THE word of God gives an account of three sorts of poor, one of which you have in Exod. 22:25, where the literally poor are intended. It says, if you lend him money, you shall not take usury. Another sort of poor, spiritually, but ignorant of it, you have in Revelation. When writing to the church of Laodicea, Christ says, "Thou knowest not that thou art poor, wretched, miserable, blind, and naked." (3:17) But the third sort of poor is what I have in view, and, by the help and blessing of God, I will dwell largely upon it, and show you a scriptural account of a poor person, or, as my text says, "The person of the poor."
1. The first branch of poverty that I shall mention is, when God is pleased to quicken a man to feel the depravity of his own heart, his awful state by nature. The man feels himself in the strongholds of sin and Satan. He vows, he resolves, he labors, and strives to break off his old ways; but cannot; for God says, when the Ethiopian can change his skin, and the leopard his spots, then they who are accustomed to do evil may learn to do well. The way God does this is by putting a strong fear in our heart. Hence Solomon says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." A beautiful description you have of it in Ps. 69, where the psalmist is giving an account of his own experience. He says, the waters, that is, the wrath of God, were come into his soul. He sinks in deep mire. God takes no notice of his prayer. He is weary of his crying while he waits for God. Then comes hatred from the children of men; and Solomon says, "The poor is hated even of his own neighbour." Then the psalmist fasts. God, therefore, had quickened him, for a dead man cannot fast, for he will feed on the vanities of this world. The psalmist goes on with the account of what opposition he met with from the wicked, till his heart was broken, and then he sums it all up together, as it were, in verse 29: "I am poor and sorrowful;" but "the Lord heareth the poor."
2. Another branch of poverty lies in being shut up in unbelief; for though the sinner has faith, yet, at the first going off, it always lays hold of the threatenings, and it is generally a long while before it can lay hold of the promises; and thus it is that a person may hear the word, be convinced of his need of Christ as he is preached, and feel himself lost, to all intents and purposes, without him. But, Sirs, though God has made you willing to receive him, there you will stay for 20 years if he does not work in you to do, and that is to work faith in your heart; for Christ is to dwell in the heart by faith, and all riches are in him. Hence you read of "the unsearchable riches of Christ."
3. Furthermore, the sinner feels himself under sentence of death, condemned for the want of righteousness. He reads the word of God, and finds the Scripture plain on this head, that the unrighteous shall not enter the kingdom of God. He looks at his actions, and finds them all wrong. He is condemned. He tries to appear cheerful, and make the world think that he is all right. But, alas, alas! He gets worse and worse; for, as Job says, "Though I make myself never so clean, yet wilt thou plunge me in the ditch, and my own clothes (or righteousness) shall abhor me." And what can put on righteousness? Why faith. "The righteousness of Christ is to all and upon all them that believe."
4. One thing more upon this head, and that is, while in this poor state there is a broken law against us. We are enlightened to see the spirituality of it, and to feel the bondage of it. It is, as Paul says, a voice of words, or contention. It finds fault with all we do. We think sometimes we do tolerably well; but it finds fault with whatever we do. It is a handwriting of ordinances, against us and contrary to us. Why? Because everything it requires we are diametrically opposite to. It calls for love; we are enmity. It calls for holiness; we are sin. It calls for perfection; we are nothing but imperfection. But when we are enabled to believe, then, as Peter says, we are justified (through believing) freely from all things, from which we never could be by the law of Moses.
5. Another branch of poverty consists in our not being happy partakers of the Holy Ghost. The reason I say happy is, because such a one as I have been speaking of has got the Spirit of God, or he could not feel his need of all these things.
Now I will notice a few blessings that the ever-blessed Spirit brings when he comes as a Comforter. "But," say you, "is that scriptural, what you have been describing of a poor person being shut up in unbelief?" I answer, "Yes;" for God has chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith. Now, if my riches lay in my faith, it is plain my poverty lies in my unbelief. Now for a few of those blessings that the Spirit brings. I might mention a hundred, but I will confine myself to six; and in those six you have all the rest.
1. Justification. Now, before this comes, what is there against me? I answer, first, God: "I will be a swift witness," etc. (Mal. 3:5) Next, Moses, in the law accuseth you: "Even Moses, in whom you trust." (John 5:45) Next, Satan; for he is called, "the accuser of the brethren." Next, there is conscience. Paul says, thoughts and conscience accuse, etc. (Rom. 2:15) Next, hypocrites, worldly people, and sometimes even God's children, "every tongue" rising against us in judgment. "Yes; but not God's people," say you. Then what does David mean when he says, "Let the righteous smite me," etc.? And Hart, in his hymn:
"From sinner and from saint,
He meets with many a blow?"
Yes; all these are against us. But when God is pleased, in consequence of what Christ has done, to pronounce us just, then all our accusers are silenced. God himself accuses, as you may see in the case of Ephraim: "Is Ephraim my dear son, is he a pleasant child? For since I speak against him (in the law), I do earnestly remember him still (in Christ Jesus)." (Jer. 31:20) And you have his poverty in verse 28, when he was bemoaning himself. Moses, in a broken law, accuses; but the law is not made for a righteous man. Satan, the accuser of the brethren, accuses; but what does the Scripture say? "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan." Before this, he stood at the right hand of Joshua. Now, that you may be sure before justification is poverty, only take what David says: "God shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul." (Ps. 109:31) Conscience accuses; but Paul says, God has "sprinkled our hearts from an evil conscience;" (Heb. 10:22) so that, says he, "my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Ghost." Lastly. All our opposers accuse us, as you may see in the case of Job; but his friends that had condemned him were forced to make him high priest: "Go to my servant Job, and let him pray for you, and offer a sacrifice, and him will I accept, lest I deal with you according to your folly." (Job 42:8) And likewise, with David, you may see the same: "By this I know thou favourest me, because mine enemies have not triumphed over me." And this is agreeable to the Lord's own promise. Hence you read: "No weapon (intimating there are many weapons) formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment (when under the trial) thou shalt condemn." (Isa. 54:17)
Now, the Spirit brings these things to the poor and needy; as the apostle Paul says, "We are justified in the name of the Lord, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:11) You may see the advice that is given to the poor; and had they felt their need, they would have taken the advice: "I counsel thee to buy of me eyesalve, and anoint thine eyes with it, that thou mayest see." But it was with them as it was with those who were invited to the supper; and ever will be, unless we are brought to feel our spiritual poverty. They made excuse, and, as Stephen told his accusers, we shall ever resist the Holy Ghost, being by nature uncircumcised in heart and ears.
2. But another benefit arising from being a partaker of the blessed Spirit is, access to God the Father by a Mediator. All the time we are under conviction, our prayers are shut out; at least we have no comfortable answers. We may have a little encouragement now and then, to keep us pressing on; but nothing like when we are delivered in soul; hence the language of Jeremiah, while in this poor state of soul, "When I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer;" and God's delaying to answer very often discourages us, till, like Job, we refrain prayer before God, which shows how much we are indebted to the Holy Spirit; for, being so poor, as Paul says, "We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit helps our infirmities;" that is, helps them out of the way; and this is agreeable to his own promise: "For the Lord heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners." (Ps. 69:33) Thus all along you may see the person of the poor clearly by what he is when made rich, not in himself, but in Christ Jesus, in whom it has pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell. And now this nearness is owing to the Holy Spirit, as Paul says: "For through him we both have access," but it is "by one Spirit unto the Father."
3. Another benefit arising from the blessed Spirit is holiness; for without this no man can see the Lord. Now, there is a deal of holiness in the world, such as it is; but when God shines into our hearts, we can at once see that we are altogether unholy. And though Job boasted of his holiness for a whole chapter, yet at last he declares he only had heard of God by the hearing of the ear; but when his eyes saw him, he abhorred himself, and repented in dust and ashes. And any man that wishes to be honest may try himself here; and that is, if God has never pardoned your sins, but left you at ease in Zion, you will see yourself holier and holier; but if he is reconciled in Christ Jesus towards you, and has possession of your heart, you will see yourself altogether sin, or unholy, or, in plain English, like the devil. Only take these two texts. Solomon says, "There is a generation pure in their own eyes; but never washed from their filthiness." But what does God say shall be the effect of reconciliation, pardon, and friendship? Why, this: "Then shall you remember your own evil ways, which were not good, and loathe (that is different from being pure) yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities, when I am pacified towards you, saith the Lord." And in that loathing lies their poverty; hence the psalmist: "My wounds stink and are corrupt, because of my foolishness; my loins are filled with a loathsome disease." We have a little of the Pharisee's boasting in Isa. 65:5, Stand by thyself; come not near unto me; I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose," etc. But the language of a child of God is always different from that. Hence Jeremiah, who was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb, declares the heart to be deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
Now, our poverty lies here. We know that God is holy, and we look within, and see nothing but unholiness. There is not a corruption that we used to delight in, in a state of nature, but we feel as if we are in full possession of, the unpardonable sin not excepted. Hence David says, "Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins," etc. And then the soul argues thus: "How is it possible that one so holy as God and one so unholy as I am can come together?" I answer, "It is impossible, in one sense; for the corrupt nature you bring into the world with you is never to go to glory; by no means. God's end in view is this, that you may be effectually convinced that you are a sinner by nature, birth, and practice; that, all your false hopes and props being pulled from under you, you may have all fullness in Christ Jesus--all that heart can wish in the Covenant Head. Hence it is said that he is made of God to us wisdom (For fools), righteousness (for condemned criminals), sanctification (for the filthy), and redemption (to such who have sold themselves). Thus you see the end of God has in view.
