is called) of brimstone. The vapours which arise out of it do kill all the birds that fly over it; and the apples that grow on the banks thereof to this day are a proverb, ‘apples of Sodom,’ looking fair, but falling to dust when touched, and all things burnt and blasted. And unto this earth, thus cursed and burnt up, doth the apostle here compare the hearts of the apostates cursed for being unfruitful and unworthy, abusing the means of grace.
4. There is one thing yet more that, in prosecution of this similitude, he compares the means of grace which these enjoy unto: (1.) rain; (2.) the tillage or manurement of it, ‘the earth that oft drinks in the rain, and is dressed.’ This of the rain I know some apply to the preaching of the word, which is compared by Moses to the rain, Deut. 32:2, and Isa. 55:10; yet I rather take it, that here the apostle doth in this intend two sorts of means vouchsafed to men’s spirits, whereof the one he compares to the rain which comes immediately from heaven, the other to that of man’s work in manuring and tilling tee earth—so noting out distinctly inward influences, illapses, and dews of the Spirit by the rain; and denoting means outward dispensed by man’s ministry by the other, as sacraments, preaching, admonition, or the like. And my reason is, because look as the things themselves in the similitude itself are different, the rain is from heaven, which God alone can give (who is thereby distinguished from the idol gods that cannot give rain), whereas the dressing, planting, yea, watering with waterpots,—Paul plants, Apollos waters,—are the works of man, and so a different means from that of the rain which God gives immediately; so answerably, in the means or dispensations vouchsafed by God, signified by these unto men living under the gospel, I observe how Paul doth as distinctly mention two sorts of them in the former part of his discourse: 1. Inward, a being enlightened, a partaking of the heavenly gift, and of the Holy Ghost. 2. Outward, teachings by men, Heb. 5:12, which also that passage, having ‘tasted of the good word of God,’ that is, of the gospel as preached by men, implies. And so the two parts of the similitude of my text (verses 7, 8) correspond fitly with those two parts of dispensations by God vouchsafed (verses 4–6), for even unregenerate men partake of the Holy Ghost, as rain and water from heaven, and it falls as the rain both on the hearts of bad as well as good.
I shall now add two sorts of observations, whereof the one concerns the ground that is cursed, the other the good ground, where true grace accompanying salvation is wrought.
Obs. 1. First concerning the bad ground that is cursed, observe, that in carnal hearts all influences from heaven and means outward administered, do but nourish self, and in the end their lusts, although by accident, as Paul speaks of the law’s causing sin, Rom. 7:7. The rain causeth briers to grow as well as corn and fruits, and a poisoned plant turns the rain into poison. Thus men turn grace into wantonness and presumption, and the power of men’s lusts prevail over all such enlightenings. The thorns did not only overtop, outgrow, and choke the gifts and graces given, but did convert and turn the actings of those gifts into thorns. The rain rots dead oaks in the end, and so do the means these.
Obs. 2. That God, in rejecting such as are more deeply enlightened, proceedeth by degrees, and not until they have oft drunk in much means. So also the parable of the fig-tree holds forth, Luke 13:8; he first stayed two years, then afterwards one year longer, and digged and dunged it. He goes on by degrees: as, 1, he deserts it, which is here intimated by being nigh to cursing, that is, by withdrawments, in comparison unto what he once afforded in drawing nigh to them; then, 2, he curseth with final rejection, if they become such as God hath no pleasure in, which he shews by being more strange to them; yet he doth not presently curse them, though they are next door to it, as the word nigh here implies, and as it is elsewhere taken, Luke 21:30, 31.
Obs. 3. That in this life God may curse such men, when it is along while after that they are burnt and cast to hell. That indeed is the end of all, but it may come long after cursing. Thus the fig-tree, Mat. 21:19, stood above ground after it was cursed; and thus God aware against the Israelites in the wilderness long afore they died, ‘that they should not enter into his rest.’
The second sort of observations are concerning the elect, those that here are supposed to have good hearts.
Obs. 1. That although they may stand long at a stay, and seem to go backward, yet God will not take the like advantage of them in the end. This is evident from this instance here. Many of these Hebrews that still professed were such, as ‘for the time they might have been teachers;’ and yet they still needed milk, the lowest nourishment, they needed even the first principles to be taught them. Yea, it is added in that 12th verse, that they ‘were become such as needed milk.’ Even as old men that are decayed come to live most on milk again, their stomachs are so weak, and so are these too decayed in strength and appetite to things holy. These deserved that cursing that was executed upon those others, that by such degrees fell off; but yet the apostle says, ‘We hope better things of you,’ for ‘God is not unmindful of your labour of love,’ &c., which they formerly had. They had such a work, which (as he loved*) would again revive, and yet he sets this severe dealing of God’s with others before them to quicken them, this being in itself an ill sign in any, and shewed they were nigh unto cursing, and had best look to it. Solomon committed the same sin against Jeroboam, whom God set up, that Saul did against David, and yet God pardoned the one and cast off the other. And the reason is, because God treats in his dispensations of grace to the one according to the tenor of a covenant of works, but with the other according to the covenant of grace, which, Heb. 8:9, 10, is differenced thus, ‘Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.’
Obs. 2. That even to good hearts the blessing of much fruit is not at first or presently vouchsafed, until they have oft drunk in the rain, and then a blessing from God comes, as it is said, Heb. 12:11, of affliction, that ‘afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.’ It is afterwards, not presently, and after having been exercised thereby long.
Obs. 3. That the heavenly influence by ordinances compared here to the rain, is not always violent or sudden, but gentle and sweet. It sends down τὸ ὑετὸν, molliores et minores guttas (so Hyperius observes the word here used is), signifying that smaller rain that falls softly, wets and soaks in by degrees, as Moses in Deuteronomy compares the word: ‘Deut. 32:2, ‘My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew; as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.’ And in Isa. 55:10, the word is compared both to the snow and the rain; the snow always falls gently and so soft, that if a man were blind he would scarce discern its falling. The rain sometimes falls more violently; and the snow lies often long upon the ground unmelted as it fell; but then a thaw comes and melts it, and it soaks by degrees into the earth, and serves to make it fruitful as well as the rain. So ordinances work often not so much by violent but still impressions, as they after the habit of the mind, as a diet drink doth that of the body, and work not as vomits, purges, or such like violent physic. For impressions that are violent have their violence from the stirring of self in men’s hearts (which is an impetuous principle when once raised), and not from grace.
Chapter II. That Our Worthy and Suitable Living Under the Ordinances of the Gospel Brings a Blessing.
That our worthy and suitable living under the ordinances of the gospel brings a blessing, but the contrary a curse on our souls.—The danger of those who, living under the preaching of the word of God, indulge their lusts, or are unfruitful.
The last and main observation is this, that our worthy or unworthy living under the outward ordinances of the gospel, and those dews that accompany them, especially the word of God, is of infinite moment and consequence for blessing, or a curse unto men’s souls; and therefore men should be wary how they deal with them.
I take in both sorts of means: 1. The rain; 2. The labour of the husbandman; and add especially the word, for he speaks there especially of the doctrine of salvation. There are those that look for rain immediately and alone from heaven, but they shall never have the benefit of it, if they neglect or despise the means that are needful to make the ground fertile. Paul plants, Apollos waters, God gives the increase, but by their watering and planting; and therefore they are said to be co-workers with God, 1 Cor. 3:9.
To make the main observation good, I shall go over the instances of all outward ordinances of the gospel, and shew the danger of neglect in making due improvement of any of them.
