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xiii. 45, 46. Now, if he offer himself for all, surely he intends that his people should improve their interest in him for all. He has taken them from all their former friends; surely, then, as an affectionate husband, he will allow his wife to be familiar in his house, and take it very ill if she hang on about others for a supply of her wants. This familiarity our Maker, our Husband, allows us, and approves of.
5. Our Lord (if I may so speak) makes very familiar with his people, and this is a sign that he would have them to be so with him. Lodge they ever so meanly, he will lodge with them : Isa. lvii. 15, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy, I dwell in the high and holy place ; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” He not only gives them, but he takes from them; what provision from heaven is with them, he takes part of, though he needs nothing from them : Song v. 1, “ I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse ; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey ; I have drunk my wine with my milk : eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, 0 beloved !" He sometimes even will take from them what they would not part with to any but himself, and they will make bim welcome to it, as he did with Job, chap i. His sheep, asses, children, were taken from him, and little at all was left him. And if they act like themselves, they will rejoice that they have any thing, liberty, life, &c. to part with to him. But sure I am, the best of the saints can never so freely part with any thing to him, as he does to them. They should be familiar; for,
Lastly, They who use most familiarity with the Lord, improving their claimed interest, with greatest confidence, come best speed at this throne: Matth. xv. 28, “ Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith : be it unto thee even as thou wilt." Little faith is a narrow vessel, which brings in little from the fountain; but great faith brings in much. Whatever the Lord's people may think of their doubtings of the promises, the word of God never speaks a good word of the believer's doubts : Matth. xiv. 31, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt ?" Doubts are not pleasing to God, for they shew the weakness of faith, and always in less or more contain some reflections on the blood of Christ, the truth and gracious nature of God. Augustus admitted the common people with their petitions so pleasantly, that it is reported he reproved a certain person, telling him that he presented his petition to him, as if he had been giving a halfpenny to an elephant. Hamility may well consist with the confidence and full assurance of
Now, to conclude all this, ye who have taken God in Christ as your God, learn this holy art of living hy faith, claiming your interest and improving it for all your necessities. Alas! sirs, for what end have we taken God in Christ for our God, if we do not live upon him? John vi. 57, “ As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father ; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." Why have we professed to enter into the house of God, by embracing the covenant, if we do not improve it for all we need ? Improve, then, the claimed interest for all; and particularly,
1. For a rest to your consciences. Here David found a rest to his, when death and guilt together stared him in the face : 2 Sam. xxiii. 5, “ Although," says he," my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” If God be thy God, the righteousness of God is thine to cover thee, the righteousness of Christ God-man. Thou art within that vail where the fiery law is closed up in the ark, and cannot reach thee. Confessing, mourning, repenting, are blessed and holy exercises, well becoming the child of God, and the more faith, the more of these, and the deeper will they be; but they, after all, are wholly insufficient for a rest to the conscience.--Improve the claimed interest,
2. For a rest to your hearts : Psalm cxvi. 7, “ Return to thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." Have you come to God through Christ? then rest thy heart in enjoyment of him. Is the world smiling on thee? beware, rest not on it, thou wilt soon find thy rest broken, thou wilt nover rest soundly in the embraces of a smiling world, for the bed is shorter than thou canst stretch thyself upon. Is the world frowning? Are the cisterns dried up? thy created pillars taken away? Yet despond not, faint not, while God remains, Hab. iii. 17, 18. You who have taken God for all, you have a poor bargain of it, if you have not as much as can make you live without those things which may be taken from you. Look to your stock in heaven, look to the glorious promises ; he who overcometh shall inherit all things.
Lastly, Improve it for sanctification, to be holy, as God is holy, to get strength for duty, and against corruption. Draw in your furniture for a holy life, from the fulness of him that filleth all in all. Believe, that you may be holy. Take, by faith, the promise with you, when you use the means of holiness. They know little of the property of faith, who use it only for the pardon of sin; it is the instrument of sanctification, as well as of justification : Acts xv. 9, “Purifying their hearts by faith." If a lust is to be subdued, or a
temptation resisted, &c. faith must run thy errand to heaven. Believe the promise of sanctification with application to thyself, believe it with full assurance that it shall be made out to thee; and in that confidence use the means appointed of God for thy sanctification, and so thou shalt succeed.--If any of you have set about gathering evidences for heaven, and have got them, these things may help you to keep them, and to increase them. Amen.
THE SAINTS GOD'S SERVANTS AND HIS PROPERTY.
SERMON X L.
ACTs xxvii. 23,
and whom I serve.
There are two questions which may be pertinently proposed to every one of you after this communion; and he who can satisfyingly answer them, as Paul here does, and every child of God may do, it will be a pass which will carry him safely and comfortably through the world, by sea or by land, at home or abroad, among friends or enemies, and even at length into heaven.—The first question is,
Whose are you? Man, woman, to whom do you belong? Are you Christ's or Satan's ? Are you still your own, or are you the Lord's? Are you a child of God's family, or of the devil's ? What countryman are you? Are you from above, and do you belong to the Lord of the better country? or are you from below, and do you belong to the god of this world? What say you to this question, Whose are you?—The second question is,
What is your business? Certainly you have some business or other, you are either well or ill employed. What is your occupation? What course of life do
follow? What is the great design upon which you are set? Are you serving the devil, yourselves, your lusts ? or are you serving God? What say you to this question, What is your business?