Now, the Spirit brings all this. As Paul says, "Know you not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, as God hath said, I will dwell in them?" etc. This, agreeable to what I said the Spirit was to us, is always given to us after we have been well disciplined by the chastening hand of God, made sick of our own way, and, as Christ says, to hate our own life; and so says Paul: "Now, no chastening for the present (while in this poor state) is joyous, but grievous;" but it is "for our profit, that we might be partakers (comfortably so) of his holiness." In one sense, we are partakers of his Spirit the first moment we have life; for "it is the Spirit that quickeneth."
4. Another benefit we receive from the blessed Spirit is peace. The Scripture is plain upon this, that all the time we are in a state of nature, destruction and misery are in all our ways, and the way of peace we know not. And again: "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." And this is another branch of our poverty, when we are made to feel it; for he hedges up our way with thorns, and we labor hard to be at peace with God. We take a survey of our life; and the more we look at that, the more we tremble. We find that God opposes us in all our pursuits. All this time Christ is hid. If we had been brought up Calvinists in head, it matters not; conscience will condemn us in everything. I remember how hard I used to labor to have peace in my conscience by dead works; but God always followed me up, and, as Hezekiah says, instead of peace, I had nothing but bitterness. It is this that makes our life a burden. Generally, under this chastisement, there shall be plenty of opposition at home, in the family; as Christ says, "Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth, but a sword (out of his right hand went a fiery law); and what will I do if it be already kindled?" etc. Add to this family affliction, crosses in trade, oppression, life hanging in doubt, a burdened conscience, a workhouse we think in this world, and, as it appears, damnation for ever. This is the reverse of peace, and a feeling sense of our poverty. O, in such times, the least gleam of hope in the mercy of God, how valuable! "Yes," say you, "or a little false peace; it does not signify." In saying so, you lie, in the name of God; for one in such distress is afraid the trouble will go off the wrong way before he is led to Christ Jesus; and were you to go to such a one, and tell him that God will not be so strict to his law, that he is not so terrible as some people say, he would hate you, and all such daubing with untempered mortar; but a hypocrite loves it, and therefore they say, "Prophesy smooth things; prophesy deceits;" and they that lead them do as their hearers wish, for they cry, "Peace, peace;" and the people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end thereof? But real peace is the effect of faith, joy, and peace in believing. It is the effect of righteousness, which is peace and assurance for ever. It is a gift of Christ, and his last legacy to his disciples: "My peace give I unto you." It is to be enjoyed by communion and fellowship with Christ, and the enjoyment of a good conscience. We are to have it in a dying hour: "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace." By end, I understand death; so you see death puts an end to a false peace. (What will you do in the end thereof?) But is there an end to the perfect man? No; he shall enter into peace. "But," say you, "does the Spirit bring us to the enjoyment of what you have been mentioning, namely peace?" Yes; it is one of his fruits: "The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace."
5. I now proceed to the fifth benefit we receive from the blessed Spirit, which is strength. Now, in a natural state we suppose ourselves to be very strong; and therefore the Scripture says, "Let not the strong man glory in his strength." But hear the language of some in Scripture, who have been made to feel their weakness. It is s said Samson went out, as at other times, to shake himself; but wist not that the Lord had departed from him. Paul says, "I will glory in my infirmities; for when I am weak, then am I strong." "Ah!" say you, "that has often discouraged me. I have felt myself so weak, and temptations so strong, and, as David says, 'my enemies so lively and strong,' that I have thought it impossible to hold out one day after another." I do not doubt what you say; but remember, there is not one promise belongs to you till you are brought to feel your weakness; so that, upon the whole, you may cast up your accounts with Paul, and say, "Therefore I take pleasure in reproaches," etc. And here lies your encouragement, the fulfillment of the promise; "My strength is made perfect in your weakness;" "When your strength is all gone, and there is none shut up, I will appear," etc; "Let the weak say, I am strong;" "In the Lord we have righteousness and strength." "Lord," says one, "we have no might against this great army;" but, says God, "The battle is the Lord's; and the angel of the Lord went forth and slew them."
This strength is only enjoyed by virtue of union with Christ. Hence it is said, "Be strong in the Lord," etc.; and it is given to us by the Spirit; as one says, "I am full of power by the Spirit;" and Paul says, "Strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man."
6. This brings me to the sixth thing we receive from the blessed Spirit, which is the love of God; and this crowns all, or, I may say, swallows up all the rest. Now, no man has this love by nature. So says John, "Not that we loved God," etc. No, says Paul, "the carnal mind is enmity against God;" and Christ declares that the Pharisees hated both him and his Father; and Paul declares, we are by nature children of wrath, even as others. Then how do we come by this love? It is the effect of nothing but the good will of God: "God so loved the world." What is the cause? There is no cause, only because he would love them. "But," say you, "I want to know whether he loves me." Ah, that is the point. Sensible poverty proves the whole of it,--spiritual poverty. It lies in being made to smart inwardly for my faults, to have the native hardness of my heart removed, and to have keen feelings, a very tender conscience. God will look to and dwell with him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembles at his word.
You may know his love, in the next place, by this,--when you sit under the word faithfully preached, it will censure and condemn you, so that it will be like a knife to your heart. Perhaps, under these feelings, you will come home grumbling and finding fault, saying the preacher is too narrow, and try to condemn him, but only let an enemy, a hypocrite, say a word against him, and you will find yourself injured, and you will fly at him immediately. Well; this shows love; for "he that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me." And David says, "I hate them with perfect hatred," etc. "Yes," say you, "I can see this proves I have a little love to him; but he may not love me." That is impossible. I say, that is impossible; for he says, "I love them that love me."
Another proof that he loves you is, by the word coming home with power to your heart. I do not mean the reproving power only, but the same word, in the power of it, is profitable for doctrine as well as reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness; and though the word does not rebuke you, yet at times there will be a word of encouragement. And these will be your thoughts as the minister goes on: "Well; I certainly have felt that." This encourages. Then comes something sharp. "Ah," say you, "I am wrong, for that condemns me." Then you sink. After that he comes very low, and points out your case; and it may be a word of a hymn; or the minister may be very earnest in his last prayer. And then say you upon the whole, "I think I shall one day know these things;" but before you get half way home, the devil will come and say, "You know you were out of temper on such a day, and you said a bad word at such a time, and such a besetting sin overcomes you;" and then down you go into the horrible pit, and give up all for that time. And I am sure you would rise no more, were it not for the blessed Spirit. He sometimes enlightens us in Scripture to see similar circumstances; and thus we keep on, blessed be his name; till at last, when brought into great straits, he sends his word and effectually heals us.
Now, to be under chastisement, to find the word reprove and rebuke you, and not to know your election, this is poverty; but, for all that, it is the first step to true riches. You know, literally, that none know the value of riches like those who have been in very low, poor circumstances; and it is the same in a spiritual sense. And this love comes from the blessed Spirit,--"the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given to us."
Thus I have showed the six things the blessed Spirit gives us.
I have mentioned several things relative to this poor person while in this state of poverty. The next thing, by God's help, is to point out at large the reasons of his poverty; for I mean to trace him through this world and into the next; and you will see that though here he is esteemed as the offscouring of all things, it will terminate in everlasting riches.
There are ten reasons why he should be so poor: 1. That he may know what power Satan has over him. It is said that the devil reigns and rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience; and though we are very powerful, and by nature all Arminians, yet we very shortly find out, as Job says, that we are holden with the cords of affliction, or, as the Church of England says, tied and bound with the cords of our sins. We think likewise, "Well, I have been a most profane wretch to be sure, but I must turn over a new leaf; it is a long lane that has no turning." And if we tell such that they are possessed of the devil, they will say, "What! Do you really believe there is a devil?" But when God shines into the heart, we see not only that we ourselves, but in time that the world at large is possessed with the devil. Yea, I will go further. We believe that moralists, professors of every rank, let them call themselves Calvinists, Arminians, Baptists, or what they will, if they know nothing of this very poverty, we believe the devil is in them all. "We," says John, "are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness," the same as a child lies in the nurse's arms. We likewise feel and see Satan's unwearied diligence. How hard he labored to get Peter down. He hath "desired to have you," says Christ. "Yes," says Peter, "he walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." It was he that made David number the people. He is called a foul spirit. He will work in every nerve you have, upon all the lusts of the flesh, such as you hardly ever thought of in a state of nature. Sometimes, while at prayer, he will set beautiful objects before you, and tempt you by the hour to every unclean gratification. It was in this way he worked in David, in the incestuous person, and as he does in every unregenerate man and woman, "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind," etc. "Yes," say you, "I know he does in them, but not in the elect." I say he does not work half so hard in them as he does in the elect, because he makes the former do, but tempts the others. If it is not so, why does Paul say, "Mortify, therefore, your members which are on the earth?" I myself have felt a deal of his tyranny. I might mention more; but I proceed.
2. Another reason why a man should be so poor is that he may know, not only that Satan, but that sin reigns. This is evident in every class of men on the earth (elect or non-elect). By nature we are all under the dominion of sin. The Pharisee labors hard to get from that power; but all in vain. The Roman Catholics likewise, though I need not make any distinction, how hard they work with their absolution, holy water, extreme unction, fastings, prayers, pilgrimages, penances, etc. What do you suppose it is all for? Nothing but sin. They feel the lashes of an accusing conscience; and this keeps them at it; and when the Ethiopian can change his skin or the leopard his spots, then may they who are accustomed to do evil learn to do well. It is this, and nothing else, that makes men so liberal in a dying hour who have been as covetous as the devil all their life. Hence their almshouses, hospitals, etc., as if possible to fall in with this text: "Charity covers the multitude of sins." Fast days, thanksgiving days, salt-fish days, prayers at church ten or twenty times a week, etc. But for all this, sin reigns. "And after all," say you, "what is to remove the reigning power of sin?" One thing and nothing else, and that is the atonement: "The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin."