1. In the beginning of the gospel and the first dawning of it, when the kingdom of heaven was but at hand, John Baptist came preaching and baptizing. ‘The law and the prophets were until John, but now the gospel is preached,’ says Christ, Luke 16:16, and one seal thereof, and but one, viz., baptism, was administered together with it. Now see and consider what a more severe warning John gives thereupon, both to the receivers or the rejecters of it. Now ‘bring forth,’ says he, ‘fruits worthy of repentance.’ Now nothing will do but fruits worthy, that is, suitable, answerable to the profession of repentance, which by so powerful a means and ordinance God called for and required. By fruits worthy is meant, that they should behave themselves like to true penitents (as, Luke 12:36, the phrase is), like unto men that wait. The words here in the text, ‘fruits meet,’ help to expound it. Fruits meet are such that are proportioned to the cost; as when he elsewhere says, Walk worthy of the gospel, because now God will not bear so long as formerly, for ‘now the axe is laid to the root.’ If before, when you sinned against the dispensation of the law and the institutions of it, God punished with temporal punishments, and did only lop off the branches, and did not smite the root, the spirit, but the outward man was then perhaps smitten, and it may be it was long first too; yet now the axe is laid to the root, that is (as I take it), to men’s souls; for he compares the persons of men to trees, and the soul is the fountain of life, as the root is to the body of the tree. In the old law men were caused in the field, and in the bushel; but now they are cursed in the church, at a sacrament or sermon. And he says now, to shew that God will not stay long with the most of men, ere he strike their souls with hardness and impenitency. Every word is in the present, the axe is laid, not shall be; every blow, inward check, and motion tends to ruin, if there be not fruitfulness. The unfruitful tree is cut down, is cast into the fire, as elsewhere it is said, ‘He that believes not is damned already,’ John 3:18. God takes less time to despatch men’s souls, makes quick work with them, and either hardens or softens them. These threatenings (I take it) are not spoken of Jerusalem’s destruction, and rooting up the nation; that was forty years after; but this here is threatened more speedily to the persons he speaks to. ‘Every tree in particular shall be cut down, and cast into the fire, even to hell.’ All this John says of his baptism, and the doctrine that accompanied it, to forewarn them that if they took that engagement upon them, they should consider what they did. But then the Pharisees thought with themselves, if your baptism be such an edge-tool to cut to the roots, we will not meddle with it, and so avoid the curse you threaten. Hear what he says of them, and let all learn to fear and tremble; Christ says of the Pharisees, Luke 7:30, that ‘they rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of John.’ This baptism, thus requiring and obliging unto true repentance and regeneration those that received it, was called ‘the counsel of God,’ because it was that which by God’s counsel or institution was appointed for their salvation. But seeing that in the end and intent of it as appointed by God, it required repentance and fruits worthy of amendment of life, they chose to reject it, they slighted or rejected it, it was against themselves they did this, and to their own ruin; and so their rejecting of it God took more heinously at their hands than others’ unfruitfulness and impenitence that received it.
2. Of Christ’s ministry, that followed upon John’s, Luke 3:16, 17, it is said, ‘He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner,’ &c. That fanning there is in this life, for it is of the corn whilst in the floor (if you mark it), afore it be laid up in the garner, heaven; and by it is meant the speedy discovery and separation that Christ makes by his Spirit of the spirits of men by spiritual judgments for neglecting the means, and thereby severing temporary believers from true, leading them forth with the workers of iniquity. Others take this fanning for that discovery which shall be made at the day of judgment; but to me it seems clear to be in this life, whilst the corn is in the floor, as the several degrees of this comparison do shew. The first whereof is the bringing in the corn into the visible church or outward profession, which in the analogy of this comparison is as the harvest. Answerable is that speech of Christ, ‘The harvest is great’—that is, many are to be brought in—’but the labourers are few.’ ‘The regions,’ saith he, ‘are white to the harvest:’ this was spoken when men yet stood as corn in the field, not reaped, but ripe for it; and the harvest was the bringing them in. The next to this is that fanning here spoken of, and the thrashing and fanning in the floor are the means used after they are come in. Then the third and last thing is the laying them up safe in heaven till the latter day, which is called ‘gathering them into his garner.’ Now, this fanning or severing here in the floor is more expressly intended of temporaries than of men loose or worldly; for it is the chaff whom the fan is said to deal withal, not the tares. And the harvest to which the preaching the word is compared, calls men out from the world; but this fanning is of the chaff brought in by the harvest, and it is severing it from the corn. So then Christ prepares in this life for the day of judgment, severs, discovers men here; and he does it by the fan in his hand, the Spirit accompanying his outward administrations. I shall close this of Christ’s ministry with that dreadful prophecy of Malachi, prophesying of the ministry of John Baptist that foreran, and also of Christ that followed. How terribly doth he speak of both as of a day of judgment! ‘Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and the fuller’s soap,’ Mal. 3:2. And in verse 5 saith he, ‘I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against the false swearers.’ And chap. 4:1 he says, ‘Behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble.’ This bright and hot season of the gospel ministry and ordinances concluded the rejecters under a state of hardness and condemnation more than ages before had done.
3. As to hearing the word preached by ministers to the end of the world, Christ in many parables gave great warnings concerning it, but more eminently in Luke 8:18, ‘Take heed therefore how ye hear, for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken, even that which he seemeth to have.’ Compare this with Mark 4:24, ‘Take heed what you hear, with what measure you mete it shall be measured to you, and unto you that hear shall more be given.’ He had shewed in the foregoing parable (as here in the text) the state of the stony and thorny-ground hearers and professors, and his conclusion or inference from thence is, Therefore take heed how and what you hear. I may add, from the drift and connection, take heed what kind of hearers you be.
(1.) What kind, for of four sorts but one is good; and therefore be solicitous that you have good and honest hearts, such as the fourth ground had.
(2.) Take heed what you hear, Mark 4:24; that is, take heed to give answerable attendance to the weight of the matter, according as it falls out to be delivered, for these are the ‘great things of the law.’ And he adds a reason, ‘with what measure,’ &c. God deals in a proportion; look what from a sermon one gets and brings again with him to the next, that will cause an increase by the next, else there is danger of a decrease.
(3.) Take heed how ye year; and Christ’s reason in Luke is, ‘To him that hath’ (that is, useth that which he hath received by hearing well), ‘to him shall be given.’ For so Matthew, speaking of the talents, warrants us to interpret it: ‘Whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away what he hath,’ Mat. 25:28, 29. He that used not his talents is said not to have it, which is thereupon given to others, even what thou shouldst have had, but through careless neglect hast missed it.
Unto this so grave and solemn a caveat of our Lord and Saviour, add the consideration of these dreadful properties and efficacies and operations of the word set before us by the apostle, on purpose to make us know and understand of what moment and consequence it is unto us, how we shall have to do therewith; Heb. 4:12, ‘For the word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discoverer of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’ In the 2d and 3d chapters and beginning of this, he had given abundant warning to take heed of neglecting the word that was preached to them, and to enforce it in this verse, bids them consider what a word they had to do withal; it is a living word, it is a quick word, and an eternal word. And therefore, as the apostle says, chap. 10:31, ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God;’ so say I of the living word, it revived the sense of sin; when the light of it came into Paul’s conscience, ‘then I died,’ says he, Rom. 7. As some metals will not melt till some other metal be put to them, so nor will sins melt or dissolve into the conscience till the word comes as fire and mingles with them; and when God sets it on work again, then it runs through the soul like hail shot, or like quicksilver.
