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Robert Traill

 

A LETTER from the late MR. JAMES HERVEY,

Author of the Meditations, Theron and Aspasio, &c.

TO a RELATION of Mr. TRAILL’s,

Who was Editor of an early Edition of his Works

Sir,

I received your very valuable and no loss acceptable

present, some weeks ago. I should have acknowledged the

favour sooner; but I chose to stay till I had tasted the dish

you set before me. And indeed I find it to be savoury meat,

the true manna; food for the soul.

Your worthy relative was a workman that need not be

ashamed. He knew how, clearly to state, and solidly to

establish the faith of God’s elect, and the doctrine

according to godliness.-O! that my heart, and the heart of

every reader, may be opened, by the eternal Spirit, to

receive the precious truths!

The letter at the end of the first volume, is a judicious

performance. It rightly divides the word of truth, and lays

the line, with a masterly hand, between the presumptuous

Legalist, and the licentious Antinomian.-I am particularly

pleased with the honourable testimony bore to those two

excellent books, Dr. Owen’s Treatise on Justification, and

Mr. Marshall’s Gospel-mystery of Sanctification: books fit

to be recommended by so good a judge!

If the Lord pleases to give Theron and Aspasio any

acceptance in Scotland, I shall be sincerely glad; but if he

vouchsafes to make them, not only welcome, but useful

visitants, I shall exceedingly rejoice.-In case you should

think them calculated to promote the honour and further the

gospel of JESUS CHRIST, I hope you will favour them

with your recommendation, and accompany them with your

prayers; which will be a fresh instance of kindness to,

SIR,

Your obliged friend,

and obedient Servant,

JAMES HERVEY

WESTON,

July 8, 1755

RECOMMENDATION

TO THE

SERMONS ON STEDFAST ADHERENCE,

Which were Published after the Author’s Death

The subjects treated upon in these sermons, have been

always esteemed, by well-grounded Christians, to have the

greatest influence both upon our duty and comfort.

The promises of God are the matter of our faith, and ground

of our hope. Faith in these precious promises, is that grace

which conveys to us our interest in them, and draws forth

the strength and sweetness of them.

An honest open profession of that faith, not only in words,

or instituted solemnities of public worship, but in all holy

conversation and godliness, is the distinguishing mark of

the churches of Christ in the world.

And a steady adherence to that profession, in times of

temptation and great backsliding, is the believer’s

unquestionable duty, interest, and honour.

These great points, of spiritual and practical religion, you

have here opened and urged, with that plainness, gravity,

and good judgment, by which the late Reverend Mr. Traill

has been well known in his former evangelical discourses.

If any thing here shall seem less correct, it will easily be

imputed to the usual disadvantages of posthumous

productions.

But surely great candour and tenderness will be thought

due to such orphans, as are turned out into the world,

destitute of those improvements which they might have

received from the care and cultivation of their worthy

parents, if they had not been by death deprived of them.

In compliance with some of the author’s particular friends,

who were desirous to have these sermons made public, we

would recommend them to the perusal of all such as are

desirous to live more by faith upon the promises of God,

and to be just and true to their holy profession. That the

God of all grace would make them effectual to these good

purposes, is the earnest prayer of

Their servants for Jesus’ sake

WILL. TONGUE.

JOHN NISBET.

MATT. CLARK.

 

AN ACCOUNT

OF THE LIFE AND CHARACTER

OF

THE AUTHOR

The Rev. Mr. Robert Traill was descended of an ancient

family, that had been in possession of the estate of Blebo,

in Fife, from the time of Walter Traill, archbishop of St.

Andrews, 1385, who purchased it, and gave it to his

nephew. Robert Traill, son of James Traill, and father of

our author, was minister first of Ely, in the east of Fife,

afterwards of the Gray friars church in Edinburgh, and was

much distinguished for his fidelity and zeal in discharging

the duties of his function. He married Jean Annan, of the

family of Auchterallan, by whom he had three sons and

three daughters; William, who died minister of Borthwick;

Robert, the author of the following sermons; James,

lieutenant of the garrison in Stirling castle; Helen, married

to Mr. Thomas Paterson, minister of Borthwick; Agnes,

married to Sir James Stewart of Goodtrees, Lord Advocate

of Scotland, and Margaret, married to James Scot of Bristo,

writer in Edinburgh. At the restoration, Mr. Traill, with

other ministers, was prosecuted before the Scotch council,

and, in consequence of their sentence, was imprisoned

seven months in Edinburgh, and banished from the realm.

His answers to his libel do him much honour, as a man and

a Christian. From these, and some of his private letters still

extant, he appears to have been a judicious and holy servant

of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 He afterward returned to

Scotland, and died during the time of the persecution; we

have seen nothing of his in print, but a letter to his wife and

children, from Holland.

His son Robert, the subject of this Memoir, was born at

Ely, May 1642. After the usual course of education at

home, he was sent to the university of Edinburgh, where he

recommended himself to the several professors, by his

capacity and diligent application to his studies. Having

determined to devote himself to the work of the ministry,

he pursued the study of divinity with great ardour for

several years. He was intimate with the Rev. William

Guthrie of Finwick, and several others of the Presbyterian

ministers; and was present when Mr. James Guthrie

suffered death for his adherence to the peculiar principles

of the Scottish church. His father being banished, had taken

refuge in Holland; the family he left behind him were in

great straits; in this situation our author had no settled

residence. In 1666, he was obliged to lurk for some time,

together with his mother and elder brother, because some

copies of a book, entitled, An Apologetic Relation, &c.

which the privy council had ordered to be publicly burnt,

were found in Mrs. Traill’s house. At that time the

Presbyterians in Scotland were treated with great severity,

and the privy council, in the execution of cruel laws that

had been enacted by the legislature, at the instigation of the

bishops, was continually harassing them by their tyrannical

edicts, enjoining conformity to the established prelatical

church, under most unreasonable civil pains and penalties,

and enforcing their arbitrary and intolerant decrees by the

terror of military quarter and execution. These harsh and

unjustifiable methods provoked many of that oppressed and

unhappy people; and inflamed their spirits to that degree,

that they took up arms, and advanced the length of

Pentland-hills, near Edinburgh, where they were totally

defeated and dispersed in an engagement with the king’s

forces. Our author was suspected of being among those that

were in arms; and a proclamation was issued by the council

for apprehending him, which obliged him to retire to

Holland, to his father, where he arrived in the beginning of

the year 1667. Here he continued to study divinity, and

assisted Nethenus, professor of divinity in the university of

Utrecht, in the republication of Rutherford’s Examination

of Arminianism. In the preface to his edition of that book,

Nethenus speaks of Mr. Robert Traill as a pious, prudent,

learned, and industrious young man. Coming over to

Britain in 1670, he was ordained to the ministry by some

Presbyterian clergymen in London. Being in Edinburgh

1677, he preached privately. Here, in the month of July, he

was apprehended and brought before the privy council. To

them, he acknowledged he had kept house-conventicles;

being interrogate, if he had preached at field-conventicles,

he referred that to proof, and declined to answer, it being

criminal by law; upon which he was ordered by the council

to purge himself, by oath, of preaching or hearing at them.

This he peremptorily refused, as what, in justice, he could

not be obliged to do in his own cause. He owned he had

conversed with Mr. John Welsh, on the English border. He

was on these accounts sent to the Bass. Here he enjoyed the

company of Messrs. Frazer of Brae, Peden, and others,

confined for their attachment to the testimony of Jesus.

From this prison he was relieved, by order of government,

in the month of October the same year. Afterwards he

returned to England, and preached in a meeting house at

Cranbrook, a small town in Kent. From this he removed to

London, where for many years he was pastor to a Scottish

congregation, there he laboured faithfully and successfully,

performing the duties of his ministry, both on Sabbaths and

in a lecture on week days; he modestly details his

experience in the following words:-I have no name to

come to God in but Christ. My own name is abominable to

myself, and deservedly hateful in heaven. No other name is

given under heaven, but that of Jesus Christ, in which a

sinner may safely approach unto God. Since the Father is

well pleased with this name, and the Son commands me to

ask in it, and the Holy Ghost hath brought this name to me,

and made it as ointment poured forth, Song 1:3, and since

its savour hath reached my soul, I will try to lift it up as

incense to perfume the altar and throne above; since all that

ever come in this name are made welcome, I will come

also, having no plea but Christ’s name, no covering but his

borrowed and gifted robe of righteousness. I need nothing,

I will ask nothing, but what his blood hath bought (and all

that, I will ask); I will expect answers of peace and

acceptance only in that blessed beloved-beloved of the

Father, both as his Son and our Saviour, and beloved of all

that ever saw but a little of his grace and glory.

In 1691, upon the republication of Dr. Crisp’s works, a

flood of legal doctrine seemed to break in among the

Dissenting ministers and others in London-a sort of

medium between Calvinism and Arminianism was

proposed, and the doctrines of grace, as explained by the

Reformers, were branded as Antinomianism.2 In this

controversy, Dr. Chauncy, Messrs. Thomas Cole, Nathaniel

Mather, Thomas Goodwin, younger, and others, with much

ability defended the doctrines of the Gospel; among these

Mr. Traill appeared with much lustre, as a well informed

and evangelical divine. In his sermons preached about that

time, particularly on Galatians 2:21, he clearly illucidates

the doctrines of grace; and in a letter to a country minister

(afterwards published,) he plainly discovers his sentiments

and spirit, and throws much light on the controverted

subjects. The late celebrated Hervey says of this letter,

"This is a judicious performance, it rightly divides the word

of truth, and lays the line, with a masterly hand, between

the presumptuous Legalist, and the licentious Antinomian."

This excellent man died May 1716, aged 74. During his

life-time, he published a sermon in the morning exercise,

on 1 Timothy 4:16, in answer to the question, By what

Means may Ministers best win Souls to Christ, 1682;

afterwards, Thirteen Sermons on the Throne of Grace,

Hebrews 4:16; and Sixteen Sermons on the Lord’s Prayer,

John 17:24; after his death was published a volume,

entitled, Stedfast Adherence to the Professions of our Faith,

from Hebrews 10:23. This is prefaced and recommended

by the Rev. Messrs. Tong, Nisbet, and Clarke, eminent

ministers in London. In 1778 and 1779, was published

another volume, transcribed from Mr. Traill’s MSS eleven

of these are from 1 Peter 1:1-4 and six on Galatians 2:21.

He also wrote a short account of the Rev. William Guthrie,

author of a small but excellent tract, The Trial of a Saving

Interest in Christ; and a recommendation of Marshall on

Sanctification.

As a number of Mr. Traill’s writings have been so long

before the public, and have met with the universal

approbation of the judicious and serious, it will be

unnecessary to say much in their recommendation. They

breathe that spirit of piety for which the author was so

distinguished. The subjects of which they treat are

intimately connected with the Christian life here, in

prospect of future glory; while they exhibit the supernatural

doctrines and privileges of the gospel to faith; they are

improved for the excitement of believers to duty, to

conformity to Jesus, for their establishment in grace and

abundant comfort in the world. Matter so solid, evangelical,

and heavenly, treated in a manner so practical and savoury,

is fit for edifying every class of Christians, and cannot fail

to be acceptable to all who have a relish for the things of

the Spirit of God. They are indeed void of superfluous and

gaudy ornaments. The reader of modern taste will not find

in them that laboured elegance, or pomp of words, the

artificial structure of sentences, or the dry reasoning, the

affected declamation, or the vehement pathos of address,

which may be met with in so many works on religious

topics, written at a more late period. But those who have

some higher end in view in reading, than to amuse

themselves with words, or the trifling gratification of a

refined taste, will find precious truths, conveyed in a

manner more becoming the simplicity of the gospel, and

more adapted to general instruction. Of all the qualities

requisite in discourses from the pulpit, or for the use of

people at large, plainness of language, and perspicuity of

manner, are among the principal and most needful: these

characters are apparent in every part of these discourses.

Considering the time in which they were composed, they

are remarkably free of any thing, either in style or method,

that might make them appear intricate, obscure, or

offensive to Christian readers, even in this present refined

age. The ministers of the New Testament, as the apostles

were, are debtors both to the Greek and to the Barbarian, to

the learned and unlearned; and are bound, no less than they

were, to use great plainness of speech, without employing

veils of any kind to conceal the revealed mystery and glory

of the gospel,-that so light might be imparted to the

understanding, and the truth at the same time brought home

to the hearts and consciences of men. Thus did this faithful

confessor and labourer in the vineyard of the Lord;-whose

printed works, since his death, have been useful to many,

and through a more extensive circulation, by the divine

blessing, may still edify many more.

The relations of Mr. Traill, in Scotland, still possess several

volumes of his notes; it is also supposed, there may be in

London some MSS sermons of this excellent author in the

libraries of the religious. It would be highly gratifying,

were these sought out, and delivered to those, who would

actively engage in their publication. It is intended to

publish a volume of these, if encouragement be given.

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

1. In the conclusion of his libel, he says to the Scottish

Parliament, I must, in all humility, beg leave to intreat your

Lordships, that you seriously consider what you do with

poor ministers, who have been so long kept, not only from

their liberty of preaching the gospel, but of hearing it; that

so many congregations are laid desolate for so long a time

and many poor souls have put up their regrets on their

death-bed, for their being deprived of a word of comfort

from their ministers in the hour of their greatest need. The

Lord give you wisdom in all things, and pour out upon you

the spirit of your high and weighty employment-of

understanding, and of the fear of the Lord; that your

government may be blessed for this land and kirk; that you

may live long and happily; that your memory may be sweet

and fragrant when you are gone; that you may leave your

name for a blessing to the Lord’s people; that your houses

and families may stand long, and flourish to the years of

many generations; that you may have solid peace and heart

joy in the hour of the breaking of your heart strings, when

pale death will sit on your eye-lids, and when man must go

to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets, for

what man is he that liveth and shall not see death; or can he

deliver himself from the power of the grave? No, assuredly,

for even those to whom he saith, Ye are gods, must die as

men, seeing it is appointed for all men once to die, and after

death is the judgment, and after judgment an endless

eternity. Let me therefore exhort your Lordships, in the

words of a great king, a great warrior also, and a holy

prophet. "Be wise, and be instructed, ye judges of the earth,

serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice before him with

trembling. Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish

from the way; when his wrath is kindled but a little, then

blessed will all those, and those only, be, who put their trust

to him."

2. Almost the same controversy agitated in our own church,

some years after, about the Marrow of Modern Divinity.

PREFACE.

 

What is in this book offered to your reading, was, some

years since, preached, in the ordinary course of my

ministry, on a week-day, with no more thought (that is,

none at all) of printing it, than I had of publishing this way

any thing I have preached these seven and twenty years,

wherein I have been exercised in the ministry of the word,

save one single sermon extorted from me about fourteen

years ago.

The publishing of such plain discourses, is singly owing to

the importunity of some of the hearers, and to the

assistance they gave me, by getting what I spake

transcribed from two short-hand writers: without which I

could not have published it; my own notes being only little

scraps of heads of doctrine, and scriptures confirming them.

In the same way I had brought to me what I spake from

Hebrews 10:23, 24 and have it lying by me; which may

also see the light, if the Lord will that I live1: and if this be

accepted of such whose testimony I only value; I mean

such as are sound in the faith, and exercised in the life of

faith.

