And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.—Acts 4.32.

 
Sermons

By

William Guthrie

From:
Sermons in Times of Persecution

SERMON XI.1
"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend your money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."—Isaiah 55.1,2.
WE spake,
  1. Of the proclamation making way for our coming to this gospel market in the words, "Ho, every one."
  2. We spake of the intimation of the goods to be had in this market, which were "water," "wine," and "milk," which hold forth Christ and all that is in Him.
  3. We spake of the party that were invited to come and close with Jesus Christ. Now we come to speak,
  4. Of the fourth particular in the method, which is to speak of our closing with Christ, which lies in these three things—(1.) Coming; (2.) Buying; and (3.) Eating.
All these hold forth people's closing with Christ, and their receiving and embracing of Him.

Observe, that the soul's right closing with Christ is a coming to Him, a buying and eating of Him, and an obeying of Him. Believing on Him is called coming. "Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "And him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." So that coming unto Him is a believing on Him, and a closing with Him for salvation. And so is buying of Christ, "Icounsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire." And in like manner eating, "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life…. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed."

The reason why a closing with Christ is compared to these things will be taken from the properties of them.

We will speak of the properties of each, and what each of them severally holds forth. And,

First, In a man's coming, ye know, there are three things.

  1. He must come from such a place.
  2. He must come to another place.
  3. There must be some certain way by which he comes from the one place to another.
In like manner, in closing with Christ there must be,

1. A coming from the kingdom of darkness, where persons were ruled by the power of Satan, and the delight of sin. They must come from these principles that the multitude of the world walk by. They must come from their own self-righteousness, that once they thought to win heaven by. They must come from all the principles of their former walk and conversation. And they must come,

2. To a new King that they never had before. Their life must be a new life, wherein all things are new. So that it is a life hid with Christ in God, which is a mystery to the multitude of a dark world. They now see themselves blind fools that have need of daily teaching and direction, or else they would soon destroy themselves. They now see God to be infinitely wise in all He doth. They now see the principles of a vain world, by which they walked before, to be stark nought. They account any mercy they receive a free mercy, if it were but a drink of cold water. They see all the power of hell and wicked men as nothing in respect of the Lord. They see God in Christ to be a holy God, and one that heals all sin. They see that there is nothing in themselves that can make any help for their salvation, because of their insensibility; but they see God unchangeable in His love, though He correct them many times for their sins. They see all these things in a world as what are with us to-day, and away to-morrow; and therefore they make light of them, and are loosed from them in their affections. But they see that the counsel of the Lord stands to-day, yesterday, and for ever.

3. For the way that He brings on souls to close with Christ, I say, He may have many ways for converting them. For example, some may be brought in by some heavy rod of affliction laid upon them; some by great and horrible checks of conscience; others may get, at first, a calm view of the love of God, but God's ordinary way is by the preaching of the gospel. If any have got good by this, they have these marks following, to know or discern it by,

As first, The Spirit of God, by the authority of the word, hath circumcised their heart; and made them greedily attend on every word preached; so that as soon as ever the minister speaks a word, they will be waiting for the next word, and still as they get it they will apply it and make it their own. And,

1. The first thing that the word, accompanied with the authority of the Spirit, does to them, is to discover the man's sin and guilt to him, and upon that discovery to make him apply all the cures and threatenings of the law unto himself, as particularly as if there were no more than he, so that he is bound hand and foot, like one condemned to the gibbet. He condemns himself as liable to the wrath of God, and to all the threatenings against sin contained in the Scriptures.

2. Upon this, the Spirit of God, in the word preached, discovers to the man One who is exhibited as a Surety for him. And then he is made willing to embrace the free offer of Jesus Christ, according to the Scriptures. By these folk may try themselves, whether or not they have got any benefit by the preaching of the gospel and by the free offers of Jesus Christ. I say, Was ever any of you determined greedily to take heed to the preaching of the word till it discovered to you your lost state and condition, and upon that made you apply every curse in the Bible as belonging to you in particular; so that ye were thereby bound hand and foot, not knowing of any help ye could make to yourselves, but on the contrary, obliged in everything to condemn yourselves? And after that, Was there any cautioner or surety discovered unto you? And were you made with gladness to embrace Jesus Christ in the offers of the gospel, according to Scripture promises?