It is a living word also in this respect, that it is eternal. You may think it vanisheth with our breath, but it lives for ever, and your thoughts will have to do with it for ever: 1 Peter 1:23, ‘The word of God abides for ever.’ And if you ask what word it is, even that, says Peter, which we preach to you. What if the word is conveyed and set on in that ordinance of preaching, if it is written in the heart, it goes to heaven with you; if it is neglected, yet the Holy Ghost will bring it to your remembrance, and so it will abide and go to hell with you. You shall repeat sermons enough there, and the sermons will be the doctrine, and all your sins will serve for matter of uses of terror and dread for ever; Isa. 55, ‘His word shall not return empty or in vain.’
2. The apostle adds in Heb. 4, that the word is mighty in operation; as in its own nature it is all life and spirit, so it is in operation. It will exquisitely torture, and become an executioner of men in hell: ‘it divides,’ says he, ‘between the marrow and the bones,’ which expresseth the most exquisite pains. God’s wrath and his word do torment men for ever in hell: 2 Cor. 10:6, ‘It hath in a readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.’ He compares it there to an armoury of weapons and instruments of death of all sorts, that are made ready (as the Psalmist speaks) and laid up to be brought forth. And the apostle there suggests to men’s consideration what mighty effects it will at last have in avenging all disobedience, by what in the mean time it hath in converting and bringing the godly into obedience, and in subduing their lusts. ‘It is mighty, ‘says he there, ‘in casting down strongholds, and high towering imaginations.’ Have you seen hurricane winds or earthquakes as they are in some parts of the world, that overthrow towers to the very foundations, tear up hills by the roots and throw them into the sea, toss up ships riding at anchor like tennis balls, and hurl them upon the dry land? Or have you considered the power of lightning, when it breaks the bottles that hold it, or thunder when it roars in the midst of heaven, blasting every green thing where it lights, and withering them to a deadness in an instant, shivering the mightiest trees to splinters, dishevelling and tearing off the bark, drinking up the vital sap? Such and so great (though not so visible to the outward view or present sense) is the power of the word. ‘The voice of the crier cries, ‘All flesh is grass,’ and instantly ‘the Spirit of the Lord blows upon it,’ withers all the glory of the world to a believing soul, and ‘every valley is filled, every mountain is brought low.’ It tears men’s hearts rooted in evil (as low as the centre of them) from their dearest lusts; it makes their consciences to boil as a pot, and the waves thereof to roar, and then with one word stills them, and calms the winds and the waves, and they obey it, and the heart is pacified. As an hammer it breaks the rocks, and as fire it melts the elements with fervent heat, melts and dissolves the most rocky, stony, and stubborn heart to water, and works it to such a softness as fits it to take any impression. Now the apostle from hence argues (as you see) the operations upon the godly in this world, in their conversions, to bring them to obedience; and the same word will be as mighty to revenge when your obedience is fulfilled, the word hath had its full work upon all the saints; until then, these energies of it upon the hearts of wicked men are suspended; but then it will work as powerfully another way, yea, more powerfully, in avenging, because it will take hold of the whole that is in them, which is nothing but matter for it to work upon; and it will work at once, whereas on the godly it works gently and but by degrees. Look, as strong physic, if it works not to purging out humours, works out to death and tortures, so in the godly, their lusts are purged by the word here, but in the souls of others it works pain and anguish. ‘He shall slay the wicked by the breath of his mouth.’ This sword which comes out of Christ’s mouth (Rev., chap. 1 and chap. 19) will cut (Acts 7:54) to the heart, and divide between the marrow and bones, and will be directed by his skill that gave it, and that knows how to torture exquisitely by it, and who knows what parts are most sensible, and who will apply it to them. Both the word of God and the wrath of God are compared to fire: Jer. 5:14, ‘I will make the words of thy mouth as fire, and this people as stubble, and they shall devour them.’ Fire came out of the witnesses’ mouths, Rev. 11:5, the word spoken by them, which kindles the fire of hell in men’s souls, and devours the adversaries; and therefore take heed how ye hear. If you were to take some desperate remedy that hath a danger in it, ends or mends (as quicksilver in some cases), how wary would you be to take it right! Such if this word, and every portion of it; therefore take heed how ye hear. Men feel not this now, nor do they imagine what a design God hath upon men in this disposition of hearing and preaching. He prepares and lays a train for the other world; yea, and this instrumentality serves to all his designs upon the ungodly that obey not his word.
1. It prepares for the great assize at the last day, by sending out hue and cry after wicked men, whose damnation pronounced slumbers not nor lingers, 2 Peter 2:3. It also makes inquisition for blood, adultery, and all other sins, finds them out, and in God’s name arrests the offender: these things hast thou done, and thinkest thou to escape? It is a swift witness against the adulterer and forswearer, Mal. 3, because when they go to commit these sins, it comes in and says, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ &c. Also, it serves to bind men over to hell even whilst in this life. As the truth of the gospel makes the believers free indeed, as Christ says, John 8:32, so it claps irons upon others, and binds them over to the great assize. It is as the coroner’s inquest that prepares the indictment for that day; as the devils are reserved in chains (as Jude speaks), so wicked men by the cords of this word; for whose sins we bind (if they repent not) they are bound in heaven. The word makes men’s mittimuses for hell, that prison Peter speaks of, and wicked men resent this sufficiently, which causeth their opposition against it. It is to them the savour of death unto death, which strikes them dead even here, as many poisonous vapours in caves and caverns use to do.
2. At the latter day the word will do its office yet farther.
(1.) Then the word will be the discoverer of all sins known and unknown. It searcheth the heart and reins, Heb. 4. It penetrates the thoughts and intents of the heart; and as a searching drug gathers all the humours into the stomach, so will this word gather the sad remembrance of all sins into the conscience; or as angels will gather together men’s persons, so will the word gather thy sins from all the four corners of the world, in what place soever committed.
(2.) It will be men’s judge: John 12:48, ‘He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last day.’ As if Christ had said, I shall not need to judge, my word will do it.
Chapter III. Ungodly or Unfruitful Lives Act Contrary to the Institution and Design of the Lord’s Supper.
The danger of those who, being partakers of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, do by ungodly or unfruitful lives act contrary to the institution and design of that ordinance.
Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that 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. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.— 1 Cor. 10:1–12.
The proper scope of this scripture is to set forth the high provocation and extremity of danger for men to live in their lusts, while they profess and partake of those two great ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s supper. The coherence and carrying on of his discourse was this: In the 6th and 8th chapters, he had setly by many arguments dehorted them, both from corporal and spiritual fornication; the spiritual was the eating in the idol’s temple. Then, making a digression in the 7th chapter, to decide cases about marriage (which was appointed as the remedy against fornication), in the 9th chapter he also closeth with a vehement exhortation unto the subduing and keeping under of every lust; ver. 25–27, ‘Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.’ And this is (as you read) or necessity unto the partaking of salvation. Now then, to enforce both those particular exhortations against those two sins, as also this general exhortation occasioned thereby unto an universal strictness and watchfulness, he lays before them (and insists upon it) the great and solemn obligation which their profession or having been baptized, and their usual partaking and communication of the body and blood of Christ, did put upon them; yea, and he prosecutes this up and down, and leaves it not till unto the end of the 11th chapter.