I know no true religion but Christianity; no true

Christianity but the doctrine of Christ; of his divine person,

(the image of the invisible God, Colossians 1:15); of his

divine office, (the Mediator betwixt God and men, 1

Timothy 2:5); of his divine righteousness, (he is the Lord

our Righteousness, Jeremiah 23:6; which name is also

called upon his church, chapter 33:16); and of his divine

Spirit, (which all that are his receive, Romans 8:9). I know

no true ministers of Christ, but such as make it their

business, in their calling, to commend Jesus Christ, in his

saving fulness of grace and glory, to the faith and love of

men; no true Christian, but one united to Christ by faith,

and abiding in him by faith and love, unto the glorifying of

the name of Jesus Christ, in the beauties of gospel-holiness.

Ministers and Christians of this spirit, have for many years

been my brethren and companions, and, I hope, shall ever

be, whithersoever the hand of God shall lead me.

Through the Lord’s mercy to me, (as to many in London), I

have often heard what is far more worthy of the press, than

any thing I can publish. I have not been negligent in

desiring such able ministers of the New Testament, to let

their light shine this way; but have little prevailed. It may

be this mean essay may provoke them more to that good

work.

Whatever you may think of my way of managing this

subject, (and indeed there is nothing in that, either as

designed or expected by me, or that in itself deserveth any

great regard); yet the theme itself, all must judge, who have

spiritual senses, is of great importance, and always

seasonable. It is concerning the throne of God’s saving

grace, reared up in Jesus Christ, and revealed unto men in

the gospel; with the application all should make to that

throne, the great blessings to be reaped by that application,

and men’s great need of those blessings.

This greatest of subjects is meanly, but honestly, handled in

the same order in which it was preached, and mostly in the

same words. Some few passages out of history are inserted,

which were not spoken.

May the Lord of the harvest, who ministered this seed to

the sower, make it bread to the eater, and accompany it

with his blessing on some that are called to inherit a

blessing, and I have my end and desire; the reader shall

have the benefit; and the Lord the glory; for of him, and

through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory

for ever. Amen.

ROBERT TRAILL

London,

March 25, 1696

 

FOOTNOTE:

 

1. These sermons were published after the author’s death.

The book is intitled, A Stedfast Adherence to the Profession

of our Faith.

 

 

SERMONS

CONCERNING THE THRONE OF GRACE

SERMON I

 

Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace, to help in time of

need.

The main drift of the blessed apostle, the Holy Ghost’s

penman, in this excellent epistle, is to set forth the pre-

eminence of our Lord Jesus Christ, first, in his divine

person, far above all angels, who are bid worship him, even

when dwelling in man’s nature. If the god-head of our Lord

Jesus Christ be hid from the readers of this epistle, it must

be a special power of the God of this world on their

unbelieving minds (2 Cor 4:3,4). Will blinded men forbear

to call the Son God, when the Father speaks so? (1:8) Thy

throne, O God, is for ever and ever. Then the apostle

speaks of his incarnation (2:11, &c). And therewith speaks

of his priesthood (chapter 3). The apostle compares Christ

with, and prefers him above Moses (chapter 3); then above

Aaron as a priest, (chapter 7); and compares him with

Melchizedec, an eminent type of Christ. By this epistle we

may know what Paul’s reasonings with the Jews were (Acts

9:22; 17:2,3) and what is the right way of dealing with the

Jews at this day. Till Christ’s divine person, and

righteousness, and priesthood, have more room in the

religion of the Gentiles, Christianity is not like to leaven

the Jews. This doctrine of Christ’s priesthood, and of the

sacrifice of himself he offered in that office, the apostle

doth often intermix, with suitable exhortations from it; as in

the context (v 14). Seeing then that we have a great high

priest, (all the Old Testament high priests were but types

and shadows of him, and were but little high priests), that is

passed into the heavens, (no high priest but Christ went

farther than the holy of holies, for the people’s advantage),

Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. The

dignity of Christ in his advanced state, as well as his grace

in his humbled state, lays Christians under a strong

engagement to cleave to him with stedfast confidence. Yet

for as great as this person is, and for all that he is in heaven,

and in unspeakable dignity and glory there, you must not

think, that he in heaven, and we on earth, can have no

communion: (v 15) For we have not an high priest which

cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities;

(Though now he hath none of his own, yet can he feel those

of his people, and his feeling engageth speedy relief. The

reason the apostle gives for this sympathy of Christ with his

people, is from Christ’s experience when on earth); but was

in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. The

apostle delivers the mind of the Holy Ghost about Christ’s

sympathy negatively, We have not an high priest which

cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: in

which manner of expression he reflects on the meanness of

the Levitical priests, to whom it was impossible to know

and feel all the infirmities of the people, for whom yet they

appeared before God; and he implies the affirmative

strongly, We have an high priest which can be (and is)

touched with the feeling of our infirmities. How a sinless

man as Christ ever was, can be touched with the feeling of

the infirmities of sinners, and many of these infirmities

sinful ones; how a glorified man, as Christ now is, exalted

to, and possessed of the highest glory and bliss, can be, and

is touched with the feeling of all the infirmities of all his

people, is what the word plainly reveals to be believed; but

it is not to be fully known till we come to heaven. But he is

the head, and all his people are his body, his members, of

his flesh, and of his bones (Eph 5:30). A marvellous word!

Can the flesh be torn, and the bones be broken, and the

head not feel it? Though he be glorified above what we can

conceive, he is a living, sensible, and compassionate head;

and as nearly and closely united to all his members now, as

when they saw with their eyes, and heard with their ears,

and with their hands handled the word of life (1 John 1:1).

There is nothing ails a poor believer in Christ, there is no

groan riseth from his distressed heart, but it is immediately

felt at the tender heart of the Lord Jesus, at the Father’s

right-hand. We would groan and sing with the same breath,

if we believed this firmly.

In my text, there is a most blessed exhortation, from this

same ground of Christ’s sympathy in heaven, unto a bold

approaching to the throne of grace. The nativeness and

strength of the inference, is obvious to the most ordinary

attention. The exhortation is unto the improving of the

greatest privilege, an erected and revealed throne of grace;

and that in the practice of the greatest duty, believing

approaching unto his throne, or unto God sitting on this

throne of grace.

What I would take up in, and handle, in speaking to these

words, shall be the resolution of four weighty questions,

which should be in the hearts of all worshippers of God.

1. The first great question is, Where may I find God? This

was Job’s question and wish: (Job 23:3) O that I knew

where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!

And that this seat was a throne of grace to Job, is evident

from verse 6. This text tells you, God is on a throne of

grace: a fit place for God to be sought in, and where only

he can be found graciously by a sinner.

2. The second question is, How should we come to God on

this throne? Let us come boldly, saith the apostle. The

original word signifieth, coming freely; with free, open,

bold speaking, pouring out all our hearts and minds to him.

Let us come, without making use of saint or angel to

introduce us to this throne. Any poor sinner may come

himself alone to this court, and that boldly, without fear of

being repulsed.

3. The third question is the hardest, What ground hath a

sinner for this boldness? The ground the apostle gives for

it, is hinted in the word therefore, which relates to verse 14,

15, because of Jesus the Son of God, our great high priest

in heaven. If we had not such an high priest, ministering in

glory at the high altar above, no sinner could come boldly

to the throne of grace on earth. So he argues, chapter 10:19-

22.

4. The last question is, What shall we get, and for what may

we come to this throne of grace? The apostle speaks fully

to this in the text: Let us come, that we may obtain mercy,

and find grace to help in time of need. These precious

things, mercy and grace, are scattered round this throne.

Any poor needy creature should come for a saving alms

from this throne, and may have it for the coming.

HEAD I. The first of these I would begin with. Where is

God to be found? The apostle tells us, on a throne of grace.

The word is only here; no where else in the scriptures is the

word to be found: but what is signified by it, is frequently

in the Old and New Testament, as we shall hear. But

though the phrase, The throne of grace, be only once

named in this (Heb 4:16), yet the thing signified is so

precious, and the expression of it so savoury, significant,

and suitable, that this form of speaking, The throne of

grace, is become famous, known, and used among

Christians and will doubtless be till the end of time. As

long as God hath a mind to give mercy and grace, as long

as any of the children of men are sensibly needy of grace

and mercy, and askers and receivers thereof from the Lord,

(and that will be till the heavens be no more), this throne of

grace will be plied and praised.

I would first consider the proper meaning of this word, a

throne of grace. It is obvious, that the apostle, in this

epistle, doth every where (if I may use a much abused

word) christen the Old Testament types, and gives them

New Testament names, and applies them to the doctrine of

Christ he is teaching the Christian Jews he writes to. The

Old Testament church knew what a high priest was, what

his institution, office, and performance were in the

tabernacle in the wilderness, and in the temple of Solomon

in Canaan: but both Aaron and his successors, and the

tabernacle and temple, were but types and shadows of Jesus

Christ in his person and office. There was the holiest of all,

into which the high priest went alone, and only once a year;

in this was the ark of the covenant, and the mercy seat, and

cherubims covering it: whence these common expressions

in the Old Testament, of God’s dwelling between the

cherubims, and of believers trusting in the shadow of his

wings. Now, the holiest of all was their type of heaven; and

the ark, cherubims, and mercy seat, were all but shadows

(as the apostle calls them, Hebrews 10:1) of our Lord Jesus

Christ, and of that peace with God, and access to God, that

he hath wrought ought for men. More particularly, that

most sacred of all things in the Jewish Old Testament

worship, that was called the mercy seat, the apostle calls a

throne of grace; thereby teaching us, that whatever of

divine grace was revealed and tendered to, or perceived and

received by the faith of the Old Testament believers, in

their right use of these sacred old institutions of God to his

church, the same, with great advantage, believers under the

New Testament have in Jesus Christ, the body, antitype,

and substance of them.

We find three most solemn things in the Old Testament, in

which the mercy seat (the type of the throne of grace in the

New Testament) was applied unto, 1. The most solemn

approach was made unto God, in the high priest’s going in

once a year to the holiest of all, where the mercy seat was.

This was made, not by the people in their own persons; nor

by any ordinary Levite, who were privileged with a greater

nearness to God than the people (Num 16:9), nor by any of

the inferior priests of the house of Aaron, to which family

the office of priesthood was by divine appointment

confined; nor by the high priest himself, but only once a

year, at a determinate time, and with many appointed

ceremonies of preparation and performance. Some tell us of

a custom in their worship, that music, by singing and

instruments, was used by the people, to express their joy

and praise, when the high priest returned safe out from that

sacred and awful place, the holy of holies. 2. The most

solemn atonement for the sins of Israel was made at the

mercy seat. This was done in that yearly entrance of the

high priest into the holiest of all (Lev 16:12,13, especially v

14). And he (Aaron the first of that order of priests) shall

take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his

finger upon the mercy seat eastward: and before the mercy

seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven

times. Verse 30 On that day shall the priest make an

atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean

from all your sins before the Lord. 3. The most solemn

answers were given by God to their high priest (Exo 25:17-

22) where we have the institution of the mercy seat, and the

form of it: And there (saith the Lord) I will meet with thee,

and I will commune with thee; and again, Exodus 30:6.

What the Old Testament Urim and Thummim was, and

what their Shechinah was, neither Jew now, nor Christian

know, though they guess; only that they were special

manifestations of the grace, and favour, and mind of God,

which expired with, and some of them, it is thought, before

the end of that ministration. But all these three glories, and

dignities, and advantages of their mercy seat, are all to be

found in Christ Jesus; who represents his people before

God, and presents them to him; who hath made the perfect

atonement for all his Israel; and who declares to his church

all the saving will of God, which he heard and received of

his Father.

The apostle here in this epistle, and in this text, would have

all believers in Christ to know, that the New Testament

throne of grace is the same in substance with, and with

great advantage above the Old Testament mercy seat. See

Hebrews 9:4-8.

The truth I would speak to is this:

DOCT. That God in the gospel sits on a throne of grace,

and from it calls and invites sinners to come unto him.

Let us come to the throne of grace, certainly means, Let us

now come to God sitting on a throne of grace; let us take

both direction and encouragement to come to God, because

he is on a throne of grace.

In handling of this point of doctrine, I would shew three

things:

I. What this throne of grace is, and how distinguished from

other thrones of God spoke of in the word.

II. Why it is so called, a throne, and a throne of grace.

III. What coming to this throne is.

I. What is this throne of grace, and how distinguished from

other thrones of God spoke of in the word?

These other I would first name, to prevent mistakes.

1. We find a throne of glory much spoke of: a throne of the

essential, incomprehensible glory of God. This no man can

approach to. Of this the apostle speaks, 1 Timothy 6:16. He

dwelleth in light that no man can approach to, whom no

man hath seen, nor can see. Marvellous is this light. We

find the more light there be in or about a person or thing,

the more easily and clearly it is perceived: as the sun is

such a glorious body, that though it be at a vast distance

from the earth we dwell on, we yet can take it up with our

eyes immediately. As soon as it shines, we can see it,

because of its light. It is its own light, and nothing else, that

doth, or can discover it. If the sun did withdraw its own

light, all the eyes of men, and all the artificial fire and light

men can make, would never help us to find it out. But such

is the majesty of God, that he is clothed with it (Psa 93:1).

Men are dazzled and confounded by a little ray of his glory:

With God is terrible majesty (Job 37:22). This is not the

throne we are called to come unto. They are but triflers in

religion, that know not in their experience how

overwhelming the views and thoughts of God’s majesty

and glory are, when he is not seen as on a throne of grace. I

remembered God, and was troubled, saith one saint (Psa

77:3). I am troubled at his presence; when I consider, I am

afraid of him, saith another (Job 23:15). No wonder

Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we

have seen God (Judg 13:22) when a view of the heavenly

glory of Jesus Christ makes John, who was wont to lean on

his bosom in his humbled state, to fall down at his feet as

dead (Rev 1:17).

2. There is a throne of God’s government of the world oft

spoke of (Psa 9:4,7). On this throne God sits, and rules all

things at his pleasure, and in infinite wisdom. This throne is

to be believingly regarded by us; but it is not the throne of

grace that sinners are called to come unto for grace and

mercy.

3. There is a throne of God’s justice spoken of. This is that

throne David deprecates his being brought before, (Psa

143:2) Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy

sight shall no man living be justified. If a man be wronged

and oppressed by men stronger than he, he may appeal to

this throne of justice, and expect redress. But if a man’s

business be with God, he should be afraid of this throne of

justice. Men are oft proud and vain in their thoughts, and

before others: but if the Lord call them before this high

court of justice, they will surely be cast: (Job 9:2,3) How

should a man be just with God? If he will contend with him,

he cannot answer him one of a thousand. When God sits on

a throne of justice, to judge men according to his law and

their works, nothing but condemnation can justly be

pronounced on sinners. Whoever he be of sinful Adam’s

seed that expecteth saving favour from God’s throne of

justice, will find himself woefully deceived.

4. We find the throne of the last judgment. Before this all

must appear (2 Cor 5:10; Rev 20:12). This is not the throne

of grace in the text. No grace nor mercy is shown to any

from this throne, but to them that have plied and sped at the

throne of grace before. When our Lord comes, and sits on

the throne of his glory (Matt 25:31) no sinner that hath

despised his grace now, will find any quarter then (Luke

19:27).

What then is this throne of grace? It is God in Christ

dealing with men according to the grace of the gospel. It is

God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not

imputing to them their trespasses (2 Cor 5:19). It is Christ

set forth by God to be a propitiation (Rom 3:25). This is

the true mercy seat, or throne of grace, or propitiation (1

John 2:2, 4:10). This is the new court or throne erected by

God, and declared in the gospel, to which sinful man is

invited to come.