Now, working hard at the Ten Commandments (under the law, the Spirit quickening us) makes us feel what dominion, sin has; for Paul says, "The strength of sin is the law," by the application of which we know we are sinners. "By the law is the knowledge of sin." The strength, or natural power, we have is burnt up in the fiery furnace of affliction; and such feelings as these make such a promise as this sweet, when applied: "Sin shall not have dominion," etc.' for we think sin reigns, not being able, as yet, to distinguish the new nature from the old.
3. Another reason of our poverty is to know that death reigns. "It is appointed to all men once to die," etc. By sin came death; but death temporal would be nothing were it not for death eternal. Now were we never in bondage to the fear of death, we should not know the power of its reign. How needful these lessons are; but very hard teaching it is.
Thus you see there is a three-fold reign that we are under in a state of nature--Satan, sin, and death; their authority, when quickened, we feel; and our poverty brings us to know all of them.
4. It is that we may know how strong God is to what the devil is. Hence the scripture: "When a strong man armed keeps possession of the palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he shall come upon him and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils." (Luke 11:21,22) Now when God takes us in hand first, and suffers the devil to tempt us, for a long time, every temptation that comes is suitable; and down we go; but when delivered, God's power is put forth.
5. It is that we may know the insufficiency of all human religion. We first begin with reformation, especially if we have been loose livers; then to the Church; perhaps next too the meeting; then we get a set of notions, join a church, get our heads stuffed with the Assembly's Catechism, and so on; and from this we are respected, and if God bless us in providence, we may get such a good name from professors that we may be a deacon, chatter away at prayer-meetings four or five times a week, and appear so devout that the next thing that seems necessary is a pulpit. "Well," say you, "I think if a person arrives at what you have been describing, such are children of God." Then I say, "Hell is full of such; and if you can go no further, you will be damned, as sure as there is a God." When God takes us in hand, he strips us of all this trumpery. How Job was stuffed with it; but God stripped him and made him so poor that it is a proverb to this day, "As poor as Job," literally, besides the stripping off of what I have mentioned.
6. It is to bring us upon our knees. In a natural state, or with such a religion as I have mentioned, we may carry a pocketful of prayers; but what is the use of them when we are brought into this poor state? "Lord," said the disciples, "teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." He did not seem to contradict them, but gave them the Lord's prayer. Well, it so happened that Peter must come to Christ after this on the water; but his faith being at a low ebb, he began to sink. "Well, Peter, why do not you repeat the form of prayer that you learned?" O no. The danger was so great that he must fetch a prayer out of his own heart; and a very suitable one it was, because his heart was engaged in it: "Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus caught hold of him," etc. You see weak faith will prevail with Christ Jesus as well as strong. That is to say, if your faith is genuine, though you may have many doubts, like good old Zacharias, etc., yet it shall get the answer.
7. It is done to train us up for Christ Jesus. Hence Christ says, "Every one that hath heard and learned of the Father (his immutability, holiness, justice, and terrible majesty) cometh unto me," etc. It was for want of this teaching that we have such strange language in the foolish virgins, and in our tribe of hypocrites that tell as they are drawn by love, etc., and so many crying up sinless perfection and an adherence to the moral law. Had they but been like Isaiah, instructed with a strong hand, we should hear no such nonsense: but for want of this, they can trifle with the sacred writings. But God has declared by Paul that he that preaches any other gospel than that he had preached, they should be accursed. And likewise in the Revelation it says, they who add to or diminish, God will deal with such accordingly.
8. It is done to secure the whole glory to Christ Jesus. And this is a tender point. However people may make light of this, I mean taking the glory to themselves, God says, "My glory will I not give to another, nor my praise to graven images." Hence he has declared that from all our filthiness and from all our idols he will cleanse us, etc. David could triumph in this: "Thou, Lord, art my glory and the lifter up of my head," etc.
9. It is done likewise to ripen the wicked for damnation; as Christ says: "Fill ye up the measure of your fathers;" for though the wicked may think very little of injuring the children of God, God declares, "Whoso toucheth you toucheth the apple of mine eye;" and it generally is a sign that their measure is nearly full when they get a child of God by the ears. Though at present there is not outward persecution, yet the carnal heart is the same. Paul says they that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution; and though you may never offend them, or do anything to offend them, yet enmity lies at the bottom. "Yes," say you, "it generally does in worldlings." Yes, but how much more so in them who come the nearest to the truth, I mean the modern Calvinists. Only tell them you know the forgiveness of your sins and the justification of your person, that God at the same time shed his love abroad in your heart; and tell them likewise that you think they are deficient, that you do not believe they love God, etc., (as Christ told the Pharisees, "I know you, that you have not the love of God in you"); tell them likewise that you mystically feed upon Christ Jesus (as Christ did: "Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood you have no life in you"); tell them they must have the faith of God's elect, or be damned, for there is but one faith; and O how they will storm! "Yes," say you, "but Christ was God; he knew all hearts, and, therefore, could not err in judging." That is true; but take notice. Does not the Scripture say, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his?" Likewise that he makes known his mind and will to his children, as Paul says, "We have the mind of Christ;" and himself says, "I have called you friends; for all things I have heard of the Father, I have made known unto you." And this was one thing he heard of the Father: "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them to babes," etc. And he made it known to his disciples: "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." Besides, in judging, you will never err while you have Scripture, your own conscience, and unctuous experience from the most blessed Spirit to go by. And mind always to guard it with "Ifs," "Buts;" "If they die without," etc. This is not judging any man's eternal state.
Thus I say the reason of this opposition is to ripen the wicked for destruction. I have found a deal of this myself when I have had to work with a number of men,--the fears, the tenderness, the dread. Sometimes, through tenderness of conscience, I have been forced to give them their way, and lose by it, for fear of offending conscience. O Sirs, I have stood trembling while they have been as bold as lions; and I have always found them the worst who were in a profession without having the power.
10. But I proceed to the last thing proposed, namely, it is that we may long after the full enjoyment of God in a brighter and better world above, "where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest." But I have a good deal to say respecting this in the finishing of this discourse, I will leave it for the present.
I have shown what a spiritually-poor person is, and the reasons of his being kept so. I will now point out in full that all he wants is in Christ Jesus, and that scripturally; and likewise that it is to be enjoyed in this world, and will show you some who have enjoyed it. I will then take this poor person to the bar of God, and he shall stand there; and at last I will show you that though poor at first setting out, yet it shall end in the true riches, and also the duration of them, I mean for ever.
Now it is all in Christ. This I have already hinted at, but now intend to dwell largely on it, and as I go on show how we may know whether this Jesus is in us or not; for our notions matter little if he do not dwell richly in us, as Paul says.
1. He wants water. It is said they seek water. "And," say you, "what is the reason they do not get it?" Why, because they seek it the wrong way, for it is said there is none. What! Is there none in Christ? O yes. "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." "And out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." But there is none where these poor are seeking it. You see it is in Christ. "Yes," say you, "I wish I knew it was in me." I can tell you these are your feelings. At your first deliverance, you will have a good share of it. I had it well on for two months. Some have more and some less. I had it at my work, going through the streets, in private, in conversation. God is my witness how it sprang up. Sometimes I should feel a little declension; but I found heartfelt prayer would bring it on again; as the Scripture says: "Before they call, I will answer, "and while they are yet speaking, I will hear." I used to say, as I walked the streets, "I bless thee for putting my worthless name in thy book; for not appointing me to wrath, for choosing me from all eternity;" and the promises would come in one after another, with such sweetness as no tongue can tell. It is joy unspeakable and full of glory. From our house to Providence Chapel many a time I hardly knew the ground I walked on; the blessed delight I have found in approaching my covenant God and Father; and when Mr. Huntington has begun--O what a heaven! Everything he spoke in the fullest assurance of faith, I clinched it as you do a nail. I have come home and told the Lord this was an answer to such a prayer, and such a prayer, and thought I had gone to the full extent; but as God liveth I could never find a bottom. Like Ezekiel, I have found it a river to swim in. I could truly say with Paul, "My conscience bears me witness in the Holy Ghost." This is Wisdom's ways, being ways of pleasantness, and all her paths being peace.
Now if you have Christ in you by his Spirit, you will find these things at first, and also after to the day of your death; and though not always comfortable, yet always cause or ground for it. Sometimes you will find it all gone, and Satan will tell you it is gone for good and all; but he is a liar; for God's covenant is, "The Spirit shall never depart from Christ nor his seed for ever." Then again you will have a clear discovery of it, as Solomon says: "The path of the just shineth more and more to perfect day." It will spring up very often in defending the truth before hypocrites. See Paul and his various trials in the Acts. You will speak such language as will astonish you where it comes from; but, says Christ, "he shall guide you into all truth, and testify of me." It will come often in prayer, as David says: "Verily, God has heard my prayer." Also in meditating. A text shall come on the mind and branch itself out till you are astonished; but so it is. At another time you may try every scheme to get it; but no; all your efforts are in vain; and this shows us it is not natural; for what I can do when I please is; but this is when and how as God pleases.
But again. He says he will abundantly bless Zion's provision, and satisfy her poor with bread. But where is this bread? Christ tells you: "I am the bread of life." Now you have no call to wonder at this, for every one feeds mystically upon something. The Bible says Ephraim fed on wind (or error); some feed on the sins of God's people, which is called feeding on ashes; the covetous feed on gain; the Pharisee on his own righteousness; the unclean on filthiness, etc.; so the child of God feeds on Christ. His soul is as sensibly banqueted by believing Christ to be all in all to him as these that I have mentioned are by their worldly delights. But it is of no use to set the bread of life before one that can feed on husks. No. There must be a famine, as there was with the prodigal. It is said he began to be in want. This was his case.
