Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
~ Isaiah 42:1-2
But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.
~ Mark 3:7, Mark 6:31-32
And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.
~ Matthew 9:28
Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
~ Psalm 37:5-6
Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.
~ 1 Timothy 5:25
The Trial and Triumph of Faith, by Samuel Rutherford. The following is an excerpt from his work.
The Lady Jane Campbell, Viscountess of Kenmure; Sister to the Right Noble and Potent, the Marquis of Argyle, Grace and Peace.
I should complain of these much-disputing and over-writing times, if I were not thought to be as deep in the fault as those whom I accuse: but the truth is, while we endeavour to gain a grain-weight of truth, it is much if we lose not a talent-weight of goodness and Christian love. But, I am sure, though so much knowledge and light may conduce for our safe walking, in discerning the certain borders of divine truths from every false way; and suppose that searching into questions of the time were a useful and necessary evil only; yet the declining temper of the world’s worst time, the old age of time, eternity now so near approaching, calleth for more necessary good things at our hands. It is unhappy, if, in the nick of the first breaking of the morning sky, the night-watch fall fast asleep, when he hath watched all the night. It is now near the morning-dawning of the resurrection. Oh, how blessed are we, if we shall care for our one necessary thing.
It is worthy our thoughts, that an angel, (never created, as I conceive) standing in his own land, “his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,” hath determined by oath, a controversy moved by scoffers, (2 Peter 3:3;) “yea, and with his hand lifted up to heaven, sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that are therein, and the earth, and things that therein are, and the sea, and things that are therein, that there should be time no longer.” (Rev. 10:5,6.) If eternity be concluded judicially by the oath of God, as a thing near to us, at the door, now about sixteen hundred years ago, it is high time to think of it; what we shall do, when the clay house of this tabernacle, which is but our summer house, that can have us but the fourth part of a year, shall be dissolved. Time is but a short trance [a narrow covered passage]; we are carried quickly through it: our rose withereth, ere it come to its vigour: our piece of this short-breathing shadow, the inch, the half-cubit, the poor span-length of time, fleeth away as swiftly as a weaver’s shuttle, (Job 7:6,) which leapeth over a thousand threads in a moment. How many hundred hours in one summer doth our breathing clay-post skip over, passing away as “the ships of desire, and as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.” (Job 9:25,26.) If death were as far from our knowledge, as graves and coffins (which to our eyes preach death) are near to our senses, even casting the smell of death upon our breath, so as we cannot but rub skins with corruption; we should not believe either prophets or apostles, when they say, “All flesh is grass,” and, “It is appointed for all to die.” Eternity is a great word, but the thing itself is greater: death, the point of our short line, teacheth us what we are, and what we shall be.
Should Christ, the condition of affairs we are now in, the excellency of free grace, be seen in all their own lustre and dye, we should learn much wisdom from these three. Christ speedeth little in conquering of lovers: because we have not “seen his shape at any time,” we look not upon Christ, but upon the accidents that are beside Christ; and therefore, few esteem Christ a rich pennyworth. But there is not a rose out of heaven, but there is a blot and thorn growing out of it, except that one only rose of Sharon, which blossometh out glory. Every leaf of the rose is a heaven, and serveth “for the healing of the nations;” every white and red in it, is incomparable glory; every act of breathing out its smell, from everlasting to everlasting, is spotless and unmixed happiness. Christ is the outset, the master-flower, the uncreated garland of heaven, the love and joy of men and angels. But the fountain-love, the fountain-delight, the fountain-joy of men and angels is more; for out of it floweth all the seas, springs, rivers, and floods of love, delight, and joy. Imagine all the rain and dew, seas, fountains, and floods, since the creation, were in one cloud, and these multiplied in measures, for number to many millions of millions, and then divided in drops of showers to an answerable number of men and angels;—this should be a created shower, and end in a certain period of time; and this huge cloud of so many rivers and drops, should dry up, and rain no more. But we cannot conceive so of Christ: for if we should imagine millions of men and angels to have a coeternal dependent existence with Christ, and they eternally in the act of “receiving grace for grace out of his fullness,” the flux and issue of grace should be eternal, as Christ is. For Christ cannot tire or weary from eternity to be Christ; and so, he must not, he cannot but be an infinite and eternal flowing sea, to diffuse and let out streams and floods of boundless grace. Say that the rose were eternal; the sweet smell, the loveliness of greenness and colour must be eternal.