II. Why is it called a throne and a throne of grace?

Passing what is said of the apostle’s alluding to the mercy

seat in the tabernacle and temple of old,

1. It is called a throne, because of the glory and majesty of

God manifested here. God’s condescending to display and

dispense his grace and mercy to sinners, is no debasing of

God, but an advancing of his glory. When he gives grace,

he acts royally, and as a king, with majesty. Araunah’s

offering to David, is said to be like a king (2 Sam 24:23).

He was no king, but a subject; but he had a free, noble

heart. The Lord on this throne of grace, dispenseth all acts

of grace with great majesty, and as a king; but not as a King

Judge, and Ruler, but as a King Benefactor, and Giver. This

royalty of grace shines, 1. In the greatness of the gifts,

grace, and mercy; vastly above all that the creation can

give. 2. In the manner of giving; free, sovereignly free.

Grace and mercy is his own, and he doth with them as he

will. When Moses prays, (Exo 33:18) I beseech thee, shew

me thy glory, we cannot conceive what was in his holy

heavenly heart. He was now just come down from the

mount the first time; he is going up again to spend other

forty days there, in such communion with God as never

mere man enjoyed before or since out of heaven; he had

prevailed with God for Israel, and hath a most gracious

answer, (v 17) and the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this

thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace

in my sight, and I know thee by name. What means Moses

then by this prayer? (v 18). Whatever he meant, the Lord’s

answer is much to be observed, (v 19) And he said, I will

make all my goodness (or beauty) pass before thee, and I

will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee. (What is in

this name that hath so much of glory and goodness in it, as

should satisfy such a mighty hungerer for more of God, as

Moses was?) I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious,

and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. God’s

glory shines highly, in his being the sovereign disposer of

his own grace and mercy; and happy is the believer that

adores this glorious sovereignty. Paul in Romans 9:15-25

makes a deep improvement of it. (Jer 17:12) A glorious

high throne from the beginning, is the place of our

sanctuary. See then that you, in all your pleadings for grace

and mercy, remember that you are before a high stately

throne. Approaches to God on the throne of grace, should

be managed with the deepest reverence and humility. So

did the publican, when he came to it, (Luke 18:13) God be

merciful (propitious) to me a sinner, (or me the sinner, the

great singular sinner. So the Greek runs, as Luke 7:37,39.)

The deepest, profoundest adoration of the glorious majesty

of God, is performed by a self-condemned sinner, pleading

at this throne for the obtaining of the sovereign free grace

of God. Lastly, It is called a throne, because grace reigns

and is enthroned here: (Rom 5:21) Grace reigns through

righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessed reign! and blessed are all that are under the reign

and dominion of the grace of God. Sin reigns through the

unrighteousness of the first Adam unto eternal death, if

men be let alone, and if grace do not break this reign of sin.

And grace reigns through the righteousness of the second

Adam unto eternal life. And nothing can dethrone grace; it

will prevail and reach its end, eternal life, in all it falls

upon. O that captives to Satan, and slaves to sin and the

law, would long to be under the reign of this stately power,

the grace of God! and that believers themselves would give

a more free and large subjection to it!

2. It is called a throne of grace,

1st, Because grace entered and reared it up: (Psa 89:2)

Mercy shall be built up for ever. Nothing but grace and

mercy framed the throne of grace. I may allude to the

Lord’s stately words to Job (38:4-6) speaking of the first

creation, (but this throne of grace was fixed before, as the

King himself saith, (Prov 8:23) I was set up from

everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was),

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the

earth?-and, Who laid the cornerstone thereof? No

creature was on the council; it is a divine contrivance. But,

now it is revealed, our faith, on the ground of this

revelation, may, and should go back, and take a refreshing

view of this eternal contrivance. The Lord builds a house of

mercy, that a company of sinners may dwell in, with him,

for ever. What laid the cornerstone of this throne, but

grace? What brings in the inhabitants, preserves them, and

perfects them, but grace? For whom is it prepared, and by

whom shall this house of mercy be possessed, and with

whom shall it be filled, but with vessels of mercy, which he

had afore prepared unto glory (Rom 9:23).

2dly, It is called a throne of grace, because grace hath here,

and here only, a glorious display and discovery. Till men

get a sight of God in Christ, they cannot tell what the grace

of God is. Search heaven and earth, you can never get a

view of God’s grace, till ye come to this throne. You may

see God’s infinite power, and wisdom, and goodness,

written in great characters, in the great volume of creation

and providence; but till ye come to know God in Christ on

this throne, you can never see that divine dainty, and saving

blessing, the free grace of God; grace, as an everlasting

fountain in the heart of God, pouring down, streaming forth

eternal salvation on ruined unworthy sinners. Men should

make a visit to the throne of grace, if they had no other

errand but to get a sight of this precious thing, the grace of

God. A right sight of it is saving. Believers should long to

be in heaven, if they had no other errand, than to see the

spring-head of that flood of grace that came down from

heaven, to drag them out of hell, and to draw them up to

heaven.

3dly, It is called a throne of grace, because all the acts and

sentences passed at this new court, are all acts of grace. All

the blessings given from this throne, are all of mere grace.

Nothing is here but grace: (John 1:17) The law was given

by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Was

there no grace nor truth under the law? Yes, a great deal;

but it all belonged to Jesus Christ. There was grace under

the law, but none but what related to Jesus Christ. There

was truth under the law, but only as Christ was pointed at;

otherwise all were but vain and beggarly rudiments, and

empty dark shadows. The Jews see nothing of Christ in the

Old Testament, and therefore find neither the saving mercy

nor saving truth of God in it. And it is much worse with

men (Christians I cannot call them) that see as little of

Christ in the New Testament. Take the chain of salvation,

and all the links of it, as the apostle names them (Rom

8:29,30) and all of them are of grace. We are chosen by

grace; we are given to Christ by grace; redeemed by him by

grace; by grace we are justified through that redemption; by

the same grace we are adopted; by the same grace we are

saved, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the

Holy Ghost; and by grace we shall be glorified. And they

that will not claim these blessings, and hold them by this

tenor of free grace, I dare not say that they shall never have

them, (for this grace can overcome its greatest enemies);

but I may say, that they have at present no part or portion in

this matter; and when they come to partake of grace, and to

know the grace of God in truth, as Colossians 1:6, they will

be of another mind, and count it the best tenor to hold all

by, even by free grace: yea, after all the riches of grace

poured forth on believers in this life, when they come to

receive the crown of glory, they receive it as humbly, yea

more than they did any former act of grace from this

throne. The overcomer by the blood of the Lamb, will

receive the crown from his glorious Redeemer, as humbly,

and with owning it as a gift of grace, as much as ever he

did receive a pardon in that blood, when his head was on

the block, and the ax of law and justice lifted up to cut him

off for his iniquity. There may be proud pleaders for (or

rather presumers and expecters of) the crown of glory, but

no proud receivers of it. We must look for the mercy of our

Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 21). Merit and

worth are only for hell; and they have no room in heaven,

nor in the way to it. Justice reigns in hell, and grace in

heaven. So all will find that come to heaven; and so must

they all know and believe that would be there. Sinners that

are for merit, will find it sadly in hell. Men’s merit makes

hell, and Christ’s merit makes heaven (Rom 6:23).

4thly, It is called a throne of grace, because the glory of

grace is the last and highest end of the building of this

throne, and of all the acts of grace dispensed at it, and from

it. That proud monarch spoke vainly and wickedly (Dan

4:30) and was quickly by God punished severely for his

sin. If we may be allowed to allude to such words, we may

say of the throne of grace, Is it not that high throne that

God hath built for the house of his kingdom, by the might of

his power, and for the honour of the majesty of his grace?

Are any chosen in Christ, and predestinated to the adoption

of children by him? It is to the praise of the glory of his

grace (Eph 1:4-6). Do they believe by grace? It is to the

praise of his glory (v 12). Are they sealed, and at last

possessed of heaven? That is to the praise of his glory (v

14). Are they quickened when dead in sin, and advanced in

and by Christ Jesus? This is to the praise of his grace (Eph

2:4,7). All the blessings in time and eternity that the heirs

of grace enjoy, are all to the praise and glory of that grace

they spring from. We read in the word of none of the

counsels of God before the creation of all things, but of his

purpose of saving a company of poor sinful men by Jesus

Christ; and of no other design in this purpose, but to

magnify his grace in saving of them this way. So much of

the signification of this word, a throne of grace.

III. What is it to come unto this throne of grace?

Though the prosecuting of the exhortation in this text will

open up the nature of this coming more fully, yet I would

speak somewhat of it in this place.

1. This coming implies a state of distance from this throne

in them that are called to come. This is called being far off

(Eph 2:13). And this state all men by nature are in. Men are

in God’s eye and hand: He is not far from every one of us:

for in him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts

17:27,28); as the psalmist speaks excellently in Psalm 139

of the nearness of men to God, and of his omnipresence and

omniscience. But his gracious presence, as on a throne of

grace, is far from all men by nature, and they far from it.

This presence is far from man’s knowledge; there is no

knowing of it but by revelation: far from men’s attainment;

for no man can come, unless he be drawn of God (John

6:44): far from their experience, and far from their love; for

they are alienated from the life of God (Eph 4:18). And in

his favour is life (Psa 30:5), and in nothing else.

2. It is also implied in this call to come, that there is a

gracious provision made and revealed by God for the

removal and making up of his distance, and getting of a

gracious nearness to God. This is in the constitution and

revelation of this throne of grace.

3. That the improving of this provision is men’s duty, and

should be their exercise, in order to possess and enjoy the

privilege and advantage of this provision.

What then is this coming to the throne of grace?

1. It is in believing on Jesus Christ. This is the first

approach to the throne of grace. He is the propitiation, and

mercy seat, and throne of grace (1 John 4:10). Believing on

him, is coming to him (John 6:35). It is coming to the

Father by him (John 14:6). It is believing on God by him (1

Peter 1:21). It is believing on him, and on him that sent him

(John 12:44). Believing on Jesus Christ, is an employing of

Christ in way of trust, as to all his fulness of grace, and our

utter indigence thereof. Whatever a man do, whatever

exercises of religion he be taken up in, he never comes to

the throne of grace, till his heart and soul go forth towards

Jesus Christ for righteousness and life. The first right step

heavenward, is saving faith in Christ. Nothing savingly

good can precede it, and all saving good follows it: for faith

unites the man to Christ, and all the fruits of holiness and

righteousness spring from the virtue of the vine Christ; with

whom the believer hath first union by grace, and then

communion of Christ’s grace, by which he lives, and

works, and grows.

2. Coming to this throne, is acted in all acts of gospel

worship, and in the use of all gospel ordinances. They all

belong to the throne of grace, are the institutions of this

throne, and appointed as means wherein we should

approach to it; and which, when blessed by the appointer of

them, do convey to us the blessings of this throne. Of them

there are several. 1. Prayer. This is coming to the throne of

grace, if rightly managed. Though asking is not expressed

in this verse, yet it is strongly implied, both in the

commanded coming, and in the expressed obtaining of

mercy, and finding of grace to help in time of need. All that

make a fashion of prayer, do not come to the throne of

grace; yet all that pray rightly, do come to it. And because

this approaching to the throne of grace by and in prayer, is

plainly hinted in the text, and is so commonly understood

by Christians, I would have my eye principally upon it in

handling this scripture. 2. There is the word read, preached,

and meditated on, that is another principal means in which

men should approach to the throne of grace. In prayer we

pour out our heart before this throne, and express our

desires to him that sitteth on it. In the word the King on this

throne delivers his will and mind to us; and we should

come to hear it, and receive the law from his mouth.

Cornelius expressed an excellent frame for this ordinance,

(Acts 10:33) We are all here present before God, to hear

all things that are commanded thee of God. This word is

the word of his grace (Acts 20:32). It is the proclamation of

his grace to men. 3. Praising of God, is a coming to the

throne of grace. This is the sacrifice we should offer by our

High Priest (Heb 13:15). Who minds this as they ought? If

we want, we ask; and so we should. But where is the

Christian that can say, Though I had nothing to ask, I

would yet go to the throne of grace, that I might praise him

that sits on it? 4. Receiving of the Lord’s supper, is a

coming to the throne of grace; to feast on the king of grace;

to feed on that body broken for us, and that blood shed for

us, that is given to us in the word for food to our souls, and

is given to us by his command, in bread and wine at his

table; that in eating and drinking of them, we may

remember him, and shew forth his death till he come;

glorying, and avowing, and boasting, that we have our

salvation, and all our hopes of it, built and fixed on that

man Jesus Christ, that was rejected by the builders in his

time, and hath had little better entertainment since, because

they knew him not.

APPLICATION. Is there a throne of grace; and doth God

sitting on it invite and call men to come to it, or to him on

it? We are called to admire, adore, and praise the grace that

shines in this constitution of God, and call to men. That

person is sadly out in his praises, (and such are never right

in their prayers), that doth not deeply admire, and heartily

praise for this mercy of a throne of grace. We account a

man ill employed in prayer, that asks many things of God,

but forgets to ask the one thing needful: Is he any better

employed in praise, who gives thanks for many mercies,

but neglects or forgets to praise for the greatest of all

mercies, the throne of grace? before which all prayer and

praise must come, if accepted, and for which highest

praises should be given. In order to the raising of more

sense of this highest favour, that God now deals with us on

a throne of grace, consider,

1. The deep condescendence of grace that appears in this

dispensation. There is a glorious and stately stooping in it.

The Lord had resolved in his own heart from eternity, to

have the company of many of Adam’s offspring for ever

with him in heaven. He seeth them fallen into a deep pit,

out of which they can never get out by themselves. God and

man by sin are at a vast distance. Sinners cannot remove it,

nor make so much as one step towards God. Saved they

cannot be, unless the distance be removed; saved they must

be, because of his unalterable purpose. In this case, saith

the Lord of mere grace, if men cannot ascend up to me, I

will descend down to them, and draw them up again to me.

This condescendence of grace we should admire and praise.

When David had got a gracious message and promise from

God, (and Christ and the throne of grace was in it) (2 Sam

7), he sits down as a man amazed before the Lord, and most

significantly expresseth his admiration and praise, Who am

I, O Lord God? and what is my house? and is this the

manner of man? and what can David say more? And what

can David say better? To be swallowed up of wonder, is the

best and highest praising. Who can forbear wondering at

grace, that considers duly whose grace it is, where it finds

us, and whither it brings us? When Paul speaks of it, (and it

was his usual theme), how sweetly doth he discourse of it?

(Eph 2:1). Where did this grace find him and the

Ephesians? what was their case and qualification for grace?