But as this is the second thing the poor wants, which is called bread, let us notice a little, experimentally and scripturally, what will be the effect of having the soul fed with the bread of life, which is Christ.
1. In answer to prayer, we shall find strength communicated to us; as David says: "And wine, which maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart." Did you never find, when calling upon God, sensible of your own weakness, your heart propped up and encouraged? This is bread. You see, it strengthens man's heart.
2. Christ is called the Bread of life. Now, are you quickened? If you ask how you shall know it, I answer, did you ever lay your sins to heart, as David did: "Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight?" If you have, Solomon says you have life: "The living will lay it to his heart." Now in Malachi you have the curse of God denounced against false priests: "If you will not hear, and will not lay it to heart, to give glory to my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you."
But again. Did you never find a power on every faculty of your soul finding fault with you, be where you would or doing what you would, cutting you up, sometimes a whole discourse point blank against you? Paul tells you God's word is quick. That is, it gives life.
3. When your sins have been discovered to you and you went to a throne of grace, on your knees, or when going along the street, after a while you have found a little softness. You have begun to hate yourself, loathe your evil ways, wonder at the longsuffering mercy of God towards you. This is called repentance unto life.
4. In the worst of hours, when almost ready to despair, you find your grief assuaged, and up springs a small degree of hope. This is called "a lively hope."
5. A full persuasion that you belonged to God and had a part and lot in Christ Jesus; and by examination you found that faith had given Christ a residence in you; as he says: "Believe that I am in you and you in me." Now, "he that believeth hath everlasting life."
6. and last, a warm attachment to the cause of Jesus. This will discover itself very soon. There will be such a love to the truth. "O how I love thy law." To the children of God, ah! To them who are not, at first setting out; for we think many are the children of God who are not; but when our judgment gets riper, then we know better, till at last we get very particular. And if a man or woman knows nothing of a daily cross, the plague of the heart, opposition from the world and hypocrites, together with the temptations of the devil, instead of loving such, we hate them; as David says: "I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies." But still we love the brethren. Say you, "What is a daily cross?" I answer, it is something in us every day that is contrary to the will of God, and which will call for gratification. As Paul says: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that ye would." This is the cross. But what is the plague of the heart? Why, it is having a continual warfare within, the new man opposing the old. One part of the new man is love to God; the old man hates him. Another is hope in God; the old man is despondency. Another patience; then comes peevishness. There is peace and likewise war. There is faith and unbelief. There is submission and rebellion. There is holiness by the indwelling of the Spirit and uncleanness by corruption. This is the plague of the heart; but every now and then God is pleased to hide all these corruptions and revive his own work; and then for a while you can look on your heart (as I did this breakfast time, Friday, June 8th, 1804) and see love to God and hope in God, and feel resignation, pardon, faith, patience, self-loathing, self-abhorrence, repentance, fresh strength, fear of God, a tender conscience, witness of God's Spirit; little in my own eyes, complete in Jesus, without spot or wrinkle; all fair and no spot in me, as holy as God's law requires. So that I could say, "Christ is all and in all." Say you, "You are always harping on Christ?" And well I may, when he says (and makes me feel it) that without him I can do nothing. This is what I call an unctuous experience of his grace in the heart. The devil skulks off when God comes, and we do not feel his cruel accusations. His works are all in the dark. This is what Christ said in the days of his flesh: "If any man love me, he shall be loved of my Father, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him." And I am a living witness this day of the blessed visitants, because I feel them in my heart. Say you, "I like some things you say, but I think you speak too confidently?" I answer, We are commanded to tell, like the mad Gadarene, what great things the Lord has done for us. Christ does not like mock modesty. He says to the Pharisees, "If I say I know him not, I should be a liar like unto you." But you may say, "It is not common for professors to talk as you do." I have nothing to do with professors, but with those who have experience of these things; and if they held their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
Thus life lies in these six things. so you see that the poor seek water, and Christ is that; the bread of life, and he is that, as I have shown; and this is agreeable to the promise: "Bread shall be given and water shall be sure." "I will abundantly bless her provision and satisfy her poor with bread."
Now another thing the poor wants is righteousness; and this is in Christ Jesus. He is called the end of the law for it to every one that believeth. This is the only righteousness that will ever stand in any stead. It was this righteousness the man was deficient in at the feast. He had not on a wedding garment. Some fools have declared that it was not that that he was deficient in; but I think it is too plain to contradict it, if you take notice of Rev. 19:7-9, where it says, "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen "(which this man at the feast wanted) "is the righteousness of the saints." This righteousness is referred to up and down in the Bible. The coats of skin God made Adam and Eve signified this righteousness. Likewise all the linen that was used under the law signified this righteousness. It was nothing but this that made the difference between Cain and Abel. It is said in Heb. 11., "Abel obtained witness he was righteous." David also, when Ziklak was burnt and his wives taken, said, Bring me here the linen ephod." Joshua, as I mentioned before, could stand when God ordered him to have change of raiment. The church triumphs in it when she says, "He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness." Daniel prophesied of it: "He shall bring in everlasting righteousness." And I might go on all through the Bible.
But now I will show you how you may know whether you have this righteousness on or not.
1. What do you think of your own? Can you say with the church, "All our righteousness are as filthy rags?" If you cannot, you have not this on. What does Paul say? Why, he counts his own righteousness but dung, etc. So, if you have Christ's on, you will hate your own.
2. You will not only hate your own, but the world and hypocrites will hate and persecute you, because you have a perfect one. Are you persecuted? "Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake" (not to get one, but for one already got), "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
3. You will have such keen feelings, if you have this on, not only before you enjoy it but always, for it is the work of the blessed Spirit to keep us very poor, to keep us from trusting to our own righteousness; and therefore it is said, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Now if I was filled only when all my accusers are silenced, there would be no call for such a promise; but though we feel a fullness in our souls when we first enjoy it, yet the Scripture says, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all." There will be always an appetite in this world. This I know from experience; and the full extent of the promise will be in eternal glory, where it is said they shall hunger no more, neither thirst, etc.
4. You may know it by the calm serene quietude that attends it, what David calls the "still waters;" and this you have in the prophet Isaiah: "The effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever."
5. You may know it by the peace you will enjoy, which I have hinted at before. If you were all in arms, nothing but contention, expecting God would appoint you your portion with hypocrites, the very moment this is placed to your account in the course of your experience, peace will be the consequence of it, as the Scripture says, "The work of righteousness is peace."
6. Joy will attend it, and a solid joy, not like the joy of the hypocrite, which lasts but for a moment. No. This joy we shall have for ever. It is called everlasting joy. And here the church triumphs: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord." What for? "He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness."
I will mention one thing more, and that is love, which is the fulfilling of the law. This is called by Solomon "the law of kindness," and by Paul "the law of Christ;" as he says, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ," which was nothing but love. "Greater love hath no man than this to lay down his life for his friends;" but Christ laid down his for his enemies, and Isaiah says, "He bare our sins in his own body on the tree."
Another thing is strength; as you read in Isaiah, "Thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress." Now you may ask how you shall know whether or not he strengthens you. And here I will dwell a little, because I have long watched it in myself; and though after having a good deal of comfort at first, by being in the banqueting house and his banner over me being love, yet, let me till you, these comforts get shorter and shorter; and was it not so I cannot see how such texts as these could be fulfilled: "It is through much tribulation that we must enter the kingdom;" "If any man come after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me;" "Many are the afflictions of the righteous:" "You shall be hated of all men for my name's sake." Paul says, we are as "the offscouring of all things," etc. Now those who are always happy, I think the Scripture condemns as being at ease in Zion. But take notice, strengthening a person and comforting him are two things. One man may hold or lift up another who has fallen down, but it is another thing to administer comfort to him; and this I find myself a good deal of,--support, but very little comfort. Say you, "I am always comfortable?" Yes, that is because there is no warfare. You are in league with the world, the flesh, and the devil. You are all flesh, and Satan is not divided against himself, by no means whatever. Now, human strength is our weakness; and that is the reason there is so much contention. God will never put his power forth till ours is all gone. Uzzah was struck dead for making use of human power; for though natural affection may be ready to think it was hard, yet when you consider it right, it was trying to support Omnipotence itself. God will try you greatly on this head. He will suffer you to try what you can do with a broken law, and work at it till you are brought to acknowledge that the carnal mind is enmity. David says the law is exceeding broad.
Again. Your resolutions and vows are for nothing else but to exhaust your strength. In the morning you may say, "Well, I am determined to be more watchful, and to shun such and such people; and I will pray more and search the Scriptures to find out my case." Well, at it you go, and perhaps at first setting off you keep these things you have mentioned; yet look within. Where are your affections? Is Christ the uppermost? No. You are admiring yourself. You think, "Well, I have done so and so;" but there is nothing but pride at the bottom; and at the first suitable temptation, down you go; and when down, then your corruptions are all alive, and you are distressed beyond measure. This I know by experience; for though in my judgment I was taught I could do nothing, yet my feelings ran contrary to that. But when we are brought to self-despair, Christ comes, and brings everything with him. Like Peter, we cry, "Lord, save or I perish;" and after this says Peter, "Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." It is nothing but the furnace of affliction that discovers our weakness, and having all our dross and tin purged away, which shows us where our strength lies; and when we are habituated to this way, we are enabled to fall under it, expecting the strength of Jesus to be put forth. "I," says Paul, "take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities;" and adds, "When I am weak, then am I strong." You will often find it upon your knees, when heart and flesh both fail, and you are sure if God do not keep you, you cannot stand one hour more. Then, says David, "Thou art the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. In the day when I called thou answeredst me, and Strengthenedst me with strength in my soul." Sometimes it is under the word preached: "Send us help from the sanctuary, and strengthen us out of Zion." Many burdens have I left at Providence and Monkwell Street; God is my witness. This strength lies in a promise: "I will strengthen thee, I will help thee." It often comes from one child of God to another, as the Scripture says, "The strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak." But this strength is in Christ Jesus.
