First Encouragement.] Consider, for I would fain have thee come in, sinner, that there is way made by Jesus Christ for them that are under the curse of God, to come to this comfortable and blessed state of Lazarus I was speaking of. See Ephesians 2.
[Second Encouragement.] Consider what pains Christ Jesus took for the ransoming of thy soul from all the curses, thunder-claps, and tempests of the law; from all the intolerable flames of hell; from that soul-sinking appearance of thy person, on the left hand, before the judgment-seat of Christ Jesus, from everlasting fellowship, with innumerable companies of yelling and soul-amazing devils, I say, consider what pains the Lord Jesus Christ took in bringing in redemption for sinners from these things.
'In that though he was rich, yet he became poor, that ye, through his poverty, might be' made 'rich' (2 Cor 8:9). He laid aside his glory (John 17), and became a servant (Phil 2:7). He left the company of angels, and encountered with the devil (Luke 4; Matt 4). He left heaven's ease for a time, to lie upon hard mountains (Luke 6:12; John 8:1). In a word, he became poorer than they that go with flail and rake; yea, than the very birds or foxes, and all to do thee good. Besides, consider a little of these unspeakable and intolerable slightings and rejections, and the manifold abuses that came from men upon him. How he was falsely accused, being a sweet, harmless, and undefiled lamb. How he was undervalued, so that a murderer was counted less worthy of condemnation than he. Besides, how they mocked him, spit on him, beat him over the head with staves, had the hair plucked from his cheeks. 'I gave my back to the smiters,' saith he, 'and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting' (Isa 50:6). His head crowned with thorns, his hands pierced with nails, and his side with a spear; together with how they used him, scourged him, and so miserably misusing him, that they had even spent him in a great measure before they did crucify him; insomuch that there was another fain to carry his cross. Again,
[Third Encouragement.] Not only this, but lay to heart a little what he received from God, his dear Father, though he were his dear and tender Son.
1. In that he did reckon him the greatest sinner and rebel in the world. For he laid the sins of thousands, and ten thousands, and thousands of thousands of sinners to his charge (Isa 53). And caused him to drink the terrible cup that was due to them all; and not only so, but did delight in so doing. 'For it pleased the LORD to bruise him.' God dealt indeed with his son, as Abraham would have deal with Isaac; ay, and more terribly by ten thousand parts. For he did not only tear his body like a lion, but made his soul an offering for sin. And this was not done feignedly, but really—for justice called for it, he standing in the room of sinners. Witness that horrible and unspeakable agony that fell on him suddenly in the garden, as if all the vials of God's unspeakable scalding vengeance had been cast upon him all at once, and all the devils in hell had broken loose from thence at once to destroy him, and that for ever; insomuch that the very pangs of death seized upon him in the same hour. For, saith he, 'My soul is exceeding sorrowful' and 'sore amazed,' even 'unto death' (Mark 14:34).
2. Witness also that strange kind of sweat that trickled down his most blessed face, where it is said: 'And he sweat, as it were, great drops' or clodders 'of blood,' trickling 'down to the ground.' O Lord Jesus! what a load didst thou carry! What a burden didst thou bear of the sins of the world, and the wrath of God! O thou didst not only bleed at nose and mouth with the pressure that lay upon thee, but thou wast so pressed, so loaden, that the pure blood gushed through the flesh and skin, and so ran trickling down to the ground. 'And his sweat was as it were great drops of blood,' trickling or 'falling down to the ground' (Luke 22:44). Canst thou read this, O thou wicked sinner, and yet go on in sin? Canst thou think of this, and defer repentance one hour longer? O heart of flint! yea, harder. O miserable wretch! What place in hell will be hot enough for thee to have thy soul put into, if thou shalt persist or go on still to add iniquity to iniquity.
3. Besides, his soul went down to hell, and his body to the bars of the grave (Psa 16:10; Acts 2:31). And had hell, death, or the grave, been strong enough to hold him, then he had suffered the vengeance of eternal fire to all eternity. But, O blessed Jesus! how didst thou discover thy love to man in thy thus suffering! And, O God the Father! how didst thou also declare thy purity and exactness of thy justice, in that, though it was thine only, holy, innocent, harmless, and undefiled Son Jesus, that did take on him our nature, and represent our persons, answering for our sins, instead of ourselves! Thou didst so wonderfully pour out thy wrath upon him, to the making of him cry out, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' And, O Lord Jesus! what a glorious conquest hast thou made over the enemies of our souls, even wrath, sin, death, hell, and devils, in that thou didst wring thyself from under the power of them all! And not only so, but hast led them captive which would have led us captive; and also hast received for us that glorious and unspeakable inheritance that 'eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man' to conceive; and also hast given thine some discovery thereof through thy Spirit.
And now, sinner, together with this consider,
4. That though Jesus Christ hath done all these things for sinners, yet the devils make it their whole work, and continually study how they may keep thee and others from enjoying of these blessed privileges that have been thus obtained for sinners by this sweet Jesus. He labours, I say, (1.) To keep thee ignorant of thy state by nature. (2.) To harden thy heart against the ways of God. (3.) To inflame they heart with love to sin and the ways of darkness. And, (4.) To get thee to continue herein. For that is the way, he knows, to get thee to be a partaker with him of flaming hell-fire, even the same that he himself is fallen into, together with the rest of the wicked world, by reason of sin. Look to it therefore.
[Fourth Encouragement.] But now, in the next place, a word of encouragement to you that are the saints of the Lord.
1. Consider what a happy state thou art in that hast gotten the faith of the Lord Jesus into thy soul; but be sure thou have it, I say, how safe, how sure, how happy art thou! For when others go to hell, thou must go to heaven; when others go to the devil, thou must go to God; when as others go to prison, thou must be set at liberty, at ease, and at freedom; when others must roar for sorrow of heart, then thou shalt also sing for the joy of heart.
2. Consider thou must have all thy well-spent life to follow thee instead of all thy sins and the glorious blessings of the gospel instead of the dreadful curses and condemnations of the law; the blessing of the father, instead of a fiery sentence from the judge.
3. Let dissolution come when it will, it can do thee no harm; for it will be but only a passage out of a prison into a palace; out of a sea of troubles into a haven of rest; out of a crowd of enemies, to an innumerable company of true, loving, and faithful friends; out of shame, reproach, and contempt, into exceeding great and eternal glory. For death shall not hurt thee with his sting, nor bite thee with his soul-murdering teeth; but shall be a welcome guest to thee, even to thy soul, in that it is sent to free thee from thy troubles which thou art in whilst here in this world dwelling in the tabernacle of clay.
4. Consider however it goes with friends and relations, yet it will go well with thee (Eccl 8:12). However it goes with the wicked, yet 'surely I know'; mark, 'yet surely I know,' saith he, 'that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him.' And therefore let this,
(1.) In the first place, cause thee cheerfully to exercise thy patience under all the calamities, crosses, troubles, and afflictions that may come upon thee; and, by patient continuance in well-doing, to commit both thyself and thine affairs and actions into the hands of God, through Jesus Christ, as to a faithful Creator, who is true in his word, and loveth to give unto thee whatsoever he hath promised to thee.
(2.) And, therefore, to encourage thee while thou art here with comfort to hold on for all thy crosses in this thy journey, be much in considering the place that thou must go into so soon as dissolution comes. It must be into heaven, to God the judge of all, to an innumerable company of angels, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven, and to Jesus, to the redeemer, who is the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things for thee than Abel's did for Cain (Heb 11:22-24).
(3.) Consider that when the time of the dead that they shall be raised is come, then shall thy body be raised out of the grave and be glorified, and be made like to Jesus Christ (Phil 3:21). O excellent condition!
(4.) When Jesus Christ shall sit on the throne of his glory you also shall sit with him, even when he shall sit on the throne of his glory. O will not this be glorious, that when thousands, and thousands of thousands shall be arraigned before the judgment-seat of Christ, then for them to sit with him upon the throne, together with him to pass the sentence upon the ungodly (1 Cor 6:2,3). Will it not be glorious to enjoy those things that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man to conceive?