They were dead in sin, walking after the course of this

world, according to the prince of the power of the air,

working powerfully in them as children of disobedience;

they were fulfilling the desires and lusts of the flesh, and of

the mind; they were by nature the children of wrath, even

as others. Who can be lower, viler, and baser, except they

that are in hell itself? yet in this case and condition grace

made its first visit to them. All that this saving grace falls

on, are lost and undone sinners, men at the very brink of

hell. An elect child of God is worst and most sinful the

moment preceding his conversion. Paul was at his worst

(Acts 9) when grace fell upon him. If there be nothing but

the power of grace that can subdue the corruption of nature;

if this corruption grow in its strength, till that subduing

power of grace be applied; and if there be no middle state

betwixt death and life, (and these have been reckoned

gospel truths); how plains is it, that a sinner is at his worst

when saving grace first comes upon him? 2. Whither did

this grace bring Paul, and the Ephesians, and so all

Christians? Out of the grave of sin, unto a new life, and up

to heavenly places in Christ Jesus (vv 4-6). O what a

mighty arm hath the grace of God! It is nothing for grace to

pull a man out of hell, and set him down in heaven. When

shall this arm of Jehovah be revealed? When will perishing

sinners long for a saving pull of the grace of God? 3. What

is all this great work of grace for? (v 7) That in the ages to

come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in

his kindness towards us, through Christ Jesus. As if the

apostle had said, "You and I cannot sufficiently, in our time

and age, admire this kindness, grace, and riches of grace

through Christ Jesus, that we have received: but as long as

this world lasts, and as long as there are receivers of this

same grace in future ages, (and that will be as long as the

world lasts; for the world lasts for the sake of the throne of

grace, and for what God hath to do on it, and to give from

it), there will be praisers of this grace; for every generation

of receivers of this grace, owe praises for all the grace

bestowed on all that have been before them. And when this

world is at an end, there is a better world that shall succeed

it, wherein better and higher praises will be given for ever.

There is no other music, but the praises of free grace, in

heaven; and none shall sing its praises there, but the happy

receivers of it here."

2. Consider the infinites wisdom of this contrivance of a

throne of grace for sinners. The Lord wisely consulted poor

man’s case, his sinfulness, his misery, and his infirmity. No

where else can God and sinners meet in peace, but at this

throne of grace. Here is the manifold wisdom of God (Eph

3:10). Grace abounds in all wisdom and prudence (Eph

1:8). Yet not according to the sorry rules of the wisdom of

this world, nor of the princes (or great, leading men) of this

world, that come to nought: but the wisdom of God in a

mystery, even the hidden wisdom (hid to them that are lost,

2 Cor 4:3) which God ordained before the world unto our

glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for

had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord

of glory (1 Cor 2:6-8). God and holy angels may meet in

peace, whenever he is pleased to manifest his glory to

them; though they be sensible of their meanness as

creatures, and deeply humble before his majesty. But where

God and angels meet comfortably, God and sinners cannot

meet comfortably. That light and manifestation of divine

glory that makes a holy angel happy, would confound and

destroy a sinful man (Isa 6:1-5). The seraphims adore

humbly and praise; Isaiah, a sinner, sinks; he is terrified

with the sight, and with the song. And yet this was a sight

of Christ (John 12:41); but his divine majesty and holiness

as God was then represented to him, which terrified the

prophet. But when sin is forgiven by an act of grace (vv

6,7) then, upon the Lord’s saying, Whom shall I send, and

who will go for us? Isaiah answered, Here am I, send me (v

8). Now I have tasted the grace of my Lord, I will run his

errands; let him send me where and on what he pleaseth.

3. Consider how costly the erecting of this throne of grace

was. It was a dear building. The throne of God’s essential

glory is in his own super-excellent being, and falls under no

acts of the divine will. When he had a mind to rear up a

throne of glory to his name, in crating a world, there was no

more needful but his word of power, his almighty Fiat, Let

it be, and all things sprung up out of nothing, in marvellous

order, and beauty, and goodness. But when a throne of

grace is to be erected for sinners, there is more to be done.

Here God’s own Son must be made man; in that nature

must be charged with their sins; and must discharge that

debt, by bearing the wrath of God, and curse of the law,

even unto death. Romans 3:25, the apostle gives us a

description of the throne of grace: God hath set forth Christ

to be a propitiation, a mercy seat, a throne of grace. But his

blood went for it: law and justice exacted it, and Christ paid

it. On this comes forth the blessed proclamation of grace,

"Whoever he be of lost mankind that will come to this

throne of grace by faith, and will receive his justification in

and by this blood, and will trust to it only, shall never come

into condemnation." This Paul preached (Acts 13:38,39).

What is this grace revealed for? (Rom 3:26) To declare at

this time God’s righteousness; that he might be just, and

the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. We all know that

God is just, and the condemner of transgressors of his holy

law: but how the gospel is framed so as that God’s justice

may appear in justifying of a believing sinner, is far deeper,

and more hardly known and believed. But take in but these

three things, and it will appear,

1st, God was just, and the punisher of the sins of the elect

laid on Jesus. God’s sending of his Son, and laying of the

sins of his people on him, was an act of amazing grace and

mercy. But the exacting the debt of sin of him, when the

Father laid it on, and the Son took it on him, was of justice,

and strict glorious justice. Never did justice shine so in its

glory and purity, as in bruising the Son of God for the sins

that were laid on him. The sending of millions to hell for

their sins, (and all must go thither that have them to answer

for, [and all such have them all to answer for, who offer to

pay their debt with their own coin], and have no interest in

Christ’s undertaking), is a display of divine justice, that

men may grumble at, but cannot hinder. The praise of

spotless justice will rise up to eternity by the torments of

the damned. But he that is ignorant of God’s righteousness,

can far less conceive the glory of justice in bruising a

sinless man, who was also in the form of God, and counted

it no robbery to be equal with God (Phil 2:6) (though some

in our days think it blasphemy to say so), a person beloved

of the Father above all creature-thought; and that for the

sins of others, and they also the beloved of the Father in his

eternal purpose.

2dly, God is just in not exacting the same debt of sin twice;

both of his Son, and of his people, in whose stead he paid

it.

3dly, God is just in discharging of his Son, from whom he

hath received the full and covenanted satisfaction for sin;

and he is just in discharging them for whom this

satisfaction was given. He is just in raising Christ from the

dead; and he arose for our justification (Rom 4:25,26). We

are justified freely by his grace; but this free, free grace

flows to us through the channel of redemption by the blood

of Christ. And both this grace and this blood is set forth in

the gospel to our faith; and must be applied unto by faith,

and applied to us in believing. Whatever the thoughts of

men be of these things, free grace and dear blood are the

stay of all the redeemed on earth, and the everlasting song

of all the glorified in heaven.

4. And lastly, To raise your thoughts of the greatness of this

favour, of having a throne of grace to come to, consider

what rich provisions are made at this throne for sinners.

This the text speaks of, and we shall in order handle them,

We shall only now say a few words. There is no court in all

God’s dominions that a sinner can come to, and find any

mercy or grace, but only at this throne of grace. If you talk

of law, or justice, or equity, these are all frightful courts to

sensible sinners. They know their cause and case is bad;

and that if they come to any bar but that of the throne of

grace, they must be cast. But at this throne of grace, they

that have nothing, may get all things; they that deserve

nothing, may get every thing; they that deserve wrath, may

obtain mercy; they that are cast and condemned at the court

of justice, may be acquitted and freed from all sentences,

and be adjudged to eternal life, by the grace of God in

Christ Jesus. All that is needful to salvation, is dispensed at

this throne. Yet all that is given, is old in the purpose of

grace from eternity, old in the everlasting covenant, old in

the purchase of Jesus Christ: only it is newly given

according to the sinner’s necessity: (2 Tim 1:9) Who hath

saved us, and called us with an holy calling, (this was done

as yesterday; but how came we by this saving and this

calling?), not according to our works, but according to his

own purpose and grace, (Paul still opposeth works to

grace, and grace to works, in the matter of justification and

salvation; and so doth his Lord and Master that taught him,

and so do all that know either grace or works rightly),

which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began.

Let this be still kept in mind, that whatever you can need,

there is a suitable and abundant supply to be had at this

throne of grace.

I shall conclude this exercise, with naming two sorts of

people that will be specially welcome to the throne of

grace.

1. They that come to the throne of grace soon and early; I

mean, young people, children, that begin betimes to be

courtiers and attendants at this throne: (Prov 8:17) I love

them that love me; and those that seek me early, shall find

me, saith the King on this throne of grace. O that young

people would try and use this throne of grace betimes!

They would find Christ very gracious to them. He would

discover his beauty, and give them of his love, that would

cool their thirst after sinful pleasures. They might grow rich

and strong in grace, before they be old; or if they die

young, they should be transplanted to a better soil, and be

nearer the Sun of Righteousness, than they can be in this

world. Never did a saint got safe ashore in heaven bewail

his arriving there too soon.

2. They that come to the throne of grace to get, and not to

give. Take heed to your spirits in this matter. When you

come to the throne of grace, come to receive out of Christ’s

fulness, and come not to bring grace with you to add to

Christ’s store. He loves to give, and glories in giving; but

he scorns to receive grace from you; and in truth you have

none but what he gives. Bring your wants to him to supply,

but bring not your fulness to brag of. Spread your sins

before this throne with shame and sorrow, and plead for a

gracious pardon; but take heed you bring not your sorrow,

tears, and repentance, nay, nor your faith itself, as a plea for

that pardon. How abominable is it to Christians’ ears, and

how much more unto Christ’s, to hear a man plead thus for

pardon: "Here is my repentance; where is thy pardon? Here

is my faith; where is thy justification?" I know men abhor

to say so. But take good heed, lest any thought bordering

on it enter into thy heart. Faith is the tongue that begs

pardon? faith is the hand that receives it, it is the eye that

seeth it; but it is no price to buy it. Faith useth the gospel-

plea for pardon; but itself, neither in habit nor act, is the

plea itself. That is only Christ’s blood. Christ’s blood goes

for the remission of your sins, if ever they be forgiven; and

is the only plea to be heard at the throne of grace. There are

too many like the Pharisee (Luke 18:11). It would seem by

Christ’s words (v 14) that both came for justification. The

Pharisee stood, and prayed thus with himself: God, I thank

thee, that I am not as other men are,-or as this publican.

Poor wretch! The publican was a far better man than he, as

Christ testifieth. He came to the throne of grace, like a man

that would carry something away. It is a rule of this court,

(Luke 1:53) He hath filled the hungry with good things, but

the rich he hath sent empty away. According to this rule,

the Lord dealt with the Pharisee and the publican; and so

will he deal with you, as you are like the one or the other,

in your approaches to, and pleadings at the throne of grace.

 

SERMON II

Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of

need.

I did take up this exhortation, as containing an answer to

four considerable questions that usually are in the hearts of

them that draw near to God seriously. 1. Where may we

find him? On a throne of grace. Seek him no where else;

for no where else is he to be graciously found. 2. How shall

we come to this throne? Boldly, with confidence. 3. What is

the ground of this boldness? It had need be a great and

solid ground on which a sinner may build boldness in his

approaching to God. This ground is hinted by the apostle in

the word therefore. Wherefore? Because of our great High

Priest, the Son of God, in heaven (vv 14,15). Though there

be nothing more commonly said and owned, than that all

men are sinners, and that all the acceptance of a sinner with

God is through Jesus Christ; yet I can assure you, that when

a person sees and knows what it is to be a sinner, and know

what God is, it is a wonderful difficulty to believe, that it is

possible that such a sinner and such a God should ever

meet in peace. People’s dry notions and opinions of Jesus

Christ, if there be no more, will soon be blown away, with

a deep sight of the sinfulness of sin, and of the majesty of

God provoked thereby. 4. The last question is, What shall

we get by coming? and what should we come for? The

greatest blessings; mercy and grace. These blessings are

comprehensive of all things needful to make a sinner

happy.

To the first of these I began to speak last day, That God

hath erected a throne of grace in the gospel, to which men

are invited to come. What this throne of grace is, is spoke

to; and that this throne of grace is to be distinguished from

all other thrones of God spoken of in the word. The throne

of his essential glory is unapproachable by all creatures.

The throne of his justice is dreadful to all sinners. We

should pray against our coming before this throne (Psa

143:2). He must be a proud ignorant fool that would offer

to come and plead at its bar; for here all acts and sentences

pass according to strict law and justice; and the law is an

everlasting condemner of all sinners. There is also the

throne of the Judge at the last day. But this throne is not yet

set, though it will surely be; and we know not how soon,

and should prepare for our appearing before it (2 Cor

5:9,10).

But this throne of grace is the gracious manifestation of

God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor

5:18,19). This is the light of the glory of God’s grace

shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). And to

coming to this throne of grace, and to God in Christ

dispensing his grace from it, we are here exhorted and

encouraged.

In pursuing of this exhortation, I would,

I. Prove that all should come.

II. Show who will come.

III. And who shall be specially welcome.

I. That all ought to come to the throne of grace. All sinners

that hear of it, should improve this great privilege, and seek

the enjoyment of God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ.

1. Because God is not otherwise approachable by men in

accepted worship. No man cometh unto the Father but by

me; saith Christ (John 14:6). The light of nature teacheth all

men in some measure, that there is a God, and somewhat of

his eternal power and god-head (Rom 1:20); and that this

God should be worshipped. Therefore some sort of worship

is performed by all sorts of heathens, who are yet without

God, and that because without Christ, and therefore without

hope in the world (Eph 2:12). Never was there, nor will

there be, nor can there be, any gracious approach unto God,

nor any address received favourably by God, but at this

throne of grace. Therefore whatever may be said of the

zealous devotion, and of the moral principles and practices

of the heathens, yet never any of them did, nor could offer

up an acceptable prayer unto God, nor obtain a gracious

answer from him; not only because they worshipped an

unknown God (Acts 17:23; Gal 4:8), but mainly because

they worshipped not at this throne of grace; for there can be

no communion with God, there can be nothing graciously

given by God to men, nothing done by men that can be

accepted of God, but at this throne of grace.

2. All should come to this throne, because all men have

need of the blessings dispensed at this throne of grace.

Where there is an universal urgent necessity, and only one

place of supply discovered, men are called to betake

themselves thither. The blessings dispensed at the throne of

grace, are equally needed by all. Every man, every woman,

young or old, rich or poor, are equally needy, because all

are unspeakably needy of the mercy and grace of God.

Some indeed have a greater sight and sense of their wants

than others, (and that is mercy); but the real necessity is

common to all. Every unpardoned man needs a pardon at

this throne of grace; but few, if any, value a pardon till they

get it, or value the grace of God till they fell it. Do you feel

your need of what is given and got at this throne? Come

then. The law thunders and roars against you, that you may

see your need of coming hither for what the law cannot

give, nor hinder you from receiving, nor rob you of when

received. Do you think in your heart, that you are the most

needy person in all the world; that you need all the grace

and mercy, or more, than ever any sinner received? Then

come the rather, come the sooner. The neediest soul, the

hungriest sinner, the person most greedy of the grace of

God, should come first to Christ’s door, and beg loudest. Is

there any not needy? Alas! many think so, but none is so.

Will you come for hunger and want? A sensible hunger, a

sense and sight of need, an appetite after grace and mercy,

is an alms that Christ can give; and many professors want it

sadly.

3. The command is universal, to all that hear it. As the

apostle saith, (Rom 3:19) These things saith the law to them

that are under the law; so I may say, This saith the gospel

to all under the sound of it, come to the throne of grace. It

is no indifferent thing. God commands all men to come.

Believing (that is, coming) is commanded (1 John 3:23).

Are you afraid to come? Have not I commanded you? (Josh

1:9) as God spake to the Captain of Israel. Will men own

God’s authority in the law, and deny it in the gospel? Is he

not the same God in both? He that commands you to have

no other gods besides him, doth command you to believe

on his Son Jesus, who is the true God, and eternal life (1

John 5:20). If coming to the throne of grace were not

commanded, nor coming to it were no sin; and who dare

say so? Not believing on Jesus Christ is the great gospel-

sin, because believing on him is the great gospel-duty and

work (John 6:29).