The poor want the consolations of the Spirit; and Paul says, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." He wants to overcome the corruptions of his heart, and the devil that stirs them up; but Christ says, "I will give you power to tread on serpents, scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy." He wants wisdom, for he feels he is a fool, like all wayfaring men. "Not all," say you, "for Paul was a wise man." He might be naturally; but when God pulled him down, then he was glad to see Ananias. Thus the lion lay down with the lamb.
Now this wisdom is in Christ: "He is made of God unto us wisdom." We want an Advocate; and Jesus is the person. He is called the Wonderful Counsellor. He can plead our cause. "We," says John, "have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." We want redemption. God says they have sold themselves for nought, but shall be redeemed without money and without price; and Christ is made of God to us redemption. We are redeemed from a vain conversation from among men, from the wrath of God, from death, and from all iniquity.
Another thing the poor wants is liberty. But it is Jesus that is to set at liberty them which are bruised, and to open the prison doors to them that are bound. One thing more is love; and Paul says the love of God is in Christ Jesus. "Ah!" say you, "it is well enough for poor wretches such as you speak of to pay attention to these things; but we are above all that." So you may now be; but what says the Scripture? "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren like unto me (or Moses), and it shall come to pass that whosoever will not hear the voice of that prophet shall be cut off;" "Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and you perish from the way when his wrath is kindled but a little;" and though you may fight against him now, yet you shall call for the mountains and rocks to hide you from the wrath of the Lamb. He is the King of kings. He is the end of every prophecy, for to him give all the prophets witness. Well might Paul say, "Christ is all." I might enlarge here, in showing many things respecting Solomon's temple and the tabernacle; but I forbear.
I now pass on to the next thing proposed, namely, that these things are to be enjoyed in this world; and to mention some in Scripture who have enjoyed them.
Now, for argument sake, we will take the whole of this enjoyment in four particulars, and see if Scripture will not bear us out.
In the first place, then, we enjoy the forgiveness of our sins,--original, past, present, and to come. That is to say, though I am born in sin and shapen in iniquity, though I go astray from the womb, speaking lies as soon as I can speak, though when convinced of sin I feel I have enough to sink a million worlds, and though when pardoned I still have indwelling sin, yet a full remission is enjoyed, agreeable to the psalmist: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases." Mary Magdalene is another who enjoyed it in this world. She loved much. Why? Her sins, which were many, were all forgiven her. I have further to advance that when this pardon is sealed home in your heart, it witnesses to you that all the sins you ever shall commit shall never damn you. You have it in this text: "If his children forsake my law and walk not in my judgments, then will I visit their transgression with the rod and their iniquities with stripes. Nevertheless," sweet words to a poor broken-hearted sinner who feels he does nothing but sin, "my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail." I do not speak this to encourage sin; but still the children's bread is not to be kept back, although dogs will presume.
Now this pardon is enjoyed more or less by every one who has been convinced of sin. Hence the promise: "How shall I put thee among the children?" "Thou shalt call me my Father:" "They shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest; for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness and remember their sins no more." You see the least is to experience pardon; for he came to give the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins. And I tell you, though pardon is enjoyed at first, yet we are continually offending in thought, word, or deed. We are bent to backslide; and, therefore, the Lord is pleased to multiply pardons; and he will often suffer you to get into such labyrinths of distress and wanderings, that you will not be able to trace the least of the good work. Satan will suggest to you that these are not the spots of God's children, and you will see yourself in your own eyes an apostate. I have many a time thought I was shut out of the kingdom of heaven for ever; but not long after, when I was brought to my wits' end, then God was pleased to deliver me again and apply the atonement afresh to my conscience. It is these things that endear Christ Jesus to us, for the blessed Spirit continually shows us the inward pollution of our nature that we may highly esteem Christ's precious blood. O Sirs, none can prize it but sensible sinners. As for your judgment being convinced of these things, if it goes no further I would not give a rush for your religion. It is the heart God purifies by faith. "Yes," say you, "I see that plain enough." So could thousands who are in hell. Witness the foolish virgins. But do you feel these things? "I trust I do." That is not the language of Canaan. "I trust," and "Through mercy," are words in every hypocrite's mouth; but can you feelingly say, "I know what the weight and burden was." If you feel it ever so little, you shall know what it is to be forgiven that little; and if much, you shall know what that is, and love shall attend both.
But some may say, "I have gone burdened under the word, and sometimes found the burden removed, and have been ready to say I was sure I was pardoned; but not long after, the burden has come back as bad as ever." I tell you, you may go on so for years; but follow it up, and you will find a purer language every time; and when love comes to cast out fear and torment, then you will be fully persuaded you are pardoned; for charity (love) believeth all things. I can find that God does show me continually the plague of my heart, and I assure you I have found a deal of consolation at times from that consideration. And thus I have argued: "How come I to feel such commotions within, such inclination to evil and such love at times to good? "Here," say I, "certainly are two natures; and this David takes comfort from: 'This is my comfort in my affliction. Thy word hath quickened me. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of God.' But where is this forgiveness? Why, in Christ Jesus. 'In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.'"
2. But I pass on to the second thing proposed, which we enjoy in the world, namely, salvation. And in this Paul could triumph when he said, "Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling," etc. And that as declared in Luke shall be the case; for he is to give the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins. Our salvation lies in these five things: We are saved from the wrath of God; (Rom. 5:9) from our sins; (Matt. 1:21) from our inbred corruptions; (Ezek. 36:29) from the world; (Luke 1:71) from the second death or the damnation of hell. (James 5:2)
But it may be asked, "How shall I know whether he has saved me? Is it to be known in this world and enjoyed? Yes, it is. Did you ever feel yourself lost? or, in other words, did you ever feel yourself at such an infinite distance from God that you expected nothing but damnation? Now, if this was your case, you could say with Peter, "Lord, save, or I perish;" and if he has put his hand out to you, then you may say with Jonah, "Salvation is of the Lord." Depend upon it, he will bring you into such straits and difficulties as none under heaven can deliver you from, in order to fulfill this text in your experience, that he came to seek and to save that which was lost.
But again. You shall have a measure a feeling sense of the wrath of God. In a measure, I say, because all do not feel it alike. This is revealed in the law; for it is nothing but a revelation of the wrath of God. Now when the storm blows over, and he is well pleased with me in his dear Son, then I am like the people that were left of the sword, who found grace in the Lord's sight; and Paul says, "By grace ye are saved." But where is this grace? John tells us: "Out of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace."
Again. Did you ever feel sin your greatest burden? You have striven hard against your besetting sin; but all in vain. Well, "His name shall be called Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins." So again. Could you ever say, from a feeling sense, "My sore ran in the night and cease not?" If so, he is to save you from all your uncleannesses.
Now, there are some in Scripture who know all these things I am talking about; and let me show you, 1, With respect to our enemies. What does David say? "Thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hate us." 2, With respect to God's wrath. Paul says, "God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory." 3, With respect to our sins; "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." "Well," says he, "I am chief," and he hath saved us, putting himself in, and called us. 4, With respect to our inbred corruptions. Paul says, our old man, that we carry about with us now, is crucified with Christ, and, therefore, he could triumph; as when he says, "I thank God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, though with my flesh I serve the law of sin;" feeling so much of his heart evil. 5, With respect to eternal death, he could triumph: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" and then breaks out, "But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Where is this salvation, then? I answer, "In Christ Jesus," as I have already mentioned,--the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
3. But I proceed to the third thing that we are to enjoy in this miserable world, namely, hope. Now, here be very particular, and take notice. Everyone has hope, of some sort or another, excepting those in black despair. We read of the hope of the hypocrite, which is to perish. (Job 8:13) They often stand a long while; yea, they hold fast their false hope as long as they hold their breath; and Job tells you both hope and breath go together. Hence he says, "Their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost." (Job 11:20) But you may say, "Those you call hypocrites seem to get on and prosper in all they put their hand to." That is often the case; but the Scripture says, "What is the hope of a hypocrite? Though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul, will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him? Will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?" Now you see their hopes perish. They go away with their breath; they stand in slippery places; but when trouble comes, God never hears them; as David says, "They called even upon God, but he heard them not;" and when they do not succeed, they give it up.
Now the hypocrite prospers, delights, and prays; and God's children prosper, delight, and pray. "Yes," say you, "and I see no difference.