Will it not be glorious to have this sentence, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world?' Will it not be glorious to enter then with the angels and saints into that glorious kingdom? Will it not be glorious for thee to be in glory with them, while others are in unutterable torments? O then, how will it comfort thee to see thou hast not lost that glory; to think that the devil hath not got thy soul, that thy soul should be saved, and that not from a little, but from an exceeding danger; not with a little, but a great salvation. O, therefore, let the saints be joyful in glory, let them triumph over all their enemies. Let them begin to sing heaven upon earth, triumph before they come to glory, salvation, even when they are in the midst of their enemies, for 'this honour have all his saints' (Psa 149:9).
Verse 29.— 'Abraham said unto him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.'
In the verses foregoing you see there is a discovery of the lamentable state of the poor soul that dies out of Christ, and the special favour of God. And also how little the glorious God of heaven doth regard and take notice of their most miserable condition.
Now in this verse he doth magnify the word which was spoken to the people by the prophets and apostles, 'They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.' As if he should say, thou askest me that I should send Lazarus back again into the world to preach to them that live there, that they might escape that doleful place that thou art in. What needs that? Have they not Moses and the prophets? Have they not had my ministers and servants sent unto them and coming as from me? I sent Enoch and Noah, Moses and Samuel. I sent David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, and the rest of the prophets, together with Peter, Paul, John, Matthew, James, Jude, with the rest; 'Let them hear them.' What they have spoken by divine inspiration I will own, whether it be for the damnation of those that reject, or the saving of them that receive their doctrine. And, therefore, what need have they that one should be sent unto them in another way? 'They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.' Let them receive their word, close in with the doctrine declared by them. I shall not at this time speak anything to that word 'Abraham,' having touched upon it already; but shall tell you what is to be understood by these words, 'They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.' The things that I shall observe from hence are these:—
[First.] That the scriptures spoken by the holy men of God are a sufficient rule to instruct to salvation them that do assuredly believe and close in with what they hold forth. 'They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.' That is, if they would escape that doleful place, and be saved indeed from the intolerable pains of hell-fire, as they desire, they have that which is sufficient to counsel them. 'They have Moses and the prophets'; let them be instructed by them, 'Let them hear them.' For 'all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness'; why? 'That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works' (2 Tim 3:16,17). Do but mark these words, 'All scripture is profitable.' ALL; take it where you will, and in what place you will, 'All is profitable': For what? 'That the man of God,' or he that is bound for heaven, and would instruct others in their progress thither.
It is profitable to instruct him, in case he be ignorant; to reprove him, in case he transgress; to correct him, if he hath need of it; to confirm him, if he be wavering. It is profitable for doctrine, and all this in a very righteous way—that the poor soul may not only be helped, but thoroughly furnished, not only to some, but to all good works. And when Paul would counsel Timothy to stick close to the things that are sound and sure, presently he puts him upon the scripture, saying, 'From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.' The scripture holds forth God's mind and will, of his love and mercy towards man, and also the creature's carriage towards him from first to last; so if thou wouldst know the love of God in Christ to sinners, then 'search the scriptures, for they are they which testify of him.'
Wouldst thou know what thou art, and what is in thine heart? Then search the Scriptures and see what is written in them (Rom 1:29-31, 3:9-18; Jer 17:9; Gen 6:5, 8:21; Eph 4:18, with many others). The Scriptures, I say, they are able to give a man perfect instruction into any of the things of God necessary to faith and godliness, if he hath but an honest heart seriously to weigh and ponder the several things contained in them. As to instance in things more particular for the further clearing up of this. And first, if we come to the creation of the world.
Wouldst thou know somewhat concerning that? Then read Genesis 1 and 2, and compare them with Psalm 33:6; also Isaiah 66:2; Proverbs 8 towards the end.
Wouldst thou know whether he made them of something or nothing? Read Hebrews 11:3.
Wouldst thou know whether he put forth any labour in making them, as we do in making things? Read Psalm 33:9.
If thou wouldst know whether man was made by God corrupt or upright, read Ecclesiastes 7:29; Genesis 1:10, 18, 25, 31.
Wouldst thou know where God did place man after he had made him? Read Genesis 2:15.
Wouldst thou know whether that man did live there all his time or not? Then read Genesis 3:23, 24.
If thou wouldst know whether man be still in that state by nature that God did place him in? Then read Ecclesiastes 7:29, and compare it with Romans 5:16; Ephesians 2:1-3. 'God made men upright, but they have sought out many inventions.'
If thou wouldst know whether the man were first beguiled, or the woman that God made an help-mate for him? Read Genesis 3:6, and compare with 1 Timothy 2:14.
Wouldst thou know whether God looked upon Adam's eating [the fruit of] the forbidden tree to be sin or no? Read Romans 5:12-15, and compare it with Genesis 3:17.
Wouldst thou know whether it were the devil who beguiled them, or whether it was a natural serpent, such as do haunt the desolate places? Read Genesis 3:13, with Revelation 20:1-3.
Wouldst thou know whether that sin be imputed to us? Read Romans 5:12-15, and compare it with Ephesians 2:2.
Wouldst thou know whether man was cursed for his sin? Read Galatians 3:10; Romans 5:15.
Wouldst thou know whether the curse did fall on man, or on the whole creation with him? Compare Genesis 3:17, with Romans 8:20-22.
Wouldst thou know whether man be defiled in every part of him by the sin he hath committed? Then read Isaiah 1:6.
Wouldst thou know man's inclination so soon as he is born? Read Psalm 58:3. 'The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born.'
Wouldst thou know whether man once fallen from God by transgression, can recover himself by all he can do? Then read Romans 3:20,23.
Wouldst thou know whether it be the desire of the heart of man by nature, to follow God in his own way or no? Compare Genesis 6:5, and Genesis 8:21, with Hosea 11:7.
Wouldst thou know how God's heart stood affected toward man before the world began? Compare Ephesians 1:4, with 2 Timothy 1:9.
Wouldst thou know whether sin were sufficient to draw God's love from his creatures? Compare Jeremiah 3:7, and Micah 7:18, with Romans 5:6-8.
Wouldst thou know whether God's love did still abide towards his creatures for anything they could do to make him amends? Then read Deuteronomy 11:5-8.
Wouldst thou know how God could still love his creatures, and do his justice no wrong? Read Romans 3:24-26. 'Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation' for sin, 'through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.'
That is, God having his justice satisfied in the blood, and righteousness, and death of his own Son Jesus Christ for the sins of poor sinners, he can now save them that come to him, though never so great sinners, and do his justice no wrong, because it hath had a full and complete satisfaction given it by that blood (1 John 1:7,8).
Wouldst thou know who he was, and what he was, that did out of his love die for sinners, then compare John 3:16, 17,; Romans 5:8, with Isaiah 9:6.
Wouldst thou know whether this Saviour had a body of flesh and bones before the world was, or took it from the Virgin Mary? Then read Galatians 4:4.
Wouldst thou know whether he did in that body bear all our sins, and where? Then read 1 Peter 2:24. 'Who bare our sins in his own body on the tree.'
Wouldst thou know whether he did rise again after he was crucified, with the very same body? Then read Luke 24:38- 41.
Wouldst thou know whether he did eat or drink with his disciples after he rose out of the grave? Then read Luke 24:42, and Acts 10:41.
If thou wouldst be persuaded of the truth of this, that that very body is now above the clouds and stars, read Acts 1:9- 11, and Luke 24 toward the end.
If thou wouldst know that the Quakers hold an error that say the body of Christ is within them; consider the same scripture.
Wouldst thou know what that Christ that died for sinners is doing in that place whither he is gone? Then read Hebrews 7:24.
Wouldst thou know who shall have life by him, read 1 Timothy 1:14, 15, and Romans 5:6-8, which say, 'Christ died' for sinners, 'for the ungodly.'
Wouldst thou know whether they that live and die in their sins shall go to heaven or not? Then read 1 Corinthians 6:10; Revelation 21:8, 27, which saith, 'They shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.'
Wouldst thou know whether man's obedience will obtain that Christ should die for them, or save them? Then read Mark 2:17; Romans 5:6, 7.
Wouldst thou know whether righteousness, justification, and sanctification do come through the virtue of Christ's blood? Compare Romans 5:9 with Hebrews 12:12.
Wouldst thou know whether natural man can abstain from the outward act of sin against the law, merely by a principle of nature? Then compare well Romans 2:14, with Philippians 3:6.
Wouldst thou know whether a man by nature may know something of the invisible things of God? Compare seriously Romans 1:20, 21 with 2:14, 15.
Wouldst thou know how far a man may go on in a profession of the gospel, and yet fall away? Then read Hebrews 6:4-6. 'They may taste the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come.' They may taste 'the heavenly gift, and be partakers of the Holy Ghost,' and yet so fall as never to be recovered, or renewed again unto repentance. See also Luke 13.
Wouldst thou know how hard it is to go to heaven? Read Matthew 7:13, 14; Luke 13:24.
Wouldst thou know whether a man by nature be a friend to God, or an enemy? Then read Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21.
Wouldst thou know what, or who they are that shall go to heaven? Then read John 3:3-7, and 2 Corinthians 5:17. Also, wouldst thou know what a sad thing it is for any to turn their backs upon the gospel of Jesus Christ? then read Hebrews 10:28, 29, and Mark 16:16.
Wouldst thou know what is the wages of sin? Then read Romans 6:23. ['The wages of sin is death.']
Wouldst thou know whither those do go that die unconverted to the faith of Christ? Then read Psalm 9:17, and Isaiah 14:9.
Reader, here might I spend many sheets of paper, yea, I might upon this subject write a very great book, but I shall now forbear, desiring thee to be very conversant in the Scriptures, 'for they are they which testify of Jesus Christ' (John 5:39). The Bereans were counted noble upon this account: 'These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily,' &c. (Acts 17:11). But here let me give thee one caution, that is, have a care that thou do not satisfy thyself with a bare search of them, without a real application of him whom they testify of to thy soul, lest instead of faring the better for thy doing this work, thou dost fare a great deal the worse, and thy condemnation be very much heightened, in that though thou didst read so often the sad state of those that die in sin, and the glorious estate of them that close in with Christ, yet thou thyself shouldest be such a fool as to lose Jesus Christ, notwithstanding thy hearing, and reading so plentifully of him.
'They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.'
As if he should say, what need have they that one should be sent to them from the dead? Have they not Moses and the prophets? Hath not Moses told them the danger of living in sin? (Deut 27:15-26, 28:15-68, 29:18-22). Hath he not there told them, what a sad state those persons are in that deceive themselves with the deceit of their hearts, saying they shall have peace though they follow their sins, in these words: 'And when he heareth the words of this curse, he blesseth himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace though I' go on, or 'walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst. The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.'
Again, Did not Moses write of the Saviour that was to come afterwards into the world? (Deut 18:18). Nay, have not all the prophets from Samuel, with all those that follow after, prophesied, and foretold these things? Therefore what need have they that I should work such a miracle, as to send one from the dead unto them? 'They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.'
[Second.] From whence observe again, that God doth honour the writings of Moses and the prophets, as much, nay more, than if one should rise from the dead: 'Should not a people seek unto their God?' What, seek 'for the living among the dead? To the law, and to the testimony,' saith God, 'if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them' (Isa 8:19,20). And let me tell you plainly, I do believe that the devil knows this full well, which makes him labour to beget in the hearts of his disciples and followers light thoughts of them; and doth persuade them, that even a motion from their own beguiled conscience, or from his own wicked spirit, is to be observed and obeyed before them. When the very apostle of Jesus Christ, though he heard a voice from the excellent glory, saying, 'This is my beloved Son,' &c., yet writing to the churches, he commends, the writing of the prophets before it, saying, 'We have also a more sure word of the prophets, to which ye do well to take heed,' &c. (2 Peter 1:17-19). Now if thou doubtest whether that place be meant the scriptures, the words of the prophets or no, read but the next verse, where he addeth for a certain confirmation thereof, these words, 'Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.'
And therefore what a sad thing is it for those that go about to disown the Scriptures! I tell you, however they may slight them now, yet when they come into hell, they will see their folly: 'They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.'
Further, who are they that are so tossed to and fro, with the several winds of doctrine that have been broached in these days, but such for the most part, as have had a light esteem of the scriptures; for the ground of error, as Christ saith, is because they know not them (Mark 12:24). And indeed, it is just with God to give them over to follow their own dark blinded consciences, to be led into errors, that they might be damned into hell, who did not believe that the things contained in the Scripture were the truth, that they might be saved and go to heaven. I cannot well tell how to have done speaking for, and on the Scriptures' side; only this I consider, a word is enough to the wise; and therefore I shall commit these things into the hands of them that are of God; and as for the rest, I shall say to them, rather than God will save them from hell with the breach of his holy Word, if they had a thousand souls apiece, God would destroy them all; for 'the Scripture cannot be broken' (John 10:35).
Verse 30.— 'And he said, Nay, Father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.'
The verse before, you know, as I told you, it was part of an answer to such as lose their souls; so it is a vindication of the Scriptures of Moses and the prophets, 'They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.'
Now this verse is an answer to what was said in the former; and such an one as hath in it a rejection of the former answer. 'Nay, father Abraham.' Nay, saith he, do not say so, do not put them off with this; send one from the dead, and then there will be some hopes. It is true thou speakest of the Scripture, of Moses and the prophets, and sayest, 'let them hear them'; but these things are not so well as I could wish, I had rather thou wouldst send one from the dead. In these words therefore, Nay, father Abraham, there is a repulse given; nay, let it not be so; nay, I do not like of that answer. Hear Moses and the prophets, nay. The same expression is used by Christ, Luke 13:2, 3. Think you that they upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, were sinners above others? 'I tell you nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.' So here, Nay, father Abraham, &c.
By this word Nay, therefore, is signified a rejecting the first answer.
Now observe, I pray you, the reason why he says Nay, is, because God doth put over all those that will be saved, to observe and receive the truth contained in Scripture, and believe that. To have a high esteem of them, and to love and search them, as Christ saith, 'Search the Scriptures,' for 'they are they which testify of me' (John 5:39). But the damned say, Nay; as if he had said, This is the thing. To be short, my brethren are unbelievers, and do not regard the Word of God. I know it by myself, for when I was in the world, it was so with me; many a good sermon did I hear, many a time was I admonished, desired, entreated, beseeched, threatened, forewarned of what I now suffer; but alas! I was ignorant, self-conceited, surly, obstinate, and rebellious. Many a time the preacher told hell would be my portion, the devil would wreck his malice on me; God would pour on me his sore displeasure; but he had as good have preached to the stock, to the post, to the stones I trod on; his words rang in mine ears, but I kept them from mine heart. I remember he alleged many a Scripture, but those I valued not; the Scriptures, thought I, what are they? A dead letter, a little ink and paper, of three or four shillings' price. Alas! What is the Scripture? Give me a ballad, a news-book, George on horseback, or Bevis of Southampton; give me some book that teaches curious arts, that tells of old fables; but for the holy Scriptures I cared not. And as it was with me then, so it is with my brethren now, we were all of one spirit, loved all the same sins, slighted all the same counsels, promises, encouragements and threatenings of the Scriptures; and they are still, as I left them, still in unbelief, still provoking God, and rejecting good counsel, so hardened in their ways, so bent to follow sin, that let the Scriptures be showed to them daily, let the messengers of Christ preach till their hearts ache, till they fall down dead with preaching, they will rather trample it under foot, and swine-like rend them, than close in with those gentle and blessed proffers of the gospel.
'Nay, father Abraham, but if one should rise from the dead, they would repent.' Though they have Moses and the prophets, the Scriptures, they will not repent and close in with Jesus Christ, though the Scriptures do witness against them. If therefore there be any good done to them, they must have it another way. I think, saith he, it would work much on them 'if one should rise from the dead.' And this truth indeed is so evident, that ungodly ones have a light esteem of the Scriptures, that it needs not many strong arguments to prove it, being so evidently manifested by their every day's practice, both in words and actions, almost in all things they say and do. Yet for the satisfaction of the reader, I shall show you by a scripture or two, though I might show many, that this was and is true, with the generality of the world. See the words of Nehemiah in his 9th chapter concerning the children of Israel, who though the Lord offered them mercy upon mercy, as it is from verse 19-25, yet verse 26, saith he, 'Nevertheless they were disobedient' for all thy goodness towards them, 'and rebelled against thee.' But how? 'And cast thy law behind their backs; slew thy prophets which testified against them, to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.'
Observe, 1. They sinned against mercy. And then, 2. They slighted the law, or Word of God. 3. They slew the prophets that declared it unto them. 4. The Lord counts it a great provocation. See Hebrews 3:10-19; Zechariah 7:11, 12. 'But they refused to hearken,' saith he, there of the wicked, 'and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear' the law. 'Yea, they made their hearts' hard as 'an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent' unto them 'in his Spirit by the former prophets,' &c.
Mark, I pray you, here is also, (1.) A refusing to hearken to the words of the prophets. (2.) That they might so do, they stopped their ears. (3.) If anything was to be done, they pulled away their shoulder. (4.) To effect his, they labour to make their hearts hard as an adamant stone. (5.) And all this, lest they should hear and close in with Jesus, and live, and be delivered from the wrath to come. All which things do hold out an unwillingness to submit to, and embrace the words of God, and so Jesus Christ which is testified of by them. Many other scriptures I might bring in for confirmation of the thing, as that in Amos 7:12, 13; also 1 Samuel 2:24, 25; 2 Chronicles 25:15, 16; Jeremiah 7:23-28, 16:12. Read also seriously that saying in 2 Chronicles 36:15, where he saith, 'And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling- place.' And did they make them welcome? No, but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words. And was that all? No, they 'misused his prophets.' How long? 'Until the wrath of the Lord arose against them. Till there was no remedy.' See also Jeremiah 29:19, 25:3-7; Luke 11:49.
And besides, the conversion of almost all men doth bear witness to the same, both religious and profane persons, in that they daily neglect, reject, and turn their backs upon the plain testimony of the Scriptures. As,
First. Take the THREATENINGS laid down in holy writ, and how are they disregarded? There are but a few places in the Bible but there are threatenings against one sinner or other; against drunkards, swearers, liars, proud persons, strumpets, whoremongers, covetous, railers, extortioners, thieves, lazy persons. In a word, all manner of sins are reproved, and without faith in the Lord Jesus, there is a sore punishment to be executed on the committers of them; and all this made mention of in the Scriptures.
But for all this, how thick, and by heaps, do these wretches walk up and down our streets? Do but go into the alehouses, and you shall see almost every room besprinkled with them, so foaming out their own shame, that it is enough to make the heart of a saint to tremble, insomuch that they would not be bound to have society with them any long while for all the world. For as the ways of the godly are not liked of by the wicked, even so the ways of the wicked 'are an abomination to the just' (Prov 29:27; Psa 120:5,6).
1. The Scripture says, 'Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD' (Jer 17:5).
And yet how many poor souls are there in the world, that stand in so much awe and dread of men, and do so highly esteem their favour, that they will rather venture their souls in the hands of the devil with their favour, than they will fly to Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls? Nay, though they be convinced in their souls, that the way is the way of God; yet how do they labour to stifle conviction, and turn their ears away from the truth, and all because they will not lose the favour of an opposite neighbour? O! I dare not for my master, my brother, my landlord, I shall lose his favour, his house of work, and so decay my calling. O, saith another, I would willingly go in this way, but for my father, he chides and tells me he will not stand my friend when I come to want; I shall never enjoy a pennyworth of his goods; he will disinherit me. And I dare not, saith another, for my husband, for he will be a railing, and tells me he will turn me out of doors, he will beat me, and cut off my legs. But I tell you, if any of these, or any other things be so prevalent with thee now, as to keep thee from seeking after Christ in his ways, they will also be so prevalent with God against thee, as to make him cast off thy soul, because thou didst rather trust man than God; and delight in the embracing of man rather than in the favour of the Lord.
2. Again, the Scripture saith, 'He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy' (Prov 29:1). Yet many are so far from turning, though they have been convinced of their wretched state a hundred times, that when convictions or trouble for sin comes on their consciences, they go on still in the same manner resisting and choking the same, though remediless destruction be hard at their heels.
3. Again thou hast heard say, 'Except a man be born again,' 'he cannot enter into the kingdom of God' (John 3:3-7). And yet thou goest on in a natural state, an unregenerate condition; nay, thou dost resolve never to turn nor be changed, though hell be appointed on purpose to swallow up such (Isa 14:9). 'The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God' (Psa 9:17).
4. Again, the Scripture saith plainly that he that loveth and maketh a lie shall have his part 'in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone' (Rev 21:8,27). And yet thou art so far from dreading it, that it is thy delight to jest and jeer, and lie for a penny, or twopence, or sixpence, again. And also if thou canst make the rest of thy companions merry, by telling things that are false, of them that are better than thyself, thou dost not care a straw. Or if thou hearest a lie from, or of another, thou wilt tell it, and swear to the truth of it, O miserable!
5. Thou hast heard and read, that 'He that believeth not shall be damned' (Mark 16:16). And that 'all men have not faith' (2 Thess 3:2). And yet thou dost so much disregard these things, that it is like thou didst scarce ever so much as examine seriously whether thou wast in the faith or no; but dost content thyself with the hypocrite's hope, which at the last God will cut off, and count it not better than the spider's web (Job 8:13,14), or the house that is builded on the sands (Luke 6:49). Nay, thou peradventure dost flatter thyself, and thinkest that thy faith is as good as the best of them all; when, alas, poor soul, thou mayest have no saving faith at all; which thou hast not, if thou be not born again, and made a new creature (2 Cor 2:17).
6. Thou hast heard, that he that neglects God's great salvation shall never escape his great damnation (Heb 2:3, compared with Luke 14:24, and Rev 14:19,20). And yet when thou art invited, intreated, and beseeched to come in, thou wilt make any excuse to serve the turn (Luke 14:17,18; Rom 12:1; 2 Cor 5:19,20). Nay, thou wilt be so wicked as to put off Christ time after time, notwithstanding he is so freely proffered to thee; a little ground, a few oxen, a farm, a wife, a twopenny matter, a play; nay, the fear of a mock, a scoff or a jeer, is of greater weight to draw thee back, than the salvation of thy soul to draw thee forward.
7. And thou hast heard, that whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4). But thou regardest not these things, but contrariwise; rather than thou wilt be out of the friendship and favour of this world, thou wilt sin against thine own conscience, and get thyself into favour by fawning and flattering of the world. Yea, rather than thou wilt go without it, thou wilt dissemble, lie, backbite thy neighbour, and an hundred other tricks thou wilt have.