And he enforceth the obligation which lies upon us Christians from the evident example of the Israelitish church in the wilderness. And here I observe how throughout the epistles of Paul, Jude, and Peter, the state of that church, when in the wilderness, is more eminently set out, as the most lively shadow and type of the condition and state of the people of God under the gospel, because the whole time of our lives after conversion is a passage from out of the state of nature to the heavenly Canaan. Now these Israelites enjoyed for substance the like ordinances unto those two of ours, baptism and the Lord’s supper, and yet indulged their lusts, yea, those very lusts from which he had in those fore-mentioned chapters so earnestly dehorted these Corinthians, namely, idolatry, ver. 7, fornication, ver. 8, remonstrating how God had in wrath, upon that very consideration of their living under such ordinances, broken forth upon them, had overthrown and destroyed them, and that therefore, under the gospel, the neglecters and profaners of these gospel ordinances must proportionably expect a sorer and severer punishment, by how much our ordinances exceed theirs in glory, evidence, and spiritualness. This scripture therefore is punctual to this argument in hand, and is indeed here handled tanquam in propriâ sede, as all other truths of concernment for the most part are in some one designed scripture or other.
I shall draw forth all the several particulars therein, unto these five ranks or heads.
1. That the Jewish church in the wilderness did enjoy, for the pith and kernel of them (although the fleshly rind or shell was thicker and more gross, and of a larger bigness than ours), the same ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper as we do now under the gospel; for he terms them twice the same in substance: ver. 3, ‘They all did eat of the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink,’ ver. 4. This sameness of them was then represented in a near outward likeness and distinct resemblance, even of the very two parts of our Lord’s supper, as well as in a resemblance of that of baptism. Our Lord’s supper hath two parts, or rather a distinct reiterated representation of Christ, in his body as food, in his blood as drink, 1 Cor. 11:24, 25. So, in like manner, he finds out both these as distinct in their dispensations then; for the manna, the type of Christ’s body, who is the man from heaven, was their food, and their drink was the water out of the rock, the type of that water and blood which came forth of Christ’s side, as John for the history of it avers with a great solemn note of observancy in his gospel, and interprets it for the mystery of it in his Epistle. And you may observe again here, how that to the end he might thus more evidently hold forth this sameness, and the parallel of their sacraments to ours, he omitteth the mention of circumcision and the passover (which yet were the standing ordinances of that church, both in the wilderness and afterwards), because these, though the preceding types of our sacraments, yet in respect of an outward likeness were more dark and cloudy. And he chooseth rather those which were but occasionally and extraordinary, and only in the wilderness. For as I said afore, that the estate of that church, whilst in the wilderness, was the liveliest and most momentary* type of the gospel times, so also those sacraments extraordinarily and peculiarly to them administered, were types of these of ours. They came near the life, both in the distinction of the parts of them, and outward resemblances to every common eye and first view. The sprinkling or mizzling of the rain in the cloud, and going through the water of the Red Sea, was even to the vulgar view a visible baptizing. It had the resemblance and appearance which circumcision had not, unless to a more spiritual artist’s eye, that could discern the proportions of the one and other. And again, their eating manna as bread from heaven, and their drinking of that rock, doth bear and carry more of likeness to our bread broken, and cup we drink of, in the outward appearance thereof. And it is an argument of no small weight against the papist, both for the number of sacraments, that there are but two (because the Jews had but of these two sorts answering to our two, but all, whether ordinary or extraordinary, are reduced unto two), as also for the cup or communication of this spiritual drink as well to all the people of God, without confining it to the priests or Levites, as of the bread, for so in their dispensation of it it was typified. ‘They did all eat the same spiritual meat, and they did all drink the same spiritual drink, even as well as all were baptized,’ &c., which ingenious Estius seems to acknowledge to be the mind of that ensuing passage, 1 Cor. 12:13, ‘By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, and have been all made to drink into one spirit.’ It alludes, says he, to the cup in the sacrament.
2. The apostle sets before these Corinthians, how greatly God was displeased with these Israelites that lived and continued in those sins, aggravated and made far more sinful by the participation of such ordinances: ver. 5, ‘With many of them God was not well pleased.’ He says indeed no more, but thereby means to express the highest displeasure; as in like phrase he speaks of apostates from God and Christ: Heb. 10:38, 39, ‘If any man withdraw, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.’ But is that all? No; but of all other men in the world, God’s wrath and fury doth smoke against such a man, Deut. 29, as of all men an apostate is most hated by him. And as the reason of this so sore a displeasure, he insinuates withal that one speech, that that manna and rock, &c., were Christ: ver. 4, ‘That Rock was Christ;’ that is, it signified, represented, and exhibited our Christ to them, and it is therefore called a spiritual rock. As our sacraments are not Christ bodily or personally, but spiritually, that is, mysteriously in signification and representation to our faith, as was also the brazen serpent. Jesus in the heavens, and that hung on the cross, is Christ personally; the church, his body, of which he is the head, 1 Cor. 12, is Christ mystically; the sacraments are Christ mysteriously or spiritually, so as in them we see and behold Christ really and spiritually, partake of him, and have to do with him as if we were present with him: Gal. 3:1, ‘Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified among you;’ that is, as really as if he had been crucified among them, as he was once at Jerusalem. One would wonder that so plain and express a saying, ‘That Rock was Christ,’ should not have decided Christ’s meaning in that like speech of his touching the same thing, ‘This is my body, this is my blood,’ both being spoken in the same sense, and no other. Now that rock was Christ significatively and mysteriously, and the papists themselves dare not say the rock was the flesh and blood of Christ transubstantiated. Hence then it was that the Israelites in all their sinnings offered an open affront and contempt to that Christ, whom sacramentally they did eat and drink every day, and discerned not the Lord’s body in it; and therefore, ver. 9, they are said to have tempted Christ, so as hereby it came to pass their sins were not barely transgressions of the law which was given them, but they were aggravated by this, that they therein undervalued that Christ, who was held forth to them, though but in those shadows.
3. He sets before them the severity of the punishments that befell them, which he alleged as tokens how highly God was displeased with them. For in those days God shewed and manifested the proportions or degrees of his wrath upon men’s sinning, by the visible and extraordinary punishments he executed. His expressions of those punishments are, ‘they fell,’ ver. 8, ‘they were overthrown,’ ver. 5; both do import violent deaths, as of twenty-three thousand in one day. They died not as other men, but were taken away in heaps by the immediate hand of God. Then again it is said, ‘For murmuring they were destroyed of the destroyer,’ ver. 10. Now Heb. 11:28 compared with this tells us that the destroyers were some of the angels (whether good or had I dispute not) who killed the Egyptians outright at the passover; you find it also Exod. 12:23; and thus in like manner is this to be understood.
4. He plainly applies and bringeth all this home to the Corinthians, as living under the same and more spiritual sacraments that represented Christ.
(1.) That he applies all this to them his preface imports: ver. 1, ‘Moreover, brethren, I would not have you ignorant, how that all our fathers were baptized,’ &c.; that is, moreover, or over and above other considerations afore delivered to move you to strictness, I would have you lay to heart deeply the examples of God’s former dealings with others, yea, of those that were therein your fathers, and you their children, in whose sins therefore if you tread, you, as their children, shall be sure to reap from God punishments answerable; as the threatening in the second commandment given about ordinances runs, ‘I will visit the sins of the fathers on their children.’ And then in prosecution of this he further urgeth, that they and these Israelites had the same, the very same, ordinances for substance which he inculcates twice, ver. 3, 4. And indeed the whole discourse is bottomed upon that supposition, and had otherwise not been to the purpose, his scope being that they therefore must expect the same or sorer punishments, committing the same sins, aggravated by this, that they lived under the same ordinances. But yet, moreover, he brings all home to them: ver. 6, ‘Now these things were our examples,’ or types of us, ‘to the intent we should not lust after evil things.’ This nail driven thus home fastens an upon them. These things ταῦτα, were τύποι ἡμῶν, types [of us].