Secondly, In buying, there is something that resembles a closing with Christ.

  1. There must be in buying a sight of some valuable goods.
  2. Ye must see that these goods are not your own.
  3. Ye must see them to be such commodities as ye stand in need of, otherwise ye will not buy them at all.
  4. Ye must commune with the merchant about, the price of the goods, and agree with him the best way ye can, to get them out of his hand.
And, in like manner, I say, all these must be in a closing with Christ.
  1. There must be an apprehension of the worth of Jesus Christ.
  2. There must be also a conviction of your want of Christ, otherwise ye will never seek after Him.
  3. You must also have a sense of your need of Him, otherwise ye will never receive Him. And,
  4. There must be some exercise in the soul, in order to get a grip of Him. You must go about the clearest way that you can to get Him, and to get a union with Him, so that ye may have boldness to call Him, as the gospel warrants you to do, your Lord and Master.
Have you such a sense of your need of Him as makes you cry out, "What shall I do to be saved? I must have Thee; I cannot want Thee; nay, say what Thou wilt, I shall not want Thee. Bid me do what Thou wilt, I shall be content, provided I may find Thee; for it is by Thee alone that I must be saved; and what is the matter what become of me if I want salvation." Then try yourselves, whether or not there has been any transaction between you and Christ, about the matter of your closing with Him? Did ye never miss Christ? Saw you ever such a worth in Him as made you long to be in His company? Did you ever see that ye could not live without Him? And did it ever put you to your wits' end what ye should do to get Him made your own, to subdue your corruptions, and to pay your debts for you, while ye saw yourselves able to do nothing. And,

Thirdly, In eating there are these things:—

  1. There must be an appetite for meat.
  2. There must be a judgment that the meat is good.
  3. In eating there must be chewing of it in the mouth, to prepare it for the stomach.
  4. In eating it must be swallowed, whereby its substance becomes incorporated with the body. So in closing with Christ there will be a sense of need, to excite in the soul an appetite or desire after Christ; or if they dare not say they have an appetite, yet there will be clear convictions in their judgments, that Christ is good for any person that dare make use of Him; and they say, that they are all blessed that dare call Him their own; and that they are all cursed that know nothing of Him. There is, too, a love in the soul, that is still acting in the way of trying to get Christ. Sometimes they see their sins, and have severe checks for them. Sometimes some beams of light calm their conscience again. They are sometimes essaying to grip at a promise; and sometimes they think that such a promise belongs not to them. At last they venture upon a way in which they may best get Him, and make Him their own; and in which they may feed upon Him, and have Him for their King and Lord, ruling, reigning, governing, and setting up laws within them, against all the powers of sin and Satan, that they are troubled with. And after they have closed with Christ, and made Him a King within them to subdue their corruptions, and regard Him as their own, both for sanctification and redemption; then they become one in an embodied communion with Him, so that they live no more, as it were, but Christ lives in them, and the life that they now live "is a life by faith upon the Son of God."
Now, the reasons why Christ useth these three words together to express one's closing with Him, are:—

l. Because He must let His people see, that there are different experiences in closing with Him. Some may get a sensible change from the power of darkness within them, and through the sense of sin occasioned by the great thunderings of the law-work upon them, may have a more piercing desire and lively appetite after communion with Him. Again, some may have got such a sight of the excellency of Christ, that they cannot think to have it said that they will want Him. No, the need of Him, and the value they see in Him, make them both supplicate and cry about Him, so that they can both name time and place when they met Him; and can relate what transactions passed betwixt Him and them ere they got Him laid hold of, so that they durst call Him their own Lord and Master.