8. You have heard that the day of judgment is near, in which you and I, all of us, must appear before the tribunal of Jesus Christ, and there be made to give an account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead; even of all that ever we did, yea, of all our sins in thought, word, and deed, and shall certainly be damned for them too, if we close not in with our Lord Jesus Christ, and what he hath done and suffered for eternal life; and that not notionally or traditionally, but really and savingly, in the power, and by the operation of the Spirit, through faith (Eccl 11:9, 12:14; Acts 10:42, 17:30,31; 2 Cor 5:10; Heb 9:27; Rev 20:12). 'And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books.' There is the book of the creatures, the book of conscience, the book of the Lord's remembrance, the book of the law, the book of the gospel (Rom 1:20, compare with Rom 2:12,15; Rev 6:17; John 12:48). Then 'he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep on the right hand, but the goats on his left' (Matt 25:30-32). 'And shall say to them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed' (v 34). But to the other, go, or 'Depart, ye cursed' (v 41). Yet, notwithstanding the Scriptures do so plainly and plentifully speak of these things, alas! who is there that is weaned from the world, and from their sins and pleasures, to fly from the wrath to come? (Matt 3:7). Notwithstanding the Scripture saith also that heaven and earth shall pass away, rather than one jot, or one tittle of the word shall fail, 'till all be fulfilled,' they are so certain (Luke 21:33; Matt 5:18).
[Second PROMISES.] But leaving the threatenings, let us come to THE PROMISES, and speak somewhat of them, and you may see how light men make of them, and how little they set by them, notwithstanding the mouth of the Lord hath spoken them. As
1. 'Turn,' ye fools, ye scorners, ye simple ones, 'at my reproof'; and 'behold I will pour out my Spirit unto you' (Prov 1:23). And yet persons had rather be in their foolishness and scorning still, and had rather embrace some filthy lust, than the holy, undefiled, and blessed Spirit of Christ, through the promise, though by it, as many as receive it, 'are sealed unto the day of redemption' (Eph 4:30), and although he that lives and dies without it, is none of Christ's (Rom 8:9).
2. God hath said, if thou do but come to him in Christ, 'Though your sins be as' red as 'scarlet, they shall be as white as snow'; and he will by no means cast thee away. Compare Isaiah 1:18 with John 6:37. Yet poor souls will not come to Christ that they might have life (John 5:40), but rather after their hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom 2:5).
3. Christ Jesus hath said in the Word of truth that if any man will serve and follow him, where he is, 'there shall also his servant be' (John 12:26). But yet poor souls choose rather to follow sin, Satan, and the world, though their companions be the devils and damned souls for ever (Matt 25:41).
4. He hath also said, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all' other 'things shall be added.' But let whoso will seek after the kingdom of heaven first for them; for they will take the first time, while time serves to get the things of this life. And if it be so, that they must needs seek after heaven, or else be damned, they will stay till they have more leisure, or till they can better attend to it; or till they have other things handsome about them, or till they are older; when they have little else to do, or when they come to be sick, and to die. Then, Lord, have mercy upon them! though it be ten thousand to one but they perish for ever.
For commonly the Lord hath this way to deal with such sinners, who put him off when he is striving with them, either to laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear cometh (Prov 1:26,28). Or else send them to the gods they have served, which are the devils (Judg 10:13,14). Go to the gods you have served, and 'let them deliver you,' saith he; compare this with John 8:44.
5. He hath said, 'There is no man that forsaketh father, or mother, wife, or children, or lands, for his sake and the gospel's, but shall have a hundred fold in this world, with persecution, and in the world to come life everlasting' (Mark 10:29,30).
But men, for the most part, are so far off from believing the certainty of this, that they will scarce lose the earning of a penny to hear the Word of God, the gospel of salvation. Nay, they will neither go themselves, nor suffer others to go, if they can help it, without threatening to do them a mischief, if it lie in their way. Nay, further, many are so far from parting from any worldly gain for Christ's sake, and the gospel's, that they are still striving, by hook and by crook, as we say, by swearing, lying, cozening, stealing, covetousness, extortion, oppression, forgery, bribery, flattery, or any other way to get more, thou they get together with these, death, wrath, damnation, hell, the devil, and all the plagues that God can pour upon them. And if any do not run with them to the same excess of riot, but rather for all their threats will be so bold and careless, as they call it, as to follow the ways of God; if they can do no more, yet they will whet their tongues like a sword to wound them, and do them the greatest mischief they can, both in speaking against them to neighbours, to wives, to husbands, to landlords, and raising false reports of them. But let such take heed lest they be in such a state, and woeful condition as he was in, who said, in vexation and anguish of soul, One drop of cold water to cool my tongue.
Thus might I add many things out of the holy Writ, both threatenings and promises, besides those heavenly counsels, loving reproofs, free invitations to all sorts of sinners, both old and young, rich and poor, bond and free, wise and unwise. All which have been, now are, and is to be feared, as long as this world lasts, will be trampled under the feet of those swine, I call them not men, who will continue in the same. But take a review of some of them:—
What heavenly counsel is that where Christ saith, 'buy of me gold tried by the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear' (Rev 3:18). Also that, 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price' (Isa 55:1). 'Hear, and your soul shall live' (v 3). 'Take hold of my strength, that you may make peace with me, and you shall make peace with me' (Isa 27:5).
What instruction is here?
'Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me,' saith Christ, 'watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me, findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord' (Prov 8:33-35). Take heed that no man deceive you by any means. 'Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life' (John 6:27). 'Strive to enter in at the strait gate' (Luke 13:24). 'Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved' (Acts 16:31). 'Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits.' 'Quench not the Spirit.' 'Lay hold on eternal life.' 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven' (Matt 5:16). Take heed, and beware of hypocrisy; 'watch and be sober,' 'learn of me,' saith Christ, 'come unto me.'
What forewarning is here?
'Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke, then a great ransom cannot deliver thee' (Job 36:18). 'Be ye not mockers, lest your hands be made strong, for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts, a consumption even determined upon the whole earth' (Isa 28:22). 'Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you that is written, Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish. For I work a work in your days, which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you' (Acts 13:40,41). 'Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall' (1 Cor 10:12). 'Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation' (Matt 26:41). 'Let us therefore fear lest a promise being' made, and 'left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it' (Heb 4:1). 'I will therefore put you in remembrance, though you once knew this, how that the Lord having saved the people out of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not' (Jude 5). 'Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown' (Rev 3:11).
What comfort is here?
'Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out' (John 6:37). 'Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest' (Matt 11:28). 'Be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee' (Matt 9:2). 'I will never leave, nor forsake thee,' for 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love' (Jer 31:3). 'I lay down my life for the sheep.' I lay down my life that they may have life. 'I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.' 'I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee' (2 Cor 6:2). 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' 'For I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgression, and as a cloud thy sins; return unto me, for I have redeemed thee' (Isa 44:22).
5. Grief to those that fall short.
O sad grief!
'How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof, and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me' (Prov 5:11- 13). They shall 'curse their king and their God, and look upward. And they shall look unto the earth, and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish, and they shall be driven to darkness' (Isa 8:21,22). 'He hath dispersed' abroad, 'he hath given to the poor, his righteousness endureth for ever. – The wicked shall see it, and be grieved, he shall gnash his teeth, and melt away; the desire of the wicked shall perish' (Psa 112:9,10). 'There shall be weeping, – when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out' (Luke 13:28). All which things are slighted by the world.
Thus much, in short, touching this, That ungodly men undervalue the Scriptures, and give no credit to them, when the truth that is contained in them is held forth in simplicity unto them, but rather cry out, Nay, but if one should rise from the dead then they think something might be done; when alas, though signs and wonders were wrought by the hands of those that preach the gospel, these poor creatures would never the sooner convert, though they suppose they should, as is evident by the carriages of their forerunners, who albeit the Lord Jesus Christ himself did confirm his doctrine by miracles, as opening blind eyes, casting out of devils, and raising the dead, they were so far from receiving either him or his doctrine, that they put him to death for his pains! Though he had done so many miracles among them, yet they believed not in him (John 12:37).
But to pass this, I shall lay down some of the grounds of their rejecting and undervaluing the Scriptures, and so pass on.