[1.] Prophetical, for types have the nature of prophecies to be fulfilled (as Adam was a type of Christ, Rom. 5:14), and so did foretell, that under the gospel many professing strictness of religion and conversion, which was as a coming out of Egypt, and boasting in their privileges in these ordinances, should fall into the like sin, and so incur like punishments. To which sense that first part of verse 11 strongly leans: ‘All these happened unto them for examples;’ that is, God brought them upon them as types to us, he aiming therein at what should be again acted over, and more fully, under gospel times afterwards to come.
[2.] They were types monitory, that is, for admonition or warning, which the apostle expressly urgeth on that other part of verse 11, ‘And they were written for our admonition,’ as buoys or sea-marks to warn us that we dash not upon the same rock, Christ, manifested to us under like and far more glorious ordinances.
5. He insinuates that God will be far more severe towards them that live under gospel ordinances.
(1.) Those, he says, were but types, which word is twice used; that is, all these things that befell them were rudiores imagines perfectionis, such as a draught with a coal is to a picture embellished and drawn to the life, ὡς ἐν τύπῳ, as Aristotle’s phrase is.
(2.) These their sacraments he speaks of, though for substance the same with ours, yet for their manner of administration were enclosed about with an husk or rind of a fleshly dispensation, which made them but shadows of ours in comparison. They drank of the rock which was Christ, but their beasts drank of the same, and so it served to another purpose besides that of representing Christ. Their baptism was cloudy, it was in a cloud; and instead of its being said to be into Christ (as the gospel runs, Rom. 6:3), the apostle says, they were baptized visibly but into Moses, ver. 1, and so into Christ but as at a second remote hand, typified forth by that Moses. In like manner their passover primâ intentione, and nextly and immediately, signified to them their deliverance out of Egypt; but that being the type of our conversion from Satan to God, spiritual deliverance came therefore to be thus signified thereby at second hand, secundâ intentione, and remotely (though yet mainly and in its primary intention designed), but yet that out of Egypt was the next and immediate deliverance signified. Now as their ordinances, as enclosed in this rind, were more outward and fleshly than ours, which have that rind now shaled off, and Christ is thereby immediately and only held forth, so,
(3.) The punishments for neglects or profane sinnings under them were but outward and temporary, as by bodily death, &c., which is but the breaking the shell, the outward man; but our gospel ordinances being more spiritual, have answerably punishments that are so. As God blesseth in spiritual things now, so he curseth in spirituals also, and they are the curse in solido. ‘Of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy’ (says the apostle, Heb. 10:29), that profanes Christ as revealed in the gospel? For example, were they ‘stung with serpents, ver. 9, and ‘destroyed of the destroyer,’ ver. 10, by a bodily death inflicted? We under the gospel that live in such sins are given up to Satan, 1 Cor. 5, either by terrors to drive the elect to Christ, or by seduction and a curse to drive reprobates to hell, as the devil entered into Judas whilst he received the sop. I cannot say he received the Lord’s supper, but the passover he did, and Christ sealed up his rejection at that ordinance.
(4.) The apostle having spread these things before them, his conclusive inference is, ‘Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall’. Men use in their thoughts and speeches to boast themselves of their enjoyment of such privileges as these, and do bolster themselves up in them; but know that they will not guard you from the curse, nor privilege you at all in that respect. Yea, let every such man know that this sacramental holy ground is the most slippery ground that men can stand on, as ice is; and therefore if he falls, he falls most dangerously, he falls upon the rock Christ, and ‘he that falls on this stone shall be broken,’ Luke 20:18. And also together therewith all the sermons he hath heard, and sacraments he hath received, fall upon him. ‘The fall of that house was great’ (says Christ also, Mat. 7:27), therefore ‘let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall,’ that is, fall under the participation of such ordinances. And this coherence of these words with the former discourse is manifest, and the proper drift of them. Nay, and the apostle judgeth not this one caution enough, but seconds it with another: ver. 15, ‘I speak to wise men,’ that is, men that know how to apply all this, and how fully it suits your case and condition; and βλέπετε, see to it, consider or take heed unto what I say. Neither hath he done with this exhortation, but heaps on another: ‘The cup we bless is the communion of the blood of Christ; the bread we break is the communion of the body of Christ. And ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: and ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and the table of devils,’ vers. 19, 20; which speech or reasoning, I know, is more particularly intended against that idolatrous practice of sitting in the idols’ temple (which he had discoursed against, chap. 8, and which was one particular sin he gave instance for in the Israelites, ver. 7, for which God had punished them), yet for the ground and extent of it, it doth by way of application come home against fornication, or indulgence to any other lusts, feeding on the objects of them as animœ pabulum, and worshipping them as God, and sacrificing the dearest of our intentions to them. These are idolatry, says the apostle, as some copies have it: Col. 3:5, ‘Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, these are idolatry.’ A man hath therein fellowship with devils, for they are the devil’s dainties. They that feed on these husks eat of the table of devils, have fellowship with devils, whose works these are, 1 John 3. ‘I would not,’ says Paul, ‘you should have fellowship with devils;’ it is an utter inconsistency, and will overthrow your profession and religion, and eat it out. ‘Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils.’ Well, the apostle prosecutes it yet further, for his close is, ver. 22. ‘Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?’ ‘Jealousy is the rage of a man,’ says Solomon, Prov. 6:34. And it is the height of anger and displeasure in God, and if anything put him into it, it will be to find thee, that professest to lie in his bed of love, in his bosom—such is the Lord’s supper—then going from it to lie in bed with the devil, engendering lust, malice, and mischief. If the veil could be taken away, men would see that whilst their souls brood upon their lusts, they are entwined close and coupling with serpents, yea, with devils. ‘Do you provoke the Lord to jealousy?’ You may observe that God doth only (at least above all other) profess himself a jealous God, when he gave forth the second command, that is, the ordinances of his worship forbidding the contrary. Now the Lord’s supper being the top ordinance of the second commandment under the gospel, to profane it by nourishing lusts, provoketh God to the greatest jealousy, and sets God at defiance; and therefore those words are added, ‘Are you stronger than he?’ that is, can you encounter him? which you must make account to do if you go thus on.
Chapter IV. Our Fathers Were Under the Cloud, and All Passed Through the Sea.
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, &c.
~ 1 Cor. 10:1–13.
Concerning the danger of unworthy receiving the Lord’s supper, either in being unfruitful, or living in lusts under the participation of it, I shall add some considerations that both aggravate the sinfulness hereof, and so heighten the danger of it; both which will appear if we consider the nature and intent of this ordinance in the institution thereof, either on God’s part, or what is to be done by us on ours.
1st, On God’s part, it is to represent and exhibit the whole of Christ as crucified for us, in the most direct, immediate, adequate, and expressive manner.
2dly, On our parts it is publicly to solemnise and shew forth his death, and erect a fresh memorial of it, with profession of our interest in his person, his death, and all the benefits thereof. Now, to sin against so great obligations arising from both, how much must it aggravate our sin!