2. He useth many words in closing with Him, that He may declare how willing He is that they should not stand at a distance from Him.

3. He useth all these words on purpose to let people see that there should be such exercise in His people that should not let them be satisfied about their closing with Him on slight grounds. And,

4. He uses all these words on purpose that folk may trace all their steps over again—both before and after their closing with Christ—and be convinced of their sin, and flee to Christ to intercede for the pardon of it.

Now for the clearing up of people's closing with Christ, let us mark out so many sorts of people as have been at this market of free grace yesterday.

First, There is one sort of natural folk that have been bold enough to come to Christ in His Supper, that, we daresay, have never yet known anything of closing with Him.

Secondly, There is another sort who dare boldly say that they have closed with Him, and are bold to tell of all the actions and motions of agreement that passed betwixt Him and them.

Thirdly, There is a sort that are halting betwixt these two, that dare neither say boldly that they have closed with Christ, nor dare they say boldly to the contrary. And,

1. For the first of these, we would say to you that are natural folk and atheists, and yet have made bold to meddle with these holy ordinances, I say unto you, acknowledge it, and mourn for your presumption in being so bold as to meddle with these holy things, and to profane this holy Sacrament; be ye assured that ye have drunk your own condemnation. But, I say, if it shall please God to make any of you sensible of that sin, we do not bid you call away your hope hereafter, as if ye had done that which could never be pardoned. Christ's market of His free offer is yet to be had for the salvation of any poor sinner who will have it. Oh, what a joyful sight would it be to see atheist ministers, atheist scholars, all the haughty and high-minded men in the land, gentlemen and commoners, only suspecting and judging themselves as a people living without God in the world and without Christ, then there would be some hopes; but as long as ye never want God, and think ye had Him, and believed in Him all your days, and never once missed your faith in Him, we say we have sufficient evidence, in that case, that ye never knew what Christ was nor what it was to believe in Him.

2. With regard to you that dare say ye have closed with Christ, and are sure of it, I say this unto you, For as sure as ye are, if ye have been so bold as to come to this ordinance without examination of your sin and guilt, and of your need of new pardon for it; and without any exercises of that kind, ye have done that which may bring sad judgment upon your bodies, and great hardness of heart upon your souls. If it be so, that ye have not been engaged in exercises of that kind before you came, we allow you now to mourn for the abuse of these holy things, as well as others. Cry down yourselves as loathsome and abominable; but beware of limiting to free grace any of your exercises. I say to you, though ye be sure, yet beware of being careless or secure. This feast, at such a time, says that God has some difficult work to put you upon—work that will try all your evidences of being in Christ; therefore dream not of ease, but prepare yourselves for trials of all sorts. And we think that though there were no more, it may even bind you to the diligent performance of duty that God has given you that feast in this place, before many other places that were longing for it, and has not left you disputing about that matter, like many a poor thing in the land.2 I say, ye may bear the better with any piece of trial that it shall please God to tryste you with, and ye should stick closely to your duty, that ye may be examples to others of a stedfast adherence to Christ.

3. With regard to you who cannot tell whether ye have closed with Christ or not, we will—(1) Speak to some grounds of hope, that ye may have as to your closing with Christ; (2) speak also to some grounds of fear that may hinder your closing with Him, and are ready to kill you, when you would venture upon Christ. And,