1. [Ground.] Because they do not believe that they are the Word of God, but rather suppose them to be the inventions of men, written by some politicians, on purpose to make poor ignorant people to submit to some religion and government. Though they do not say this, yet their practices testify the same; as he that when he hears the words of the curse, yet blesseth himself in his heart, and saith he shall have peace, though God saith he shall have none (Deut 29:18-20). And this must needs be, for did but men believe this, that it is the Word of God, then they must believe that he that speak it is true, therefore shall every word and tittle be fulfilled. And if they come once to this, unless they be stark mad, they will have a care how they do throw themselves under the lash of eternal vengeance. For the reason why the Thessalonians received the Word, was, because they believed it was the Word of God, and not the word of man, which did effectually work in them by their thus believing. 'When ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us,' saith he, 'ye received it not as the word of man, but, as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe' (1 Thess 2:13). So that did a man but receive it in hearing, or reading, or meditating, as it is the Word of God, they would be converted. 'But the Word preached did not profit, – not being mixed with faith in them that heard it' (Heb 4:2).
2. [Ground.] Because they do not indeed see themselves by nature heirs of that exceeding wrath and vengeance that the Scriptures testify of. For did they but consider what God intends to do with those that live and die in a natural state, it would either sink them into despair, or make them fly for refuge to the hope that is set before them. But if there be never such sins committed, and never so great wrath denounced, and the time of execution be never so near, yet if the party that is guilty be senseless, and altogether ignorant thereof, he will be careless, and regards it nothing at all. And that man, by nature, is in this condition, it is evident. For, take the same man that is senseless, and ignorant of that misery he is in by nature, I say, take him at another time when he is a little awakened, and then you shall hear him roar, and cry out so long as trouble is upon him, and a sense of the wrath of God hanging over his head, Good sirs, what must I do to be saved?
Though the same man at another time, when his conscience is fallen asleep, and grown hard, will lie like the smith's dog at the foot of the anvil, though the fire-sparks fly in his face. But, as I said before, when any one is a little awakened, O what work will one verse, one line, nay, one word of the holy Scriptures make in his heart. He cannot eat, sleep, work, keep company with his former companions, and all because he is afraid that the damnation spoken of in Scripture will fall to his share, like Balaam, who said, 'I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord' (Num 22:18). So long as he had something of the word of the Lord with authority, severity, and power on his heart; but at another time he could teach 'Balak to cast a stumbling- block before the children of Israel' (Rev 2:14).
3. [Ground.] Because the carnal priests do tickle the ears of their hearers with vain philosophy and deceit, and thereby harden their hearts against the simplicity of the gospel and Word of God, which things the apostle admonished those that have a mind to close in with Christ to avoid, saying, 'Beware lest any man,' be he what he will, 'spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, and rudiments of the world, and not after Christ' (Col 2:8). And you who muzzle up your people in ignorance with Aristotle, Plato, and the rest of the heathenish philosophers, and preach little, if anything, of Christ rightly; I say unto you, that you will find you have sinned against God, and beguiled your hearers, when God shall, in the judgment-day, lay the cause of the damnation of many thousands of souls to your charge, and say, He will require their blood at your hands (Eze 33:6).
4. [Ground.] Another reason why the carnal unbelieving world do so slight the Scriptures and Word of God, is, because the judgment spoken of in the Scripture is not presently executed on the transgressors. 'Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil' (Eccl 8:11). Because God doth not presently strike the poor wretch as soon as he sins, but waits, and forbears, and is patient, therefore the world judging God to be unfaithful, go to it again and again, and every time grow harder and harder, till at last God is forced either to stretch out his mighty power to turn them, or else send death, with the devil and hell, to fetch them. 'Thou thoughtest,' saith God, 'that I was altogether such an one as thyself, but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver' (Psa 50:21,22).
5. [Ground.] Another reason why the blind world do slight the authority of Scripture, is, because they give ear to the devil, who, through his subtilty, casteth false evasions and corrupt interpretations on them, rendering them not so point blank the mind of God, and a rule for direction to poor souls, persuading them that they must give ear and way to something else besides, and beyond that; or else he labours to render it vile and contemptible, by persuading them that it is a dead letter, when indeed they know not what they say, nor whereof they affirm. For the Scripture is not so dead but that the knowledge of it is able to make any man wise unto salvation, through faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:15); and is profitable for instruction, reproof, and correction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished to all good works (v 17).
And where it is said the letter killeth, he meaneth the law, as it is the ministration of damnation, or a covenant of works, and so indeed it doth kill, and must do so, because it is just, forasmuch as the party that is under the same is not able to yield to it a complete and continual obedience. But yet I will call Peter and Paul to witness that the Scriptures are of a very glorious concernment, inasmuch as in them is held forth to us the way of life; and also in that they do administer good ground of hope to us. 'For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope' (Rom 15:4). And again, 'Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith' (Rom 16:25,26). And therefore whosoever they be that slight the Scriptures, they slight that which is no less than the Word of God; and they who slight that, slight him that spake it; and they that do so, let them look to themselves, for God will be revenged on such. Much more might be said to this thing, but I would not be tedious.
A word or two more, so I have done with this. Consider the danger of slighting the words of the prophets or apostles, whether they be correction, reproof, admonition, forewarning, or the blessed invitations and promises contained in them.
1. [Consider] Such souls do provoke God to anger, and to execute his vengeance on them. 'They refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear' the law, and 'they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of Hosts hath sent in his Spirit by the former prophets; therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of Hosts' (Zech 7:11,12).
2. [Consider] God will not regard in their calamity. 'Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof. I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh. When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me' (Prov 1:24-28).
3. [Consider] God doth commonly give up such men to delusions, to believe lies. 'Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved,' therefore 'God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned' (2 Thess 2:10-12).
4. [Consider] In a word, they that do continue to reject and slight the Word of God, they are such, for the most part, as are ordained to be damned. Old Eli, his sons not hearkening to the voice of their father reproving them for their sins, but disobeying his voice, it is said, It was 'because the Lord would slay them' (1 Sam 2:25). Again see in 2 Chronicles 25:15, 16. Amaziah having sinned against the Lord, he sends to him a prophet to reprove him; but Amaziah says, 'Forbear, why shouldest thou be smitten?' He did not hearken to the word of God, 'Then the prophet forbare, saying, I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast – not hearkened unto my counsel.' Read, therefore, and the Lord give thee understanding. For a miserable end will those have that go on sinning against God, rejecting his Word.
Other things might have been observed from this verse, which at this time I shall pass by; partly because the sum of them hath been touched already, and may be more clearly hinted at in the following verse; and therefore I shall speak a few words to the next verse, and so draw towards a conclusion.
Verse 31.— 'And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.'
'And he said'; that is, and God made answer to the words spoken in the verse before, 'And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses,' &c. As if he had said, Moses was a man of great renown, a man of worthy note, a man that talked with God face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend. The words that Moses spake were such as I commanded him to speak. Let who will question them, I will own them, credit them, bless them that close in with them, and curse those that reject them.
I myself sent the prophets, they did not run of their own heads, I gave them commission, I thrust them out, and told them what they should say. In a word, they have told the world what my mind is to do, both to sinners and to saints; 'They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.' Therefore he that shall reject and turn his back either upon the threatenings, counsels, admonitions, invitations, promises, or whatsoever else I have commanded them to speak as to salvation and life, and to directions therein, shall be sure to have a share in the many curses that they have spoken, and the destruction that is pronounced by them. Again, 'If they hear not Moses and the prophets,' &c. As if he had said, Thou wouldst have me send one from the dead unto them; what needs that? They have my mind already, I have declared unto them what I intend to stand to, both for saving them that believe, and damning them that do not. That therefore which I have said I will make good, whether they hear or forbear. And as for this desire of yours, you had as good desire me to make a new Bible, and so to revoke my first sayings by the mouth of my prophets. But I am God and not man, and my Word is immutable, unchangeable, and shall stand as fast as my decrees can make it; heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or tittle of my Word shall not pass (Matt 5:18). If thou hadst ten thousand brethren, and every one in danger of losing his soul, if they did not close in with what is contained and recorded in the Scriptures of truth, they must even every one of them perish, and be for ever damned in hell, for the Scriptures cannot be broken. I did not send them so unadvisedly to recall it again by another consideration. No, for I speak in righteousness and in judgment (Isa 63:1-3), and in much wisdom and counsel. It being therefore gone out of my mouth in this manner, it shall not return in vain, until it hath accomplished the thing whereto I have sent it (Isa 55:11).