Well; may God enable me to take up these three stumblingblocks:
First. The hypocrite may prosper in these four things: 1, In worldly gain; "Thou hast planted them, they have taken root," (Jer. 12) 2, In the gift of prophecy, like Balaam, Saul, etc.; 3, In a gift of speech,--speaking with the tongues of men and angels; 4, A gift of discerning spirits. Now, the firmer your hopes are in these things, being destitute of grace, the more you will be lifted up; and thus your hope is in the flesh; for Paul tells you a man may have all these, and be without charity. I will now set four things in the believer against the hypocrite: 1, The believer is rich, or prospers in the best senses. He is joint-heir with Christ Jesus, and heir of God. He is rich in faith, though most likely poor in this world. He has God for his reward: "I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward;" and David said, "God is the portion of my soul." 2, The hypocrite may tell many things, and prophesy true, as Balaam did; but the believer can prophesy the eternal salvation of his own soul. He can tell you that he shall see God for himself, and not for another. He can tell you that he shall be crowned in another world; as Paul says, "There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness;" and as David says, "He has made with me an everlasting covenant;"--that he should awake with his likeness. I myself am a living witness of all I have been saying, blessed be God. 3, In speech: "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul. Awake up, my glory." And what was it? Why, the Lord remembered him in his low estate; he brought him out of a horrible pit, set his feet upon a rock, put a new song in his mouth, etc. This is speaking. "I have believed, and therefore have I spoken," says Paul. We have the same Spirit of faith. We believe, and therefore speak. And what else does Paul say? "I obtained mercy. We (putting himself in) have now received the atonement, and therefore joy in God." Then he tells you he was persuaded neither life nor death, angels, principalities, nor powers, things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature should ever separate him from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is a gift of speech. 4, Discerning spirits. A believer can discern that he has the spirit of Christ in him. I will begin with my own experience. This is June 25th, 1804, and I can discern that I am a partaker of the Holy Ghost, not in gifts, but in grace; that he is in my heart. O, this was a good breakfast-time. How sweetly I enjoyed peace and the other fruits of the Spirit,--love, joy, etc. O it is sweet to write out one's own heart! Blessed be God for Jesus Christ. O let us cleave to him in a particular manner by private prayer. Let it be ever so against the grain, in due time we shall reap if we faint not. What should we do without him? O that I had nothing to do but write, talk, watch, meditate, hear the word, spend and be spent for Jesus Christ! What a burden is my lawful calling! O happy eternity, when I shall be freed from this body of sin and death! Now evening is come, I find a declension in these things, by which I discern that it will not do to live upon the old stock. The grace we have one hour will not do to live on the next. If it would, there would be no call to water us every moment. No. He is the well, and with joy (the bucket) we are to draw water out of this well; but neither the well nor the bucket is to be used without a rope; and I think the rope is prayer, for Christ tells you to ask, that your joy may be full. Say you, "You are going to limit the holy One of Israel?" By no means; but "what God has joined together let not man put asunder;" and he says, "For all these things will I be inquired of," etc. But we are indebted to the blessed Spirit for this, for he helps our infirmities.
Now, a believer discerns his own safety, as John says, "We are of God;" but is that all he discerns? No,--"The whole world lieth in wickedness;" or, as it may be rendered, in the arms of the devil; but before deliverance we cannot tell this; as Christ said to his disciples, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of."
Thus I have set the believer's prosperity against the hypocrite's; and you may see it differs widely. But you may say, "In what sense does a hypocrite have these four things?" I answer, his views are these: 1, The more he prospers in worldly things, the more godly he thinks he is; as Paul says, some suppose that gain is godliness. 2, In a gift of prophecy. What service is all my knowledge in this, when I cannot with a healthy countenance prophesy the eternal salvation of my soul? 3, A gift of speech. What use is this, when the Scripture says a prating fool shall fall? It is only outside all they talk about. 4, Discerning spirits. You may discern a covetous spirit in one man, a hasty spirit in another, a self-righteous spirit in another, a proud spirit in another, and so on; but if you cannot perceive all these and ten thousand times worse in yourself, and likewise the purifying efficacy of the Holy Ghost in your own heart, when he is pleased to save you by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, I would not give two pennyworth of halfpence for all your discernment. Instead of a blessing, it will be a curse for you. I am sure of it.
Thus I have endeavored to take up one stumblingblock.
Second. Delights. And two texts will prove this. Let them delight in what they may, all their works are to be seen of men; but the king's daughter is all glorious within. Now, the delights of the hypocrite you may take in these two particulars, one of which I have already mentioned, that is, approaching God in an external way. But what does Paul say? "Bodily exercise profiteth little;" and I say profiteth nothing essential; and it is plain that I do not strain the sense; for he says, "They draw near with their mouths, and honour me with their lips; but their heart is far from me." The other is lying. Everything they say about their experience is lies. They speak a vision out of their own hearts, and have seen nothing; and David tells you they delight in lies. Hence the Scripture says, respecting the believer (or, agreeable to the text, namely, the poor), "They are children that will not lie," that is, about their experience; though, through grace, their desire is to tell none at all. (Ps. 62:4) And I will be bold to say, a poor child of God suffers a good deal from the devil for speaking the truth. A hypocrite will take great strides in telling these lies, only to appear a child of God. All their works (mark, not part, but all) are to be seen of men.
I might enlarge here in showing the different branches of deception the hypocrite goes on with; but as what the poor believer delights in is mot profitable, let us take a little notice of that. So the opposite to each of the above is, 1, The believer delights in approaching God. "It is good for me," says David, "to draw near to God;" and this is first in desire, as David further says, "Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desire of thine heart." And, says Paul, "I delight in the law of God after the inner man."
Now, you may try yourself here. How are you in private? Are you as much for trying to get near God as you are when before folks? If so, you do not mind what man thinks of you. What you want is, what Christ tells you, i.e., to enter into your closet, etc.
2, In opposition to lies is truth. Now, what is truth? I might answer it in twenty ways; but I will confine myself to three, and that three to one,--the three I mean are Father, Son, and Spirit. Of the Father, the Bible says, he is "a God of truth, and without iniquity. Just and right is he." Christ says, "I am the way, the truth," etc.; and he says of the Spirit, "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all truth." Ah," say you, "here I can stand the test; for I know the Scripture says the very things you have mentioned." Yes, but two things are necessary to make you right: 1, A love to the truth; and, 2, A freedom from bondage; and therefore the word says, "Because they received not the love of the truth." I may receive the truth in my judgment; but the thing is to receive the love of it in the heart; and to some God shall send string delusions, to believe a lie. And this is the lie they delight in. Now, whatever truth you discover in the Scriptures, do you love it? If you do, that is the love of the truth. A freedom from bondage; as Christ says, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," from the law: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." Also from the reigning power of sin, though not from the inbeing of sin; for you will have many struggles, and sometimes, in heavy temptation, you may fall; but though a troop may overcome Gad, yet Gad shall overcome at last. O, what a many struggles there are with our inbred corruptions! How impossible it appears to hold out! When Jesus hides his face, unbelief seems to gain such ground; but what a blessing it is that the victory depends upon Jesus, and not upon us!
Thus I have showed the love of the truth, that the poor believer has in opposition to loving and making a lie. And now as God in Three Persons is truth, says David, "Delight thyself in the Lord," which is truth in the abstract.
The third thing is prayer. It is plain the wicked do, in a certain sense, call upon God; else what can this text mean, "The wicked will not always call upon God? and David says, "They called even upon God, but he heard them not." To be brief upon it, then, it is talking to God; or, to be more plain, telling lies to him, as you may see in the Pharisee, "God, I thank thee," etc. Every word was a lie; and as I said before as all their works are to be seen of men, the heart cannot be engaged, for no man can see another's heart.
Now, in opposition to this outside work, there are six ways that God hears his people when the heart, and not the mouth only, is engaged with him: 1, "For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord. (Ps. 12:5) 2, "I have heard the groanings of the children of Israel," and the blessed Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 3, "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them." (Isa. 41:17) The passage says nothing about praying, yet the Lord says he will hear. 4, "For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul." (Jer. 31:25) 5, David says, their hearts cried unto the Lord." Thus it is plain God will hear the heart without the mouth, but not the mouth without the heart.
I have dwelt long upon the hypocrite's hope and actions; but let us dwell a little now upon a good hope. The basis of this I mean the grand basis, is God himself, and therefore it is said in the Psalms they set their hope in God. As I have often observed, if you have a good hope, you can give some account of the destruction of your false hopes; agreeable to what Job says, "The waters wear the stones." By waters, I understand the wrath of God, as David says, speaking of the wicked, "Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh thee." By stones, I understand the native hardness of the human heart, which shows that let a person be ever so bold or daring, God will bring him down. "Thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth." By earth, I understand man; and the things that go out of man are mentioned by Paul, "Fornication, uncleanness, enmity, unbelief," etc., the whole corruption of the heart of man; these grow out of the dust of the earth, and washing them away is when that text is fulfilled in Ezek. 16:9, "I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee;" and then it says, "Thou destroyest the hope of man." (Job 14:19) Thus God destroys the false hopes of man, and the next verse proves what I have said, though Job began to be full of unbelief: "Thou prevailest for ever against him." No, Job, not for ever; for God says, "I will not contend for ever, nor yet be always wroth." "Thou changest his countenance." Now take notice, God is the proper object of hope, I mean God in Christ Jesus, not an absolute God; no. And therefore it says in Ps. 146:5, "Whose hope is in the Lord their God." Mark that, their God; by which I think it means Christ Jesus in Particular; and I think this is plain from Isa. 54:5. Making a promise to the church, in afflicting circumstances, it says, "For thy maker (who is that but Jesus Christ, for all things were made by him?) is thy husband." (A certain man made a marriage for his son, and therefore he is husband to the church.) "The Lord of hosts is his name." On the cross he got this victory as God-man. He overcame "Principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them on it." And thy Redeemer, the holy One of Israel, as man he could not redeem, for no man can redeem his brother; nor as God (I mean absolute), for he must be of near kin; and therefore this Redeemer is Jesus. The devil acknowledged him to be the Holy One of God; the God of the whole earth shall he be called. Many will not submit to him now; but every tongue shall confess (as well as the church) that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Now God, in Christ Jesus, is the object of the church's hope. Yea, he is expressly called Hope. "Looking," says Paul, "for that blessed hope." A convinced sinner hopes for pardon, and a pardoned sinner hopes for glory. As Jeremiah says, "He putteth his mouth in the dust," etc., and "Christ in you the hope of glory."
