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contempt of others. "Some, indeed, preach Christ, even of envy and strife and some also of good will. : The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds." This is a dreadful perverting of the end of these gifts, and says that such are devoted more to their own honour than to the good of souls.
DOCTRINE III. Whatever differences are now among the godly, yet a perfect unity is abiding them, in which they shall all have the same apprehensions and views of spiritual things. To confirm this, consider,
1. The perfect unity of the elect of God, is that which is purchased by the blood of Christ, and therefore must needs take effect. He died, "that he might gather together in one, the children of God that were scattered abroad." Sin has built up a partition wall betwixt God and the elect, as well as others, and a partition dividing them among themselves. The sufferings of Christ, hath meritoriously thrown it down; upon which it must needs follow, that it will be actually thrown down by the Spirit of Christ beginning the work here, and afterwards perfecting it.
2. This unity is prayed for, by the great Mediator, whom the Father heareth always, and whose intercession must needs be effectual, John xvii. 21-23. He came into the world, to make up that rent which sin had made; and he is now at the Father's right haud pursuing the same design, never to leave it till it be perfected.
3. The same Spirit dwells in the head and in all the members, though not in the same measure; the same ointment poured on the high priest's own head, runs down to the skirts of his garments, and anoints all the members of Christ. Hence the apostle presseth unity from the fellowship of the Spirit, they being joint partakers of the one Spirit of God, Phil. ii. 1, 2. This Spirit hath begun that union, and is still at the uniting work; and it consists not with the honour of God, not to perfect that which he hath begun. For which cause the church may confidently say as David, "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands."
4. The occasion of the disordant judgments that are among the people of God, will at length be taken away. There is great darkness now, in those that have the greatest share of light and knowledge. The time we are in this world, is a night in comparison of the day of eternity that is approaching. No wonder we have every one our own mistakes; but where we are going, there is no night there. Now the most knowing, know but in part; but that which
is perfect will come, and then that which is in part will be done away. Now we are but children, and therefore want not our childish conceptions of heavenly things; but when we come to a perfect man, these childish things will be put away. Now we see but
through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now we know but in part, but then shall know as we are known, most clearly and distinctly, as it is said, 1 Cor. xiii. 9-12. So truth being but one, our conceptions of it will be the same, when we shall be perfectly cast into the mould of truth.
USE 1. This lets us see that the people of God will at length arrive at unity of affections, lay aside all their jarrings, animosities, factions and divisions, and cordially embrace each other in the arms of perfect love. For the fountain being stopped, the streams must needs become dry; difference of judgment being that which occasions such discord and alienation of affections. This may comfort the godly, oppressed now with grief, because of these differences that are among the Lord's people.
2. It may let us see the odious nature of divisions and discords among professors. These tell us we are yet abroad, not at home. They look like the earth, and very unlike heaven. "Therefore," says Paul, "while one saith I am of Paul, and another I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal." When we are better Christians, we will be more peaceable, and leave off to devour one another were we once in the ark above.
USE 2. Of exhortation. This serves to urge us to several duties. 1. To labour for unity, and "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." "It is a pleasant thing for brethren to dwell in unity. It makes the church strong and terrible to enemies; whereas divisions do exceedingly weaken her, and make her a prey to the enemy. Blessed be the Lord for that unity which is yet among the ministers of this church; and long may it last, for be it broken when it will, the success of the gospel which is little now, will be less then. Men will be readily converted to a party, but few will be converted to Christ.
2. Let us bear with one another in love; knowing we are yet in the body, and have need of compassion. Let us pursue the quarrel against an ungodly world, enemies to God and godliness, because there is no hope of meeting in heaven to compose the difference; but see we any with their faces towards the heavenly Canaan, O let us not fall out by the way.
3. Let us long for heaven as the place where we will be happy. For motive hereto, consider,
DOCTRINE. IV. That the church of Christ shall at length arrive
at its full growth in glory, as a man come to perfect age. Then shall it be perfect in parts, every member being brought in, and in degrees every member being at its full growth. How does the heir long till the time of his minority be overpast, that he may get the inheritance in his hands. There is an eternal weight of glory abiding a state of perfection, when we shall know no more clouds of darkness and ignorance, no more weakness; but the weakest shall be as David, and David as the angel of God. When no corruption shall be in our mind, will, or affections; when faith shall be turned to sight, hope to enjoyment.
DOCTRINE V. Then, and not till then, comes the church to perfection, when every member thereof, is brought to a perfect conformity with Christ, bearing a just proportion to him, as members proportioned to the head. This will certainly come to pass. Mystical Christ is yet growing; the head is at perfection, but the members some of them are yet wanting: none of them that are here below, are grown up to the just proportion, but till that be, mystical Christ is not perfect. This is a certain argument that it shall be. Christ will not always have his body so disproportioned to the head. An infinitely holy head, will at length have perfectly holy members. The head that has now got above all temptations, will certainly draw the feet out of the reach of Satan and corruption. The head that has got above the waters of the shadow of death and corruption, will certainly make our vile bodies like his glorious body; and as he arose from death, and now it hath no more dominion over him, so will he confirm our souls and bodies in a glorious state of immortality. All which may make believers long for that blessed day, and endeavour to antedate heaven's happiness as far as they can, in the pursuit of conformity to Christ, and growing up to that blessed head; remembering that all their backslidings and decays dishonour him egregiously, in so disfiguring his body and disproportioning his members. For direction how to go on to this perfection, take
DOCTRINE VI. As is our faith and knowledge of Christ, so is our growth and perfection. It is the knowledge of Christ, that introduces us to the blessed state of perfection. The more we believe in, and know Christ, the nearer are we to perfection; and when these are come to their perfection, then are we at our full growth.
Let us then, that are ministers, make this our great work, to get people to close with Christ, and get acquainted with him. O! if we could preach Christ, live Christ, and make him the scope of our life and doctrine, it would be well. Let all of us study to know him. The nearest way to perfection is knowledge; and all things else
necessary to salvation is to know Christ, who is that body of divinity which the Spirit of God teaches his scholars, "for God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face Jesus Christ." Amen.
November 10, 1706.
BELIEVERS HAVING TRIBULATION IN THE WORLD.
JOHN XVI. 33,
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
THIS is a dark and gloomy day, in which there seems to be a black cloud of wrath hanging over our heads; which if mercy prevent not, is like to fall heavy upon us; yet the storm never blows so hard, but the children of God may have peace; being, though upon a sea, yet in a ship that cannot sink. Our text is the conclusion of our Lord's farewell sermon to his disciples, in which we have the use and end of the whole, namely, that they might have peace. While he discoursed to them, he had in view their peace; that is inward peace and prosperity, contentment and quietness of mind in the midst of trouble. All this they might have in him; being united to him by faith, they might have peace in him, as Noah had in the ark, while the deluge was on the earth. His own word was the mean by which they were thus to obtain peace in him. This word leads the soul to Christ, where it may get peace, and teaches how to employ Christ for peace. "Unless thy law," says David, "had been my delight, I should then have perished in mine affliction."
We have next the necessity of his speaking these things to them for that end. "In the world ye shall have tribulation." In this world they must lay their account to meet with tribulation. In heaven there is no trouble, in earth no rest. They shall have trouble in and from the world, as they have peace in and from Christ. Observe the certainty of all this; it is not, you may have,
but, "you shall have tribulation." They have no reason to be surprised with trouble. He warns them of it. There is no eviting of it. It is the common way to heaven, no going there otherwise.
We have also the duty of the Lord's people in tribulation, or under the fears of it, "Be of good cheer." (Greek), Be confident, over the belly of all you may meet with in the world. Keep up your hearts, faint not. The comfort is, Christ has overcome the world, and therefore though it may wound you, it shall not destroy you; and as surely as Christ himself has overcome, so surely shall ye overcome.
DOCTRINE 1. Jesus Christ freely forewarns his people of the trouble with which they are to meet in his way.
Here we shall shew First, how; and Secondly, why he forewarns them.
I. We are to shew how the Lord forewarns his people.
1. He forewarns them by his word. So he does here in the text. Now Christ speaks to us by his written word, and by his ministers, whom he has set as watchmen, to blow the trumpet and give warning. In the glass of the word they may discern troubles coming on. The Scriptures are like a weather-glass, in which the people of God may discern by parallel cases, what may be expected in such and such circumstances.
2. By the dispensations of providence. There are signs of the times, Matth. xvi. 3. These are, 1. Ordinary; when a people is brought to such circumstances as naturally tend to some heavy judgment. Thus our Lord said, "every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand." This seems to be our case at present. The divisions among our rulers in the important matter now in hand, and divisions among others on the same point, say that if God do not interpose by a miracle of providence for our help, we may be in a sad case ere long, 2 Kings vi. 27. Surely there is a sad infatuation on some side; while some look upon it as the way to make us happy, and others as the way to make us and our posterity miserable. 2. Extraordinary. Extraordinary operations in natural things, Luke xxi. 25. By such means the Lord has warned us, and these extraordinary rains may possibly have a voice to stir us up. Sometimes the Lord writes the fate of a nation upon the walls of the great house of the world, as he did Belshazzar's on the walls of his palace.
II. We are to shew why Christ forewarns his people.
1. To take away the scandal of the cross. Often did our Lord tell his disciples what he was, and what they were to suffer, that