But again, thou supposest that miracles and wonders will work more on them, which makes thee say, Send one from the dead. But herein thou art mistaken, for I have proved them with that once and again, by more than one, or two, or three of my servants. How many miracles did my servant Moses work by commandment from me in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness! Yet they of that generation were never the sooner converted for that; but, notwithstanding, rebelled and lusted, and in their hearts turned back into Egypt (Acts 7). How many miracles did Samuel, David, Elias, Elisha, Daniel, and the prophets, together with my Son, who raised the dead, cast out devils, made them to see that were born blind, gave and restored limbs! Yet for all this, as I said before, they hated him, they crucified him. I raised him again from the dead, and he appeared to his disciples, who were called, and chosen, and faithful, and he gave them commandment and commission to go and testify the truth of this to the world; and to confirm the same he enabled them to speak with divers tongues, and to work miracles most plentifully, yet there was great persecution raised against them, insomuch that but a few of them died in their beds. And, therefore, though thou thinkest that a miracle will do so much with the world, yet I say no. For if they will not believe Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one should rise from the dead.
From these words, therefore, take notice of this truth, namely, that those who reject and believe not Moses and the prophets are a very hard-hearted people, that will not be persuaded though one rise from the dead. They that regard not the holy Scriptures to turn to God, finding them to testify of his goodness and mercy, there is but little hopes of their salvation; for they will not, mark, they will not be persuaded though one should rise from the dead. This truth is confirmed by Jesus Christ himself. If you read John 5, where the Lord is speaking of himself that he is the very Christ, he brings in four or five witnesses to back what he said. 1. John Baptist. 2. The works that his Father gave him to do. 3. His Father speaking from heaven. 4. The testimony of the Scriptures. When all this was done, seeing yet they would not believe, he lays the fault upon one of these two things:—(1.) Their regarding an esteem among men. (2.) Their not believing of the prophets' writings, even Moses and the rest. 'For had ye believed Moses,' saith he, 'ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?'
Now, I say, he that shall slight the Scriptures, and the testimony of the prophets in them concerning Jesus Christ, must needs be in great danger of losing his soul, if he abide in this condition; because he that slights the testimony doth also slight the thing testified of, let him say the contrary never so often. For as Jesus Christ hath here laid down the reason of men's not receiving him, so the apostle in another place lays down the reason again with a high and mighty aggravation (1 John 5:10), saying, 'He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record,' mark, 'the record that God gave of his Son.' The record, you will say, what is that? Why even the testimony that God gave of him by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:18-20). That is, God sending his holy Spirit into the hearts of his servants, the prophets and apostles, he, by his Spirit in them, did bear witness or record of the truth of salvation by his Son Jesus, both before and after his coming. And thus is that place also to be understood which saith, 'There are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood.' That is, the Spirit in the apostles which preached him to the world, as is clear if you read seriously 1 Thessalonians 4:8. The apostle, speaking of Jesus Christ and obedience to God through him, saith thus, Now 'he that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God.' But it is you that speak; true, but it is by and through the Spirit, 'He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit.' This is therefore a mighty confirmation of this truth, that he that slights the record or testimony that God, by his Spirit in his prophets and apostles, hath testified unto us, slights the testimony of the Spirit who moved them to speak these things; and if so, then I would fain know how any man can be saved by Jesus Christ that slights the testimony concerning Christ, yea, the testimony of his own Spirit concerning his own self? It is true men may pretend to have the testimony of the Spirit, and from that conceit set a low esteem on the holy Scriptures; but that spirit that dwelleth in them and teacheth them so to do, it is no better than the spirit of Satan, though it calls itself by the name of the Spirit of Christ. 'To the law,' therefore, 'and to the testimony,' try them by that; 'if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.'
The apostle Peter, when he speaks of the glorious voice that he had from the excellent majesty, saying of Christ, 'This is my beloved Son, hear him,' saith thus to them whom he wrote unto, 'You have also a more sure word of prophecy,' or of the prophets, for so you may read it, 'unto which ye do well that ye take heed.' That is, though we tell you that we had this excellent testimony from his own mouth evidently, yet you have the prophets. We tell you this, and you need not doubt of the truth of it; but if you should, yet you may not, must not, ought not to question them. Search therefore into them, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts. That is until by the same Spirit that gave forth the Scripture you find the truth confirmed to your souls, which you have recorded in the Scriptures— that this word of prophecy, or of the prophets, is the Scriptures. Read on; for, saith he, 'knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation,' &c. (2 Peter 1:20).
[Object.] But, you will say, What needs all this ado, and why is all this time and pains spent in speaking to this that is surely believed already? This is a thing received by all, that they believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God, that sure word of prophecy; and therefore you need not spend your time in proving these things, and the truth of them, seeing we grant and confess the truth of it before you being to speak your judgment of them.
Answ. The truths of God cannot be borne witness unto too often; you may as well say, 1. You need not preach Jesus Christ so much, seeing he hath been, and is received for the true Messias already. 2. Though many may suppose that they do believe the Scriptures, yet if they were but well examined, you will find them either by word of mouth, or else by conversation, to deny, reject, and slight the holy Scriptures. It is true, there is a notional and historical assent in the head. I say, in the head of many, or most, to the truth contained in Scripture. But try them, I say, and you shall find but a little, if any, of the faith of the operation of God in the hearts of poor men, to believe the Scriptures, and things contained in them. Many, yea, most men believe the Scriptures as they believe a fable, a story, a tale, of which there is no certainty! But alas! there are but few do in deed and in truth believe the Scriptures to be the very Word of God.
Object. But you will say, This seems strange to me.
Answ. And it seems as true to me, and I doubt not but to make it manifest, that there are but few, yea, very few, that do effectually, for that I aim at, believe the Scriptures and the truths contained in and spoken of by them.
But to make this appear, and that to purpose, if God will, I shall lay you down the several operations that the Scriptures have on them who do effectually believe the things contained in them.
First. He that doth effectually believe the Scriptures, hath in the first place been killed, I say killed by the authority of the holy Scriptures; struck stark dead in a spiritual sense, by the holy Scriptures, being set home by that Spirit, which gave them forth, upon the soul. 'The letter killeth'; the letter strikes men dead (2 Cor 3:6). And this Paul witnessed and found, before he could say, I believe all that the prophets have spoken. Where he saith, 'I was alive without the law once.' That is, in my natural state, before the law was set on my heart with power; 'But when the commandment came, sin revived and I died' (Rom 7:9). 'And that law which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death; for sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me' (v 11). Now that which is called 'the letter' in 2 Corinthians, is called the law in Romans 7, which by its power and operation, as it is wielded by the Spirit of God, doth in the first place kill and slay all those that are enabled to believe the Scriptures. I kill, saith God: that is, with my law I pierce, I wound, I prick men into the very heart, by showing them their sins against my law (Deut 31:26; Acts 2:37). And he that is ignorant of this, is also ignorant of, and doth not really and effectually believe the Scripture.
But you will say, How doth the law kill and strike dead the poor creatures?