Oh, what a happiness, for a soul to lose its excellency in His transcendent glory. What a blessedness for the creature, to cast in his little all, in Christ’s matchless all-sufficiency. Could all the streams retire into the fountain and first spring, they should be kept in a more sweet and firm possession of their being, in the bosom of their first cause, than in their borrowed channels that they now move in. Our neighbourhood, and retiring in, to dwell forever and ever in the fountain-blessedness, Jesus Christ, with our borrowed goodness, is the firm and solid fruition of our eternal happy being. Christ is the sphere, the connatural first spring and element of borrowed drops, and small pieces of created grace. The rose is surest in being, in beauty, on its own stalk and root: let life and sap be eternally in the stalk and root, and the rose keep its first union with the root, and it shall never wither, never cast its blossom nor greenness of beauty. It is violence for a gracious soul to be out of his stalk and root; union here is life and happiness; therefore the Church’s last prayer in canonic Scripture is for union, (Rev. 22:20.) “Amen: Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” It shall not be well till the Father, and Christ the prime heir, and all the weeping children, be under one roof in the palace royal. It is a sort of mystical lameness, that the head wanteth an arm or a finger; and it is a violent and forced condition, for arm and finger to be separated from the head. The saints are little pieces of mystical Christ, sick of love for union. The wife of youth, that wants her husband some years, and expects he shall return to her from oversea lands, is often on the shore; every ship coming near shore is her new joy; her heart loves the wind that shall bring him home. She asks at every passenger news: “Oh. saw ye my husband? What is he doing? When shall he come? Is he shipped for a return?” Every ship that carrieth not her husband, is the breaking of her heart. What desires hath the Spirit and Bride to hear, when the husband Christ shall say to the mighty angels, “Make you ready for the journey; let us go down and divide the skies, and bow the heaven: I will gather my prisoners of hope unto me; I can want my Rachel and her weeping children no longer. Behold, I come quickly to judge the nations.” The bride, the Lamb’s wife, blesseth the feet of the messengers that preach such tidings, “Rejoice, O Zion, put on thy beautiful garments; thy King is coming.” Yea, she loveth that quarter of the sky, that being rent asunder and cloven, shall yield to her Husband, when he shall put through his glorious hand, and shall come riding on the rainbow and clouds to receive her to himself.
The condition of the people of God in the three kingdoms calleth for this, that we now wisely consider what the Lord is doing. There is a language of the Lord’s “fire in Zion,” and “his furnace in Jerusalem,” if we could understand the voice of the crying rod. The arrows of God flee beyond us, and beside us, but we see little of God in them: we sail, but we see not shore; we fight, but we have no victory. The efficacy of second causes is the whole burden of the business, and this burden we lay upon creatures, (and it is more than they can bear,) and not upon the Lord. God is crying lameness on creatures and multitude, that his eminency of working may be more seen. (2.) Many are friends to the success of reformation, not to reformation. Men’s faith goes along with the promises, until providence seem to them to belie the promise. Through light at a key-hole many see God in these confusions in the three kingdoms; but they fall away, because their joining with the cause, was violent kindness to Christ. It is not a friend’s visit, to be driven to a friend’s house to be dry in a shower, and then occasionally to visit wife and children. Christ hath too many occasional friends; but the ground of all is this, “I love Jesus Christ, but I have not the gift of burning quick for Christ.” Oh, how securely should faith land us out of the gun-shot of the prevailing power of a black hour of darkness. Faith can make us able to be willing, for Christ, to go through a quarter of hell’s pain. Lord, give us not leave to be mad with worldly wisdom. (3.) When the temptation sleepeth, the madman is wise, the harlot is chaste; but when the vessel is pierced, out cometh that which is within, either wine or water: yet, if we should attentively lay our ears to hypocrites, we should hear, that their lute-strings do miserably jar; for hypocrisy is intelligible, and may be found out.
