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victory. But it will be good tidings to the meek poor ones, who would fain break through the host of their spiritual enemies, but know not how to make it out. These tidings relate,
Lastly, To a peace, a most desirable peace : Eph. ii. 14, “For he (Christ Jesus) is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” Sin made discord, and broke the peace between heaven and earth; so that God and the sinner became enemies. All access to God, all communication betwixt heaven and earth was blocked up. But good tidings ! Christ has made peace by his own blood. It is offered to you, Isa. xxvii. 4, 5, “Fury is not in me; let him take of my strength, that he may make peace
with me, and he shall make peace with me." It is a firm peace, on the most solid foundation, a lasting peace which will never terminate, a peace which will ere long be completo in all its parts; peace external, internal, eternal.—This will be good tidings to the meek poor ones, who are wounded with the apprehensions of God's anger, and affrighted with the thoughts of his wrath. - We are, then,
III. To shew how this work of preaching is and hath been performed by Jesus Christ. As to this, we observe, that he performed it under the Old Testament, and under the New Testament dispensation.
First, He performed this work under the Old Testament dispensation. Under this dispensation,
1. The first proclamation of these tidings was done personally by himself in paradise, to the compendized world, our first parents : Gen. iii. 15, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” The Son of God, appearing in human shape, as a prelude of his incarnation, sat as their Judge, and as the first interpreter of his Father's mind, preached the first gospel to them in that promise, which contains the substance and abridgement of the whole gospel. He was absolutely the first, in all respects, who preached the good tidings of the gospel.
2. The second proclamation was by his ambassadors in his name, who were of two sorts :-Extraordinary; namely, the prophets whom he inspired infallibly to teach the people : 2 Pet. i. 21, “ 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 ordinary teachers, such as priests and Levites under the law, priests and others before the law. And in respect of this preaching by men in his name, he is said to have preached to those who lived before the flood : 1 Peter iii. 19, “By which also he went and preached uuto the spirits in prison." There was also a proclamation,
3. By his written word, Deut. xxx. 11-14. This is his own word, where the meek poor ones may always find the glad tidings of salvation. Before it was written, they never wanted inspired men, and when it was written, though for a time they might want prophets, yet this they had always from him as an infallible rule.
2dly, He preached and preaches under the New Testament dispensation. This he did,
1. By his own personal preaching in the days of his flesh, when he went about among the Jews, preaching to them as the Minister of the circumcision : Rom. xy. 8, “ Now I say, that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.” So that he himself, by himself, did begin this dispensation. The gospel at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, Heb. ii. 3, He spake as never man spake, and taught as one having authority." He did it,
2. By inspiring his apostles to preach and write the doctrines of salvation, contained in the New Testament, on whom he poured out his spirit, and by their writings, they being dead, yet speak to us from him and by him. He does it,
3. By raising up and continuing always a gospel-ministry in the church : Eph. iv. 11–13, “ And he gave some, apostles ; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, anto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” And with them he has promised to be present always, even unto the end of the world; Matth. xxviii. 20. These preach in his name, as deputed by him to declare these good tidings.
Thus you see this work is performed by the Son of God, not only by himself, but by his servants in his name. Aud though the mistakes, errors, and unfaithfulness of ordinary ministers, both under the Old and New Testament, are solely their own, their preaching of the true doctrine of the gospel is indeed his; they are but as it were the voice, he is the speaker. For, he gave and gives the gifts whereby they are fitted to preach the gospel. All their tapers are lighted at his shining lamp: John i. 9, “ That was the true light, which lighteth every one that cometh into the world." Their wisdom and knowledge in divine mysteries is given them by him, for the good of his church, Eph. iv. 8. Their commission is from him, and from him they derive their power and authority, Matth. xxviii. 19, 20. They are his ministers and servants, sent out upon his work, and to him they must give an account. Lastly, The effi
cacy of their ministry is solely owing to him and his Spirit, 1 Cor. iii. 7, “So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth ; but God that giveth the increase." He makes it effectual to his elect ones.- We are,
IV. To give the reasons of the doctrine, or shew, that none but he was fit to be employed in this work, This will appear if we consider,
1. That none but he could reveal the secrets of love, which were hid from eternity in the breast of God : John i. 18," No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Neither man nor angel could open up these. But he was privy to his Father's counsels, as being in the bosom of the Father from all eternity.
2. None but he was fit to be an universal preacher to all persons for whom these tidings were designed, and to whom they were to be carried, and this in all ages. Who else could have the great charge of this weighty business? This required one of infinite wisdom, and one every where present.
Lastly, Whose testimony but his could be a sufficient gronnd of faith in this, of all matters the most important ? Here lies the weight of God's honour, and the salvation of an elect world; and this required no less solid a bottom than the testimony of truth itself.
SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
Isaiah lxi. 1,
HAVING gone through the doctrinal part of this subject, by offering what was intended on the several heads of method which we laid down, we shall now, as was proposed,
IV. Make some practical improvement; and this in uses of information, trial, and exhortation.
We are, in the first place, to improve this subject in a use of information,
I. Hence you may learn what is the great cause of slighting the gospel, of that coldrife entertainment which it gets amongst most of its hearers, that little relish which there is for the great truths of
the gospel; why so few do comply with the gracious calls which it affords. People may attribute this to what causes they will, but the true cause is the want of this meekness and poverty of spirit. Instead of this, there are pride and self-conceit, unsubdued and unmortified. I may branch these out into several particulars, as opposed to this meekness. There is,
(1.) No due sense of spiritual wants : Prov. xxvii. 7, “ The full soul loatheth the honey-comb." Most men are sick of a Laodicean disease, saying in their practice as they said in their hearts, that “they are rich and increased in goods, and stand in need of nothing," Rev. iii. 17. They are not mourning under their want of light, of life, ană of holiness. They reign as kings with what they have, though, as with King Saul, God is departed from them. Hence they do not value that treasure which is hid in the field of the gospel.
(2.) Men have no true sight and sense of their own sinfulness. They see not the sinfulness of their nature, of their hearts, lips, and lives, but are like Samson, without his two eyes : Matth. ix. 12, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” They are pining away in their sins; their sickness has not yet taken them by the heart; their wounds are not lanced; the law has not had its effect upon them, and therefore the gospel is not relished.
(3.) Their eyes are veiled, so that they see not their misery by sin, and as being without Christ : Hos. vii. 9, “Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not; yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not; and they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek him for all this.” Did they see the clouds of wrath which are hanging above their heads, the quick approaches which death with its sting is making towards them, their separation from God, and from all the privileges of the covenant, they could not be at ease. The gospel-tidings would be to them as life from the dead.
(4.) They are strangers to their atter inability to help themselves. They are like Samson, in another case, who knew not that his strength was departed from him. We may see how corrupt nature changes itself into various shapes on this point. If you urge men to ply the work of their salvation, Alas! say they, we can do nothing ; they thus make it a covert for their sloth. Urge them with the necessity of reformation and repentance, they say, It is time enough, they will attend to this afterwards; as if it were in the power of their hand to do this business at any time: they thus make it a covert for their delays, and still have no relish for the gospel.
(5.) They do not feel their need of Christ : Rev. iii. 17, " They need his blood and Spirit, but they are not duly sensible of their
need." Their own works are big in their own eyes, and appear to them sufficient in order to obtain God's favour. Their natural and acquired abilities are also with them sufficient in order to their sanctification ; they are by no means shaken out of themselves; therefore the offer of the gospel is but an offer of food to the full soul, and so is loathed.
(6.) They see not their own unworthiness of a Saviour's help; they come to the market of grace with their money in their hand. They look on themselves as worthy of what Christ should do for them, Luke vii. 4. Though they be perhaps so far humbled as to see they must have mercy and help from the Lord, yet they look on their reformation and duties as what cannot but recommend them to Christ beyond many others. They cannot see how the Lord can reject those who come so far a length as they do. Hence the doctrine of free grace is but tasteless to them.
(7.) They have no anxiety for the supply of their soul-wants. They want grace and holiness, but they can be easy without them. Like foolish virgins, they sleep on at ease, while they have no oil for their lamps : Prov. vi. 10, “ Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.” Their desires are keen after the world, but weak, faint, and languishing after spiritual good things. They have no hunger and thirst after them. Hence they value not the gospel, nor the fountain of living waters.
(8.) They are not content with Christ but on terms of their own making. They are like those who seek to buy a commodity which yet they can be without. If they can get it at their own price, they will take it; if not, they can want it. There are right-eye sins, yet they will by no means part with them. They are not pleased with the covenant, some things are in it which they must have out; there are some things out which they must have in, else they will not come into it. Hence they care not for the gospel, or that covenant which it reveals.
2. Hence learn, that slight the gospel-call who will, the meek, the poor in spirit will gladly receive it. They who are shaken out of themselves by the law, will be glad to creep under that shelter which is held forth in the gospel. These souls will feast sweetly on what is tasteless to others, what others tread under feet and despise. The hungry are glad of that for which the full soul has no appetite; and just it is in this case.—This subject informs us,
3. Of the dignity and honour of the work of the ministry. With Paul, we would not be ashamed to magnify that office which is conversant about those things which are most necessary for the world, which bring the highest honour to God, and the greatest good to