I will now mention a few of the benefits arising from this good hope which we are to enjoy in this world. Now, what do we hope for? First, eternal life: "In hope of eternal life;" "This is my comfort in my affliction, thy word hath quickened me." Next, we rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and this is enjoyed. "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." Again, righteousness: "We through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness." Here we cannot always see the righteousness of God, for sometimes he appears to smile upon the wicked, so that everything they do shall prosper, and, as we often think, to frown upon us; but here is the promise: "Judgment shall return to righteousness, and all the upright in heart shall follow it." Nevertheless, we have some discoveries of it sometimes in cutting down a presumptuous hypocrite, or a cruel oppressor; and he often makes this promise good, namely, "His hand shall be known," etc. But if you take righteousness to mean the righteousness of Christ, then David enjoyed this: "Blessed is the man whose sin is covered, etc. And the church in Isaiah also, when she says, "He hath covered me with the robe of his righteousness."
I pass on to the next thing proposed, namely, a good conscience. "Ah!" say you, "that's what everybody in a profession is talking about." I do not doubt it, and when God is pleased to lay his rod on heavily, and convince a man that he has nothing but an evil conscience, they will add not a little to the calamity. This I know from bitter experience, for when God was showing me my calamitous state there was an old man, a Pharisee, who watched over me for evil, from month's end to month's end. I used to dread the sight of him. He was for ever finding fault. I used to strive all I could to shun every occasion, but never could master him; and though he himself frequented public-houses every night in union with the world, yet he could not see this beam, but had such a clear sight into the mote in my eye. He had been in a profession and a member of a church about twenty years; but I am fully persuaded not the church of God. This man used to say, "Where is your conscience?" Every word I spake he would turn it against me, whether it was or not. Poor man! I believe in my soul he was nothing but a presumptuous hypocrite. I might say much about him which may be seen in some other writings; but when God was pleased to apply the atonement to my conscience, and give me a love to his blessed self, then I could say experimentally with David, "By this I know thou favourest me, because my enemies have not triumphed over me."
Now in order to show a good conscience, there must be the following things: 1, It may be said to be good when what God says about it in his word exactly agrees with my feelings; as, for instance, God has declared that "every imagination of man's heart is evil, only evil, and that continually." Again: "The heart (heart and conscience are synonymous terms) is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Again: "We are altogether as an unclean thing," etc. "Conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity," says David. Now though this discovers me, or finds me out, yet I was so before, but never felt it. Now I am good in this sense, I am a partaker of God's Spirit. This shows me I am bad. The blessed Spirit applies the law to me, and Paul says it is just and good. The word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword, but it is the good word of God; and therefore it says the word of God must be sown in an honest and good heart; but this is not the enjoyment. I will, however, point out a few things which, when we experience, then we may be said to enjoy conscience, and not before; and though the Pharisee pretends to it by dead works, yet he never shall have the approbation of God.
The first I shall mention is the renewing influences of the Holy Ghost. Renewing implies we had something, but, having lost it, we are renewed to it again. Now, in our original state, we had the image of God. Hence the Almighty says, "Let us make man in our own image, after our own likeness," etc. But not to dwell here, we will come to the experimental part, and the first thing God the Spirit does, after he has showed us our polluted state, is to wash it all away, and then to anoint us, or renew us. "Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and anointed thee with oil." This is the work of God, and this work is carried on in the hearts of all believers; for we often stand in need of this anointing. Hence the Psalmist says, "My horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of a unicorn. I shall be anointed with fresh oil." This is going on all the year round. The filthiness of our nature is discovered; and when we are brought to submit to God's sovereign will, then we are renewed--more love, more knowledge, more confidence, more peace, more joy, more discoveries of his mercy; for it is of "his mercy he saves us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost." You may see this in many of the children of God. You may see it in Micah. He begins very mournfully: "Woe is me." Yet he has a desire left: "My soul desireth the first ripe fruit," that was his first love. He goes on and passes his judgment upon professors, and tells us the most upright was sharper than a thornhedge. "Ah!" say you, "he was very narrow." This set his enemy at him; but he says, "Rejoice not against me. When I fall I shall arise," etc. You see he could so far foretell future events. But before he finishes the chapter, this renewing takes place: "Who is a God like unto our God, that pardoneth iniquity and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?" etc. And then adds, "He delighteth in mercy." And, as I said, it is of his mercy he saves us. Job likewise says, "O that it was with me as in days and months that are past." But, this renewing came again when he had been a little exercised; and therefore he says, "Now my eye seeth thee; therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." This is the enjoyment of conscience. Again, God's approbation will attend a good conscience. Always aim at the testimony of God. I have watched this in myself. I have walked with God in peace and equity. I have found zeal, life, power, etc., and with these things I have gone thinking they would approve of me among them that I thought to be sure were far beyond me; but, alas! I have been robbed and come away in irons. God knows what they are. I must leave that; but I assure you these things have made me love singularity; and as the archbishop says, "I would sooner be shut up in a room by myself than with never so many Christians;" and though I am no enemy to the communion of saints, but dearly love to be in company with the tried ones of the family, yet when I consider how few there are of this sort, and how seldom two Christians shall be able to speak of the power of God at the same time, the many tokens for good, the many answers to prayer, the supporting power, the many promises I have had applied, as I said before, of the two, I prefer to be alone. Thus I have been knocked down by them, and likewise, as Paul says, by false brethren. The world has had a blow at me; but I have always found when the most of this there has been the most of God approbation. And so it was with Paul, as you read in the Acts. How often the Angel of the Covenant, which was Jesus Christ, appeared to him: "Fear not, Paul, no man shall set on thee to hurt thee;" and Paul could say before them all, "I have lived in all good conscience to this day."
Again. The blood of Christ must be applied by the Holy Ghost before we can enjoy a good conscience. Before this, be ever so exact, ever so watchful, try to avoid what company you may, or be ever so diligent, yet it will bring nothing but bad news to you. I have heard people say, "I do not know the meaning. I am condemned as much for my good deeds as for my bad ones;" but they never need to wonder at that, for by the deeds of the law no flesh living shall be justified. "But," say you, "I have heard people talk of a well-spent life and how much they have done for God." Yes; and you ask them what God has done for them, and they will tell you he never gave them a kid to make merry with their friends. No; such people are conscious God has done nothing in their hearts; and so want to bring him in debtor to them. But, blessed be God, when the atonement is supplied, then with Paul we can say he hath sprinkled our hearts from an evil conscience.
Again. The Spirit's witness is necessary; and though you may say you have had this, yet if it is not followed up, you will find your accusers are not dead. At first this puzzled me not a little. I have found the blessed witness of God's most Holy Spirit, I may say hundreds of times; but I used to wonder, when in a dark frame, when I have been relating it to a friend, or contending with a hypocrite, I have been as condemned as if I had been telling lies; and something used to say, "There, that is wrong; you are wrong there; you only say as Mr. Huntington says;" and sometimes I have been forced to recall it all in my own mind and beg the Almighty's pardon. But when the witness has come, I could rejoice in the whole and not repent for a word I said. It is not enough that we have had the witness, but he must be enjoyed, or, as Hart says,
"If thou, Celestial Dove,
Thine influence withdraw,
What easy victims soon we fall
To conscience, wrath and law."
Again. The fear of the Lord; as God says, "I will put my fear in their hearts that they may not depart from me;" "The fear of the Lord is to depart from evil!" This you may see in Joseph, in Nehemiah, and in Job, a perfect and upright man, one that feared God and eschewed evil. And this we should never leave out of our prayers: "Lord, thou hast promised to put thy fear," etc. It is always most felt when the conscience is most tender. Hence the complaint: "Why hast thou hardened our hearts from thy fear?" And if any snare or trap is laid in our way, it generally starts up. He that feareth God shall come forth of them all. It is peculiar to a son, not a servant: "My son, be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long." God promises to give himself to such. He will give a reward to his servants the prophets and to all that fear his name, small and great. What is the reward? Why, "Abraham, I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward."
Thus, I have showed you from Scripture a poor person, and have enlarged upon it by showing the benefits arising from being a happy partaker of the Holy Ghost, and the man's poverty by the reverse to that. I have proved from Scripture the poverty such have till they enjoy the benefits. Then I showed the reasons of his poverty, and then, that all he wants is in Christ. I have pointed out the enjoyment of all that is in Christ, and showed them that they have enjoyed it in this world.
Now the next thing is to take this poor person to the bar of God, and see whether he will stand the test, and then show some of his riches; for, as I said at first, he is to the end amazingly rich.
Now what does the Scripture say keeps every unregenerate man out of heaven? I answer, six things: 1, Unrighteousness: "The unrighteous shall not enter the kingdom of God;" "Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in." 2, Holiness: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord;" but God chastens the poor for their profit, that they may be partakers of his holiness. 3, Lying. Nothing is to enter that maketh a lie, but they that keep the truth enter in. 4, Uncleanness. No unclean person is to enter: "And such were some of you; but ye are washed," etc. 5, Unbelief. The unbelieving are not to enter, but he that believes shall be saved. 6, Hatred. They that hate Zion shall be desolate; but God hath circumcised our hearts to love him, that we may live.
Now for some of his riches in eternal glory. The first I shall notice is the food he has: "They shall hunger no more;" "The Lamb shall feed them in the midst of the throne." It may be asked, "What is their food?" I answer, his presence. While upon earth, every now and then they had it; but a deal of fasting; as the Scripture says, "The time will come when the Bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days." Here they go in and out and find pasture; but there they shall go no more out. There is not a grace they had while on earth that was always full. No. But now they have all fullness. Had they joy here? There they have in his presence fullness of joy. Yea, they "return with everlasting joy upon their heads." Had they the love of God shed abroad in their hearts here? There they shall be filled with all the fullness of God; and John says, "God is Love."