Would Parliaments begin at Christ, we should not fear that which certainly we have cause to fear; “One woe is past, and another woe cometh.” The prophets in the three kingdoms have not repented of the superstition, will-worship, idolatry, persecution, profanity, formality, which made them “vile before the people;” and the judges and princes, who “turned judgment into gall and wormwood,” are not humbled, because they were “a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.” No man repenteth, and “turneth from his evil way;” no man “smiteth on his thigh, saying, what have I done?” It is but black Popery (the name being changed, not the thing), to think the bypast sins of the land are bypast, and a sort of reformation for time to come is satisfactory to God ex opere operato [by the deed done.] Yea, the divisions in the church are a heavier plague than the raging sword. These same sins against the first and second Table; the reconciling of us and Babylon, pride, bribing, extortion, filthiness and intemperance unpunished, blood touching blood and not revenged, vanity of apparel, the professed way of salvation by all kinds of religions whatsoever; are now acted in another stage, by other persons, but they are the same sins. If that Headship that flattering prelates took from Jesus Christ, and gave to the king, be yet taken from Christ, and given to men;—if Christ’s crown be pulled off his head, no matter whose head it warm; it is taken from Christ both ways. I shall pray, that the fatness of the “flesh of Jacob, for this, do not wax lean,” (Isa. 17:4,) and that the warfare of Britain be accomplished. But if the faithful watchmen know what hour of the night it is now, there is but small appearance, that it is near to the dawning of Britain’s deliverance, or that our sky shall clear in haste. Would God the year 1645 were with child, to bring forth the salvation of Britain. It was once as incredible that the enemy should have entered “within the gates of Jerusalem.” (Lam. 4:12,) as it is now, that they can enter within the ports of London, Edinburgh, Dublin. I speak not this to encourage Cavaliers [Royalists, who persecuted the Presbyterians], for certainly, God watcheth over them for vengeance; but that we go not on further to break with Christ. The weakness of new heads, devising new religions, and multiplying gods: (for two sundry and contrary religions, argue interpretatively two sundry gods,) “according to the number of our cities,” must come from rottenness of our hearts. Oh, if we could be instructed “before the decree,” that is with child, of plagues to the sinners in “Zion, bring forth a man-child; and before the long shadows of the evening be stretched out on us.”
But of this theme no more. Grace is the proposition of this following treatise. When either grace is turned into painted, but rotten nature, as Arminians do, or into wantonness, as others do, the error to me is of a far other and higher elevation, than opinions touching church government. Tenacious adhering to Antinomian errors, with an obstinate and final persistence in them, both as touching faith to, and suitable practice of them, I shall think, cannot be fathered upon any of the regenerated; for it is an opinion not in the margin and borders, but in the page and body, and too near the centre and vital parts of the gospel. If any are offended, I desire to anger them with good will to grace; I shall strive and study the revenge only of love and compassion to their souls.
If some of these sermons came once to your Honour’s ears; and now, to your eyes, it may be, with more English language, I having staid possibly till the last grapes were somewhat riper; I hope it shall be pardoned, that I am bold to borrow your name; which truly I should not have done, if I had not known of your practical knowledge of this noble and excellent theme, the Free Grace of God. I could add more of this; but I had rather commend grace, than gracious persons. I know that Jesus Christ, who perfumeth and flowereth heaven with his royal presence, and streweth the heaven of heavens to its utmost borders with glory, is commended that he was full of grace, a vessel filled to the lip. (Psalm 45:2; John 1:16.) Yea, grace hath bought both our person and our service, (1 Pet. 2:24,25,) even as he that buyeth a captive, gives money not only for his person, but for all the motion, toil, and labour of his body, legs, and arms. And redeeming grace is so perfect, that Satan hath power possibly to bid, but not to buy any of the redeemed, no more than a merchant can buy another man’s bought goods without his consent. All our happiness that groweth here on the banks of Time, is but thin sown, as very strawberries on the sea-sands. What good parts of nature we have without grace, are like a fair lily, but there is a worm at the root of it; it withereth from the root to the top. Gifts wither apace without grace: gifts neither break nor humble; grace can do both. Grace is so much the more precious and sweet, that though it be the result of sin, in the act of pardoning and curing sinful lameness; yet it hath no spring, but the bowels of God stirred and rolled within him only by spotless