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but with a new understanding. Hence saith the apostle, 1 John v. 20, " And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true.” It is the king's favourites that are let in to the secrets of the government, not every body.
4. Time is not continued as a sleep without a design. The secure sleeping world look on time as a thing that runs on by a necessity of nature; and because they see now a new day still succeeding the foregoing one, they think in effect it will always be so. They consider not the design of God in continuing it, wherefore the sun and the moon make so many rounds, why one day as yet still comes after another; but are apt to say, as 2 Pet. iii. 4, "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." O that men would consider that it is lengthened out on a particular design, which being compassed, it shall end for good and all!
5. It is not this world's business, but heaven's business, that is the great design of the continuing of time. Ye are mistaken, if ye think that the sun rises again, the new seed-time comes, &c., just that ye may go to your work, and till and sow, &c. Nay, it is that the mystery of God may be carried on; and these things have no place but as appendages of the mystery of God; and true Christians will manage them so. Hence is that exhortation, Col. iii. 17, “ And whatsoever ye do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." Much less is it that men may carry on their mysteries of iniquity, which is almost the only thing that some profligate sinners use their time for. But dreadful will their reckouing be, that spend in carrying on their mysteries of iniquity, that time that is designed for carrying on the mystery of God.
6. The mystery of God must be a matter of singular excellency, and of the last importance, that for it time is continued. It is so indeed, for the honour of God. Hereby there is a revenue of glory raised to him in this world, wherever that mystery is declared: and as to those places wherein it is not heard of, true believers honour him in entertaining awful thoughts of his sovereignty, and the unsearchableness of his judgments, in keeping it wholly up from those places, reverently waiting the opening of that part of the mystery. But all these are but gleanings; the full harvest of glory to God from the mystery comes at the finishing of it. It is so likewise to mankind; for upon that mystery depends their eternal state of weal or wo, according as they receive or slight it.
7. The mystery of God has, in the execution of it, been of long
continuance; but it is drawing to a close. It was begun in paradise, in the promulgation of the first gospel that was ever heard in the world, Gen. iii. 15. Several thousands of years have past since in carrying it on. Many a time the world has been heartily weary of it, wishing to have it at an end; not considering that time must end with it; so that could they have effectuate it, they would have but drawn down the house on their own heads. And perhaps the Christian world was never more weary of it than at this day. But it is drawing to a close now; and at the period God has fixed for its end, it will be finished.
8. Lastly, When there is no more time requisite for the mystery of God, there will be no more time for other things neither; time will end with it; for it is for the sake of it that time is continued. USE 2. Of reproof; and that to those,
1. Who will have no mysteries in religion, but all within the reach of human reason. However, according to the scripture, it is a bundle of mysteries, Matth. xiii. 11; hid from the wise, chap. xi. 25. The foundation of practical religion is a mystery, Eph. v. 32. The practice of it is a mystery, Col. iii. 3, " Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Gal. ii. 20, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless yet I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." See 1 Tim. iii. 16, "Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness. God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." What reason can be assigned, why our God may not take trial of man, in believing him on his bare word, as well as obeying him on the mere intimation of his will?
2. Those who despise the gospel, as a weak and mean thing, looking on it with disdain as foolishness, as it was to the Jews and Greeks, 1 Cor. i. 23. A dangerous adventure; a despising of the mystery of God, the mystery of his wisdom, ver. 24. They will be confounded at the finishing of the mystery.
3. Those who improve it not, to the proper end of revealing it to them; i. e. the salvation of the soul'; like those invited to the marriage of the king's son, who "made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise," Matth. xxii. 5. This is a neglect insuring ruin; Heb. ii. 3, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?
USE 3, Last, Of exhortation. And,
1. Be not rash in passing judgment on the state of affairs in the world, while you see the seeming confusions in your own case, of
others, or of the church. Wait the finishing of the mystery. Then you will see surprising sights; particularly,
(1.) An admirable harmony betwixt jarring providences and promises. They will meet in close agreement; and it will appear that there never was any real discord between them; but that providence took the best way towards the accomplishing of the promises; Deut. xxxii. 4, "God is the rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he."
(2.) A beautiful agreeableness of smiling providences in the case of the wicked, to the divine perfections. By these will appear the goodness, patience, &c., of God without any the least marring of the divine faithfulness in the threatening. Hence said Abraham to the rich man; Luke xvi. 25, "Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented." And saith the prophet; Isa. iii. 11, "Wo unto the wicked, it shall be ill with him; for the reward of his hands shall be given him."