(1.) For the ground of your hope, ye dare not deny but that ye have real conviction of sin, and of your guiltiness by sin, and that ye cannot help yourselves by anything that ye can do, although you should perish. Ye dare not deny but that ye have fled from any righteousness in yourselves. Ye dare not say but that ye see some difference betwixt our principles and the principles of the multitude, so that, for a world, ye dare not do many things that ye see them do. Ye dare not deny but that ye are fled from many of those principles ye once walked by, and now, for a thousand worlds, ye dare not do that which once ye thought it no sin to do. You dare not deny but that ye look for salvation from no other airth, but from Christ. Ye dare not deny but that ye hear the Gospel preached with another ear than ye were wont to do. You dare not deny but that ye think yourselves liable to the curses of the broken law, and apply these particularly to yourselves, and therefore ye would gladly be in hands with Christ. Ye dare not deny, though ye dare not say ye have really closed with Christ, that ye would not for a thousand worlds give up your part of Him. Ye dare not deny but that they are blessed folk in your esteem that have Christ and dare call Him their own, and that ye account them all a parcel of poor beggarly creatures that have nothing of Him. Ye dare not deny (though ye dare not say that there is true grace in you) that ye are convinced of what ye understand of the marks of grace that we speak of, and find them to be matter of exercise with you; hence it is your good day when ye hear the most of these preached and cleared up. Ye dare not say (though ye get not all your idols brought down that are within you) but that at sometimes ye get such access to God that ye get liberty to curse your idols, and to hate them and to wage war against them. Ye dare not deny but that ye get some tastes and motions of light within you even such as ye would be at. Ye dare not deny that according to these motions ye apprehend some great worth to be in Christ, so that ye cannot think to want Him. Besides, if ye durst say that ye claim your interest in Christ, it would soon make up any other want; and though one should give you all the world, it would yield no contentment unto you as long as ye could not claim clearly your interest in Him. In fine, ye cannot say but that there is some exercise in your soul about finding Him, and that you essay in the appointed way to lay hold of Him.

Now, I say all these are evidences of your closing with Christ, and serve to keep the spark of life within you, and to preserve you from giving over your endeavour to close with Him, and are preludes to your further success in this matter. And,

(2.) For the grounds of that fear which hinders you from closing with Christ; (1.) Ye are afraid that you have never got such a deep sense of your sin and guiltiness as your closing with Christ requires. (2.) Ye fear that ye have never had such a lively spiritual exercise in you as the nature of closing with Christ requires. (3.) Ye cannot think that ye have closed with Him, because ye think that for all that is threatened against you, and for all that ye can do, there still remains some old predominate sin within you which ye think is still unkilled, and which you think inconsistent with the grace of faith. Now,

For answer to these doubts, consider,

1. That with respect to your sense of sin, God gives not every one a like measure of exercises for their sin that closes with Him. To some He gives more sense of sin, and to others less, according to the several employments He has to call them unto. Some He has to call to the work of the ministry, and these have need of a more deep exercise than others, for they have the charge of many souls to look to and to give account of; they have the doubts of the people to clear up to them, and they must be exercised in order to fit them for their calling.

2. Some, I say, have but small exercise about their sin on account of the company among whom their lot is cast. Were some exercised as deeply as others, the people who dwell with them would think them perfectly mad; they would never bear with them, and God's name would be profaned by these atheists. But for the sense of sin, I ask if ever ye found so much of it as to be brought to a loathing and abasing of yourselves? Have you been brought to think none in all the world so vile as yourselves? Have you been brought to loathe and abhor yourselves because of your filthiness? Have you been made to acknowledge that there is hardly a sin in all the world but what ye have been guilty of, at least that there is no sin but ye find the root of it to be in you, and that there has been nothing that kept sin in you from breaking out into the vilest of all outbreakings in the world but only the good hand of God that prevented it? And now thou art made to bless God that thou art not such a man and such a woman as many are this day. No thanks to thee that thou art not one of the vilest of outbreakers that ever lived, for such thou wouldst have been if God had given thee over to thyself as many are. Many professors were never brought this length of loathing themselves. The high heads of many, their shaking and tinkling bravery which they prance with, makes us fear that they have never known what it was to loathe themselves for sin. After that conviction of sin and loathing of thyself for it, did it work up thy heart to a high esteem of Jesus Christ; and wast thou made to yield to Him any way He pleased, provided He would be a King within thee, and subdue thy lust and corruptions? And now thou art made to esteem the holy law of God, and to account it holy, just, and good, yea, worthy to be observed; and thou now standest in awe to offend God, by breaking of His holy law.