Object. But I am afraid he commands not me; others he

may command, but not such a vile dead creature as I am.

Ans. Are you worse than some he hath commanded? (Jer

3:1,4,5) Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet

return again to me, saith the Lord. Such a practice in your

land would greatly defile it, saith the Lord; but such acts of

grace become the throne of grace. Are you worse than

poor, and blind, and miserable, and wretched, and naked?

Yet the king of this throne commands them to come to him,

though he sweetly calls it counsel (Rev 3:17,18). And in it

we may join his two names, Wonderful, Counsellor (Isa

9:6).

Object 2. But Christ calls and invites them that are weary

and heavy laden (Matt 11:28) and the thirsty (Isa 55:1), and

I am not such; and therefore he commands not me to come.

Ans. 1. Do you expect any grace but at this throne of grace?

Think you to work it out in yourselves, and come to him for

more? or to get the beginning somewhere else, and then

come to Christ for the rest? This bewrays your pride, and

ignorance of the entire corruption of your nature, and of

your impotency to any good. This frame discovers your

ignorance of the nature of the grace of God, that consists in

its freedom; as its glory is, in its being the original cause of

all good done for us, and wrought in us, or by us.

Ans. 2. Christ never bid any man be or do any thing without

him, and then come to him, and he would do more for him.

Christ calls men as he finds them, and then makes them

what he would have them: He begins the good work in

them, and performs it (Phil 1:6).

Ans. 3. These and many such like calls and invitations do

not limit and restrain the universality of the gospel-

command, but do graciously apply it to such cases wherein

they that are, are apt to think that they are specially

excepted. What is more common than such arguings of

unbelief: I have a vast load of sin lying on me; I have spent

my time, and strength, and money, on sin and vanity; I have

been wearied in the greatness of my way of departing from

the Lord, and therefore the Lord will not receive me?

Therefore such are named particularly by the Lord, and

specially called.

Therefore let no man, whatsoever he hath been, or is, think,

that he is not commanded to come to this throne of grace.

Take the command, lay it on your conscience, give

obedience to it; take the command for your warrant, and

never fear but you shall be welcome. Can your souls say,

Lord, no man out of hell is more needy of thy saving grace

than I, no sinner more unworthy of it than I; yet, because

thou commandest me to come, I come to beg, and to

receive? He will sweetly receive you: Him that cometh to

me, I will in no wise cast out (John 6:37). A text that hath

been an anchor-hold to many a sinking sinner.

4. All should come to the throne of grace, because of the

universality, vast extent, and indefiniteness of the promise

of welcome to all that come. The command of God is a

warrant and ground for our obedience, and the promise is a

ground for confidence. The promise is God’s great means

for working faith; faith is the impression God makes on the

soul of a man by the promise. When God takes the promise

of the gospel, and applies it with the power of his grace

upon the soul, it leaves an abiding mark and signature; and

that is faith. The promise comes as the promise of a faithful

God, who cannot lie, of a great salvation, to a great sinner.

When the sinner sees and feels the truth and goodness of

this promise, he believes. This promise of God is to be

preached to all that hear the gospel; or rather, this promise

is the gospel; the Lord will make it effectual as he seeth

good. The apostle Peter encouraged such men to come to

the throne of grace, who, if ever any in the world should

have been kept back, it should have been they; a crew of

the bloody murderers of the Son of God. But the word

preached by Peter takes hold of their souls, and they cry

out, What shall we do? No wonder they said so, when the

cry of Christ’s blood was in their consciences. The apostle

saith to them, (Acts 2:38) Repent, and be baptized every

one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of

sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, &c.

Their sin was very great, peculiar to them only; none before

or after them were guilty of this. The cry of innocent blood

is a dreadful cry. But this was more than all the murders

ever committed in the world. It was the murdering the Son

of God, it was slaying the Prince of life; it was all that the

devil and wicked world could do, to cut the throat of the

gospel, and of all the elect of God: and this wicked act was

done against Christ, because he taught that he was the Son

of God, and that he came from the Father to be the Saviour

of the world. Yet, saith the apostle to them, Repent, and be

baptized in his name, for the remission of that sin; you that

have been dipped in his blood, and so dreadfully guilty by

the shedding of it, be baptized in his name, for the

remission of that guilt, and of all others. This calling for

repenting of their guilt of Christ’s blood, was plainly a

requiring of faith in him; not only that he was the Lord

Christ they had slain in their unbelief, but that pardon, in

the virtue of that blood, might be had by them, on their

betaking themselves to him by faith. So did the same

apostle preach to the council (Acts 5:28,31) when he and

his brethren were charged by the high priest, for filling

Jerusalem with the doctrine of Christ, and intending to

bring his blood upon them: Him hath God exalted with his

right hand, to be a prince and a Saviour, for to give

repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. He directs

them to look to Christ as the giver of repentance for, and of

forgiveness of all their sins; not excluding, but by (v 30)

plainly including the greatest of all their sins, their slaying

of Christ, and hanging him on a tree: and this they did with

wicked hands (Acts 2:23), and with hearts as wicked as

their hands. Yet thus did Peter preach Christ. So well did he

remember his Lord’s command, (Luke 24:47) That

repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his

name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. His

argument is, (Acts 2:39) For the promise is to you, and to

your children. Had they not slain the heir, and foundation

of all the promises? Had they not done as much as men

could do, to forfeit all interest in the promise? Yes; but

Peter still invites them to the throne of grace, by an interest

yet in the promise. The promise of grace and salvation by

Jesus Christ, is the rope and cord that God casts out to

sinking sinners: it is equally in the offer of all in the gospel.

It is true, that the Lord means and designs it to some

particular persons; but that design is secret, and utterly

unknown to all, till the promise itself be apprehended by

faith, or finally rejected by unbelief. See Jeremiah 38:7-14.

Ebed-melech let down a rope to draw Jeremiah out of the

dungeon by. The cords could never have pulled him up,

unless the prophet had put them under him, and unless his

friend had drawn him up. He did so, and ventures on this

mean of escape. He ventures on the strength of the cord,

and on the trustiness of his friend. If either of them had

failed him, he might have fallen down, and broke his neck;

or stuck still in the mire, and starved in the pit. The case is

so here. The promise of salvation is a great security; but it

is so only to them that cast themselves on it, and trust to it.

Whoever will trust God’s promise in Christ, will find, that

it is able to bear all their weight, if it were never so great.

Therefore lay this warm promise to thy cold heart, and, by

the Lord’s blessing, life and warmth will come in. Try the

strength of the promise, by casting all thy burden on it; and

it will never sink under thee, nor thou perish by its failing.

Christians think, that the promises of God are a blessed

charter, (and so indeed they are); but few mind the

promises as God’s tendered and offered security to men;

whereby, as means, he works faith in his chosen; and, by

the offer of them to all in the gospel, leaves unbelievers

inexcusable. Sinners perish under the gospel, not because

there is no cord of salvation cast out to them, but because

they either love the pit they are in, or cannot trust God’s

faithful promise of salvation by Christ for their delivery.

So much of the first thing, the proving that all ought to

come to the throne of grace, or to God in Christ sitting on

it. God is not otherwise approachable; universal need of

this throne, and of the blessings given at it; an universal call

and command of God to come; an universal promise to all

that do come; all prove that all men should come.

II. But though it be the duty of all to come, yet but few do

come. We would therefore see who they be that will come

to the throne of grace. Of such we have two words.

1. Such as are given of the Father to the Son; all they, and

they only, will come to this throne of grace: All that the

Father giveth me, shall come to me, saith Christ (John

6:37). Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep (John

10:26). The high spring of all the effectual calling and

coming of men to Christ is this; They that are ordained to

eternal life, believe, and none but they. It would be very

unfit, that the book of life should be opened to, and read by

any preacher of the gospel. I think not that ever any apostle

had it opened to them with respect to others, so that they

should be able, when looking on the multitude they

preached to, to say, These are appointed for eternal life, and

these passed by. But they being happily in the dark as to

this secret purpose of God, did offer salvation through

Jesus Christ to all that heard them. So Paul, (Acts 13:38,39)

Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this

man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by

him all that believe, are justified from all things, from

which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Having

told them this good news, he (vv 40,41) warns them:

Beware therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken

of in the prophets, Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and

perish. After his repeated pains on them, it is said, (v 48)

As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed. It was a

severe application of this word, that a very worthy divine

made of it, that all the elect of God in this place were

gathered in, by Paul’s ministry in it, at this time. The grace

of election is the spring of faith (2 Thess 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2),

but this grace of election is not seen, but in the gift and

light of faith.

2. All such, and only they, will come to the throne of grace,

that are drawn by the Father: (John 6:44,45) No man can

come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw

him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in

the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every

man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the

Father, cometh unto me. Observe here the two universals:

No man can come, unless drawn; Every man that is drawn,

doth come.

The first decries the power of nature, the latter advanceth

the power of God’s grace. The utter impotence of nature,

and omnipotence of grace, in the business of man’s

salvation, are stumbling-blocks to all the ungodly, but are

foundations in Christian doctrine. The one lays man in the

dust, the other raiseth him on a new bottom of the grace of

God. When God hath a mind to draw a sinner to Christ, and

to make him a believer on him to salvation, he teacheth him

secretly and by a strong hand; he whispers into his heart the

excellency of the Saviour, and greatness of his salvation; so

that surely the perishing sinner comes to Christ, and as

surely is welcomed and saved by him.

III. But who shall be welcome? Surely all that come, shall

be welcome; as the word every where witnesseth: and all

that ever tried it, have found and testify it by their

experience. For as the Son refused none that were given

him of the Father in their eternal counsel, but took every

one of them as his charge to redeem them; so all they, and

only they, being drawn by the Father, and made willing to

come to Christ, are made welcome by him (John 6:37). He

knows his sheep, when wandering on the mountains (John

10:16,27,28), and accordingly receives them. When the

Father drives home the lost sheep to their great Shepherd,

Christ knows them before he opens the fold to them; and

because he knows them, he lets them in, that they may find

pasture, and feed on him and his grace to eternal life.

But there are some that are specially welcome to Christ,

and speed well at this throne of grace. As,

1. They that come when they can do nothing else; they that

come to the throne of grace as their last shift: We know not

what to do, but our eyes are upon thee, said Jehoshaphat (2

Chron 20:12). Sincerest believing, and strongest believing,

is acted, when a man hath no prop at all to lean upon, but

God alone. Believing is called fleeing: We have fled for

refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us (Heb 6:18).

Now, who flees? Only he that can stand no longer, that is

not able to deal with his adversary and danger, that hath no

hope of prevailing by his strength, and therefore betakes

himself to his heels. It is men’s great sin to endeavour to

seek that elsewhere, that only is to be found here, mercy

and grace. But it is the greatest sin of all, to count all lost,

as long as this throne stands, and the Lord calls men to

come to it. Be deeply humbled, and covered with shame;

yet come notwithstanding. Such is the corruption of our

hearts, and the Lord seeth it well, that if sinners could find

grace and mercy any where else, they would never come to

the throne of grace for it. Christ is the last shift of a

distressed sinner; yet, blessed be his name, he welcomes

the comer. The woman (Mark 5:25-35) tries many means

ere she comes to Christ, yet sped well when she came at

last.

2. They are welcome to the throne of grace that come

oftest, and ask the greatest things. It is otherwise in

addresses to friends, or great men on earth. You may be

welcome to them, if you come now and then, and if you ask

little things; but if you come daily, and ask great things,

and grow in your suits, they will quickly be weary of you.

But what saith the King on this throne of grace? (John

16:24) Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name: ask,

and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. Had not they

asked formerly great things? that he would expound his

word to them (Matt 13:36), that he would teach them to

pray (Luke 11:1), that he would increase their faith (Luke

17:5). But all this was as nothing to Christ; nothing in

regard of the great things he had to give, and they stood in

need of. This is a great word of Christ’s, Ask, and I will

give, and ye shall receive; ask still more, and ye shall

receive more, even till your joy be full. The reason why our

souls are so empty of joy, is because our mouths are empty

of prayer. Christ’s love-quarrels with his people are three.

1. That they do not ask great things, and often. 2. That they

do not receive what he is so ready to give. Our narrow

vessels cannot take in large floods from the fountain of

living water. 3. That they do not praise for what they

receive. It is his due, our duty, and our great mercy. Both

prayer and praise widens the heart for receiving more of

Christ’s fulness.

3. They are specially welcome to the throne of grace that

come to stay, resolving never to leave it; that not only come

to it at a pinch and strait, but come to abide there. our Lord

teacheth several parables, to encourage and direct us in

plying the throne of grace (Luke 11:5-13, 18:1-8). Jacob

was a blessed man, and knew well the manner of this court,

when he wrestled with the angel (Gen 32:24-30); and that

angel was the King of the throne of grace (Hosea 12:3-5).

After a long night’s wrestling, with weeping and

supplications, saith the Lord, (Gen 32:26) Let me go, for

the day breaketh, Jacob answers, I will not, looks like ill

manners in speaking to God. He saith not, How can I hold

thee? If thou hast a mind to go, it is impossible that I can

detain thee. Can a man hold God when he hath a mind to be

gone? But Jacob knew his party, and perceived that he tried

him, if he would part without a blessing. "Nay, saith Jacob,

if thou ask my leave and consent to part so, I will never

give it. Let the day break, and the next night come, the

great Blesser, and lame halting Jacob, shall never part, with

Jacob’s consent, without a blessing." And he prevailed. He

had got his father’s blessing, by the cunning of his mother

(Gen 27); had it again ratified by his father (28:3,4); he had

the Lord’s blessing (28:12-16); he got it renewed again, on

the Lord’s calling him to return to Canaan (31:3): Yet he

was in a new strait, and wanted a new blessing, and

wrestled for it, and obtained it. Let all the seed of Jacob

imitate his practice, and they shall share in his blessing, and

be fed with the heritage of Jacob their father, as the word is

(Isa 58:14).

In pressing the exhortation in the text, I shall lay before you

a few considerations.

1. Consider the greatness of this privilege, that there is a

throne of grace erected for sinners, and revealed to them.

This throne is only erected for sinners: it had never been

but for sinners. A throne of grace supposeth, that there are

guilty sinners to stand before it, and to get good by it. The

greatness of this privilege is apparent, in comparing the

state of fallen man with that of fallen angels; and in

comparing their state that have the gospel, with theirs that

are without it.

1st, Compare the state of fallen man with that of fallen

angels. Whatsoever the proper meaning of that word is,

(Psa 8:5) Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,

these two may be well conceived; That man in his original

make was lower in dignity than the angels; and that man

was made a little after the angels were made: and long after

it could not be; for the whole old creation was completely

finished in six days. The angels that fell, are so sinful and

miserable, that we cannot speak any good of them; yet, in

their first make, they were a very glorious part of the

creation. Notwithstanding, when they sinned, there was no

throne of grace provided for them: God spared not the

angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (2 Peter

2:4); yet, for his elect, he spared not his own Son (Rom

8:32). The devils, (for such sin made them), immediately

upon their sinning, were as much condemned as ever they

shall be: I say not as much executed; for it seems that their

full torment is reserved to the last day (Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4).