1. On God’s part, in the institution of it, it represents these things to us.
(1.) It represents Christ in the most immediate and expressive manner, which will appear if we compare it with the other ordinance of the word read or preached. In the word read or heard, we have directly and first to do but with some truth, and so with Christ considered but either as the author and deliverer of that truth, or at most but as that particular truth concerneth him and treats of him, or of some particular benefit of his, or some excellency of his, or some action of his for us. And these are singled out to be treated on by piece-meal, unto which our thoughts are required immediately to be intent, according as the matter thereof is; yea, further, often some point of duty on our part; yea, some discovery of some sin by the law, and our sinfulness, with the threatening annexed thereto, are treated of. All which are remote from Christ, and but as a schoolmaster to drive us, and that too upon second thoughts, rising up unto him and his person; even as the sick thinks of the physician upon a second thought, after the sad apprehension, and a long and deep consideration of his own malady. But in this ordinance of the Lord’s supper we have to do with Christ himself, his person, &c. We are put upon him, let into him immediately and directly, and are to converse with him, as a spouse with her husband, in the nearest intimacies. He is the image in that glass, and not a glimmering collateral beam of him only which casteth a shine; but the sun of righteousness itself is the direct and adequate subject of that representation, and our eyes are called to view him with open face. The word preached is termed the word of Christ, Col. 3 and elsewhere, but it is nowhere termed Christ; no, nor is prayer or any other ordinance so named, but the rock was Christ, the bread is Christ, of which he says, ‘This is my body,’ and of the wine, ‘This is my blood;’ yea, and it is Christ entire, whole Christ. We have to deal with the whole of his person, the whole of his death, the whole of his benefits, promises; yea, all that was purchased or procured by him. Yea, and we have to deal with all this in the most expressive, real manner; it is whole Christ represented as to the eye; whereas a sermon, if it did represent whole Christ, yet it would be but to the ear; and you know things by the ear strike more dully and slowly, but by sight more really, and make a lasting impression: ‘Mine eye affects my heart,’ as the psalmist speaks.
(2.) It represents Christ also as crucified, which is the top and eminent subject of the gospel, 1 Cor. 2:2; we see Christ glorious, and sitting at God’s right hand in heaven, and yet we see him too as one dying and crucified. Yea, and it is that Christ who is now in glory who is represented as crucified. It is his death that is shewn forth herein, 1 Cor. 11; his body broken and his blood shed. Whilst one eye of faith is called to look up to his person as now in heaven glorious, and ‘we see Jesus crowned with glory,’ &c., Heb. 2 (which is necessary, for where else can the soul find his person as existing, and so make an address unto heaven, but where he now is alive in heaven?), with another eye we look back upon him as formerly hanging on a tree, bearing our sins in his body, bearing, and representing, and undertaking for our persons. Now, what a sight is this! and what a strong mixture of affections must needs accompany a sight so strange!
Now, to raise up your thoughts a little, let me speak unto you in that language wherein Christ spake to the people concerning their going forth in troops to see John the Baptist as a sight of novelty, Mat. 11:7, 9, thereby at once to reprove their common slight esteem of him, as also to raise them up to a true value of him. When you come to a sacrament, consider, ‘What do you go forth to see?’ a thing of small value, a trifle, a reed shaken with the wind? or that which is of some more moment, as you would go to see an ambassador or gaudy courtier making his entrance in state and splendid apparel? No, says Christ; I tell you, you saw a prophet; yea, more than a prophet. But this here is a sight of more than all prophets, than that of all angels and saints (which we shall have of them as assembled together at the latter day), if we could suppose it without them; yea, than of the glory of millions of worlds, if that could be represented in the twinkling of an eye.
Let me say further, men use to flock to other sights, either that are real, as to an ordinary execution, or some rare invention of men’s art, or else that are in show, as the acting over of some story that hath some deep plot in it, or of some noble and heroic person; the sum and height whereof comes to this, that such an one passeth through the lowest debasement, leaving* it and despising it with an unheard-of greatness of mind, to the end to save his country, and to rescue his contracted spouse, fallen into the utmost gulfs of dangers and miseries, and then after that himself riseth up to that glory which as a king or lord was his inheritance originally; and then to the participation thereof he pulls up his spouse, and crowns her with glory and honour in the sight of all the world. How are men’s fancies tickled and filled with the bare show, outward and empty appearance of such a story acted to the life! How long do they stick therein! How are their thoughts and discourses taken up therewith a long while after! Yea, and this where all that is presented concerning such a person doth nothing concern themselves. The person had no relation, by race or country, or any way, to them; yea, it is but a very fiction. But here behold the greatest act or thing that ever the great God did, or means to do for ever, set forth but once in this world, actually performed in a few hours’ space, containing in it the deepest mystery, plot, and contrivement that ever lay in the breast of God, or that his wisdom can bring forth, and in which all his other counsels are bottomed and centred; wherein also you have represented the King of kings, the Lord of glory coming disguised in the likeness of sinful flesh from heaven to redeem his church, his spouse, from sin, death, hell, and wrath, hanging on a tree, sustaining her person, bearing her crimes and miseries, and for her sake encountering with and conquering thereby all his and her enemies, and triumphing over and making an open show of devils led captive, because they were her enemies and great seducers; and then flinging off that form of frail flesh, and in an instant appearing in the form of God, sitting down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, in so great a glory, as only the only begotten Son of God and Lord of glory was capable to be arrayed withal, at the sight of which, and his first taking that place in heaven, all the angels of God fall down and worship him. Is there any such sight elsewhere to be seen on earth? Yea, doth heaven itself afford such another, unless it be of him? And is this a bare sight, an outward show, made to strike thy fancy? Yea, is it not over and above of the greatest concernment to thee? This person who fills this scene, and whose story it is, is of the nearest relation unto thee that ever any was, thy Saviour, head, and husband. Yea, and these actings of his that are therein presented, are of the highest moment to thee. Is not thine eternal redemption, the cancelling the fatal sentence of thy condemnation, the taking away thy sins by his bearing of them, acted over before thee in thine own view? Tua res agitur. Thou committest new sins every day, and still seest anew how the book is crossed by the lines of his blood drawn over them; but these cross lines are like to those which are drawn with the juice of onions or lemons, not appearing until they are brought to this light of the word, and then upon this occasion they rise up either more dimly or more conspicuously unto faith’s view. Either these things are true, and true of thy soul, or thou art undone, thou art lost for ever, for thou hast an heart like to Gallio, Acts 18:17, and regardest none of these things, and wilt not go over the threshold to see a thousand of such sights.
But take a farther prospect, and consider, Is all this, in the intendment and institution of it, a mere presentation to the fancy and memory, as those of other stories are? No; they are real, and the most real unto faith, as much as any sight thou seest of a thing when it is first done. The Holy Ghost is the presenter of this scene, and to a believing soul makes substantial and subsisting demonstrations of all these, and a thousand more concerning him; for ‘faith is the subsistence of things not seen,’ Heb. 11:1. See how the apostle speaks: Gal. 3:1, ‘Before whose eyes Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified among you,’ as if you had indeed stood and seen it. There is such an emphasis in those words, ‘crucified among you,’ that some have interpreted this scripture to mean their crucifying Christ by their apostasy, answerably to what he says Heb. 6:5. But it is spoken of the reality of the representation which the Holy Ghost makes. And Christ tells us as much concerning this ordinance of the Lord’s supper: John 6:55, ‘My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.’ It is not fancy only, as when a man dreams he eats; but if ever thou hast found a reality, a solidity, a subsistence in any meat thou hast ever eaten and digested, there is (according to Christ’s institution) a greater reality unto faith in this sacrament. The apostle also calls faith ‘a discerning the Lord’s body,’ 1 Cor. 11:29.
