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only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." The poor pagans who have not heard of Christ, sin not against him in this sort, John xv. 22. Whatever sins the hearers of the gospel may have been chargeable with, if they will believe in Christ, they shall never be charged on them; upon this point of believing, or not believing, turns their salvation, or damnation, Mark xvi. 16. Wherefore since it is the ruining sin, it must needs be the great ruining sin against Christ. 5. It is equal to the grossest sins against the light of nature. The Pharisee could say, I am not unjust, an extortioner, an adulterer; the publican durst not say so. But the one rejected the propitiation, which the other embraced, Luke xviii. 13, and so was accepted of God, while the other was rejected. You will bless God ye are ho nest, sober men and women, no adulterers, murderers, &c.; but ye do not see the bloody sin of unbelief, which is as ill as any of them; Isa. lxvi. 3, "He that killeth an ox, is as if he slew a man;” ie An unbeliever is as a murderer in God's sight. Faith was the great duty under the Old Testament as well as under the New, ver. 2. And those Jews who put their sacrifices of oxen, lambs, and their incense, in the Messiah's stead, by unbelief were as murderers, &c.
6. It is above these sins in odiousness and heinousness; Heb. & 28, 29, "He that despised Moses' law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God," &c.? There was a consultation of the Trinity concerning the making of man, and the result was, his creation after God's image. How great must those sins be, which, breaking the laws of his crea tion, do signally deface that image? There was also a consultation of the Trinity concerning man's restoration, and the result was, the Son of God giving himself to the death for their recovery. How much greater then must the sin of unbelief be, which of its own nature tends to make the whole contrivance vain? The Sodomites were great sinners, and the Capernaumites unbelievers; which were the greatest sinners? The greatest punishment by a just Judge speaks the greatest sin; and so the Capernaumite unbelievers were the greatest sinners, Matth. xi. 23, 24.
7. It has none that goes beyond it but the sin against the Holy Ghost; and even it is unbelief carried to its utmost height, Heb. I. 29. Unbelief strikes against the Father and the Son, casting dishonour on both, John v. 23. If to this be added a doing despite to the Spirit of God, the sinner is at his utmost pitch of wickedness. And none are capable of the latter, but he that is guilty of the
8. Lastly, It is a sin directly striking against the glorious office wherewith Christ is invested, and while he is in the actual exercise of that office, John viii. 49. The Father minding to recover the glory of his wronged attributes, and lost sinners of the race of Adam, invested his own Son in the mediatory office, that he should build the temple of the Lord, and bear the glory. The Son comes in this his noble office, with his Father's commission, to prosecute it for these noble ends: and unbelief rejects him as such, and casts dishonour on him, Luke xix. 14. To do a personal injury to a king is a crime, but to do an injury striking against his kingly character and office, and that while he is in the administration of his royal office, is a crime of a far deeper die, than any merely personal injury done him. So the case is here.
Secondly, That unbelief is the sin against Christ by way of eminency, appears from a view of some particular pieces of malignity against him wrapt up therein.
1. It is a despising him as the Father's choice. The voice of the gospel is, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," Matth. iii. ult. The unbeliever answers, "We will not have this man to reign over us," Luke xix. 14. When man fell, God looked on the whole creation, and there was none found able to help him; so he made choice of his own Son, that the breach might be under his hand, Psalm lxxxix. 19. This comes to be proclaimed in the gospel, and as Samuel said to all the people, "See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?" 1 Sam. x. 24; it says, " Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth," Isa. xlii. 1. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," John i. 29. But unbelief says, as 1 Sam. x. 27, "How shall this man save us? and they despise him." So unbelievers pour contempt on the choice. Ask the unbelieving Jews if they approve the choice? No; they say, It is a stumbling-block; ask the unbelieving Gentiles, if they approve it, No, it is foolishness, 1 Cor. i. 23. Therefore do others as they will, they will not lay their weight on that bottom. Only believers cry, Grace, grace to the choice! a noble choice! "Christ the wisdom of God, and the power of God," ver. 24; compare Matth. xi. 6.
2. It is a trampling upon his love in undertaking the mediatory office. Man having sinned, justice demands satisfaction; the poor bankrupts cannot discharge the debt themselves, angels found themselves too weak to bear such a burden, sacrifice and offering cannot be accepted as a compensation for the wrong done to a holy God. The proposal is made to the Son, and respect to his Father's glory, and unhired love to sinners, makes him accept and strike hands; "Lo, I come," &c., Psalm xl. 6, 7. And after all, And after all, unbelief says in
effect, he might have let it alone; the unbeliever is not for life and salvation that way. Christ's Father is content, he is so, but the unbeliever is not, Psalm lxxxi. 11. How great must the sin of trampling on such love be?
3. It is a treating of him as a liar and an impostor. The language of every unbeliver is that; John vii. 12, "He deceiveth the people." Christ's name is the word of God, by whom the mind of God touching the salvation of sinners is manifested to the world; he is by office interpreter of the Father's mind, the great prophet and teacher. He came from the Father's bosom, and reveals the way of salvation in the doctrine of the gospel. What is it not to believe him then, but to make him a liar? 1 John v. 10. And since the revelation made by him is upon such a weighty matter, the not believing it must needs infer the looking on him as an impostor. What then shall be given to that false heart, that thus sins against Christ? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper," Psalm cxx. 4. 4. It is a contempt poured on his precious blood, and the whole course of his obedience and sufferings. The believer by faith gets in under that blood, Heb. xii. 24; but unbelief treads on it, chap. x. 29. This performance of the Son was looked upon as a sufficient mean to retrieve the Father's glory, and recover the sinner that was sunk lowest in sin and misery, Psalm lxxxix. 19. As such it is proposed to sinners in the gospel; but they will not receive it. And if ye consider all the sets of unbelievers, the bold contemners that go on in their sins, and hope for mercy; the legal professors that lay the stress on their own duties; the trembling unbeliever, that dare not come to Christ; the desperate sinner, that says there is no hope; they will all be found agreeing in maintaining low unworthy thoughts of the glorious ransom paid by Christ, and offered to them. The first say, All that was needless, God is merciful; the second, It is too weak a bottom to trust all to; the third, It may bear the weight of many, but it is too weak for theirs; the fourth, It can do nothing for them.