I say, all these are evidences of a soul's closing with Christ:—

(1.) To be convinced that really by the breach of the law, you are guilty of sin, and so liable to be condemned unto the wrath of God. Then,

(2.) Fleeing from that unto Christ for a refuge. And,

(3.) After all, making the law a rule of your life, and whole conversation.

But now ye want the knowledge of that incorporating union with Him, which we spoke of as imported in the third word, "eating," when the soul comes to Christ, which is a making of Christ your own by a union with Him. And,

1st, The first way in which God gives them this privilege, is by the Spirit of discerning, whereby they can understand all the actions and motions within them, in order to their closing with Christ; while a divine command also holds out to them their warrant of closing with Christ. And,

2ndly, Some attain to the knowledge of this union with Christ, by the clearing up to themselves what marks of grace they find in life and vigour within them. Though the soul cannot clear up all the marks of grace as what are within them, yet they may not for that deny their interest in Christ; for if thou canst only evidence one mark of grace to be in vigour within thee, and if thou art sure that the Spirit of God calls it a real mark of grace, I say, by that one mark, thou mayest claim thy interest in Christ. Suppose it were but a love to the brethren, let that be cleared well, and by it thou art proved to be one who is passed from death to life. However, we wish that people were clearing to themselves all the marks of grace in them.

3rdly, A third way by which souls may attain to the knowledge of their interest in Christ, and union with Him, and dare most confidently say that Christ is their God, is by the zeal and testimony of the Spirit bearing witness in and with and upon their spirits. Now the Spirit of God hath many ways of working. It is the Spirit that both convinceth folk of sin, and maketh them mourn for it, and bears testimony to the spirits of His people, that they are the children of God. And besides, He clears His people's judgment, so that He makes them know and discern what marks of grace they have within them that speak forth their union with Christ. And then He brings a promise to their hand that is suitable to their union with Him; and He Himself opens and unfolds that promise, and makes it look pleasant to them. He bears in the promise in a lively manner upon them, and will not let it admit of any objection. The Spirit rouses the soul, and makes it stir, and flutter, and run, and embrace the promise, and welcome it home. He makes them believe the truth of it, and apply it to themselves. On which marriage the soul is wrought up to a sort of heavenly and unspeakable joy; the greatest pitch of joy a soul can attain to on this side of time.

Now, to conclude, there are but few that can attain to such noble testimonies as these; and yet everyone that comes not that length may not deny his interest in Christ. I say, if thou canst discern any motions or acts in thy soul that lead thee to comply with the command to believe in Him, and if thou canst clear up to thyself any mark of grace which the Spirit of God calls a mark of grace, by which an union with Him is evidenced. As for your saying that ye cannot think there is any union between you and Christ, so long as your predominate sin is unmortified, I leave you with recommending to your consideration the apostle Paul, who got not all sin borne down within him; yet as it was his burthen, he was an enemy to it, and waged war against it, accordingly pleaded his integrity and interest in Jesus Christ; and so may you do. If that sin be your burthen, and if ye can say that ye are mourning for it, and using means against it, and daily representing it to the King to be taken order with; in this case, though it still remains as a strong fort within you, ye may both plead your integrity and interest in Jesus Christ.

But we add no more, but leave you to the Spirit of God alone, to whom it solely belongs, to confirm and establish you in all your waverings. Be earnest with the Spirit of God; and beware of doing anything to grieve Him. But by all means entertain the motions of the Spirit; for it is He alone, that can clear all your objections.


N.B.—Whether Mr. Guthrie's preaching on the Monday after the celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, in his own parish, was owing to the paucity of the ministers, or the custom of the times, which is more probable, is not now certainly known. However, these sermons, with the most part of those which follow, seem to have been preached betwixt the year 1660, and 1665, in which all the rest of the Presbyterian ministers, except one or two, were cast out of their parishes.

Footnotes:

1. The second sermon on this text.

2. This sermon seems to have been preached soon after the restoration of Charles II., when most of the faithful ministers were ejected.