(3.) The base believers who took the mystery on trust fully satisfied; the wise and prudent who would believe no farther than they saw, confounded; 1 Cor. xiii. 12, "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Matth. xxii. 12, " And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding-garment? And he was speechless."
2. Improve the mystery while you have it, before it be finished; for if once it be finished, there will be no more method of grace and salvation for sinners. The gospel is the last ship for Immanuel's land. It will be finished in itself with time; but to you with the end of your time.
(1.) Earnestly seek of God by his Spirit the revelation of the mystery to you, the saving knowledge of it; Matth. xiii. 11, forecited. For no man can have it without the Spirit; 1 Cor. ii. 14, forecited,
(2.) Rest not till ye be brought into the fellowship of the mystery; Eph. iii. 9. By the gospel ye are called unto it; 1 Cor. i. 9, and by faith brought into it; 1 John i. 3.
(3.) Lastly, Carry always with you in remembrance the finishing of the mystery, and time with it; that you may be inured to look on the present state of affairs as passing, and to look for all things
WALKING BY FAITH NOT BY SIGHT.*
[The first sermon on this text.]
2 Cor. v.
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
In the preceding words we find a notable mystery of the Christian life, viz. it is a groaning life, vers. 2, 4, and yet a life of confidence, wherein one is of good cheer, as safe and comfortable, ver. 6. But if Christians are so confident, and of so good cheer, why do they groan? They are burdened, under a body of sin and death, a load of trials and afflictions. And burdened folk must groan; ay, and they may groan, and yet not grudge; for Christ himself was a groaner, but not a grudger, as we find John xi. 33, “He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled." But then if they groan so heavily, how are they confident and of good cheer? how can these consist? Very well, says the apostle," For we walk by faith, not by sight." Faith's prospect keeps up the heart, while sight and sense of the hardships of the way makes us groan; and we steer our course by the former, not by the latter. In the words we have,
1. The present state and condition of the saints in this world; they are in the way, as travellers; "We walk." The saints in heaven, and the damned in hell, are come to their journey's end; they are, as to their bodies, in their long home; as to their souls, in their eternal home. We here are on the way; the wicked, some running, some stealing, on the way to destruction; the saints on their way to heaven, groaning and pressing forward. The company before them is triumphant, the company with them militant; they are not yet got home, but they are on the way.
2. How they direct their course while in the way, for safety and comfort; for their road through this world is dangerous and gloomy, as in a wilderness. And positively,
1. "By faith." They that are before them in heaven, manage themselves by sight; for their sight cannot deceive; every thing appears there in its true colours, and their sight discerns every thing as it is. The rest of the travellers through the world walk by sight; but sight and sense in the world are deceitful things; for there are many false appearances there, which whoso follow fall headlong into the dark dungeon of destruction. But their Father has given them faith's
The substance of three sermons, preached at Maxton Communion, June 29 and 30, and at Ettrick, July 7, 1728.
prospect to walk by; and that discovers things worldly sight cannot reach, and correct the mistakes of it in things it does reach; and in some measure it supplies the want of heavenly sight, giving a view of things not seen; Heb. xi. 1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
2. Negatively, "Not by sight." The word does not formally denote the sight seeing, but the sight seen; that is, the outward shape of things, the appearance they make to our sight, sense, and carnal reason. Hence it is rendered "shape;" John v. 37, " And the Father himself which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape and appearance;" 1 Thess. v. 22, "Abstain from all appearance of evil." Now, that appearance of things is the guide in the way to carnal men; by it they take their marks, and are led to ruin. The saints forgetting themselves, sometimes take their mark by it too, and they smart for it; but their habitual deliberate course is not directed by it.
DOCTRINE. They that would safely and comfortably travel on their way through this world, must direct their course by faith, and not by sight, or the appearance things make to their sight, sense, and carnal reason.
In discoursing this doctrine, I shall,
I. Consider the journey we are all on.
II. Shew how we must, while we are on our way, direct our course by faith, and not by sight, as ever we would get safely and comfortably through.
III. Lastly, Apply.
I. I shall consider The journey we are all on. Saints and sinners are both travellers. The difference between them lies not in that the one are on their journey, and the other arrived at their home; nay, they are both by the way; and sinners are walking as fast to their home, as saints to theirs. But it lies here; the one "walk by faith," the other "walk by sight." Therefore hear a few words of our common journey.
1. The point where we began our journey, was from the womb; the moment we received life there, we set off in our way. Then we commenced sinful creatures, as saith the psalmist; Psalm li. 5, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me;" and therefore dying creatures. So we were on our way, ere we conld point a foot to the ground, ere we knew where we were.
2. The point where we will end it, is another world, the unseen world, the place and state of the dead. The travellers will never