Art thou come to torment us before the time? (Matt 8:29),

say they to Christ. No wonder the devil be such an enemy

to the gospel of man’s salvation, and a hater of the throne

of grace. The wonder is, that men should be deceived by

Satan, to despise and slight this great privilege. Let

Christians take a view of this astonishing appearance of

God’s grace, that fallen angels are all passed by, and fallen

man taken up; not indeed all of them, but a great many, as

one day will declare: (Heb 2:16) For verily he took not on

him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of

Abraham.

2dly, Consider the greatness of this privilege in the

revelation of it. You have it, but the greatest part of the

world have it not. They that cannot receive the truth of God

revealed in the word about the sovereignty of grace in

election, and the efficacy of distinguishing grace in calling,

must see the same sovereignty acted in dispensing or

withholding the means of grace as pleaseth him. And to be

utterly ignorant that there is a throne of grace, renders

people as miserable as if there was no throne of grace at all.

They that never hear of Christ, must perish. It is an idle

dream, that the efficacy of Christ’s death may be applied,

and profitable to the saving of adult persons that never

heard of him. There is no salvation for men but by Jesus

Christ; there is no knowing of it, or partaking of it, but by

the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation (Eph 1:13).

Christ and his name go together: (Acts 4:12) Neither is

there salvation in any other; (no Saviour but he): for there

is no other name under heaven given among men whereby

we must be saved. No other way of getting good by him,

but by hearing of his name, and believing on his name:

How shall they believe on him of whom they have not

heard? (Rom 10:14). It is a wonderful mercy to hear of

him; but woe to them that hear, and do not believe. None

can believe without hearing (Rom 10:17); but alas! many

hear, and believe not (Isa 53:1).

2. Consider the great advantages of this privilege, of having

a throne of grace erected for us, and revealed to us. All

blessings may be had here, by coming for them. If there

was such a throne in this world, for silver, and gold, and

health, and outward mercies, what strange crowding would

there be to it? The blessings to be had here, are

innumerable for multitude; all spiritual blessings in

heavenly things in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:3); blessings

invaluable for their worth, eternal in their duration, most

free in their tenure, and all given in love. Every act of

favour from the throne of grace, is more worth than all

God’s common mercies. Lord, lift up upon us the light of

thy countenance (Psa 4:6,7), that will put joy into the soul.

Every thing given at the throne of grace, is a blessing of

grace. Its very name should teach people how to come, and

how to call what they get at it. If it be a throne of grace, we

should come to it as empty, needy beggars; and when we

receive any thing there, we should call and count it grace.

Ask all saints on earth, and they will witness, that great and

good things are to be had at the throne of grace. Try it

yourselves, and you will find it is not in vain to beg here.

Nay, the damned in hell do bear sad witness, that great are

the blessings that are to be had at the throne of grace, which

they feel and know by their woeful and eternal loss of

them. The glorified in heaven know what a rich throne of

grace this is. Only sinners on earth will not believe this, nor

use this throne as they should.

3. Consider that this court and throne is of short

continuance. It will not be kept up always. There is a

limitation of the time of its lasting; as Hebrews 4:7, He

limiteth a certain day. The day of the continuance of the

throne of grace, is bounded and limited with four days; the

day of a man’s life, the gospel-day, the world’s day, and the

Spirit’s day.

1st, The day of every man’s life. This hath bounds set to it

by God (Job 14:5). The throne of grace continues unto men

no longer than they live. When men die, they go not to the

throne of grace, but of glory and judgment. If we have sped

well at the throne of grace, we shall be welcome to the

throne of glory. The uncertainty and shortness of life, with

the certainty of the expiring of all treaties betwixt God and

us about salvation at the end of life, should make people

careful to secure the main matter in God’s time.

2dly, There is the gospel-day. This is also set and limited

by the Lord. He hath determined how many offers you shall

have of Christ; and when they come to an end, there will

not be one more. And then the throne of grace is taken

down as to you. (Luke 19:42) If you hadst known, even

thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy

peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes! saith our Lord

to Jerusalem. This was the ending determining day to

Jerusalem as a city, and to its inhabitants as a body. Though

many particular persons had another day of grace; yet the

slipping of that day hangs on that poor people and their

posterity to this very day.

3dly, There is the world’s day. And then the day of grace

will end as to all: When the bridegroom came, they that

were ready, entered with him to the marriage, and the door

was shut (Matt 25:10). There was no more grace to be

dispensed to men; and we know not when that day will

come. Miserable is their case, who shall see Christ coming

in the clouds of heaven, before they have seen him by faith

in the gospel; who hear the voice of the archangel, and the

trump of God, before they have heard the quickening voice

of the Son of God from the throne of grace; who have

neglected calling on him in time, and begin out of time,

(Luke 13:25) When the master of the house is risen up, and

hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to

knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. Is it not

just that they should be kept at the shut door, that would not

enter at an open door in Christ’s time, and when he called?

When Christ comes, and hath shut the door, no man will be

let in, knock as he will. Nor, while the throne of grace is

patent, no man will be kept out, be what he will, that hath a

mind to enter, and knocks for entrance.

4thly, There is the Spirit’s day. Here is a great depth of

God’s sovereignty and wisdom, a great depth of his

severity, an unaccountable and awful judgment; how the

Spirit of God strives with men in the gospel, how near he

comes to them sometimes, how close he besiegeth them,

that they seem to be on the point of yielding, and are not far

from the kingdom of God; and yet he draws back his hand,

and leaves them. I believe, that many ungodly men, many

reprobates, have been sometimes in their life nearer to

heaven, (if such may be said to be near to heaven that never

come there) than many an elect person was half an hour

before his conversion: (Gen 6:3) My Spirit shall not always

strive with man. What kind of striving this was, and what

became of them striven with, we have (1 Peter 3:19,20).

Nothing will more bitterly aggravate the eternal misery of

the damned, than the remembrance of this, that they had a

day, and in that day grace offered to them, and that they did

reject the offer. Men’s carnal hearts are now full of cavils

against the unsearchable methods and ways of God towards

the sons of men; but the last day’s judgment will determine

and declare, that in the perdition of the ungodly, there was,

and is, most pure and unspotted justice and righteousness;

and, in the salvation of all the elect, pure, perfect, and

predominant grace, that reigned in them, and over them,

and through them, till it brought them to heaven.

Wherefore, seeing the having of a throne of grace is a

privilege of so great importance, and of so uncertain

continuance, there should be the greater care to make

diligent and present improvement of it. Why should any

man let this throne of grace stand empty? Will men

provoke the Lord to say, In vain have I set up a throne of

grace for sinners that come not at it?

Again, Consider the wrath that will follow on the neglect,

and not improving of this great privilege. The sin is many

ways committed, and the judgments of many sorts that are

inflicted. But I leave this to the next occasion.

Except you, in your personal exercise and experience, do

know what this throne of grace is, and what is got there;

you may be Christians hereafter, but as yet you are none;

unless you experience what this throne of grace is, by

frequent repairing to it, and by frequent receiving good at

it. That man or woman, whatever his or her name be in the

world, or the church of Christ, that never found any need

for, or use of, or benefit by this throne of grace, is surely a

dead sinner. People may safely and surely judge of both the

state and frame of their souls, by their business at the

throne of grace. Never got any soul life, but by an act of

grace and power from this throne. No soul can be kept in

life, but by daily intercourse with it. It is as impossible that

these bodies of ours should be maintained in life and

strength without meat, and drink, and air; as it is for the

soul of a believer to prosper without daily plying the throne

of grace.

Let therefore the exhortation in the text be complied with,

Come to this throne. Say therefore, Lord, I am invited to

come to the throne of thy grace, and none have more need

of that grace than I, and there is enough of grace there for

me; and therefore I will come, and beg, and get, and abide,

and bless the giver, and become happy by receiving.

 

SERMON III

Hebrews 4:16.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of

need.

I have spoke of the first thing that this text contains, That

God in Jesus Christ, in the gospel, is on a throne of grace,

inviting men to come to him. What this throne of grace is;

why all should come; who they be that will come; and who

will be specially welcome, you have heard. I was pressing

this exhortation of coming to this throne. You see the

Apostle, in delivering this, takes in himself with them he

exhorts, Let us come. He had oft come before, and had been

bountifully dealt with at this court. (1 Tim 1:14) And the

grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant towards him.

This made him commend this throne so highly, and intreat

others, and stir up himself, to frequent addresses to it. I did

use three arguments to back this exhortation, and shall add

a fourth.

1. The first was the greatness of the privilege, of having a

throne of grace to come unto; a privilege denied to fallen

angels, and the knowledge of it denied to the far greater

part of mankind.

2. This throne of grace is a privilege full of rich advantages.

All believers know somewhat of them. All their acceptance

with God, all their access to God, all their communications

from him, and fellowship with him, all their blessings in

time, and their hopes for eternity, are all owing to this, that

God is on a throne of grace.

3. This privilege is of uncertain duration, and short. The

Lord the King is for ever; but the throne of grace is not for

ever. It is but a time-dispensation, and limited unto certain

seasons. The gospel-day is uncertain, our lifetime is

uncertain, the world’s day is uncertain, to us, though all

determined by God. But above all, the Spirit’s day is

uncertain. How long he will strive, when he will forbear,

who can tell? Some godly men have thought, that there are

few (if any) that live under a powerful ministry, but, at

some time of their life, the Spirit of God comes close to

them; so that there is not only a witness given for the Lord

in the offers of the gospel, but there is a further addition to

that witness, by some special approaches of God’s Spirit to

their hearts. But whatever there be in that observation, this

is undoubted, that where the Holy Ghost makes the

strongest assaults on men, if he be resisted, and withdraws,

the most prodigious hardness is left behind. Therefore,

extraordinary, bold, hardened sinners, cruel persecutors,

apostates, and mockers of godliness, are usually such as

sometimes were under special conviction; not to speak of

the sin against the Holy Ghost; which consists in some high

rebellion against special workings of the Spirit of God on

men’s consciences under the gospel. This dreadful sin

Satan perplexeth many believers with fears of it. But it is

certain, that a disturbing fear of this guilt is a proof of a

person’s innocency as to it. For whosoever have fallen into

this abyss of wickedness, are so far from fearing the sin,

(though they may have a hopeless fear of wrath, Hebrews

10:27) that they glory in it; therefore they are said to do

despite to the Spirit of grace. Let all that find the Spirit

striving with them, take good heed to themselves, comply

with his motions, and secure their state speedily, by

believing on the Lord Jesus; for the season of his striving is

the most critical part of our life, and, as it issues, of greatest

consequence to salvation or damnation.

4. A fourth argument I would conclude this point with, is,

the greatness of the sin of not coming to the throne of

grace, and the dreadful wrath it draws on. This sin is many

ways committed, and many ways avenged. A little of both.

First, It is committed, 1. By men’s despising and

contemning the throne of grace; making light of it (Matt

22:5), neglecting so great salvation (Heb 2:3). There are

many things from whence this contempt springs. Either no

sense of their need of what is to be had at the throne of

grace; or else a dream, that they may be supplied

elsewhere; or gross unbelief, that men think in their hearts,

that all this account of the throne of grace is but a

cunningly-devised fable; or the nature of the blessings,

spiritual and eternal, unsuitable to, and not taking with their

carnal hearts, who mind earthly things. If the exhortation

had run thus, Let us come, that we may get silver, and

obtain gold, to render us rich in this world; what leaping

and striving would there be to obey it? whilst grace and

mercy, that men have no sense nor experience of, are

despised; and therefore the throne of grace, where only they

are to be had, is despised also. The Spirit of God in the

scripture is at much pains to commend the worth and value

of the blessings that Christ came to purchase, and hath to

dispense, and to prefer them above all present sensible

things; yet, notwithstanding all the bright light of the word

darting daily in men’s eyes, the dross and dung of this

world is more precious in the eyes, and savoury to the heart

of every ungodly man, than all the grace given on earth,

and all the glory to be given in heaven.

2. This sin of not coming, is committed by delaying to

come. The call of God is, Let us come; the answer of many

hearts is, Let us delay to come. Whence think you that these

delays come? We have it daily to bewail before God and

you, that a multitude will come together to hear, and do so

day by day; yet all that can be said to them, from their

childhood to their old age, never prevailed with many of

them to spend one hour in serious treating at the throne of

grace, with God in Christ, for the eternal salvation of their

souls. It is undeniable, that ye are but a pack of gross

hypocrites, if you attend on the means of grace in the

assemblies of saints, and yet have no particular personal

errand to the throne of grace for your own souls. The

salvation of the soul is not carried on in a crowd. The grace

of God must be particularly applied to you, and you must

particularly apply it to yourselves, and yourselves to the

throne of grace, if ever you be saved. The fellowship of

saints was never ordained for this end, to render personal

applications to God needless; and it is grossly abused when

it is so perverted. It is impossible, that a person can have

any true fellowship with saints in any ordinance of God,

unless he hath particular business at the throne of grace for

himself. He hath indeed no true religion, whose all of

religion is in company and in public. Yet we see how

backward many professors are to this personal treating with

God; how many shifts and delays they make. To such I say,

Would it not be a terror to you, if either God, or man, or

angels, or the devil, should tell you this day, that, from this

time to your dying day, you shall never have leisure, nor

heart, nor time, to spend one quarter of an hour in dealing

with God for your eternal salvation! Would not this be

terrible to you! But the same dreadful thing is daily done by

men’s delays. The call of God is today, you say tomorrow;

when tomorrow comes, then you say next day; when that

comes, you put it still farther off. This you may be sure of,

that whatever is the true spring and cause of delays in this

matter, will still remain and gather strength, unless the

grace of God come in. Men deceive themselves with vain

pretences: but the true spring of all delays in treating in

earnest with God at the throne of grace, is unbelief and

unwillingness; and the more they are indulged by delaying,

the stronger they grow. Therefore the Holy Ghost saith,

Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts (Heb

3:7,8). See how the Spirit of God fixeth an opposition

betwixt these two, present hearing, and present hardening;

and a conjunction betwixt these two, present not hearing,

and hardening. If there is present hearing, there is no

present hardening; if not, there is. The refusal given to the

today’s call of God, hardens the heart against tomorrow’s

call. O, that men dreaded delays as most perilous things,

and the cause of the everlasting ruin of multitudes under the

gospel!

