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censors, to controul the unruly, and to keep his professed subjects in order, to be exercised by officers of his own appointment, Matth. xviii. 17, 18. I Cor. xii. 28. 1 Tim. V. 17. Heb. xiii. 17. But these are the great eye-sores of the carnal world, who love sinful liberty, and therefore cry out, “Let us break their bands asunder; and cast away their cords from us,” Psal. ii. 3. Hence this work is found to be, in a special manner, a striving against the stream of corrupt nature, which, for the most part, puts such a face on the church, as if there were no King in Israel, every one doing that which is right in his own eyes.
Evid. 3. However natural men may be brought to feign submission to the King of saints, yet lusts always retain the throne and dominion in their hearts, and they are serving divers lusts and pleasures, Tit. iii. 3. None but these in whom Christ is formed do really put the crown on his head, and receive the kingdom of Christ within them. His crown is “ the crown wherewith his mother crowned him, in the day of his espousals.” Who are they, whom the power of grace has not subdued, that will allow him to set up, and to put down, in their souls, as he will ? Nay, as for others, any Lord shall sooner get the rule over them, than the Lord of glory: They kindly entertain his enemies, and will never absolutely resign themselves to his govern. ment, till conquered in a day of power. Thus ye may see, that the natural man is an enemy to Jesus Christ in all his offices.
But O! how hard is it to convince men in this point! They are very lóth to take with it. And, in a special manner, the enmity of the heart against Christ in his priestly office, seems to be hid from the view of most of the hearers of the gospel. Yet there appearsto be a peculiar malignity in corrupt nature against that office of his. It may be observed, that the Socinians, these enemies of our blessed Lord, allow him to be properly a prophet and a King, but deny him to be properly a Priest. And this is agreeable enough to the corruption of our nature ; for under the covenant of works, the Lord was known as a Prophet or Teacher, and also as a King or Ruler;, but not at all as a Priest : So man knows nothing of the mystery of Christ, as the way to the Father, till it be revealed to him. And when it is revealed, the will riseth up against it; for cor. rupt nature lies cross the mystery of Christ, and the great contrivance of salvation, through a crucified Saviour, re. vealed in the gospel. For clearing of which weighty truth, let these four things be considered :
First, The soul's falling in with the grand device of salvation by Jesus Christ, and setting the matters of salvation on that footing before the Lord, is declared by the Scriptures of truth, to be an undoubted mark of a real saint, who is happy here and shall be happy hereafter. Matth. xi. 6. « And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.” I Cor. iii. 23, 24.“ “ But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness : But unto-them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” Philip. iii. 3. “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Now, how could this be, if nature could comply with that grand device?
Secondly, Corrupt nature is the very reverse of the gospel-contrivance. In the gospelGod promiseth Jesus Christ, as the great means of reuniting man to himself: He has named him as the Mediator, one in whom he is well pleased; and will have none but him, Matth. xvii. 5. But nature will have none of him, Psal. lxxxi. 11. God appointed the place of meeting for the reconciliation, namely, the flesh of Christ; accordingly, God was in Christ (2 Cor. v. 29.) as the tabernacle of meeting to make up the peace with sinners ; but natural men, though they should die for ever, will not come thither, John v. 40. “ And ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” In the way of the gospel the sinner must stand before the Lord in an imputed righteousness: But corrupt nature is for an inherent righteousness; and, therefore, so faras natural men follow after righteousness, they follow after the law of righteousness, Rom. ix. 31, 32. and not after the Lord our righteousness. Nature is always for building up itself, and to have some grounds for boasting; but the great design of the gospel is to exalt grace, to depress nature, and exclude boasting, Rom. ii. 27. The sum of our natural religion. is, to do good from and for ourselves, John v. 44. The
sum of the gospel religion is, to deny ourselves, and to do good from and for Christ, Philip. i. 21.
Thirdly, Every thing in nature is against believing in Jesus Christ. What beauty can the blind man discern in a crucified Saviour, for which he is to be desired ? How can the will, naturally impotent, yea, and averse to good, make choice of him? Well may the soul then say to him in the day of the spiritual siege, as the Jebusites said to David in another case, “ Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither,” 2 Sam. v. 6. The way of nature is to go into one's self for all; according to the fundamental maxim of unsanctified morality, That a man should trust in himself; which, according to the doctrine of faith, is mere foolishness. For so it is determined, Prov. xviii. 26. “ He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” Now, faith is the soul's going out of itself for all; and this nature, on the other hand, determines to be foolishness, I Cor. i. 18, 23. Wherefore there is need of the working of mighty power, to cause sinners to believe, Eph. i. 19. Isa. liii. 1. We see promises of wel. come to sinners, in the gospel covenant, are ample, large, and free, clogged with no conditions, Isa. Iv. 1. Rey. xxii. 17. If they cannot believe his bare word, he has given them his oath upon it,. Ezek. xxxiii. 11. And for their greater assurance, he has appended seals to his sworn co• venant, namely, the holy sacraments. So that no more could be demanded of the most faithless person in the world, to make us believe him, than the Lord hath conde. scended to give us, to make us believe himself. This plainJy speaks nature to be against believing, and these who flee to Christ for refuge, to have need of strong consolation (Heb. vi. 18.) to blame their strong doubts, and propensi. ty to unbelief. Farther, also, it may be observed, liow, in the word sent to a secure,graceless generation, their objec. tions are answered aforehand; and words of grace are heaped one upon another, as ye may read, Isa. Iv. 7, 8, 9. Joel i. 13. Why? Because the Lord knows, that when these secure sinners are thoroughly wakened, doubts, fears, and carnal reasonings against believing, will be going within their breasts, as thick as dust in a house, raised by sweeping a dry floor.