5. It is a frustrating of the ends of the death of Christ, as far as lies in the unbeliever's power. He had a long, sore, and helpless travail of soul; he endured it in hopes of a glorious issue; Isa. liii. 11; Heb. xii. 2. But did all treat him as the unbelieving part of the world does, the issue would be but as it were bringing forth wind. At the expense of the blood of the Son of God, a medicine is prepared for perishing souls; but the unbeliever will not apply it, when it is brought to his hand; a feast is prepared, but the unbeliever will not eat of it, but says in effect, "To what purpose is this waste ?"
6. Lastly. It is a declining of his government, and subjection to him, most reproachfully; Luke xix. 14. We see most of the hearers of the gospel at this pass with him; subject themselves to whom they will, they will not subject themselves to him; they stick by other lords. His Father has given him all power in heaven and earth; but they will not come under his power, as long as they can shift otherwise. There are many reasons of this, but there is one that is little observed, namely, unbelief, they cannot trust him. A wise people will not subject themselves willingly to one they cannot trust; Judg. ix. 15, compare Psalm ii. ult. They cannot trust him with their welfare, though he is the Father's trustee, the trustee of believers; hence they say, he shall not be their trustee. What wonder then that unbelief be a "piercing of him?" Zech. xii. 10.
From this doctrine we may learn lessons for saints, for sinners, and for all.
First, Here is a lesson for saints, or believers.
1. Prize the precious faith which God has given you 2 Pet. i. 1. Have your souls been brought to believe in, accept, and embrace Jesus Christ offered in the gospel, for all his salvation, and so to come off from the course of slighting and sinning against Christ. Do not undervalue it as a small thing, but look to the nature of reigning unbelief, and prize it next to the gift of his precious Son and Spirit. If it were but as a grain of mustard-seed, it is more precious than all the gold of the Indies, more precious than as many faithless works and duties, as would have filled up every minute of your time since ye were born.
2. Wonder at his sparing you till ye were brought the length of believing in him. How deep did your unbelief go against him; what attribute of his did it not cast dirt upon; what was it he did or suffered, but it had an ill tale of? O, why did he put up all these affronts, and still insist on your believing, giving you his word, writ, seal, oath, and whatsoever could have been required of the most faithless man, to cause you believe him, till ye were won to faith in him?
3. Mourn over your remaining unbelief, as the father of the child did, Mark ix. 25, who said with tears," Lord I believe! help thou mine unbelief." Jealousies of Christ are a disease that runs in the veins of all those of the blood royal of heaven, ay till they get home to their Father's house. How justly may he say, " O faithless generation! how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you." Alas! can the saints' experiences of his truth and faithfulness, and the tried word, carry them no further? If there could be any such uneasy passion as shame in heaven, they would blush for their unbelief whenever they got in there.
4. Lastly, See what it is that mars the communication betwixt Christ and you, and what makes you lead such a poor life, both in point of sanctification and comfort, Matth. xiii. ult., “He did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief." Faith purifies the heart, unbelief makes it as the neglected garden, overgrown with weeds. Faith quiets the heart and cheers it, Rom. xv. 13. David's experience of the way of getting help from heaven we have, Psalm xxviii. 7, "My heart trusted in him, and I am helped." Trust reposed in a generous man, able to help, brings him to put to his hand speedily, for the help of the party trusting him. No wonder that unbelief, being of such a nature, mar the communication.
Secondly, Here is a lesson for sinners, or unbelievers.
1. Ye are sinners against Christ in an eminent manner. brings you in guilty of affronting the Son of God, sinning against the remedy of sin. Though the language of your lips may be "Hosanna to the Son of David;" the language of your unbelieving hearts is, Crucify him. Ye are guilty of sinning against him at the rate which Pagans, yea and devils, never sinned against him. They broke the law of their Creator; but ye have not only done so, but ye are breaking the law of redeeming love, namely, the law of faith, too.
2. Here is a sin thou hast to be sensible of, and mourn for, which hitherto thou hast little regarded. May be thou hast sometimes been grieved for other sins, and mourned for them. But didst thou ever mourn for this? did ever this give thee a grieved heart? Truly this is the wound to the heart, this is the most dangerous evil, that keeps all the rest from healing. If ye have not been sensible of and affected with it, (1.) Your faith is likely to be but a fancy, the Spirit being promised for that end, John xvi. 8, 9. (2.) Your unbelief would be sure to be strengthened by all your other mourning for sin; and so instead of its bringing you nearer Christ, it would set you farther off from him, Matth. xxi. 31.
3. Here, even here, O sinner, lies your ruin for time and eternity, John viii. 24, "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." Mark xvi. 16, "He that believeth not shall be damned." This is the great soul-murdering sin among gospel-hearers, for it is the sinning against the remedy of sin. Consider, (1.) It makes all your other plague-sores incurable, while it is not removed, John viii. 24. Your pride, passion, worldliness, &c. still run upon you; why, so they will always do, while the bloody issue of unbelief is not stopped. While that remains, they can admit no cure but a palliative one, after which they must needs break out again. For the falling dew shall as soon make its way through the flinty rock, as sanctifying influences shall come into you without union with Christ, which is