3. Another way wherein this sin of not coming to the throne

of God’s grace is acted, is in refusing to come. All do not

so grossly, but some do. There are two sorts of refusers; the

secure, and the discouraged. There is a woeful plague of

secure despair; a strange plague, but a certain one. Some

people find things are bad with them as to their souls, sins

many corruptions strong; they have made some essays to

get matters mended, and all in vain: whereon they

conclude, that it will never be better; and they sit down in

security, and give themselves up to their pleasures: (Isa

22:13) Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die. A

strange argument. Approach of death usually mars the taste

of pleasure. The handwriting on the wall, even when not

known, marred Belshazzar’s cheer (Dan 5). This is a very

miserable and sinful case. It springs from men’s being

ignorant of the true remedy, when they were sick of sin;

and because all the physic and physicians they used and

tried did them no good, they conclude their sickness is unto

death. But let such know, that there is hope in Israel

concerning this thing. Only come and see, and try what

may be done. Beware of despair; it is the devil’s sin. But he

hath reason for it: for he is condemned; and all doors of

hope are eternally shut upon him, or rather none was ever

opened to him. But for a man that hath the riches of God’s

long-suffering, forbearance, and patience (Rom 2:4), daily

laid out upon him; that hath the door of grace set open to

him, and the Lord calling, intreating, promising acceptance

on his coming; for such a man to give over all hope, is a sin

someway worse than the devil’s; a frame pleasing only to

the devil, most dishonourable to God, and his Son Jesus

Christ, and to the Holy Ghost, (I do not call it the sin

against the Holy Ghost); a reflection on all the glorious

appearances and manifestations of the throne of grace, and

most surely damning if continued in. Away with it

speedily: conclude thy case is not desperate; and if you

cannot shake it off, come to the throne of grace, and

complain of it. If ye can but see the throne, and him that

sits upon it, despair will vanish as a night-owl on the bright

shining of the Sun of Righteousness. Despair cannot live in

the presence of the glorious grace of Jesus Christ. Come

then and see, and lay hold on the hope set before you. The

other refusers to come, are the discouraged. They do not

despair that their case cannot be mended; but they see so

much, and so many things out of order, that their hearts fail

them in applying to the only remedy. In the time of their

carnal security, and ignorance of God and of themselves,

(that bred and kept up that security), they could rush into

God’s presence without fear, and call and count all the

blessings of the covenant theirs, without any doubt, and yet

without any ground. But when God began to deal with

them, and to come close to them, and to send in light and

life into their consciences, then they see their former

mistakes; they see their utter want and great need of those

blessings they once dreamed they were rich in the

possession of; they see their utter unworthiness of them;

and therefore find it hard to believe, that ever the Lord will

welcome them to the throne of his grace. Usually beginners

in Christianity have greater light and sense as to their

necessity of saving grace and mercy, than about the Lord’s

willingness to give them. And this is the season wherein

Satan doth usually come in (if permitted, and often he is)

with his temptations and fiery darts, that they felt nothing

of while they were in his kingdom and power of darkness.

To such I would propose three things:

1st, What is the ground of thy discouragement? Hereto I

know they will say a great deal, and it may be more than is

true. I grant all can be said to be true. But the sum of all is,

I am a great sinner, and exceeding miserable. Be humbled

as low as hell in the sense thereof, yet be not discouraged.

What is in thy case but what is common? Only thou seest

and feelest for thyself, and so did others.

2dly, What is the tendency of it? Doth it tend to keep thee

aloof from the throne of grace? It is then, of Satan.

3dly, What can be the cure of it? You would not be always

in this heartless frame. How think you to get it removed?

by keeping still from the throne of grace? Will, or can, any

spiritual plagues be cured, but by Christ the Physician? or

any spiritual blessing be got, but at his door? Can you

expect it without coming, and begging? David took the

right course with his fainting heart (Psa 42:5); he

challengeth his soul for its disquietment; he chargeth it to

trust in God: and because he had not prevailed with his

soul, he brings it to God by faith, (v 6) O my God, my soul

is cast down within me. Do ye so; and call upon him by that

name, God that comforteth those that are cast down (2 Cor

7:6).

I shall name no more of the ways this sin is acted than these

three; despising, delaying, and refusing. Several other

expressions there are of this sin in the word; but if you be

kept from these three, you are innocent from the great

transgression.

Secondly, What is the wrath revealed from heaven for this

great sin of not coming to the throne of grace?

1. God testifies his displeasure against this sin, by taking

away of his gospel. Nothing is more just with God, than

that, when his grace is slighted, the means of grace should

be removed. If the Lord argue so as to correction, (Isa 1:5)

Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more

and more; much more may he argue thus, Why should I

keep up a throne of grace any longer? you will but despise

it more and more. Christ teacheth a sad parable (Matt

21:33, &c.) and makes a just, but dreadful application of it

to the hearers, (v 43) Therefore I say unto you, The

kingdom of God (another name of the throne of grace) shall

be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the

fruits thereof. They were cut off for their unbelief (Rom

11:20). With what face can an unbeliever beg of God the

continuance of the means of grace, who hath no mind to

enjoy the end and blessing of those means? A general

contempt of the grace of God enfeebleth the spirits of

ministers and Christians in standing before the Lord, for the

continuance of the gospel with a people that use it not. This

dreadful judgment hath been often threatened in the word,

and inflicted, in the severe providence of God, on many

once-famous churches and nations. As the Lord saith, But

go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, whence I set

my name at the first, and see what I did to it, for the

wickedness of my people Israel (Jer 7:12); so I may say, Go

to Jerusalem, and the seven churches in Asia; go to Greece

and Africa, where many a famous church was planted, and

learn to fear for yourselves: not to speak of later desolations

in ours and our fathers days. The Lord’s removing of his

gospel, is a judgment that is very deep; as the apostle

speaks of the same subject (Rom 11:33). We may take

notice of this judgment as brought on by prevailing errors

in and about the foundation, Jesus Christ; or by gradual

apostasy, and impurity of conversation, in professors; or by

the rage of persecution, wearing out the saints of the Most

High (Dan 7:25). But yet we have good grounds from the

word of God to believe and hope, that the gospel may be

secured to a generation ordinarily, if they be careful to get

the blessing thereof, and to walk worthy of it. If the grace

of God itself be prized, the means of grace will be

continued.

2. The Lord witnesseth his displeasure against slighters of

his grace, by fearful outward judgments. So fared it with

Jerusalem, according to our Lord’s prediction (Luke 19:42-

44). It hath been a remark of wise observers of the

providence of God towards nations since the reformation

from Popery, That in those places where the greatest light

of the gospel hath shined, there the greatest judgments have

been inflicted; as in Germany, France, and amongst

ourselves in Britain.

3. The Lord visits for this sin with spiritual judgments, the

most wrathful dispensations of God on this side hell; as

hardness of heart, blindness of mind, searedness of

conscience, vileness of affections; judgments which they

that are under, never feel, nor complain of, nor will be

convinced of, though they are sometimes visible to others.

If the Lord inflict them on the Heathen for their abuse of

the dim light of nature (Rom 1:21,24,26,28). How much

greater are such that are sent for the abuse of the light of

the gospel? That dreadful commission given to the most

eminent prophet (Isa 6:9,10), is often applied and fulfilled

in the New Testament: (Matt 13:14; John 12:39,40)

Therefore they could not believe, (their sin was, (v 37) they

believed not on him; here is their plague, they could not

believe), because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded

their eyes, and hardened their hearts; that they should not

see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, and

be converted, and I should heal them. Paul applies it to

some of his unbelieving hearers, with a strange preface,

Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias, to our fathers, saying

(Acts 28:25,26). The interest and influence of God in such

spiritual judgments, is a great depth. They are always just,

and always deep; and dreadful are their effect. They on

whom they fall, feel nothing, see nothing, fear nothing. So

that truly we may say, as Psalm 68:35, O God, thou art

terrible out of thy holy places. But such as have a heart to

the grace of God, and would fain be blessed thereby, need

not fear those judgments, and shall never feel them.

4. Lastly, The wrath of God against such as come not to the

throne of grace, is engraven in the singular vengeance of

eternal ruin. There is something singular in their hell. The

law sends all unpardoned sinners to a law-hell: the Lord

sends despisers of saving grace to a special hell, (Heb 2:3,

10:29) a much sorer punishment. No quarters in hell are

tolerable: yet our Lord saith, (Matt 11:22,24) That it shall

be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, Sodom and

Gomorrah, than for the cities where he preached, and

wrought mighty works. We should be thankful for this fair

warning. I am afraid that there are very few that do truly

believe this, That the condition of a sinner under the gospel,

that is of a blameless conversation, and makes a fair

profession; only he is an unbeliever in Jesus Christ, and one

that hath no business at the throne of grace, he hath no

other fault but that, (and he needs no more to ruin him);

that this man’s case is worse now, and will be worse at the

last day, than that of the inhabitants of Sodom, on whom

the Lord rained down hell from heaven. Many of our gay

professors, and civil moral men, would think themselves

highly affronted and undervalued, to be put in the balance

with filthy Sodomites. If it were possible that thou had no

fault but only unbelief, thy sin is greater, thy judgment will

be more dreadful, thy state worse for eternity, than that of

the vilest of the nations to whom the throne of grace was

never revealed; (John 15:22) If I had not come, and spoken

unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no

cloak for their sin. And to the same purpose our Lord spake

to them (v 24). They were sinners before; but the contempt

of that dispensation of grace that Christ brought to them,

rendered them singular transgressors. So John 3:17. God

sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but

that the world through him might be saved. Are then all

saved, and none condemned? No: Of the world that hear of

God’s Son, some believe on him, and they are not

condemned, but saved, and others believe not on him, and

therefore are condemned (v 18). What is the condemnation?

Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness

rather than light, because their deeds are evil (v 19). The

law condemns them, because their deeds are evil; the

despised gospel condemns them, because they refuse the

only remedy. Law-sin is poison to the soul, and kills as

such. Unbelief is rejecting the only antidote, and kills as

such. Look to one scripture more: (Luke 19:27) But those

mine enemies which would not that I should reign over

them, bring hither, and slay them before me. It is not usual

for kings and princes to have criminals executed in their

presence, but command it to be done by mean hands, in

some remoter place. But Christ will have his enemies slain

before him. To be slain in Christ’s presence, is double

destruction: (2 Thess 1:9) Who shall be punished with

everlasting destruction, (ever a-destroying, never

destroyed; the destroyer punisheth eternally, and the

destroyed suffer eternally) from the presence of the Lord.

The meaning is not only, that a great part of this

punishment stands in being deprived for eternity of the

gracious presence of Jesus Christ; as in Matthew 25:41.

The first and saddest word in the last sentence is, Depart

from me. Just; for they said to him, Depart from us; for we

desire not the knowledge of thy ways (Job 21:14). Let all

trembling believers and lovers of Christ persuade

themselves, that they shall never hear it pronounced against

them. All that make it their business to come to Christ, that

make it their daily suit that he would come to them, shall

not hear, Depart from me; but, Come to me, ye blessed. Ye

often came for a blessing, and got many by coming; now

come to receive the blessing of the kingdom. But this word,

from the presence of the Lord, saith further, that this

destruction flows from Christ’s angry and glorious

presence; and that it shall also be in his presence; as

Revelation 14:10. It is in the presence of the holy angels,

and in the presence of the Lamb, they are tormented for

ever.

Thus having opened the first head in the text, That there is

a throne of grace erected and revealed, in the gospel, to

which men are invited to come; I shall only apply it in two

question, and the Lord apply them to your consciences, and

make them give a right and true answer. They are two short

plain ones. 1. Have you come? 2. Will ye come?

Quest. 1. Have you come to the throne of grace? Do you

know and are sure that you have come? as Peter said (John

6:68,69). The apostle speaks of such comers, (Heb 12:24)

But ye are come to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant,

and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things

than that of Abel. You are all hearers of the throne of grace;

many are talkers of it, and some disputers and contenders

about this throne: but are you comers to it? is your heart on

it, your business at it, and your daily exercise about it? You

are in the outward court; doth that satisfy you? Alas! many

poor souls die and perish there. To help to some conviction

how it is with you as to this, I would ask,

1. Have you come to the throne of grace? Then you have

seen the King. He is a poor sorry courtier, that goes to court

every day, and never seeth the King’s face; as Absalom (2

Sam 14:24,28). Alas! many live in Jerusalem all their days,

and never see the King that dwells in Zion. When Paul was

brought to the throne of grace, Christ was revealed in him

and to him (Gal 1:15,16). When men are brought and come

to the throne of grace, they receive the light of the

knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ

(2 Cor 4:6). There is a seeing of him, joined with believing

on him (John 6:40). All that see Jesus Christ, must have

eyes from him to see him with; the Spirit of wisdom and

revelation, in the knowledge of him, that enlightens the eyes

of men’s understandings (Eph 1:17,18). His eye-salve can

only make blind sinners to see (Rev 3:18). Are men in

doubt whether they have seen Christ or not? Whence doth it

proceed? Is Christ so mean, and dark, and ordinary an

object, that men may see him, and not know that they see

him? A man may doubt whether his eyes take up a dim

cloudy star in a dark night: but the sun doth not shine, or

the man is blind, if he lift up his face, and doubt whether he

see the sun at noon-day. There is a manifestation of Christ

promised (John 14:21,23), which, when made by him, and

perceived by his people, removeth all doubtings; so that the

soul must say, as Isaiah 25:9, This is our God, this is the

Lord. But this measure is not ordinary, nor constantly to be

expected. Is there any like unto Jesus Christ? Are any of his

companions, as they are called (Song 1:7), so like to him,

that a believer cannot discern the difference? Never did a

man see Jesus Christ by the eye of faith, but he is, by that

sight of him, persuaded that there is none to be compared

with him. No man is converted, and made a believer, but by

a revelation of Jesus Christ. A man may be awakened with

a view of God’s glory; he may be alarmed by a sight of sin

and hell; and may be roused out of his sleep of security, by

the thunders of Sinai: but he is never converted, and made a

Christian, but by a revelation of Jesus Christ, as glorious in

his robes of salvation. Whence then is it that all believers

on him do not own his manifesting himself to them, and

their seeing of him? It is in part from the weakness of their

sight, the greatness of the glory of him they see, and their

strong desire to see him better. But for such as have spent

their days about the throne of grace, and yet never saw

Jesus Christ, and the glory of God in his face as a Saviour,

so as to disgrace all things in comparison with him, so as to

raise desires after more of him, and so as to fill their hearts

with love, wonder, and praise; such have been at the court,

but have not seen the King on his throne.

2. Are you come to the throne of grace? What made you

come? what errand did you come upon? No man comes

without an errand. We need not make and seek one; we

have enough at hand, if we would but use them. What

wants felt you at home? and what of his fulness was taking

with you? Can you say, I have a naked filthy soul, and I am

ashamed to look on it; but how well would the robe of his

righteousness fit and adorn it? I am empty of all good, and

he is full of all grace, on purpose to fill perishing souls, and

I come for a share thereof. The blessing of many ready to

perish hath come upon him; and I came for his rich

salvation, and would leave my poor, but eternal blessing on

him. They that have no particular pressing business about

their soul’s salvation, may talk of the throne of grace, but

do not indeed come to it.

3. What got ye? If you come indeed you receive, if you

receive not, you come not. Say not, you have received

nothing, because you have not got all you would have. It is

necessary, that such as come, get somewhat; but it is not fit

that they should receive all that they want. A life of faith

must be lived, and dependence and begging still kept on

foot. But somewhat is still given and got, though the gift be

not always seen and owned. But tell me, Christians indeed,

have you not sometimes got that at the throne of grace, that

ye would not take a world for? Did you ever apply to this

throne in earnest, and found it in vain? Have you not

sometimes got a glance of Christ through the lattice (Song

2:9), that hath made you forget your poverty, and

remember your misery no more? Know ye not what it is to

have a smile of his countenance, and a token that you have

found favour in his eyes? Have you not got at this throne, a

word of promise, that hath fed and feasted thy faith? (Jer

15:16) Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy

word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart; for I

am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts. Have you not

sometimes got the door of faith opened, and the eye of faith

sharpened, that ye could see within the vail, and behold the

good land, and the blessed Lord of it, and thy happy

interest in both? Let not this throne be disparaged, both by

the true emptiness of hypocrites that are about it, rather

than at it, and by the peevishness of real believers. There

are no poor courtiers at this court; they are all rich (Rev

2:9). They are only poor in spirit; but not so poor as they

think; for a kingdom is theirs, that is better than all

kingdoms under heaven (Matt 5:3). The world count

believers poor, because they see they often have not

outward riches; and they are blind, and cannot see their

spiritual riches in possession and reversion. The believer

thinks himself poor, because he seeth not all he hath in

possession (1 Cor 3:21-23); and because he would so fain

have all he hath a right to (Phil 3:12-14), and the hope of;

or because his charters are hid, or his eyes are dim, that he

cannot read them.