Lastly, Corrupt nature is bent towards the way of the
law, or covenant of works ; and every natural man, so far as he sets himself to seek after salvation, is engaged in that way; and will not quit it, till beat from it by divine power. Now the way of salvation by works, and that of free grace in Jesus Christ, are inconsistent, Rom. ix. 6. " And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise, grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” Gal. iii. 13.
And the law is not of FAITH ; but the man that DOTH them shall live in them.” Wherefore, if the will of man naturally incline to the way of salvation by the law, it lies cross to the gospel-contrivance. And that such is the natural bent of our hearts, will appear, if these following things be considered : .
1. The law was Adam's covenant, and he knew no other,as he was the head and representative of all mankind, that were brought into it with him, and left under it by him, though without strength to perform the condition thereof. Hence, tliis covenant is ingrained in our nature : And though we have lost our father's strength, yet we still incline to the way he was set upon, as our head and representative in that covenant; that is, by doing to live. This is our natural religion, and the principle which men naturally take for granted, Matth. xix. 16. “ What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life ?”
2. Consider the opposition that has always been made in the world against the doctrine of free grace in Jesus Christ, by men setting up for the way of works; thereby discovering the natural tendency of the heart. It is manifest, that the great design of the gospel-contrivance, is to exalt the free grace of God in Jesus Christ, Rom. iv. 16. “ Therefore, it is of faith, that it might be by grace.” See Eph. i. 6. and chap. ii. 7, 9. All gospel-truths center in Christ: So that to learn the truth is to learn Christ, Eph. iv. 20. And to be truly taught is to be taught as the truth is in Jesus, ver. 21. All dispensations of grace and favour from heaven, whether to nations or particular persons, have still had something about them, proclaiming a freedom of grace; as in the very first separation made by the divine favour, Cain, the elder brother, is rejected; und Abel, the younger, accepted. This shines through the whole history of the Bible: But as true as it is, this has been the point
principally opposed by corrupt nature. One may well say that of all errors in religion, since Christ, the seed of the woman, was preached, this of works, in opposition to free grace in him, was the first that lived; and it is likely to be the last that dies. There have been vast numbers of errors, which sprung up, one after another, whereof at length the world became ashamed and weary; so that they died out. But this has continued from Cain, the first author of this heresy, unto this day; and never wanted some that clave to it, even in the times of greatest light. I do not, without ground, call Cain the author of it: For, when Abel brought the sacrifice of atonement, a bloody offering, of the firstlings of his flock, (like the Publican, smiting on his breast and saying, God be merciful to me a sinner,) Cain advanced with his thank-offering of the first-fruit of the ground, (Gen. iv. 3, 4.) like the proud Pharisee, with his God I thank thee. For what was the cause of Cain's wrath, and of his murdering of Abel? Was it not that he was accepted of God for his work ? Gen.iv. 4,5. “ And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous, 1 John iii. 22. That is, done in faith, and accepted; when his were done without faith, and therefore rejected, as the Apostle teacheth, Heb. xi. 4. And so he wiote his indignation against justification and acceptance with God through faith, in opposition to works, in the blood of his brother, to convey it down to posterity. And since that time, the unbloody sacrifice has often swim. med in the blood of those that rejected it. The promise made to Abraham, of the seed in which all nations should be blessed, was so overclouded among his posterity in Egypt, that the generality of them saw no need of that way of obtaining the blessing, till God himself confuted their error, by a fiery law froin mount Sinai, « which was added because of transgressions, tillthe seed should come, Gal. iii. 19. I need not insist to tell you, how Moses and the Prophets had still much ado, to lead the people off the conceit of their own righteousness; Deut. xi. is entirely spent on that purpose. They were very gross in that point, in our Saviour's time. In the time of the Apostles, when the doctrine of free grace was most clearly preached, that error lifted up its head, in face of clearest light; witness the Epistie to the Romans and Galatians: And, since that time, it has not been wanting ; Popery being the common