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us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us unto himself, a peculiar people zealous of good works." Believers are united and married to Christ for this very purpose, "that they might bring forth fruit unto God." But let it here suffice, that the mystery of Christ is in general determined to be great. "Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."
2. That the faith of these mysteries is the channel, and the only channel of true morality acceptable in the sight of God. Whatever other way vain man may think to arrive at a temper of spirit and course of life pleasing to God, call it holiness or virtue, which they please, this Bible acknowledges no way of sanctification of a sinner, but in Christ, united to him by faith, 1 Cor. i. 2; Acts xxvi. 18; and true moral virtue another way produced, is as great an absurdity in the doctrine of Christianity, as fruit brought forth by a branch separated from the stock, John xv. 5.
USE. This shews the vanity and self-deceiving, 1. Of those who hug themselves in their pretended faith of the glorious mysteries of the gospel; but in the meantime their faith of them, such as it is, never makes them a whit more holy nor tender in the practice of moral duty, but leaves them at liberty there. I would say to such, as James doth, "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead." Vain are such means as reach not the end, the meat that does not nourish, the clothes that do not warm; so vain is that faith of the gospel mysteries to thee, that do not sanctify thee, and make thee careful of moral duty. 2. Of those who hug themselves in their pretended moral duties and virtues, separate from the faith of the glorious mysteries of the gospel, and running in a different channel, that being left bare, as fitted only for speculation. Such rationalists bewray their natural blindness and ignorance of the mystery of Christ with the Pharisees their predecessors, rejecting the counsel of God as weak and ineffectual, Luke vii. 30, which yet is the power of God and the wisdom of God, 1 Cor. i. 24. What wisdom then is there in them?
DOCTRINE. II. It is the duty of husbands to love their wives, and that in such a manner as Christ loved his church; looking upon them as a piece of themselves. This is the principal doctrine of this part of the text; but having been already handled on the 25th and 28th verses, I shall pass it over with this reflection, that no doctrine carries morality to that height of purity and beneficialness to mankind which the doctrine of Christ doth. So that it is quite evi
dent, that the greatest masters of reason are not the best Christians; that there is an understanding necessary for discerning the truths of the gospel in their native beauty, of which men are by nature destitute, of which the apostle speaks, when he says, " And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life."
DOCTRINE III. Close application of the truths of the word, and coming over the same truths again and again, is necessary for our getting benefit by them.
The reason of the former is, because of that aversion that is in our nature to spiritual truths, founded upon the tendency that is in them to holiness, on which account our unholy nature lies cross to them, because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Hence men naturally ward them off, as the refractory bullock does the yoke. While they are kept from being closely applied, the corruption of nature is not hurt by them; but being closely applied, it must needs lose ground. Thus David's conscience remained peaceable, though impure, while Nathan held his parable in the general. But when he applied it to him in particular, saying, thou art the man, he fell like a bird shot from a tree.
The reason of the latter is, because impressions received easily wear off our spirits, and need therefore to be renewed. These that hear the gospel only to get their judgments informed, and therefore cannot be entertained unless they hear some new thing, do shew that they have little judgment of their own case; what upstiring their heart and affections need. "Wherefore," says Peter, "I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though you know them, and be established in the present truth." USE. This serves to direct both preachers and hearers,
1. To making close application of spiritual truths. Let us who are ministers aim at applying our doctrines close to the case of our hearers; take it close home to our own particular case, that we starve not ourselves while we feed others. And let hearers make every sermon a looking-glass for themselves, by taking home the word to themselves. All the good which sinners get of the law, of its commandments for their conviction of sin and duty, or of its threatenings and denounced curse, for their conviction of their misery and discovering their need of Christ, comes by close application of its commands, threatenings, and curse, to them in particular. And all the good to be gotten of the gospel promise, is by a believing application of it to ourselves, for our justification, sactification, and
eternal welfare. As the belief of the law, in general, without particular application, will never awaken the secure sinner; so the belief of the promise of the gospel in general, without particular application, will never give the awakened sinner rest to his soul.
2. That a seasonable and discreet inculcating of the same truths be not grievous to either of us, preachers or hearers. "To write the same things to you," says Paul, "to me, indeed, is not grievous, but for you it is safe."
DOCTRINE IV. Christian husbands prove themselves Christians indeed, even in the love of their wives, by their displaying the influence of the pattern of Christ's love on their hearts therein, and of the ordinance of God, making them one flesh in their consciences. Their hearts are influenced by the one, and their consciences by the other, to love their wives.