Paul, in the text, and in a few words, answers these two questions. He told those whom he addressed, that he was God's and that God's service was his business; that his Lord and Master had sent him a very comfortable message in the dark hour which was now come
Delivered June 15, 1715, the Sabbath after the dispensation of the Sacrament,
upon them. He was now in a ship, with many others, sailing for Rome; but a storm rises, continues many days, and all hope of being saved was taken away. Paul, notwithstanding, is easy and cheerful: he brings good news to them, that there should not one life be lost in the cause. And, in the text, he shows them on what grounds he went, namely, that of divine revelation, by the ministry of an angel.—You may here observe, that God's word of promise is sufficient security and encouragement in the darkest hour. The storm still continued, and was to continue, they were to make a narrow escape, the ship was to be lost: but amidst all this, the word of promise kept up his heart; and he had good reason for maintaining his confidence.
God is unchangeably true to his word. He cannot alter it, it shall not fail : Numb. xxiii. 19, “ God is not a man that he should lie : neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? There is an impossibility of his word failing : Tit. i. 12, " He is God that cannot lie.” So that faith has the surest bottom on which to stand, when standing on the promise, namely, the unchangeable truth of God. There is nothing so difficult and hopeless, but God can bring it to pass : Luke i. 37, "For with God nothing shall be impossible." Therefore he is able to make good his promise, though all creatures should conspire to render his working ineffectual, and whatever difficulties may be in his way.-In one word, the experience of the saints in all ages confirms this confidence : Psalm xii. 6, “ The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified.” Many and various have been the trials of the saints, but they all held by the promise, and have at length set to their seal that God is true.-From this we may learn,
That their salvation is secured, who have been graciously brought within the compass of the covenant and the promise of salvation, “This,” David said, “is all my salvation and all my desire," 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. Though they be in this world as on a boisterous sea, where the waves of indwelling corrnption, temptation, affliction, desertion, are threatening to swallow them up; yet they shall get safe ashore ; and though the body fall in pieces by death, the soul shall arrive safe in Immanuel's land.-If it should be inquired, How may a person know that he is brought within the compass of the covenant and promise ? I answer, If you have truly and honestly come to Christ, and laid hold of him in the covenant, taken him as he offers himself in the gospel, if you have given up with all other lovers, and have taken up with him in all his offices, with a view to free you from the guilt, from the power and pollution of sin, all is well;
for he has said, Johu vi. 37, “ All that the Father giveth me, shall come unto me; and him that cometh unto me, I will in nowise cast out.” Possessing him as the chief benefit of the covenant, you have all: 2 Cor. i. 20," For all the promises of God in him aro yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God by us.”—We may further learn,
That it is true wisdom to live by faith in the promise of God, whatever storm be blowing : 2 Cor. v. 7, “ For we walk by faith, not by sight.” You must lay your account with storms. Never was there one in a ship, except the man Christ, whom the devil would more anxiously have drowned, than he would have done Paul at this time. But Paul is easy, even when on the boisterous sea, on the promise of God, while the rest were in a terrible alarm; Satan was not so much set against them. Unbelief and discouragement can in no case be useful. It is good to believe, whether we be tossed with a storm of raging corruption, as in Psalm lxv. 3 ;-strong temptations, as in Luke xxii. 31, 32 ;-heavy affliction, as in Psalm xxvii. 13;-or desertion, as in Psalm xxii. 1. Thus much for the connection.
In the text, Paul declares to the ship's crew, who for the most part were pagans, two things :
(1.) His intercourse with heaven: “ Thero stood by me this night the angel of the Lord.” (2.) His special relation to the God of heaven: whose I am, and whom I serve.” The design of this declaration was, not only to comfort them, but to commend his God unto them, that they might also choose him for their God and master. No doubt, in these days, ver. 20, there had been many prayers in the ship. They had called to their gods, but in vain; Paul had cried to his, and had got a comfortable answer. He thence takes occasion to represent him as the God of salvation, who was able to make them all safe, notwithstanding the storm; as the Lord of angels; as one whose servant himself was, who was now so cheerful, when they were so dejected. Proper methods these to commend his God to them.- I would accordingly take occasion to observe, that it is the duty of those who are the Lord's, to commend their God to others, that they in consequence may be prevailed on also to be his. There are two strong bonds to bind this on those who are the Lord's There is,
1. The love and duty they owe to God, who has done so much for them, and who would have all men to be saved. It is the more for the honour of God in the world, the more there are who join themselves to his service. This is an acceptable thing which we can do for God, to express our thankfulness, namely, to make conscience of Vol. IX.