ISAIAH LIII. 1
And to whom is the Arm of the LORD revealed?
THERE are many Mistakes in the Way of Religion, wherewith the most Part are possessed, and amongst the rest this is one, that generally the Hearers of the Gospel think it so easy to believe, that there is no Difficulty in it at all; they think it hard to pray, to keep the Sabbath, to be holy; but the most Part think there is no Difficulty in believing; and yet Unbelief is so common, and Faith so rare and difficult, that the Prophet Isaiah here in his own Name, and in Name of all the Ministers of the Gospel cries out, Lord, who hath believed our Report? He complains that he could get but very few to believe; and because it grieved him to find it so, and because he would fain have it to take Impression on his Hearers, he doubles Expressions to the same Purpose: And to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed? Which in sum is, there is much preaching, and many Hearers of the Gospel, but little believing of it, few in whose Heart the Work of Faith is wrought; it's but here one and there one that this Gospel hath Efficacy upon, for uniting of them to Jesus Christ, and for working a Work of saving Grace in them; the effectual working of God's Grace reaches the Hearts but of very few.
For opening the Words, we shall speak a little to these Three. 1. To what is meant by the Arm of the Lord. 2. To what is meant by the revealing of the Arm of the Lord. 3. To the scope and Dependence of these Words on the former.
For the first, In general know, the Arm of the Lord is not to be understood properly; the Lord being a Spirit, hath no Arms, Hands, nor Feet, as Men have; but it's to be understood figuratively, as holding out some Property or Attributes of God. By the Arm of the Lord then we understand in general the Power of God, the Arm of Man being that whereby he exerteth his Power, performeth Exploits, or doth any Work: So the Arm of the Lord is his Power whereby he produceth his mighty Acts; as it's said, Psalm 118.15. The right Hand of the Lord hath done valiantly: Psalm 98.1. His Hand and his Arm hath gotten him the Victory; and because the Power of God is taken either more generally for that which is exerted in the Works of common Providence, or more particularly for that which is put forth in the Work of saving Grace: We take it here in short to be the Grace of God exerting its Power, in and by the Gospel, for the converting of Souls, and causing them savingly to believe; so Romans 1.16. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the Power of God to Salvation to every one that believes; not simply as it consists in speaking of good, sweet, and seasonable Words, but as it cometh backed by the irresistible Power of the Grace of God, as the Word is, 1 Cor. 1.23,24. We preach Christ, to the Jews a Stumbling-block; and to the Greeks Foolishness; but unto them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, and that it is so to be taken here, the Connexion of these Words with the former will make it clear; for sure he is not speaking of the Power of God in the Works of common Providence, but of his Power in the Conversion of Souls to Christ; even of that Power which works saving Faith in the Elect.
For the second, the revealing of the Arm of the Lord: By this we do not understand the revealing of it objectively as it's brought to Light by preaching of the Gospel; for thus it is revealed to all the Hearers of the Gospel; it's in this respect not kept hid, but brought forth clearly to them in the Word. And therefore secondly, The revealing of this Arm or Power of the Lord, is to be understood of the Subjective inward manifesting of it, with Efficacy and Life to the Heart, by the effectual Operation of the Spirit of the Lord; as it's said of the great Things prepared for them that love God, 1 Cor. 2.10. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: It's that which is called, 1 Cor. 2. The Demonstration of the Spirit and of Power, which make plain and powerful to the Spirit of the Hearer inwardly that which the Word preacheth outwardly to the Ear, which without this would strike only on the Ear, and yet remain still an hidden Mystery: This is the revealing of the Lord's Arm that is here spoken of; because it is that on which Believing dependeth, and of the Want whereof the Prophet sadly complaineth, even where there was much Preaching.
For the third, to wit, the Scope, Dependence, and Connexion of these Words with the former, we conceive they come in, both for Confirmation and for Explication of the former Words. 1. For Confirmation, there are (as hath been said) but few that believe; for there are but few that have this saving and effectual Work of God's Grace reaching their Heart; tho' they have the Word preached to them, yet they have not the Arm of the Power of God's Grace manifested to them; and so he confirms his former Doctrine concerning the Paucity of Believers under the preaching of the Gospel. First, By asserting the Fewness of them that are brought to believe, to be converted, and effectually called by the Gospel; which comes to pass through their own Unbelief. And, Secondly, By asserting their Fewness in respect of God's sovereign applying of his Grace in the Gospel, which is but to few; it's but few that believe, for it's but few that he makes effectual Application of his Grace to. 2. We say it comes in to clear and explicate the former Words, whether we take it by way of Reason, or of an Answer to an Objection; for if it be said, how can it be that Isaiah, Paul, yea, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself, should preach so powerfully, and yet that so few should believe? He answers, It's not to be marveled at, in respect of God as if he were frustrate of his Design; no such Matter: It's because the Power of Jesus Christ is revealed but to few; and we take this the rather to be the Meaning of these Words; because when Christ is preaching, and many take Offence and stumble, John 6.43,44. he says, Murmur not among yourselves, no Man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him; there must be an effectual Work of the Grace of God put forth on the Heart, else none will believe on me: So it's said, John 12.37,38. that they believed not on him, that the Saying of Isaias might be fulfilled which he spoke, Lord, who hath believed our Report? And to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed? Therefore they could not believe; because that Isaias said again, He hath blinded their Eyes, &c. he speaketh not so to apologize for, or to excuse their Unbelief, but to shew the Connexion that is betwixt these two, the not revealing of the Arm of the Lord, and their not believing; even so here, the Lord shews the Connexion that is betwixt the Efficacy of the Work of Grace, and believing or turning to God, that where the powerful and effectual Work of his Grace, goeth not forth with the preached Gospel, there will be then no Believing nor Conversion, no saving Change of the Person from Nature to Grace.
That which we would say from these Words, may be drawn to three Doctrines, which I shall first propose, and then clear and apply them for use. The first is, That in the Work of Conversion and begetting of saving Faith, there is requisite and necessary, besides the preaching of the Word, a distinct, inward, peculiar, real, immediate, efficacious, and powerful Work of the Spirit of the Lord on the Hearts of as many Hearers as are converted by this Gospel. 2. That it is but few of many Hearers in whom the Lord thus efficaciously and effectually works by his Spirit and the Power of his Grace; it's but here one and there one, a very few who are thus wrought upon and converted. 3. That there is a necessary and inseparable Connexion betwixt this inward and efficacious Work of the Spirit, and Faith or Conversion. Where this Work of Grace is not, there cannot be Faith; and where it is, Faith necessarily must be, otherwise these two could not be commensurable, of equal Extent, and reciprocal; Who hath believed our Report? And to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed? He is not, neither can be a Believer to whom it is not revealed; and he is, and cannot but be a Believer to whom he is revealed.
For the first, We say there is in the Work of Conversion, and begetting of Faith, beside the Preaching of the Gospel a distinct, inward, peculiar, real, immediate, efficacious, and powerful Work of the Spirit of the Lord requisite and necessary for Conversion and begetting of Faith, to convince of Sin, and to humble for it, to enlighten the Mind in the Knowledge of Christ, to renew the Will and Affections, and to persuade and enable the Soul of the Sinner to embrace and receive Jesus Christ, as he is offered in the Gospel. We shall first take notice of, and clear some Words in the Doctrine, and then confirm it.
First, For clearing of some Words in the Doctrine, we say, 1. It is a distinct Work of the Spirit, distinguished and separable from the Word; tho' it goes along as he pleaseth with the Word, yet it is not as if there were some Power infused into the Word, and went always and necessarily along with the Word, which is the foolish and groundless Conceit of some; for albeit it accompany the Word, yet it's from a distinct Agent, working, and a distinct Work, and is separable (as I said) from the Word, tho' it be wrought on the Heart of the same Sinner to whose Ear the Word is preached. 2. It's an inward Work of the Spirit; for besides the outward and external Preaching and Calling by the Word, there is an inward, powerful, effectual Work and Calling of the Spirit in the Conversion of a Sinner, which speaks to the Heart, as well as the Word speaks to the Ear; so that this Work of the Spirit that goes along in Conversion, is much more than any external Persuasion of the preached Word can produce. 3. We say it's a peculiar Work, to difference it from what is common to the Hearers of the Gospel; for it is a Work that is peculiar to them whom the Lord converts, and is applied to none other, but to those in whom he works Faith, and whom he effectually calleth by his Grace. It's a peculiar Work then and not common; for if it were common to all the Hearers of the Gospel, and not peculiar to some; these two could not go together and be commensurable (as we said); Who hath believed our Report? And to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed? 4. We say it's a real Work as well as a powerful: A real Work of the Spirit, that is not only able and powerful to produce the Effect, and to convert the Sinner, but real and powerful in producing and bringing of it about, and to pass by a real Influence of the Spirit actually renewing the Will, infusing and creating the Habits of Grace, and particularly the very Habit of Faith amongst others in the Soul; which is quite another Thing than the supposing and saying that a Man hath Power to believe and be converted; that there is no more requisite to his Conversion, but to persuade him to put forth that Power and Strength which he hath into Exercise or Practice. It's a real Work of the Spirit, and a powerful bringing about of the Conversion of the Sinner in a physical Way, as they say in the School. 5. We say it is an immediate Work of the Spirit on the Heart, to difference it from a mediate Persuasion, or moral suasion (as it's called) as if there were no more requisite in Conversion but God's enlightening of the Mind, and by that persuading the Will to close with Jesus Christ, without any immediate Work of the Spirit on the Will itself. In this Doctrine, we take in all these according to the Scripture; in Opposition to the several Errors invented by Men of corrupt Minds, about the Work of Conversion and of saving Faith; God's Arm and Hand must be revealed, the Work and Power of his efficacious Grace must be put forth, for moving and inclining the Heart and Affections, and for determining the Will itself.
We might further clear and confirm all these from that famous Instance of Lydia, Acts 16.14. Where Paul preaching to some Women, it's said of her, Whose Heart the Lord opened, that she attended to the Things which were spoken of Paul; where we find these Things differenced.
1. The Lord's powerful Work on her Heart from Paul's preaching to her Ear, the Lord opened her Heart. 2. It's an inward Work, for it's on the Heart. 3. It's a peculiar Work, it's not all who hear Paul preach whose Hearts are opened, but it's the Heart of one Lydia. 4. It's in the Nature of it a real Work, that makes a real inward Change on her. 5. It's an immediate Work; for the Lord not only enlightens her Judgment, but goes down to the Heart and opens it, and works a Change in it immediately. Paul indeed by his preaching opens the Way of Salvation to all that heard him, from which, tho' many go away with their Hearts unopened; yet the Lord hath a secret, mysterious, real, inward Work on her Heart, which is evidenced by the Effect; for he not only enlightens her Mind, but makes her willingly yield to the Call of the Gospel, by opening of her Heart.
In the second place, To speak a little for Confirmation of the Doctrine, we would consider these four or five Grounds or Reasons, to shew that there is such a Work of the Spirit wherever Faith is begotten, and that most intelligibly in them that are at Age. 1. It's clear from these Places of Scripture, where there is an express Distinction and Difference put betwixt the outward Ministry of the Word, and this inward, powerful, efficacious Work of Grace on the Heart, and wherein the great Weight of Conversion is laid on this inward Work, and not on the outward Ministry of the Word; as Deut. 29.4. where the Lord by Moses tells the People, how many Things they had seen and heard; and yet says he, The Lord hath not given you a Heart to perceive, and Eyes to see, and Ears to hear, unto this Day. They had the outward Means in plenty, when they wanted in the mean Time the inward Power; the Gift of a spiritual Life, and the making them spiritually active to exert it, was with-holden, and therefore they did not savingly perceive, see, nor hear; John 6.44. Murmur not among yourselves, no Man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him; It's written in the Prophets, and they shall be all taught of God, every Man therefore that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto me; where there is very clearly a Distinction put betwixt the outward Teaching and the Father's Drawing, betwixt the Minister's teaching and God's Teaching. It was one thing to be taught outwardly by Christ as the Prophet of his Church, and another thing to be drawn and taught inwardly of the Father: This inward Teaching is called Drawing, to shew that it is not external Oratory or Eloquence consisting in Words, to persuade, that can effect the Business, but a powerful Draught of the Arm of the Lord reaching the Heart. There are several other Scriptures full and clear to this Purpose; as Psalm 103.3. and Acts 11.21. A second Ground, or kin to the former, is from the many and various Expressions that are used in the Scriptures for holding forth this Work of the Spirit of God in Conversion, that point out, not only an Hand-working, and a Work wrought; but an inward powerful Way of working and bringing about the Work, as Jer. 31.34. I will put my Law in their inward Parts, and write it in their Hearts: Ezek. 11.19. I will give them one Heart, I will put a new Spirit within them, and will take away the stony Heart of their Flesh. Ezek. 36.26,27. A new Heart will I give unto you, and a new Spirit will I put within you, &c. Jer. 32.40. I will put my Fear in their Heart, that they shall not depart from me; It's called the Father's Drawing, John 6.44. In the Saint's Prayers (as Psalm 51.) It is called even as to further Degrees of this Work, or restoring of lost Degrees, creating of a clean Heart, and renewing of a right Spirit within: And many more like Expressions there are, which shew not only Man's Impotency and Inability to convert or savingly to change himself; but also that to his Conversion there is necessary, an inward, real, peculiar, efficacious, powerful Work of the Spirit of Grace. 3. It is clear, and may be confirmed from the Power of God, which he puts forth and applies in the begetting of Faith, and in working Conversion: It is not a mediate Work whereby he only persuades congruously, as some love to speak; but an immediate and efficacious Work, whereby with mighty Power he works Conversion. It is God (saith the Apostle, Phil. 2.13.) that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good Pleasure: And as he not only persuadeth, but effectually worketh; so he not only works on the Judgment to the enlightening of it, but on the Will, to incline and determine it, by curing it of its Crookedness and Perverseness, Backwardness, Obstinacy, and Rebellion; and the Power whereby he worketh his great Work is said, Eph. 1.19. To be that same mighty Power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the Dead, that ye may know, saith the Apostle, what is the exceeding Greatness of his Power to us-ward, who believe according to the working of his mighty Power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the Dead, and set him at his own right Hand, &c. It is such a Power that works Faith, and so exercised in the working of Faith, as it was in the raising of Christ from the Dead. Now, could there be use for such a Power, if there were no more requisite to Conversion, but an objective Suasion, or a bare Proposal of the Object with external Persuasion to embrace it, wherein the Soul is left to itself to choose or refuse as it pleaseth? Certainly if there were no more, considering our natural Enmity to God and his Grace, the Devil and Corruption would have much more Influence, and a far greater Stroke upon the Heart to closing up of the same in Unbelief, than any outward Persuasion would have as to the opening of the Heart, and the begetting of Faith; therefore his Power, is necessarily called for, and the Lord addeth it in converting Sinners, else the Work would for ever lie behind: And if Men be spiritually dead in Trespasses, (as all Men by Nature are) as real a Power must be exerted in raising and quickening them, as there is exerted in raising and quickening the Dead. 4. It may also be cleared from some in whom this Power is exerted, as some Children, some deaf Persons, and others, whom we cannot deny to be reached by the Grace of God; and yet there can be no other way how they are reached, but by this effectual, efficacious, and immediate powerful Work of the Spirit, they not being capable of Reasoning or Persuasion by force of Argument.
We shall only add two Reasons further, to confirm, and some way to clear, why it is that the Lord works, and must work thus distinctly, inwardly, really, powerfully, and immediately in working Faith, and converting of Sinners. The first is drawn from the exceeding great Deadness, Indisposition, Averseness, Perverseness, Impotency, Inability, and Impossibility that is in us naturally for exercising Faith in Christ. If Men naturally be dead in sins and Trespasses; if the Mind be blind, if the Affections be quite disordered, and if the Will be utterly corrupted and perverted; then that which converts, and changes and renews them, must be a real, inward, peculiar, immediate, powerful Work of the Spirit of God, there being no inward Seed of the Grace of God in them to be quickened: That Seed must be communicated to them, and sown in them ere they can believe, which can be done by no less nor lower Power than that of God's Grace: It's not Oratory, as I have said, nor Excellency of Speech that will do it; it's such a Work as begets the Man again, and actually renews him. The second is drawn from God's End in the Way of giving Grace, communicating it to some and not to others: If God's End in being gracious to some and not to others, be to commend his Grace solely, and to make them alone indebted to Grace, then the Work of Grace in Conversion must be peculiar and immediate, and wrought by the Power of the Spirit of God, leaving nothing to Man's Free-will to difference himself from another, or on which such an Effect should depend: But if we look to Scripture, we shall find, that it's God's End in the whole Way and Conduct of his Grace, in Election, Redemption, effectual Calling, Justification, &c. to commend his Grace solely, and to stop all Mouths, and cut off all ground of boasting in the Creature, as it is, 1 Cor. 4.7. Who makes thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou hast not received? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou didst not receive? This being certain, that if the Work of Grace in Conversion, were not a distinct, inward, peculiar, real, immediate Work, and did not produce the Effect of itself by its own Strength, and not be virtue of any thing in Man; the Man would still be supposed to have had some Power for the Work in himself, and some way to have differenced himself from another; but the Lord hath designed the contrary, and therefore the Work of Grace in Conversion must be suitable to his Design.
Use 1. The first Use is for the Refutation of several Errors, and for the Confirmation of a great Truth of the Gospel, which we profess.
It serves I say, First, for the Refutation of Errors, which in such an Auditory we love not to insist on; yet we cannot here, the Ground being so clear, and the Call so cogent, forbear to say somewhat briefly this way, and the rather that the Devil hath taken many ways, and driven on many Designs, to weaken the Estimation of God's Grace among Men, and to exalt proud Nature; and that there is here a Collection and Concatenation of those Designs and Ways against the Truth, which this Doctrine holds forth, vented by corrupt Men. As 1. They will have nothing to be necessarily applied for the working of Conversion, but the preaching of the Word; taking it for granted that all Men have universal or common Grace, which God by his Sovereignty, say they, was obliged to give, else he could not reasonably require Faith of them; and upon this comes in the pleaded for Power of Free-will, and Man's Ability to turn himself to God: Others by pleading for this Notion of a Light within Men, come to be Patrons of proud and petulant and corrupt Nature, as if there were need of nothing to beget saving Faith but that common Grace within, and Oratory or Suasion of Mouth from without. And hence they came to maintain the foulest Errors, which have not only been condemned by the Church of God in all Ages, but have even by some Papists been abominated; and many of these same Errors are creeping in even in these Times wherein we live; the Design whereof is to tempt Men to turn loose, vain, and proud, and to turn the Grace of God into Wantonness; as if they needed not at all to depend on God and his Grace, having a sufficient Stock within themselves, on which they can live well enough. And it is not only the Errors of Papists, Pelagians, Socinians, Arminians, or Errors in the Judgment that we have to do with; but of such, as overturn the very Foundation of the Work of Man's Salvation; and who, tho' pretending to higher Notions, do yet go beyond all these. But if it be true, that in the Work of Conversion, beside the preaching of the Word, there is a distinct, real, inward, peculiar, immediate, efficacious Work of the Spirit, necessary for bringing about such an Effect; then there is no common or universal Grace that all the Hearers of the Gospel have; nor is there any Power or Ability in Man to believe of himself; otherwise there were no Necessity of such a Work as this for the converting of a Sinner: The Prophet needed not to cry, Who hath believed our Report? And to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed? And Christ needed not say, No man can come to me, except the Father draw him: For Men might come without drawing, and believe without the Revelation of God's Arm. But in opposition to that, we say, and have made it clear, that the Work of Conversion is brought about by a distinct, peculiar, powerful, real, and immediate Work of the Spirit on the Heart, whereby he not only enlightens the Mind, but renews the Will, and rectifies the Affections. 2. There is another Error that this refutes, which seems to be more subtile; for some will grant a necessary Connexion betwixt the Effect, and the Grace of God, who yet say that it is Suasion or Persuasion (for here we take these for the same,) and so and so circumstanced to prevail with some, that brings about the Effect or Work of Conversion in them, and not in others where that Persuasion is not so circumstanced; but this Opinion lays not the Weight of Conversion on the Arm of the Lord, but on some Circumstances accompanying the Work, and leaves still some Ground of boasting in the Creature. 3. A third Error which this Doctrine refutes, is that of some others, who will have Grace necessarily to go along with the Word in the working of Faith, but so as it reacheth not the Will, but that the Will necessarily determines itself, as if the Will were not corrupt, or as if that Corruption that is in the Will were indeed no Corruption, as if that Corruption that is in the Will could be any more removed from the Will without the immediate Work of the Spirit upon it, than Darkness can be removed from the Judgment without the Spirit's immediate Work on it: But seeing the Will is the prime Seat of Man's Perverseness while in Nature, and the principal Part to be renewed; it's a strange thing to say, that in the Work of Conversion, other Faculties and Powers of the Soul must be renewed, and yet that this which comes nearest to the Life of the Soul should be neglected, or not stand in need of Renovation: But from this Text it is clear, that in Conversion the Arm of the Lord must be revealed, and that there is a powerful Work of Grace that not only presents Reasons from the Word to move the Will, but really regenerates and renews the Will: Now what is for the Refutation of these Errors serves also to confirm us in the Truth of the Doctrine opposite to these.
2. It serves to refute something in Men's Practice, and that is, their little Sense of the Need of Grace; Most part come and hear Sermons as if they had the Habit of Faith, and as if it were natural to them, and pretend to the Exercise of Faith, never once suspecting their Want of Faith, nor thinking that they stand in need of such a Work of Grace to work it in them, as if it were impossible for them not to believe; hence many think that they have Grace enough, and if they pray, it's that they may do well, never minding the Corruption of Nature that is in them; and indeed it is no wonder that such Persons fall readily into Error, when their Practice says plainly they think they have Grace enough already.
The second Doctrine is, That this distinct, real, inward, efficacious, powerful Work of the Grace of God in Conversion, is not common to all the Hearers of the Gospel, but is a rare thing applied but to few, and even as rare as Faith. And what we touched on to evidence the Rarity of Faith, will serve also to evidence the Rarity of this Work of Grace in Conversion; It's in as many as are Believers, and are saved, that the Work of Grace is revealed, and no more, Jer. 3.41. I will take one of a City, and two of a Family, and bring you to Zion, saith the Lord; It's two or three in the Corner of a Parish, or in the End of a Town, to speak so, who are converted, and the rest are suffered to lie in black Nature. If the Reason hereof be inquired; this might be sufficient to stop all Mouths, which the Lord gives, Mat. 11.28. Even so Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight; it is of the Lord, who is Debtor to none, and who, as it is, Rom. 9.15. shews Mercy to whom he will, and whom he will he hardens; and here we must be silent, and lay our Hand on our Mouth, and answer no more, all being found guilty; he is just in what he doeth, in calling or not calling effectually, as he pleaseth. And yet, secondly, The Lord hath thought fit to call few of many, for holy and wise Ends. As 1. To hold forth his own Sovereignty, and that he is free, and will walk freely in the dispensing of his own Grace. Hence, he not only takes few, but ordinarily those that are most mean, contemptible, silly, and in a manner foolish, of the Multitude of Hearers; It is not many noble, not many wise, according to the Flesh, not many rich, not many learned, that he chooseth and converteth, very ordinarily he hides his Grace from these; it's but seldom that he calls and takes the stout and valiant Man, and the learned Scholar, but it's this and that poor Man, the Weaver, the Shoemaker, the simple Plow-man, &c. whom most ordinarily he calls, when he suffers others to continue in their Sin. 2. That he may make all the Hearers of the Gospel walk in holy fear and awe of him, he reveals his Grace in few; it's not the Multitude that believes, but here one and there one, that all that have the Offer of Grace may fear lest they miss it and receive it in vain, and may be careful to entertain and make right use of the Means of Grace, and may withal cherish the Spirit in his Motions, and not grieve him. O! If ye knew and believed what a rare Thing the Work of the Spirit of Grace is, ye would be fear'd to quench, extinguish, or put out any of his Motions. 3. As to the Godly, he does thus, to make them admire, adore, and praise his Grace, and the Power of it so much the more.
The Uses are three. 1. It serves to move all to reverence, adore, and admire the Grace of God, and his sovereign Way in it; presume not to debate or dispute with him, because they are few that believe, and few that he hath determined his Grace for; it's an Evidence of his Dread, a Proof of his Sovereignty, in which he should be silently stooped unto, and reverently adored, and not disputed with; we ought to bound all our reasoning within his good Pleasure, who might have taken many, and left few, or taken none as pleased him; and we should not think strange, nor fret that the Gospel is powerful but on few, here is the Reason of it that may quiet us, the Lord hath determined effectually to call but few, and yet he will not want one of his own; All that the Father hath given to Christ shall come to him, tho' none come but as they are drawn. A thing that we should be sensible of, but yet calm and quiet our Spirits, rather wondering that he hath chosen and called some, than fret because he hath past by many.
Use 2. The second Use is to exhort you that are Hearers of the Gospel, and have not had distinct and powerful Work of Grace begetting Faith in you, to be persuaded of this Truth, that Faith and the Work of Grace is no common thing. The most part, alas! think that they have Grace, and that it is but one of many that want it, they will readily say, it's true I cannot believe of myself, but God hath given me the Grace. But I would ask you this Question, Do you think that Grace is so common a Thing that it comes to you, and ye never knew how, or so common that never a Body wants it? If not, how cometh it then to pass that ye think and speak of Grace as ye do? We would think it a great Length, if many of you could be persuaded of your Gracelessness. It's not our Part to point particularly at the Man and Woman, tho the Deeds of many of you say within our Heart, that there is no fear of God before your Eyes, and that many of you think ye have Grace who never had it; and therefore we would say these three or four Things to you. 1. Begin and suspect yourselves that Matters are not right betwixt God and you, we bid none of you despair, but we bid the most Part of you be suspicious of your Condition; suspect, nay, be assured, that Hypocrisy is not Grace, and that your Presumption is not Faith; for if but few get Grace, then many should suspect themselves, and seeing Grace is so rare a Thing, do not ye think it common. 2. Neglect no Means that may bring you through Grace to believe, but be diligent in the Use of them all, of the Word, Prayer, Sacraments, Meditations, &c. It's by these that the Lord begets Grace, and by neglecting them, ye may make yourselves guilty of destroying your own Souls. 3. Beware of quenching the Spirit in any of his Operations or Motions, of smothering or putting out any Challenges or Convictions. If the Conscience be at any time touched, or the Affections tickled, go not away as the temporary Believer doth, sitting down there without going any further. Fear to strangle the Beginnings of the Life of Grace, for Grace may begin at little; and if you quench any Motion, Conviction, or Challenge, ye know not if ever ye shall meet with the like again because when he knocked hard at your Heart, ye held him out and kept him at the Door; and ye may be in hazard of that terrible Charge, Acts 7.31. Ye uncircumcised in Heart and Ears, ye have always resisted the Holy Ghost; as your Fathers did, so do ye. 4. Seeing this Work is not common to all Hearers of the Gospel, but peculiar to some, labour to have it made sure to yourselves, by putting it to Proof and Trial in good earnest.
Use 3. The third Use is for you that are Believers, (and would God there were many such,) to whom I would also speak three or four Words. 1. Learn from this to be humble. What hast thou, Man, but what thou hast received? And if thou hast received it, why dost thou boast, as if thou hadst not received it? O! But it's unsuitable to Believers who are Free-Grace-Debtors and Beggars (whereof yet none need to think Shame,) to be proud and forget themselves: Thou hast nothing, Believer, to boast of, but that he hath favoured thee with his Grace; and shouldest thou be proud of that, as if thou had made thyself thus? Therefore guard watchfully against all puffing up, Self-conceit, and High-mindedness, and study to be humble, and to carry a low Sail, else thou mayest break out into some scandalous Offence, and may become a Shame and Reproach to the Gospel. We commend Humility to you above many Things; for we think that in these Days, Pride is like to break their Necks; for when once Conceit creeps in, they begin to think they are so far advanced in Holiness, that they must not keep company with others, nor join in Worship with them; and from that they go to another thing, and from that to a third, that it is hard to tell where they will halt or end; they grow so giddy, that they are scarce like to leave so much Ground as themselves may stand upon. O! be ashamed of Pride, it's a most intolerable thing to be proud of that which God hath given, wherein ye have no more Hand, and whereof ye can no more boast, than they who never had it. 2. Be thankful and give God the Praise of what ye have gotten; It becomes the Upright to be thankful. It's not a little Matter to have God's Power manifested in the working of Faith and conferring Grace; the temporal Throne and Kingdom, and great Things in the World, are nothing to this, it's peculiar to the Lord's own, and not common: Many get their Fill of the World, who never get, nor will get this; the World is of so little Value with the Lord, that to speak so, he doth not much regard who get it, tho it be exactly distributed by his Providence, but converting and confirming Grace is peculiar to his Favorites; being therefore clear that he hath bestowed Grace on you, O how should ye exult in blessing God (as David did,) for giving you Counsel to make choice of such a Portion, and for his powerful determining your Heart by his Grace to embrace it, for which ye have not yourselves to thank but God. 3. Be compassionate and tender towards others, considering that it is only Grace that hath made the Difference betwixt you and them, and not any good Nature in you, which was not in them as some foolishly fancy. Be not puft up at the Faults and Falls of any, but rather mourn for them as well as for your own, and be the more humble when ye think of the Difference that Grace hath made, lest ye fall; and since your Standing is by Grace, be not high-minded, but fear. Of all Persons it worst becomes you to be unconcerned, and much less to mock at the Falls of others, considering who, and what hath made the Difference. 4. If it be so peculiar a Privilege to be Partakers of this powerful and special Grace of God that is put forth in the great Work of Conversion, then sure there is something peculiar called for in your Conversation, even that it may in all things be as it becometh the Gospel, and answerable to this Grace bestowed on you. O! What manner of Persons ought ye to be in all holy Conversation and Godliness?