USE 1. Hence learn that religion extends to the whole of our conduct; that whatever we do, we are to carry it along with us, and act by the rules of it. In every relation we must carry as Christians.
2. It is not enough that we love our relatives, and live peaceably with them, from natural principles of good humour, or in acceptableness to us for their personal qualities. If that is all, "what do we more than others? do not even the publicans so." It is necessary to prove us Christians that we be influenced to this by the example of Christ, and the ordinance and command of God having weight on our consciences.
DOCTRINE V. and last. Wives that would approve themselves to God in that relation, must carefully take notice of that superiority over them with which God hath invested their husbands, to reverence them on that account, and so submit themselves to them in the Lord.
All I shall say on this head, shall be comprised in these two things:
1. There is nothing unreasonable or unbecoming in this, whatever you conceive your excellency to be. For, in effect, it is but submitting to God and reverencing his authority, whom I hope you allow to lodge it in whom he will. You claim that liberty among your own servants, to invest one of them with authority over the rest; and you challenge your authority in that servant to be regarded by the rest. This is the very case with respect to your husband. God has appointed him the superior servant. It is the ordinance of God. "I would have you know," says Paul, "that the
head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God."
2. All inferiority in relations is a situation in which God hath us on our trials for the other world; taking trial of us what regard we will pay to his authority at second hand. All superiors of divine appointment, being to their relatives so far in the place of God, Psal. lxxxii. 6. So then, since it must be with us eternally, according as we regard the authority of God, or regard it not, now; and in such inferiority the trial is taken of us, what regard we have to it. We may easily perceive how deep this matter draws; and for evidence that God does that way take trial of us for the other world, you need but consider that, when time is at an end, all that inferiority of one of us to another is gone, because the time of trial is over, and so there is no more use for it. "When he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power." No more subjection of wives to husbands, children to parents, people to magistrates or ministers. The more need, then, while the trial lasts, to approve yourselves to God as reverencers of his authority wherever he is pleased to lodge it.
Selkirk, January 2, 1728.
MYSTERY OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM KNOWN TO BELIEVERS.
MARK iv. 11,
And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.
As the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, and the wisdom of God reckoned foolishness by the blind world; so, in all ages, the one part of mankind hath reckoned the other fools, according as they have followed these different sorts of wisdom. Sinners think saints fools; and saints know sinners to be fools. Tracing this to its original, it will be found to arise from that very different light in which spiritual things appear to the several parties, as saith the text. In which we have two things:
1. The spiritual privilege of some, with respect to the kingdom
By the kingdom of
of God: "Unto you it is given to know," &c. God, is meant the kingdom of the Messiah. style among the Jews in the days of our Saviour, Luke xvii. 20; xix. 11. But they quite mistook the nature of it, and fancying it would be a kingdom of worldly pomp and grandeur, they knew it not when it was set up among them; and rejected Christ as the king of it, because he appeared not in the splendour in which they apprehended the king-messiah would appear. However, Christ, being the Messiah, his kingdom is the kingdom of God. His kingdom was a mystery which they could not understand; but unto some it was given of God to know the mystery; and these being opposed to such as were without, it is plain by them is meant such as were within it, that is, the true subjects of it.
2. The state of darkness and blindness in which others were, with respect to that subject, the kingdom of God. To them that are without the kingdom, who are not the subjects of it, but of the kingdom of the devil, all these things, or the all that concerns that kingdom, is under a vail; as things proposed in a parable, which the hearers understand not.
The scope and substance of these words, we may take up in these four points, upon each of which I would enlarge a little:
I. There is a kingdom of Christ erected among men, which is the kingdom of God.
II. The kingdom of Christ is a mysterious kingdom.
III. It is the privilege of the subjects of Christ's kingdom, to know the mystery of it.
IV. It is the misery of those without the kingdom of Christ, that they know it not, more than a parable which they do not understand. We shall attend to these in their order:
I. There is a kingdom of Christ erected among men, which is the kingdom of God. Here we consider only two things, namely, the erecting of the kingdom, and the extent of it.
1. The erecting of this kingdom. Concerning this, observe three things:
1. The erector of it. He who set it up. That was the Father. "I have set my king," says he, "upon my holy hill of Zion." Therefore it is called the kingdom of God. It is different from his eternal kingdom. The kingdom of Messiah is a mediatory kingdom, of which some men, and not all, are subjects. It is a delegated kingdom, of which Christ is the king by delegation and commission from the Father. To put his title to it out of question, he was anointed king of it, namely, by the Holy Spirit, Isa. lxi. 1.
2. The cause for which it was erected was the recovery of lost VOL. IV.