Tell me then now, canst thou come to, and daily live under such a sight as this (which was on purpose appointed by God to renew the impression often, and to draw all men’s hearts unto him, John 12:32, and chap. 3:14, 15, compared), and then go away and sin, and live in thy lusts? Or if thou dost, is it not an infinite aggravation of thy sins, if they be willingly indulged unto, and can the danger be other than answerably great? I shall but urge upon you that which Paul doth, Gal. 3:1: ‘Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified among you?’ He aggravates all by this, that it was a representation (or lively picturing, as the word signifies) of Christ, and him as crucified; and that so to the life, as it ought to affect them. Yea, the thing in the nature of it was such and so great, as should have made an impression never to be impaired. Paul stands wondering and aghast at it, looking an them as men that had not their common senses: ‘Who hath bewitched you?’ says he; your stupidity must be from the super-addition of some evil spirit more than ordinary. Suppose thou hadst been an ocular witness and spectator of Christ’s being crucified at Jerusalem, as Mary and John were, and thou hadst withal then known what had been the intent and purpose of God and Christ in his being crucified; yea, and thou hast believed it had been to take away thy sins and to save thy soul, or it could never be saved; and thou hadst known all this, and meditated so on it upon the place all the while it was a-doing, and hadst seen the nails knocked in, and thoughtest withal, Such a sin which I have so often committed, is the hammer that reiterates these strokes till they are driven unto the head; and suppose Christ had said unto thee then,—as he did to his mother, ‘Woman, behold thy son,’—Sinner, behold thy Saviour: all this is for thy sake and sins; I hang here bearing thy person, and thy body of sin is with mine nailed to the cross, and is crucifying together with it. Couldst thou have gone away from this sight, and sinned again as formerly? Yea, would not this sight have so stuck with thee, as whenever thou wert about to sin, the thought and impression of it would still have risen up, and quelled it more than all the prohibitions and the threatenings of the law? Let me now make an home push upon thee. Hast thou been at a sacrament? and hadst thou true and real faith? That faith did or would have set thee down by the cross, as Mary was; and thou mightest stand by and behold all, and not only go over it in a way of fancy as over any other story, but in a way of subsistence of things not seen, as well past as present or to come. Conclude therefore (as Paul doth, Gal. 3:1) that it is some extraordinary spirit of wickedness and fascination, which hurries thee to go afterwards and sin again.
2. Let us consider the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, as on our part celebrated. It is a public shewing forth by us his death, one to another, that partake in it; and it is doing it before all others, ‘in remembrance of him,’ with profession that we hope and believe we are the persons for whom he hath done all this. This you have, 1 Cor. 11:24–26, ‘And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat of this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.’ We do therefore avowedly give ourselves up to him, as his professed followers and disciples; ‘who thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they who live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again.’ This is the nature of your act in it. His giving himself to death was his own act, but this is yours, viz., to celebrate and perpetuate the memorial of it. Compare this a little with the passover instituted upon their coming forth out of Egypt: Exod. 13:8, ‘Thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did to me when I came forth out of Egypt’ (commemorating all the deliverance), ‘and it shall be a sign upon thine hand, and a memorial before thine eyes, that the law of God may be in thy mouth,’ &c. And when a Jew had taken a passover, and understood this to be the intent of it, and then looked but upon his ten commandments (the preface whereto is this, ‘I am the Lord that brought thee out of Egypt,’ and so in the force thereof sets on every command, both against sin and for duty), what a renewal of solemn obligation did that ordinance of the passover, the seal and memorial hereof, rise unto! Now then, a Christian who joins in celebrating the Lord’s supper (and therein, in a clearer manner than thee passover, shews forth the Lord’s death), cannot but discern that the action and intent of it speaks, that this is done because of that which the Lord did to Christ for me; and this is a sign and a memorial I am to carry with me ever in my eye, that the love of God may be in my heart, and held forth in my life in suitable obedience. This is, and ought to be, the preface writ over every duty, or prohibition of every sin; and thy conscience necessarily dictates to thee, I must carry the memorial of this in my hand, lest I put forth that to wickedness which I stretch forth to lay hold on that sacramental Christ. This is to be continually in mine eyes as a remembrancer, that look as if a dead father, who at his death had given such and such instructions and commands to his son, should often appear to him, or appoint a glass in which, when he looked, he presently would appear to him therein, on purpose to mind him of his commands, and oblige him to them; this is the nature of that ordinance concerning Christ to me. What says Christ? John 15:14, ‘If you be my friends, keep my commandments’; and it is edged with this, ‘No man hath greater love than this, to lay down his life for his friends.’ Oh how would we carry in our eye the apparitions Christ makes and gives at a sacrament, or offers to give unto us if we brought faith! And if we are about to sin, the thoughts of Christ crucified, as renewed at such a sacrament, do or should come in and haunt us. And if we should notwithstanding indulge sin, and not divert from it, how do we aggravate thereby our sins against him, and provoke and tempt him! For if Christ crucified thus so oft appears and stands in our way, and yet we go on to sin, it is worse than what the dumb ass did at the apparition of an angel, and as had as Balaam’s course was, who was reproved. This we are too apt to do, and therefore he bids us to renew often this remembrance of him: ‘As oft as ye do this,’ 1 Cor. 11:27. As the apparitions made to the patriarchs, all the ordinances of the Old Testament, and the obligations of them, are nothing unto this in comparison, by reason of the knowledge we have of Christ that accompanies this sacrament. And yet you read how heinously God took the sinnings of Solomon, ‘that had appeared to him twice,’ 1 Kings 11:9. And what sad punishment for transgressings after ordinances or obligations for temporal mercies held forth thereby, did the Israelites incur! But now all the wondrous works and deliverances out of Egypt are but trifles unto this our salvation by Christ, commemorated in this sacrament.
2. Add to this, that on our parts we take an oath of fidelity to Jesus Christ in the most solemn manner, and we do it upon these considerations and obligations specified. You know the name of sacrament was given to this ordinance by the ancients upon this account; and (as I think) there is some aspect from Scripture that looks that way; for Paul having discoursed of baptism, and the import of it as an obligation to holiness and obedience, Rom. 6:3– 13, he then subjoins thereto as the consequent thereof, how every such Christian had, as a soldier and servant, yielded up himself and his weapons or arms (so he calls his members, ver. 13), as weapons of righteousness unto God and Christ as his captain. You know what was the law of a soldier, 2 Tim. 2:4; he gave himself up, and that by oath, to please him that had chosen him to be a soldier. You know the severity and danger of martial law in the case of running away or stepping aside. Now at every sacrament thou art drawn into an oath to Christ, thou avouchest him to be thy Saviour, as they, Deut. 26:17, 18, are said to do at the offering the first-fruits: ‘Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments.’ Thou forswearest all thy sins, and you know the danger of perjury, especially when it is the breach of such an oath, so oft renewed, and upon so solemn occasions.