Not only his presence, joy, and love, but life. It is called "everlasting life." Well, the Lamb shall lead them to fountains of living waters. Sometimes here they could hardly tell whether or not they had life; and when they prayed to be quickened, it was generally answered by a continual warfare; but now all war is ended. Farewell to every enemy. No temptations, no broken law, no devil nor his fiery darts, no inbred corruptions, no expecting to fall one day by the hand of Saul, no assaults from the world. No, no. There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. They had a taste of rest here, by faith; but there they rest in the bed of God's eternal love, and walk in their uprightness, which is their love playing back again to him. Peace, also, they had a taste of here; but it was very often disturbed. Not so there, for they shall enter into peace; and it is my opinion, that every trial, difficulty, opposition, temptation, affliction in body or family, losses, crosses, disappointments, besetting sins, etc. etc., everything, shall be unraveled; as the scripture says, "Truth shall be settled in heaven;" all controversy shall be settled here. We shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known, and be for ever in the enjoyment of him we have longed so much for.
Again, we shall see God face to face; I mean Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. As Christ says, "In that day I will show you plainly of the Father;" and, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." We shall likewise see all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, saints, etc., that the Bible speaks of; and many of our dear departed friends, who with us have groaned under a daily cross, the burden of sins, and the hiding of God's face.
Here will be likewise a completion of all promises. A great many cannot be fulfilled till we come here. It will be the delight of our souls to see the many intricate paths we have passed over, and how the promise was timed in this world; but more so when we are in the enjoyment of every promise and are dwelling in the richness of the Promiser to all eternity. Then while on earth it was said, "You shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun (of persecution) light on them," now it will be said, "Well, I am now in the enjoyment of that happiness God promised me, where are all my doubts and fears? They are all gone; and here I am basking in eternal glory." There will be no intermission here, but one continual enjoyment. O, it is but a faint description we can give of it.
Another thing that we shall in a particular manner get rid of is hypocrites; in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord for ever. They in this world plague us a good deal; but there we shall be all one family. O, blessed sleep that will bring us to the enjoyment of this, when we shall enter into the joy of our Lord.
Another thing is our employ. It will not be prayer. No, no. We shall have done with prayer. That was confined to the church militant on earth; but now praise (or singing); and what will be the song? "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood." We used to try to begin on earth; but having so much to cope with, hindered us greatly; but now we shall break out in raptures, "Salvation and honour, glory and power and might be unto him." Salvation in the fullest sense, body and soul.
Glory also. While on earth, he said, "The Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory," etc.; but now the promise is fulfilled. And thus we shall ascribe that glory to him. While on earth, I proved his power in keeping me in so many eminent dangers, and amongst so many enemies; but not I can triumph in his power. He said, I remember, "All power is given to me in heaven and on earth." Now I know it, now I enjoy it.
But again. Let me take notice of a few things this world calls riches; and then set the other against them.
1. A king is thought much of; and we are not behind here, for he has made us kings and priests unto God. Death puts a stop to the reign of an earthly king, but we shall reign for ever and ever. A king wears a crown, and says Paul, "He has laid up for me a crown of righteousness." When on earth, we used to have this crown of righteousness, and enjoyed it at times; but now there is no interruption. No, we shall wear this crown to all eternity, and cast it at his feet. There is also the crown of life; (Rev. 2:10) the crown is glory; (1 Peter 5:4) and the crown of the wise, (Prov. 14:24) which is their riches. The Lord himself is to be our crown. (Isa. 28:5) O, what condescension! And what is still more, he is pleased to wear us as a crown: (Isa. 62:3) "Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord."
2. Another thing that is thought much of in this world, and by the world, is to be a prince. Now, we have that title also, as is beautifully set forth in 1 Sam. 2:8.
3. People boast much of a temporal throne, and we shall boast of a spiritual one to all eternity. As the Saviour says in the Revelation: "Him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I have overcome and set down with my Father on his throne."
4. They boast of honor. Our honor consists in the complete victory we shall have over devils, in judging and condemning them.
5. They boast much of their inheritance, and so can we; for we are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. We are fellow heirs of the grace of life. Death will put an end to their inheritance; but we have an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. We inherit thrones of glory, the kingdom of God. What we have in this world lies in our confidence; for God hath chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, etc.; but we shall not want faith in eternal glory; for the end of faith is the salvation of the soul. Faith will be turned to sight, and then we shall come to substance: "I will cause them that love me to inherit substance, and I will fill their treasures;" which is what we never had on earth, for we always found a vacancy. The fullest accomplishment of every promise is another part of our inheritance. Our faith has been a long while living on the promises, and longing for the accomplishment of them: but at last, when faith and patience have been well tried, then, says Paul, we inherit the promises. Now, let the inheritance of the wicked be what it may, this text upsets it all: "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked." And though they may boast of their riches, and how God has blessed them in providence, yet what does the Almighty say by the prophet Malachi? "I have cursed your blessings, because you lay not your sins to heart."
6. Another thing they boast much about is pleasure or happiness; but let it be observed, their pleasure arises from insensibility, and the Almighty tells them to go on with joy: "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth," etc.; "But know thou that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment." This pleasure, falsely so called, is always attended with rejecting God and hatred to him. Hence the Scripture says, "They are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God." But let us leave them and come to something substantial. I must confess it is undertaking a great thing to speak of the pleasures of heaven. Nevertheless, we will abide by Scripture, and then we shall be safe. True pleasure consists in the great delight Christ Jesus and all his elect people will have together to all eternity; as in Ps. 16:11: "At thy right hand are pleasures for evermore." Now, this must mean his people; for he says in Prov. 8., "His delight was with the sons of men." But you may say, "Why at the right hand of God?" I answer, he sets the goats on the left, but the sheep on the right. Pleasure consists in the full enjoyment of the river John speaks of in the Revelation and Ezekiel in his vision of the holy waters. It is true we are not altogether strangers to it here. The streams have often made our hearts glad; but now there is no scarcity. Hear what the Scripture says: "Thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures; for with thee is the fountain of life."
7. Another thing they boast much of is their pedigree. Now, naturally, we cannot boast here, for it is in general the poor of this world God has chosen. Still we can boast in another sense more than they. There is one great thing we may boast of. We are, says John, "sons of God." O what language! This comes to us by predestination before the world began. In time the Lord enables us to realize it by sending his blessed Spirit into our hearts, crying, "Abba, Father!" This liberty we shall enjoy to all eternity.
Having taken the poor to the bar, and found he can stand the test, and then pointed out largely the riches, let us finish the whole by a few remarks.
1. As worldly prosperity is a snare, and to be sensibly dependent upon God is a never-failing stock, may this be our prayer: "Lord, let me not have a stock in hand; but give me a strong faith in thee, both as a God of providence and a God of grace, to draw out of a Saviour's fullness whatever I stand in need of; thou having told me to take no thought for tomorrow, and that thou wilt supply all my need." Agar went this way to work: "Give me neither poverty nor riches."
2. As there is nothing worth living for in this world short of an experimental acquaintance with Jesus, "Lord, enable me to set light by it, to delight myself in thee. Enable me to live above the world. Keep me singular, and make me prevalent with thee in prayer."
3. As it is not long we have to be here, may God enable us to take up our cross. We shall find something of this every day; and to help us on, may we be enabled to aim at this one thing, namely, to have Jesus uppermost in our affections. This is the way to keep clear of many reproofs and rebukes, as you may see in the Revelation. Notwithstanding all the Church's usefulness and sufferings, yet, "I have somewhat against thee" (mark that, against thee!), "because thou hast left" (not lost) "thy first love." It was this made the Hebrews take joyfully the spoiling of their goods.
4. Remembering the afflictions we have had and the furnace of God's appointment having exercised us sharply, may we be enabled continually to pray, that everything of an idol that we may feel may be purged away continually from us as fast as Satan sets them up; and in this way we shall make straight paths for our feet.
5. May we be enabled to set a great store by them that have the image of Jesus; I mean such as are in the path of tribulation. I do not mean professor, but such as groan under the plague of their hearts, and know or are seeking after the forgiveness of their sins. You know Christ's command is, "Love on another."
6. Let us remember one thing, that is, never to expect a smooth path. We are never so lively towards God as when we are sharply tried. It is a time of trouble that will cause us to pray; as is said of Christ, "Being in agony, he prayed the more earnestly." It is when we want help we get it from the sanctuary. These things make us hate our own life, and that proves we are real disciples. Hezekiah says, "By these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit."
7. We gain greatly in spiritual things by trials. If we go on easily for a while, we drink into the spirit of the world, such as jesting, covetousness, indifference in prayer, and dislike to reading and to the company of lively Christians; but when, without cause, we are hated by the world and professors, and God mars all our schemes, this makes us seek treasure in heaven above.
8. Finally, may we ever be enabled to keep clear of the half-hearted. It is true they will condemn us for not loving the brethren; but remember, how wroth God was with Jehoshaphat for his love to Ahab. He says, "Shouldest thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord?" As Huntington says, "Where we are not sure whether they belong to God or not, let us pray to God for us not to hate them, but still keep clear of them."
Thus I have got through what I proposed, namely, the rise, progress, and end of the spiritually-poor person, and given my advice (and may God help me take it myself) to all quickened souls.
May God give his blessing to the feeble attempts of one so unworthy to write and make it useful in some measure to his family. This is the earnest prayer of one that can say sincerely he is a lover of all them that love Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth.