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Rom. chap. 9. ver. 26.
This is the state of a justified man; though he do by his relapses provoke God, yet he is in the state of a subject; though he be a disobedient subject, yet a subject, not a foreigner as before; but now ye "that" were not a people, are become the children of the living God." A child of God in the midst of rebellion no sooner repenteth, but he is sub misericordia; as soon as he is in the state of grace, he is under God's protection, he is no stranger: and as soon as he converteth unto his heavenly Father, though he hath his blood about his ears, and is in his rags, yet he may with an humble boldness come to God; " By Jesus Christ he may come boldly to the throne of grace, that he may find help in time of need." The apostle sets down twice the great privileges Christians have; "For through him we both have an access by one Spirit unto the Father" it is Christ which makes the way. To have a friend at the court is a great matter, especially when a man hath need of him; Christ is gone before us, and he "lives for ever to make intercession for us," and we need no other mediator: thus he bespeaks his Father; Father, this is one of mine that I shed my blood for, one of those that thou gavest me; I beseech thee have pity upon him, and I beseech thee give him audience: "By him"," that is, through Christ, "we have access by one Spirit unto the Father, in whom we have boldness by the faith of him, and access with confidence." I go not now doubting unto God, I prefer my suit with boldness. Mark the apostle St. James; "If any man want wisdom, or any other thing, let him ask it of God that gives to all men liberally, and upbraideth not." It is otherwise with men ; when one hath done a great man wrong, and comes to desire a favour at his hands: Oh Sir! saith he, do you not remember how you used me at such a time, or in such a place? that he is presently upbraided with, it is cast in his dish: but it is not so with God; he gives liberally, and upbraids no man: so there is a free and a bold access with faith and confidence, by whom we have boldness and access: let him not
2 Heb. chap. 4. ver. 16.
doubt or waver; that is a notable place; here is bold access by faith unto God, and by that we may be assured of whatever we ask; if it be forgiveness of sins, we may be sure they are forgiven; if we ask in faith we may be assured. By the way, take notice of the folly of the Papists, who think that a man can have no confidence or assurance that his sins are forgiven. "This is our confidence, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us." Now, is it not according to his will to ask forgiveness of our sins? Doth not he enjoin us to do it? Therefore what infidelity is it, not to be assured of it? And what impudency is it in them, to go about to cut off that which is the whole comfort of a Christian? The assurance of his salvation. Thus it is indeed with those that have no feeling nor confidence, as those who are in hell think there is no heaven; and they who teach such uncomfortable doctrine can receive no comfort farther than the priest giveth it them. It is true, there is no true assurance, but in the true Church; but there it may be found.
And as I began with "sowing in tears," so I would end with " reaping in joy:" that is the next thing in the text, for which I pass over the other part of it. I begin with humiliation, but end with joy; and not only that joy which we shall have in the kingdom of heaven, but on earth, while we have these things but in hope and expectation. A man that would reckon up his estate, doth not only value what he hath for the present, but he reckons his reversions also; what he shall have after such a time, what will come to him or his heirs. God's children, they have a brave reversion; glory and honour, and a kingdom: "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you a kingdom." "We are all the children of God, but it doth not appear what we shall be: when he appears, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. He shall change our vile bodies, and make them like his glorious
Luke, chap. 12. ver. 32.
d 1 John, chap. 3. ver. 2.
body." We are here sons, but yet, but in a strange country, no body knoweth what he is, and therefore he meets with many affronts. The king when he was in France, went for an attendant on the duke, and is he troubled at it? No, he knew that the world knew it not, they knew not what he was; and therefore he is not troubled at it? So is it with the children of God; but when they shall appear, they shall be advanced, and their enemies ashamed. By the way, let not the people of God be discouraged by the taunts, jeers and reproaches of wicked men; they know not what you are, and therefore make light of you, as they did of Christ himself. Well, besides what we have in reversion, the very present hope of it works wonderful joy in the heart of a Christian. David did not live to see the glory of Solomon's temple; but he made provision for it, and cast the model of it, and he took much delight in the contemplation of what it would be. The consideration of these hopes "makes my flesh rest in hope, and my heart rejoice." The consideration of the resurrection made David's heart rejoice: the consideration of that which is to come should bring abundance of joy unto a Christian: these are strange things, not like the joy of a natural man; for "his heart is sad in the midst of laughter," but "theses rejoice with a joy unspeakable, and full of glory." Here are some sparks, some beginnings of the glory of heaven, and of that great joy which we shall have hereafter; but I cannot speak of these things in an hour.
e Psalm 16. ver. 9.
1 Peter, chap. 1. ver. 8.
But, forasmuch as the Devil "transforms himself into an angel of light," there is no work of God's Spirit in the hearts of his children, but Satan, like an ape, labours to imitate in the hearts of wicked men, to make them secure : we must know that there are joys in some who are not regenerate: "They that receive the word on the rock, received it with joy." The word, if it be apprehended, and hath but the least footing, brings joy with it.
f Prov. chap. 34. ver. 13.
But now to know how I may get this joy, how beneficial a thing is it to have such a comfort on earth, as to know that I have this true joy! and to be able to distinguish this joy from the false joy, from the flashes, those fleeting joys of the wicked, which are but "ash the crackling of thorns under a pot," for theirs is but as a blaze that suddenly goeth out. Now if thou wouldst know thy joy aright, and whether it differ from that counterfeit joy which flesh and blood, and the Devil suggests: look to the things that go before, and produce this joy.
1. The first thing that goeth before true joy, and produceth it, is an opening unto Christ when he knocks at the door of thy heart: as in that famous place: "Behold', I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me." There is, if thou open, a sweet and familiar communication between Christ and thee; he communicates himself at dinner and supper. A man comes not melancholy to meals; Christ will come, and make merry with thee, he will sup with thee familiarly. But how is it with thee? hath Christ knocked, and thou hast given him a sleeveless answer, and hast thou joy? it is a false joy. But when Christ knocks at the door of thy heart, there must be an opening the door on thy part, when he knocks by his word and Spirit: and dost thou give such an answer as the spouse in the Canticles: "I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse, I have gathered my myrrh with my spice, I have eaten my honey-comb with my honey." Now Christ coming to supper, knocked at the door, and would bring in a great deal of joy: "I sleep," saith the spouse, my heart waketh; it is the voice of my well-beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled." When God comes and woos us, and desires to communicate himself unto us, and desires us to put off our cloths, dost thou look for comfort if thou
Eccles. chap. 7. ver. 6.
Rev. chap. 3. ver. 20.
openest not? "At last I opened to my beloved; but he had withdrawn himself, and was gone; my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer." When thou givest not Christ entertainment when he comes, thou mayest seek, and not meet with him. It is observed that "the keepers of the wall" are the greatest strikers: those whom God hath set to be watchmen, instead of comforting, they smite; "Them watchmen that went about the city they found me, they smote me, they wounded me, they took my veil from me:" she gets raps from them who should protect her, because she did not entertain Christ: if thou findest any comfort after Christ hath knocked, and thou hast opened unto him; then it is true joy, and thou mayest make much of it.
2. If it be true joy, "there goeth faith before it; for being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." So that the exercising of the acts of faith, is a spiritual means to raise comforts in our souls; I had need to speak of this, for there is want of the exercises of faith: is it enough, think you, to have faith once exercised? "He" that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him:" it is not enough to eat once a year, A man will not be in good liking that eats but once a year, but a man must eat once a day at least. A Christian should feed on Christ every day, make him his ordinary food, renewing every day the acts of faith, receive Christ crucified, by faith, every day. If a Christian would consider that God offers Christ unto him every day, and thou renewest thy faith, and claspest him every day, it would be a special way whereby joy should be raised in the soul. It is said "We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God: Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost." Thus when thou hast exercised the acts
1 Cant. chap. 5. verse 6. John, chap. 6. ver. 56.
Ibid. verse 7.
Rom. chap. 15. ver. 13.