3. I shall now spread the danger before you, as the apostle hath set it forth, 1 Cor. 11. By going on in thy lusts thou becomest ‘guilty of the body and blood of Christ,’ 1 Cor. 11:27; that is, thou dost in effect do that which the Jews did in crucifying him; and how heavy a sin that was to that nation, the curse ever since shews. What an heavy imprecation was that! ‘His blood be upon us and our children.’ The blood of any man is valuable, the blood of a saint is much more precious to God, Ps. 116; but the blood of Christ, by which God redeemed us all as with a sufficient price, is much more precious. Now to have the guilt of this lie on thee, Oh think what it is! By this thou becomest guilty of his blood, both by evacuating the shedding of it (as Paul says, ‘then Christ died in vain’), and also by fostering that which was the cause of his crucifying, viz., thy sins, whereby thou makest thyself an abetter of that barbarous murder; also by profaning that blood in undervaluing it, by preferring thy lust before it thou ‘puttest Christ again to open shame,’ Heb. 6:6, 10:29; for as by thy joining in the sacrament thou didst undertake publicly to shew forth his death as undergone for thee and thy sins, so by scandalous sins thou dost as publicly contradict thine own act, and shamest him by doing the contrary unto what that death was intended for by him, and unto what thy celebration of the ordinance tended on thy part; thou defilest not only the temple of God on earth, the church of Christ, and body of saints (and such an offender will God destroy, 1 Cor. 3:17), but thou disgracest the person of Christ, in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and who is the tabernacle of God in heaven, Heb. 9:11. This is the height of popish blasphemy, Rev. 13:6. The blood of the sacrifices under the old law, which were in their signification an holy thing, were made by men’s sinnings that offered them but as the cutting off a dog’s neck, and so but as dogs’ blood (as Isaiah says). But now in the New Testament the blood which thou dishonourest is Christ’s blood, that hath been sacrificed first for thee, and by living in thy lusts thou dost shew that thou accountest it but as dogs’ blood. Thou art guilty of that blood also, by making that ordinance (appointed to so high ends) to represent a mere nullity, and of none effect. For in the like case says Paul, 1 Cor. 11:20, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper; and ver. 27, it is termed but eating of bread, not the body of Christ, for it is but bare common bread to such an one; even as he accounted that body and blood but as a common thing, in still preferring his lusts thereto.
Yea, such a man ‘eats and drinks damnation to himself,’ ver. 28 of that chapter. Temporal judgments are often inflicted on the godly, and on the wicked eternal. ‘I will curse your blessings,’ says God in the prophet; and it is a certain truth that what is intended as the greatest blessing, if abused, is turned into the greatest curse. And to have the fulness of the blessing of the gospel, which Christ by being made a curse purchased, turned into a curse, how great a curse must that be! Thou eatest and drinkest poison if thou comest in thy sins, or if thy participation of the ordinance doth thee no good against thy sins; and so thou art guilty of thine own death and soul’s blood also, as well as of Christ’s death. It will rot thy soul, as the water the woman drank did her, Num. 5:27, 28. So shall thy soul be cursed if thou returnest not. And whereas thou professest to come to remember Christ, and his death and suffering, God is provoked thereby to remember all thy sins: Hosea 8:13, ‘At their sacrifices now will he remember their iniquity.’
Chapter V. The Danger of Those Who Being in Church Fellowship and Communion, Yet Their Lives are Inconsistent With Such a Relation.
The fourth ordinance of the gospel is the public censures of the church, consisting of admonition, rebuke, and excommunication. There is a great danger of a man living in lusts, having put himself under the capacity of these; for God is engaged the sooner to bring thy sins to light, 1 Tim. 5:19, 20. He had given directions to Timothy to deal impartially in church-censures, ver. 19, 20, and not to be rash in laying on of hands; and then he concludes of both, ver. 24, 25, ‘Some men’s sins are open aforehand to judgment:’ aforehand, going before to judgment; and some men’s sins follow after, namely, εἰς κρίσιν, unto judgment: ver 25, ‘Those that are otherwise cannot be hid.’ As I take it, it is spoken not of the day of judgment, but of that judgment that is made at receiving in an elder, or a member, which was anciently done by laying on of hands. Whoso sins, though they have escaped the cognizance of the church, yet because they have adventured to take upon them so great and sacred an office, they cannot be long hid, if they repent not and forsake them. In like manner, men living under the peril of the censure of the church (which he had spoken of, ver. 19, 20), if they will venture to go on to sin, and think still to escape the knowledge of man, yet because they live and have put themselves under so great an ordinance, as is the judgment of the church (which he there also speaks of), and fear not that God by his providential discovery may bring them under it, therefore, if their sins be not such as go before to judgment, for a long time through God’s patience, yet God will in his providence order it so that their sins shall follow after, εἰς κρίσιν, unto judgment. And so the meaning is, that if men have lived long in a sin, and have escaped the publishing of it to a church which doth profess the exercise of exact discipline, and is accordingly heedful of miscarriages as it ought to be, God engageth himself (if the person repent not) the sooner to give him up to such sins as shall follow after to judgment, so as their iniquity, by reason of this dispensation, will find them out and cannot be hid. And upon the equity of that other coherence, namely, the respect to ordination and admission, this rule will in a proportion hold of this censure also. Now how dangerous a thing it is to be given up to the censure of the church, the apostle tells us, when he calls it a delivering up unto Satan, 1 Cor. 5. Now if any will say, We will avoid this danger, and keep ourselves out from such a bond, let them consider what follows: 1 Cor. 5, ‘Those without God judgeth,’ and will do it sufficiently. I take it those words do insinuate a great privilege that those within a church, who live in a subjection to a judgment, if they sin, have in comparison of those that live without, be they heathen or Christian professors. For if they be within, God forbears to judge them personally, till that means of the church hath been used, which, if neglected, he then falls on both, 1 Cor. 11. A man is under a protection (as it were), and God takes not the matter into his court, because it is under trial in another, which is a means to reclaim him; but those that live without are immediately exposed to God’s judging them, who will deal with them accordingly more severely: ‘As whoremongers and adulterers God will judge,’ Heb. 13, &c.; so that if any man will stay out to avoid being judged, he falls under a more severe court.
Take the last ordinance of a church, viz., church contribution and collection for the saints, it being not a civil matter (as giving alms is) but an ordinance religious. It is a ministration, λειτυργία, 2 Cor. 9:13, and it is reckoned up with prayers, and preaching, and breaking bread, Acts 2:42, for so I understand that word, which is translated fellowship, and is carried in the translation as if it were the fellowship of the apostles that were there intended. But it is κοινωνία, communication, namely, of goods, more largely mentioned in the verse after; and also in Heb. 13:16, ‘Be not forgetful εὐποιΐας καὶ κοινωνίας, of doing good, and communicating.’ It is the very same word, as also in Rom. 15:26, where it is translated, contribution to the saints.
1. I say, it being thus a spiritual ordinance and sacrifice, as all church-offerings are (as Heb. 13:6, it follows, ‘for with such sacrifices God is well pleased’), therefore, if men deal unworthily herein, they are in danger of having a greater curse hereby, perhaps not upon their estates, but in their spirits. If you will take an estimate how heinously God takes dealing falsely in this, because it is a matter of worship, you may see it in that first example of a judgment in those primitive times executed on Ananias and Sapphira; and thereby, as you may see how heinously God takes it, so also why it was so, not that they were bound to have given all their whole estates—ver. 4, ‘Whilst it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?’—but they having dedicated the whole in an open appearance to God, to withhold part was a lying, not to man, but to God. It was not in a matter merely human, between man and man, as the promise that makes a debt is, or as a bargain between man and man, but the Holy Ghost (ver. 3) was the person with whom in that work they dealt, and with whom in all works of that nature we also deal now. And though God inflicts not such extraordinary punishments now upon men’s bodies, yet you may from thence gather how much he is displeased at the like as a sin, and in what danger men’s spirits are, in such cases, of a spiritual judgment and curse, which is more usual under the gospel, and which accordingly men shall find at the latter day. Mat. 10:15, he threatens those who should contemn the gospel, not with a temporal judgment, but (as if forbearing such under this dispensation) he threatens them with a greater and worse. Sodom and Gomorrah (says he) were punished with visible judgments, though extraordinary: ‘But it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, than for these in the day of judgment.’ Till when he may defer it. When therefore thou drawest near to God in this lowest duty of worship, yet because it is an offering to God, Mat. 5:23, ‘ere thou bring thy gift to the altar, reconcile thyself to thy brother;’ and by like reason, if thou be guilty of, or livest, in any sin, reconcile thyself to God, otherwise even this act of worship will provoke him the more.