and holy goodness. Grace is of the king’s house from heaven only; the matter, subject, or person it dwelleth in, contributed nothing for the creation of so noble a branch. Christ, for this cause especially, left the bosom of God, and was clothed with flesh and our nature, that he might be a mass, a sea, and boundless river of visible, living, and breathing grace, swelling up to the highest banks of not only the habitable world, but the sides also of the heaven of heavens, to over-water men and angels. So that Christ was, as it were, grace speaking, (Psalm 45:2; Luke 4:22;) grace sighing, weeping, crying out of horror, dying, withering for sinners, living again, (Heb. 2:9; John 3:16; Rom. 8:32,33;) and is now glorified grace, dropping down, raining floods of grace on his members, (Eph. 4:11-16; John 14:7,13,16,17). Christ now interceding for us at the right hand of God, is these sixteen hundred years the great apple tree dropping down apples of life; for there hath been harvest ever since Christ’s ascension to heaven, and the grapes of heaven are ripe; all that falleth from the tree, leaves, apples, shadows, smell, blossoms, are but pieces of grace fallen down from Him who is the fullness of all, and hath filled all things. We shall never be blessed perfectly, till we all sit in an immediate union under the apple tree. This is a rare piece, by way of participation, of the divine nature. Christ passed an incomparable act of rich grace on the cross; and doth now act, and advocate for grace, and the applying of the grace of propitiation, in heaven, (1 John 2:1,2); and by an act of grace, hath all the elect and ransomed ones engraven as a seal on his heart: and Christ being the fellow of God, (Zech. 13:7,) the man that standeth straight opposite to his eye, the first opening of the eye-lids of God is terminated upon the breast of Christ, and on the engravening of free grace. All the glory of the glorified is, that they are both in the lower and higher house, even when they are the Estates and Peers of heaven, the everlasting tenants and freeholders of grace; so that a soul can desire no fairer inheritance, than the patrimony, lot, and heritage of free grace. Now, to this grace commending your spirit, as an heir of grace, I rest,—Your Honour’s at all obliged respectiveness in the grace of God. S.R.
The Trial and Triumph of Faith. Sermon 1.
And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.
~ Mark 7:24
Then Jesus went from thence, and came into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And behold a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David, for my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
~ Matthew 15:21-22
For a certain woman whose young (little) daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came, and fell at his feet: (The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him, that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.
~ Mark 7:25-26.
This text being with child of free grace, holdeth forth to us a miracle of note: and because Christ is in the work in an eminent manner; and there is here also much of Christ’s new creation, and a flower planted and watered by Christ’s own hand, a strong faith in a tried woman; it requireth the bending of our heart to attention: for, to any seeking Jesus Christ, this text crieth, “Come and see.” The words for their scope, drive at the wakening of believers in praying (when an answer is not given at the first,) to a fixed and resolved lying and dying at Christ’s door, by continuing in prayer till the King come out and open, and answer the desire of the hungry and poor. 2. For the subject, they are a history of a rare miracle wrought by Christ, in casting forth a devil out of the daughter of a woman of Canaan: and for Christ to throw the devil out of a Canaanite, was very like the white banner of Christ’s love displayed to the nations, and the King’s royal standard set up to gather in the heathen under his colours. The parts of the miracle are,
I. The place where it was wrought. (Matt. 15:21.)
II. The parties on whom; the mother and the possessed daughter: she is described by her nation.
III. The impulsive cause: she hearing, came, and prayed to Jesus for her little daughter: in which, there is a dialogue between Christ and the woman, containing,
Firstly, Christ’s trying of her, 1st, with no answer; 2nd, with a refusal; 3rd, with the reproach of a dog.
Secondly, Her instancy of faith, 1st, in crying till the disciples interposed themselves; 2nd, her going on in adoring; 3rd, praying; 4th, arguing, by faith, with Christ, that she had some interest in Christ, though amongst the dogs; yet withal, (as grace hath no evil eye) not envying, because the morning market of Christ, and the high table, was the Jews’ due, as the King’s children, so she might be amongst the dogs, to eat the crumbs under Christ’s table; knowing, that the very refuse of Christ, is more excellent than ten worlds.
IV. The miracle itself, wrought by the woman’s faith: in which, we have, (1.) Christ’s heightening of her faith; (2.) The granting of her desire; (3.) The measure of Christ’s bounty, “As thou wilt;” (4.) The healing of her daughter.