Answ. The letter or law doth kill thus. It is set home upon the soul, and discovers to the soul its transgressions against the law, and shows the soul also, that it cannot completely satisfy the justice of God, for the breach of his law, therefore it is condemned (John 3:18). Mark, 'He that believeth not, is condemned already.' To wit, by the law, that is, the law doth condemn him; yea, it hath condemned him already for his sins against it; as it is written, 'Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them' (Gal 3:10). Now all men as they come into the world are in this condition, that is, condemned by the law. Yet not believing their condemnation by the law really, they do not also believe really and effectually the law that doth condemn them. For as men have but a notion of the one, that is, their condemnation, because of sins against the law: so they have but a notion of the condemning, killing, and destroying power of the law. For, as the one is, so in these things always is the other. There is no man that doth really believe the law or gospel, further than they do feel the power and authority of them in their hearts. 'Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.' Now this letter or law, is not to be taken in the largest sense, but is strictly to be tied to the ten commandments, whose proper work is only by showing the soul its sin against this law, to kill, and there leaves him stark dead, not giving him the least life, or support, or comfort, but leaves the soul in a helpless and hopeless condition, as from itself, or any other mere creature.
It is true the law hath laid all men for dead, as they come into the world; but all men do not see themselves dead, until they see that law that struck them dead, striking in their souls, and having struck them that fatal blow. As a man that is fast asleep in a house, and that on fire about his ears, and he not knowing of it because he is asleep; even so, because poor souls are asleep in sin, though the wrath of God, the curse of his law, and the flames of hell have beset them round about, yet they do not believe it, because they are asleep in sin. Now, as he that is awakened and sees this, sees that through this he is a dead man; even so they that do see their state by nature, being such a sad condition, do also see themselves by that law to be dead men naturally.
But now, when didst thou feel the power of this first part of the Scripture, the law, so mighty as to strike thee dead? If not, thou dost not so much as verily believe that part of the Scripture that doth contain the law in it, to be the truth of God. Yet if thou shouldest have felt something, I say, something of the killing power of the law of God in thine heart, this is not an argument to prove that thou believest all the things contained in Scripture, for there is gospel as well as law, and therefore I shall speak to that also, that is, whether thou hast felt the power of the gospel, as well as something of the power of the law.
Second. Then thou hast found the power of the gospel, and so believed it, thou hast found it thus with thy soul.
1. Thou hast been showed by the Word or truth of the gospel, in the light of the Spirit of Christ, that by nature thou wert without the true faith of the Son of God in thy soul. For when He, the Spirit, is come, he shall show men that 'they believe not in me,' saith Christ (John 16:9). Mark, though thou hast, as I said before, felt somewhat of the power of the law, letter, or ten commandments, yet, as thou hast not been brought to this, to see by the Spirit in the gospel, that thou art without faith by nature, thou hast not yet tasted, much less believed, any part of the gospel. For the gospel and the law are two distinct covenants. And they that are under the law or first covenant, and yet in the meantime to be a stranger to the covenant of promise, that is, the gospel, and so have no hope in them (Eph 2:12). There is not any promise that can be savingly believed, until the soul be by the gospel converted to Jesus Christ. For though men do think never so much that they believe the things or the Word of the gospel of our salvation; yet unless they have the work of grace in their souls, they do not, cannot rightly believe the things contained in the Scriptures. Again,
2. As the law killeth those that believe it, even so the promises contained in the gospel do, through faith, administer comfort to those that believe it aright. My words, saith Christ, My words, 'they are Spirit, and they are life' (John 6:63). As if he had said, the words contained in the law as a covenant of works, they wound, they kill, they strike dead those that are under them. But as for me, 'The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.' That is, whosoever doth receive them believingly, shall find them full of operation, to comfort, quicken, and revive their soul. For as I did not come into the world to destroy men's lives, so the words that I speak, as I am sent to preach the gospel, they have no such tendency unto those that believe them. The promises that are in the gospel, O how do they comfort them! Such a promise, and such a promise, O how sweet is it! How comfortable to those that believe them! Alas! there are many poor souls that think they believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God, and yet they never enjoyed anything of the life and promises; they come in upon the heart to quicken, to revive thee, to raise thee from the sentence of death that is passed on thee by the law. And through the faith that is wrought in thy soul, by the operation of God's Holy Spirit, though once killed by the law or letter, thou art made alive in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is presented to thy soul in the promises.
Third. Dost thou in deed and in truth believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God? Then the things contained in them, especially the things of the gospel, are very excellent to thy soul; as the birth of Christ, the death, resurrection, intercession, and second coming. O how precious and excellent are they to thy soul! insomuch that thou regardest nothing in comparison of them! O! it is Christ's birth, death, blood, resurrection, &c., according to the Scriptures, that thou dost rejoice in exceedingly, and abundantly desire after! 'Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom thou now ye see him not, yet believing ye rejoice, with joy unspeakable, and full of glory' (1 Cor 15:1-6, compared with Phil 3:6-8; 1 Peter 1:8).
Fourth. Dost thou believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God? Then thou standest in awe of, and dost much reverence them. Why, they are the Word of God, the true sayings of God; they are the counsel of God; they are his promises and his threatenings. Poor souls are apt to think, if I could hear God speak to me from heaven with an audible voice, then sure I should be serious and believe it. But truly, if God should speak to thee from heaven, except thou wert converted, thou wouldst not regard, nor really believe him. But if thou dost believe the Scriptures, thou seest that they are the truth as really as if God should speak to thee from heaven through the clouds, and therefore never flatter thyself, foolishly thinking, that if it were so and so, then thou couldst believe. I tell thee, saith Christ, If they believe 'not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe though one should rise from the dead.' But,
Fifth. Dost thou believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God? Then, through faith in Christ, thou endeavourest to have thy life squared according to the Scriptures, both in word and practice. Nay, this I say, thou mayest have though thou do not believe them all. My meaning is, that if thou believe none but the ten commandments, thy life may be, according to them, a legal holy life; and if thou do believe the gospel too, then thy life will be the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, either thou wilt live in the blessed and holy enjoyment of what is testified in the Scripture concerning the glorious things of the Lord Jesus Christ, or else thou wilt be exceedingly panting after them. For the Scriptures carry such a blessed beauty in them to that soul that hath faith in the things contained in them, that they do take the heart and captivate the soul of him that believeth them into the love and liking of them, believing all things that are written in the law and the prophets, and have hope towards God that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. 'And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men' (Acts 24:14-16).
Sixth. He that believes the Scriptures to be the Word of God, if he do but suppose that any one place of Scripture doth exclude him, and shut him out of, and from a share in the promises contained in them, O it will trouble him, grieve him, perplex him. Yea, he will not be satisfied until he be resolved, and the contrary sealed to his soul; for he knows that the Scriptures are the word of God, all truth; and therefore he knows that if any one sentence doth exclude or bar him out for want of this or the other qualification, he knows also that not the word alone shuts him out, but he that speaks it, even God himself. And, therefore, he cannot, will not, dare not be contented until he find his soul and Scripture together, with the things contained therein, to embrace each other, and a sweet correspondency and agreement between them. For you must know that to him that believes the Scriptures aright, the promises, or threatenings, are of more power to comfort or cast down, than all the promises or threatenings of all the men in the world. And this was the cause why the martyrs of Jesus did so slight both the promises of their adversaries, when they would have overcome them, with proffering the great things of this world unto them, and also their threatenings, when they told them they would rack them, hang them, burn them (Acts 20:24). None of these things could prevail upon them, or against them; because they did most really believe the Scriptures, and the things contained in them, as is clearly found, and to be seen in Hebrews 11, and also in Mr. Fox's records of their brethren.
Seventh. He that believeth the Scriptures to be the Word of God, believeth that men must be born again, and also be partakers of that faith which is of the operation of God, according as he hath read and believed, or else he must and shall be damned. And he that believeth this aright will not be contented until, according as it is written, he do partake of and enjoy the new birth, and until he do find, through grace, that faith that is wrought by the operation of God in his soul. For this is the cause why men do satisfy themselves with so slender a conceited hope that their state is good, when it is nothing so, namely, because they do not credit the Scripture; for did they, they would look into their own hearts, and examine seriously whether that faith, that hope, that grace which they think they have be of that nature, and wrought by that spirit and power that the Scripture speaketh of. I speak this of an effectual believing, without which all other is nothing unto salvation.