Mark saith, that the woman came to Christ in a house. Matthew seemeth to say, that she came to him in the way, as these words do make good, “Send her away, for she crieth after us.” Augustine thinketh, that the woman first came to Christ while he was in the house, and desired to be hid, either because he did not (for offending the Jews) openly offer himself to the Gentiles, having forbidden his disciples to go to the Samaritans; or, because he would have his glory hid for a time; or rather, of purpose he did hide himself from the woman that her faith might find him out: and then refusing to answer the woman in the house, she still followeth him in the way, and crieth after him, as Matthew saith. For, (1.) Christ’s love is liberal, but yet it must be sued; and Christ, though he sell not his love for the penny-worth of our sweating and pains, yet we must dig low, for such a gold mine as Christ. (2.) Christ’s love is wise: He holdeth us knocking, till our desire be love-sick for him, and knoweth that delays raise and heighten the market and rate of Christ. We under-rate anything that is at our elbow. Should Christ throw himself in our bosom and lap, while we are in a morning sleep, he should not have the marrow and flower of our esteem. It is good there be some fire in us meeting with water, while we seek after Christ. (3.) His love must not only lead the heart, but also draw. Violence in love is most taking, and delay of enjoying so lovely a thing as Christ, breedeth violence in our affections; and suspension of presence oileth the wheels of love, desire, joy: want of Christ is a wing to the soul.
Interpreters ask, what woman she was? Matthew saith, a Canaanite, not of any gracious blood; a Syrophenician; for Syrophenicia was in the border between Palestine and Syria, and it was now inhabited by the relics of the Canaanites; a Greek; not by birth, but because of the Greek tongue, and rites brought thither by Alexander, and the succeeding kings of Syria. All the Gentiles go under the name of Greeks in Scripture language, as, Rom. 1:14; Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 1:22,24: not because they are all Greeks by nation and blood; but, because conquest, language, and customs, stand for blood and birth. However, it standeth as no blemish in Christ’s account-book, who was your father, whether an Amorite, or an Hittite, so ye come to him: he asketh not whose you are, so you be his; nor who is your father, so you will be his brother, and be of his house.
“And from thence he arose, and went into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.” Mark 7:24. Christ wearied of Judea, had been grieved in spirit with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and the provocation of that stiff-necked people. He was chased away to the profane Pagans. The hardening of the
Jews, maketh way to Christ’s first and young love laid upon the Gentiles. Christ doth but draw aside a lap of the curtain of separation, and look through to one believing heathen: the King openeth one little window, and holdeth out his face, in one glimpse, to the woman of Canaan. So, Christ’s works of deep Providence, are free mercy and pure justice interwoven, making one web. He departeth from the Jews, and setteth his face and heart on the Gentiles.
Consider the art of Providence here: 1st, The devil sometimes shapeth, and our wise Lord seweth; Babylon killeth, God maketh alive; sin, hell, and death, are made a chariot to carry on the Lord’s excellent work. 2nd, The Providence of God hath two sides; one black and sad, another white and joyful. Heresy taketh strength, and is green before the sun; God’s clearing of necessary and seasonable truths, is a fair side of that same providence. Adam’s first sin, was the devil and hell digging a hole through the comely and beautiful frame of the creation of God; and that is the dark side of Providence: but the flower of Jesse springing up, to take away sin, and to paint out to men and angels the glory of a heaven, and a new world of free grace—that is a lightsome side of Providence. Christ scourged; Christ in a case, that he cannot command a cup of water; Christ dying, shamed, forsaken, is black: but Christ, in that same work redeeming the captives of hell, opening to sinners forfeited paradise, that is fair and white. Joseph, weeping in the prison for no fault, is foul and sad; but Joseph brought out to reign as half a king, to keep alive the Church of God in great famine, is joyful and glorious. The apostles whipped, imprisoned, killed all the day long, are sad and heavy: but sewed with this, that God causeth them always to triumph, and show the savour of the knowledge of Christ; and Paul triumphing in his iron chains, and exalting Christ in the gospel, through the court of bloody Nero,—maketh up a fair and comely contexture of divine Providence. 3rd, God, in all his works, now, when he raineth from heaven a sad shower of blood on the three kingdoms, hath his one foot on justice, that wrath may fill to the brim the cup of malignants, prelates, and papists; and his other foot on mercy, “to wash away the filth of the daughter of Zion, and to purge the blood of Jerusalem in the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.” [Isa. 4:4.] And this is God’s way and ordinary path-road, (Psalm 25:10.) And in one and the same motion,
God can walk both to the east and to the west, and to the north and the south.
Use.—It is our fault, that we look upon God’s ways and works by halves and pieces; and so, we see often nothing but the black side, and the dark part of the moon. We mistake all, when we look upon men’s works by parts; a house in the building, lying in an hundred pieces; here timber, here a rafter, there a spar, there a stone; in another place, half a window, in another place, the side of a door: there is no beauty, no face of a house here. Have patience a little, and see them all by art compacted together in order, and you will see a fair building. When a painter draweth the half of a man; the one side of his head, one eye, the left arm, shoulder, and leg, and hath not drawn the other side, nor filled up with colours all the members, parts, limbs, in its full proportion, it is not like a man. So do we look on God’s works by halves or parts; and we see him bleeding his people, scattering parliaments, chasing away nobles and prelates, as not willing they should have a finger in laying one stone of his house: yet do we not see, that in this dispensation, the other half of God’s work makes it a fair piece. God is washing away the blood and filth of his church, removing those from the work who would cross it. In bloody wars, malignant soldiers ripping up women with child, waste, spoil, kill; yet are they but purging Zion’s tin, brass, and lead, and such reprobate metal as themselves. Jesuits and false teachers are but God’s snuffers, to occasion the clearing and snuffing of the lamps of the tabernacle, and make truth more naked and obvious.
The Trial and Triumph of Faith. Sermon 2.
And he went into a house, and would that no man should know it. (Mark 7:24 c, d)
This will, according to which, it is said, “he would that no man should know it,” was his human will, according to which, the Lord Jesus was a man as we are, yet without sin; which was not always fulfilled. For his divine will, being backed with omnipotency, can never be resisted; it overcometh all, and can be resisted by none.
Consider what a Christ we have; one who as God, hath a standing will that cannot fail. (Isa. 14:24.) “He doth all his pleasure.” His pleasure and his work are commensurable. (Isa. 46:10,11; Psalm 135:6; Psalm 115:3.) Yet this Lord did stoop so low, as to take to himself man’s will, to submit to God and law. And see how Christ, for our instruction, is content that God should break his will, and lay it below providence, (Matt. 26:39.) Oh. so little and low as great Jesus Christ is. All is come to this, “O my Father, remove the cup; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Christ and his Father have but one will between them both: “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father that sent me.” (John 5:30.) “For even Christ pleased not himself.” (Rom. 15:3.) It is a sign of conformity with Christ, when we have a will so mortified, as it doth lie level with God’s providence. Aaron’s sons are killed, and that by God immediately from heaven with fire, a judgment very hell-like; (Lev. 10:3,) and Aaron held his peace. A will lying in the dust under God’s feet, so as I can say, “Let his will, whose I am, enact to throw me in hell, he shall have my vote,” is very like the mother-rule of all sanctified wills, even like Christ’s pliable will. There is no iron sinew in Christ’s will, it was easily broken; the tip of God’s finger, with one touch, broke Christ’s will: “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” (Heb. 10:9.)
Oh, but there is a hard stone in our will: the stony heart is the stony will; hell cannot break the rock and the adamant, and the flint in our will: (1 Sam. 8:19,) “Nay, but we will have a king,” whether God will or no. God’s will standeth in the people’s way, bidding them return. They answer, “There is no hope, but we will walk after our own devices.” (Jer. 18:12.) Hell, vengeance, omnipotency, crossed Pharaoh’s will, but it would neither bow nor break. “But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he would not let the people go.” (Exod. 9:27.)
There be two things in our will, (1.) The natural frame and constitution of it. (2.) The goodness of it. The will of angels and of sinless Adam is not essentially good, for then, angels could never have turned devils; therefore, the constitution of the will needeth supervenient goodness, and confirming grace, even when will is at its best. Grace, grace now is the only oil to our wheels. Christ hath taken the castle, both in-works and out-works, when he hath taken the will, the proudest enemy that Christ hath out of hell. When Saul renders his will, he renders his weapon. This is mortification, when Christ runneth away with your will; as Christ was like a man that had not a man’s will. So Saul, (Acts 9:6,) “trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” It is good when the Lord trampleth upon Ephraim’s fair neck. (Hosea 10:11.)
There is no goodness in our will now, but what it hath from grace; and to turn the will from evil to good, is no more nature’s work, than we can turn the wind from the east to the west. When the wheels of the clock are broken and rusted, it cannot go. When the bird’s wing is broken, it cannot fly. When there is a stone in the sprent and in-work of the lock, the key cannot open the door. Christ must oil the wheels of misordered will, and heal them, and remove the stone, and infuse grace (which is wings to the bird): if not, the motions of will are all hell-ward.
“But he could not be hid, for a certain woman,” etc. Christ sometimes would be hid, because he hath a spirit above the people’s windy air, and their hosanna. It is a spirit of straw, naughty and base, that is burnt up with that which hindered Themistocles to sleep.2 “Honour me before the people,” was cold comfort to Saul, when the prophet told him God had rejected him. But Christ desired not to be hid from this woman; he was seeking her, and yet he flieth from her. Christ, in this, is such a flier as would gladly have a pursuer.
2. Faith findeth Christ out when he is hid. “Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself;” (Isa. 45:15.) But faith seeth God under his mask, and through the cloud; and, therefore, faith addeth, “O God of Israel, the Saviour.” Thou hidest thyself, O God, from Israel, but Israel findeth thee, (ver. 17,) “Israel shall be saved in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation.” God casteth a cloud of anger about himself, he maketh darkness his pavilion, and will not look out; yet Job seeth God, and findeth him out many hundred miles, (chap. 19:26,) “Yet in my flesh shall I see God.”
3. Reason, sense, nay, angels, seeing Christ between two thieves dying, and going out of this world, bleeding to death, naked, forsaken of friend and lover, they may wonder and say, “O Lord, what dost thou here?” Yet the faith of the thief found him there, as a king, who had the keys of Paradise; and he said in faith, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” (Luke 23:42.)
4. Faith seeth him as a witness, and a record in heaven, as Job, (16:19,20,) even when God cleaveth his reins asunder, and poureth out his gall upon the ground, ver. 13. Believe then, that Christ gloometh, that he may kiss; that he cuts, that he may cure; that he maketh the living believer’s grave before his eyes, and hath no mind to bury him alive. He breatheth the smoke and the heat of the furnace of hell on the soul, when peace, grace, and heaven is in his heart. He breaketh the hollow of Jacob’s thigh, so as he must go halting all his days, and it is his purpose to bless him. Whereas we should walk by faith, we walk much, even in our spiritual walk, by feeling and sense; we have these errors in our faith, we make not the word of promise the rule of our faith, but only God’s dispensation.
Now, God’s dispensation is spotless, and innocent, and white, yet it is not Scripture to me; nor all that dispensation and providence seemeth to speak, the word of God. Ram-horns speak no taking of towns in an ordinary providence, as spear and shield and a host of fighting men do. “Killed all the day long, and estimated as sheep for the slaughter,” speaketh not to me, that God’s people are “more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:36,37.)
Our faith, in reference to dispensation, is to do two things: 1st, To believe in general, though dispensation be rough, stormy, black, yet Christ is fair, sweet, gracious; and, that hell and death are servants to God’s dispensation toward the children of God. Abraham must kill Isaac; yet in Isaac, as in the promised seed, all the nations of the earth are blessed. Israel is foiled, and falleth before the men of Ai; yet Israel shall be saved by the Lord. Judah shall go into captivity, but the dead bones shall live again. Read the promise in general, engraved upon the dispensation of God. Garments are rolled in blood in Scotland and England. The wheels of Christ’s chariot, in this reformation, go with a slow pace: the prince is averse to peace, many worthies are killed, a foreign nation cometh against us; yet all worketh for the best to those that love God. (2.) Hope biddeth us to await the Lord’s event. We see God’s work, it cometh to our senses; but the event that God bringeth out of his work lieth under ground. Dispensation is as a woman travailing in birth, and crying out for pain; but she shall be delivered of two men-children,—Mercy to the people of God, Justice to Babylon. Wait on till the woman bring forth, though you see not the children.
2. We trust possession in our part, more than law, and the fidelity of the promise on God’s part. Feeling is of more credit to us than faith; sense is surer to us than the word of faith. Many weak ones believe not life eternal, because they feel it not: heaven is a thing unseen, and they find no consolation and comfort, and so, are disquieted. If we knew that believing is a bargaining and a buying, we should see the weakness of many. Should any buy a field of land, and refuse to tell down the money, except the party should lay all the ridges, acres, meadows, and mountains on the buyer’s shoulders, that he might carry them home to his house, he should be incredulously unjust. If any should buy a ship, and think it no bargain at all, except he might carry away the ship on his back, should not this make him a ridiculous merchant? God’s law of faith, Christ’s concluded atonement, is better and surer than your feeling. All that sense and comfort saith, is not canonic Scripture; it is adultery to seek a sign, because we cannot rest on our husband’s word.