Quest. 2. Will ye come? All is ready; come to this throne

(Matt 22:4). If ye have never come, begin just now; if ye

have come often, come oftener, and come better, come

nearer and closer still. Is there any thing wanting in you?

Come; for all supply is here. Are you guilty? Come for

pardon. Many drawn pardons are at this court, drawn up

sweetly by free grace, sealed with the blood of Jesus. Come

to this throne, and add your seal of faith to one for yourself;

and it shall be a charter for glory to you, lying warm at your

heart, as long as you live, and will be your passport at

death. But because the following words of the apostle in

this verse contain arguments for coming, I say the less now.

So much for the first head of doctrine in the text.

HEAD II. The second head is, How we should come to this

throne of grace? Come boldly, saith the Holy Ghost, by

Paul’s pen.

The point I would speak to from it, is this:

DOCT. That there is a boldness in men’s approaching to

the throne of grace, that is allowed and commanded.

For the apostle doth not only mention it as a privilege

allowed, but as a duty or frame enjoined and commanded.

So that he that comes not with this boldness, not only sits

down short of his allowance, but sins in disobeying a plain

command. The privilege is spoke of in Ephesians 3:12, In

whom (our Lord Jesus Christ, as verse 11) we have

boldness and access with confidence, by the faith of him. In

Hebrews 10:19,22 both the privilege is asserted, and the

improvement of it commanded, in drawing near with full

assurance of faith, and that to the holiest of all.

On this point I would shew,

I. What this boldness is that is allowed in approaching to

the throne of grace.

II. What are the grounds of this boldness.

I. What is the boldness allowed in coming to the throne of

grace?

There is a boldness that is not allowed, and that I would

warn you of.

1. There is a boldness of ignorance and irreverence. When

men come into God’s presence, and neither know him, nor

themselves, nor the matters they think they are come about;

such are fools, that consider not that they do evil, nor

remember that he is in heaven, and they upon earth, (Eccl

5:1,2). God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the

saints; and to be had in reverence of all that are about him

(Psa 89:7). This boldness is forbidden (Psa 2:11).

2. There is a boldness of peremptoriness, that is not allowed

to any man, not to a believer himself. People may, and do

often forget themselves; as we used to say, Too much

familiarity breeds contempt. Condescensions from

superiors, oft make inferiors forget their place. The Lord

deals so graciously with his people, hears their prayers

readily, stoops low to them in his love and pity, that unless

they watch, and keep a guard on their spirits, they may

soon fall into the sin of being too saucy and peremptory

with God.

The first prayer in the Bible, made by the greatest believer

in the world, Abraham, is upon a most condescending

appearance of God to him. The Son of God in human shape

becomes Abraham’s guest at meat (Gen 18). Some think,

that Christ respects this appearance in John 8:56, Your

father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and

was glad. He gives him the last promise of a son, with a

determination of the precise time of its accomplishment (v

10). He deals with him as a friend, (and so Abraham is

called, 2 Chron 20:7; Isa 41:8; James 2:23; but all believers

are called friends by Christ, John 15:14,15); and after a

great commendation of Abraham, the Lord tells him his

purpose of wrath against Sodom (vv 17-22). The angels are

sent to execute the vengeance, and Abraham stands before

the Lord to plead for mercy. With what boldness and

reverence doth he plead? The more the Lord stoops in

condescending to his petitions, the more low doth Abraham

lie before him. He neither forgot the Lord’s majesty, nor his

own meanness; and expresseth again and again, a holy fear

of offending by his renewed suits (vv 27,30-31). I would

have you consider this instance of prayer, because it is the

first recorded in the word, and because it was excellently

managed by the father of the faithful. So Gideon prays in

Judges 6:39, And Gideon said unto God, let not thine anger

be hot against me, and I will speak but this once. I am

afraid that many sincere Christians are guilty of this

peremptoriness. The Lord hath been so condescending to

them, that they become too peremptory about some

particulars. Beware of it; and see how the Lord hath dealt

with his people, and the best of them (Psa 99:6-8). See

Moses’ lot in this matter. He had often sought of God, and

prevailed, (Psa 106:23) Therefore the Lord said, that he

would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before

him in the breach; to turn away his wrath, lest he should

destroy them: A man to whom God spake face to face, a

man to whom God spake so amazing words, Let me alone,

that my wrath may wax hot against them (Exo 32:10); and

(Num 14:20) I have pardoned according to thy word. Yet

even this Moses in a small matter, for life, to cross Jordan,

and to see the promised land, hath this answer, (Deut 3:26)

Let it suffice thee, speak no more unto me of this matter.

Samuel is checked also in a small matter, that had prevailed

for far greater, (1 Sam 16:1) How long wilt thou mourn for

Saul, seeing I have rejected him? A case may be such, that

though Moses and Samuel stood before the Lord, they

should not prevail (Jer 15:1). It is the only privilege of

Jesus Christ, to be always heard (John 16:42). Yet, he, in

his agony, prayed so as to teach us to beware of this sinful

boldness, (Matt 26:39) If it be possible, let this cup pass

from me, nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Believers must remember, that in all cases they must deal

humbly, and in some cases they must take denials patiently.

3. There is the boldness of presumption. Presumption is

like faith in appearance, but in reality it is very unlike it.

Presumption works this way: the presumer may have the

mercy in his eye, but he hath no promise in his eye. Take

heed to this. If there be strong desires after a mercy, and

that mercy not pleaded for as in the promise, there is a

spice of presumption in that pleading. The reason why

believers ask so great things of God, is, because God hath

promised so great things to them (2 Sam 7:27). Hence it is

that presumption acts ordinarily in pleading with God, not

for the main spiritual blessings, but for some outward

mercy, that their hearts may be too much set upon. It is

about such that believers should watch against this

presumptuous boldness. But if the pleading at the throne of

grace be about salvation and spiritual blessings, the

difference betwixt faith and presumption appears in this:

Presumption can never plead with God, neither in deep

distress, nor in the view of sin; but it is the excellent

property of faith, that it can plead with God in both cases:

(Psa 65:3) Iniquities prevail against me: as for our

transgressions, thou shalt purge them away: Spoken like a

believer; and (Psa 130:3,4) If thou, Lord, shouldst mark

iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? (But can David stand?

Yes, and he stands on this ground); but there is forgiveness

with thee, that thou mayst be feared. There is just cause to

suspect, that there is presumption in that man’s heart, when

his boldness is only kept up, when sin is out of sight, and

disappears. A believer believes most humbly, and often

most strongly, when his sinfulness and unworthiness is best

seen: for true boldness of faith is not supported by any

good or worth in us, but by what is in Christ. The boldness

of faith cannot be entertained with regarding of iniquity in

the heart (Psa 66:18; 1 John 3:20); yet it can, with the

being and seeing of iniquity in both heart and life (Rom

7:24,25; 1 Tim 1:15). But of this farther from the next head,

of the boldness of faith. I now touch it only as it differs

from the presumptuous boldness that is allowed to none.

Again, faith can stand under that distress that breaks the

back of presumption; (Job 13:15,16) Though he slay me,

yet will I trust in him; but I will maintain mine own ways

before him. He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite

shall not come before him. "He hath taken away my

children all at once, my estate in one day; hath taken away

my health, and made me miserable, to a proverb in all ages:

although he should proceed, and slay me with his own

hand, my slayer is my Saviour, my death shall be my

salvation." Great words, and hard to be spoken in the day

of heavy trial! God slaying Job, is Job’s salvation. God

slays, Job trusts, and maintains his confidence under the

stroke. No hypocrite can do this; and many believers do but

bungle at the doing of it. There is an extremity a coming on

every man, that will try and discover what metal there is in

his faith; prepare for it.

What then is the boldness allowed in coming to the throne

of grace? It must not be an ignorant, peremptory boldness.

What must it then be?

Ans. It is only the boldness of faith (Eph 3:12; Heb 10:19).

The boldness of faith hath this in general in it, that it is

grounded and bottomed on somewhat without a man, and

on nothing in him. It is grounded on Jesus Christ, as we

shall hear farther. It is a great mistake in Christians to

think, that they cannot come to the throne of grace with

boldness, because of the many infirmities in their hearts,

and in their addresses. Your complaint may be just and

true; but the inference is not good. Do you never, in your

counting your infirmities, put in this great one amongst

them in your confessions, the want of boldness of faith? for

this boldness stands not in any thing in us, and done by us.

We must not come boldly, because we can pray well, and

plead hard; we must not think to be heard in heaven, neither

because of our much speaking, nor well speaking (Matt

6:7), as the Pharisees did. The boldness of faith hath a

higher, and more noble and firm foundation, even Jesus

Christ.

I shall conclude this discourse with these three acts of this

allowed and commanded boldness of faith.

1. Believe firmly that the throne of grace is erected for

poor, empty, sinful creatures, just such as you be. As Paul

saith of the law, (1 Tim 1:9) It is not made for a righteous

man, but for the lawless and disobedient; so may we say of

the throne of grace, It is not made, framed, and revealed for

the holy and happy, but for miserable creatures that want

mercy, and sinful helpless creatures that want grace. By

what is dispensed here, we may know for whom, and for

what sort of folks, it was designed and erected.

2. Believe firmly, that coming to the throne of grace by you

is allowed and commanded by the Lord. Say confidently,

While I am coming to the throne of grace for mercy and

grace, I am in the work that the Lord would have me to be

in. Take in all discoveries you have made unto you, or that

you can find out by searching, of the weakness and

infirmities that are in your way of addressing to it; own

them humbly; but maintain this steadfastly, that though you

cannot do as you would, as others do, nor as you are bid,

that yet you are doing what ye are bid. They are called

(Luke 14:21) who are the poor, and the maimed, and the

halt, and the blind! See a promise looking that way (Jer

31:8,9). Now, may not the halt and maimed be confident,

that they are coming, when called, although they cannot go

so fast and straight as others do? Every believer walks in

the steps of the faith of Abraham (Rom 4:12), though not

his pace. When you draw near to the throne of grace, assure

your hearts you are in your duty, though many do it better

than you do.

3. Believe firmly, that upon coming you shall speed. This is

coming with the boldness of faith. We should not come

with a May be the Lord will be gracious. It is true, that in

some particulars, not absolutely promised, nor simply

needful to salvation, this may be is all we can have, or

should seek. But in addressing for saving mercy and grace,

people should come expecting success. It had been a cold

word, if it had been said, Let us come to the throne of

grace, it may be we shall obtain mercy and find grace. No;

the apostle speaks in another dialect, Let us come that we

may obtain. Never doubt of obtaining, if you come. I say

not, that the confidence of good entertainment at this throne

is common to all comers to it; but only that it is the duty of

all that come for God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ, to

persuade their hearts that they shall obtain and find it. And

good grounds there are for it, as we shall hear.

How is it with you, Christians? You often come to this

throne: What are the thoughts of your hearts as to the issue

of your addresses? It may be you think it is well if you can

reach so far as this, "It may be the Lord will receive and

welcome me, and therefore I will try." Though there is

often faith lurking under such doubtings, and though a may

be should stir up men to come; yet this is far from the

boldness of faith, which glorifies this throne, and him that

sitteth on it, and which is so becoming and profitable to all

that approach it. See how an Old Testament saint speaks,

(Job 23:3-6) O that I knew where I might find him! that I

might come even to his seat: (that is, this throne). I would

order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with

arguments. But cannot God easily stop this man’s mouth,

and bring arguments against Job, that he could not answer?

Yes, surely he can; but he will not; Will he plead against

me with his great power? No, but he will put strength in

me. He that I plead with, will help me to plead, and prevail.

Few Christians know how much glory is given to God by

an enlarged heart, filled with believing expectations of

good from him; and how a heart thus enlarged by faith, is

fitted and disposed for receiving a large blessing. We easily

conceive how sharp hunger and thirst, strong desires, deep

sense of need, and mighty pleadings and importunity, do

prepare the way for great receivings; but we little think,

how much force is in the bare-like argument of faith; (Psa

16:1) Preserve me, O God; for in thee do I put my trust,

(Psa 33:22) Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according

as we hope in thee, (Psa 57:1) Be merciful unto me, O God,

be merciful unto me; for my soul trusteth in thee. There is a

mighty force in such pleadings of faith. "I know no help but

in and with thee; I expect it from thee, and therefore beg it

off thee." Faith in a believer never rose so high, but the

Lord’s gracious answer went higher (Eph 3:20). Look well

to your faith, believers; raise it high, use it well, and plead

by it, and plead upon it. Blessed Jesus will never cast that

soul into hell, that cannot forbear to entertain in his heart an

expectation of eternal life from him, in the virtue of his

precious blood, and on the warrant of his gracious promise.

He that believeth on him, shall never be confounded. Never

was any; neither shall you, if you believe. It was a great

word of faith, spoke by a dying man, who had been

converted in a singular way, betwixt his condemnation and

execution, of whom Mr. Fleming speaks in the Fulfilling of

the Scriptures: his last words were these spoke with a

mighty shout, "Never man perished with his face towards

sweet Christ Jesus."

 

SERMON IV

Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of

need.

It is one of the names given to the godly in the word, that

they are the generation of them that seek the Lord, that seek

his face (Psa 24:6). And they must be bold and arrogant

pretenders to this name, that are guilty of the utter neglect

of this duty. Since it is a duty of so great importance, it is

needful to know how to manage it aright. This verse gives

us a great directory, how to perform in a right manner this

great duty. 1. It tells us whither to come: To a throne of

grace. 2. How we should come: With boldness. Addresses

to God may many ways miscarry; if not made to the true

God, God in Christ; if not in the right manner. We have

here one thing about the right manner, coming with

boldness.

On this I proposed two things to be handled.

1. What is the nature of this allowed boldness?

2. What grounds are for it?

On the nature of this boldness, I began to speak last day;

and did mainly insist on the negative.

Now it follows to speak of the positive. It is the boldness of

faith that is allowed and commanded here (Eph 3:12). Faith

is a marvellous grace, both in its original, in its foundation,

and in its actings and exercise. It is the meanest and lowest

of all graces. Every grace brings somewhat considerable.

Love brings a flaming heart, repentance brings a bleeding

heart, obedience brings a working hand, patience brings a

broad back for the smiter; but faith brings only an empty

heart and hand, to be filled with borrowed and gifted

blessings. And yet faith is the highest and loftiest grace; it

cannot rest till it be in at the heart and love of God in

Christ. Faith (if I may so speak) can both be in heaven and

hell at the same time. The believer looking on himself as in

himself, (the apostle’s distinction, 2 Cor 3:5, ourselves, as

of ourselves), judgeth himself to the pit of hell, as his

deserved lot; but when he looks on himself as in Christ, he

sits high (Eph 2:5,6) and makes bold to enter into the

holiest of all (Heb 10:19). How many contrary sentiments

of himself doth a believer express! only saved from being

contradictions, by this distinction, That the word reveals

and faith improves. I know that in me dwells no good thing

(Rom 7:18). How! no good thing in a man full of the Holy

Ghost! a man rich in the grace of Christ! a man that had

laboured more abundantly than all the twelve apostles! (1

Cor 15:20) Yea, saith he, in me, that is, in my flesh dwells

no good thing. A believer as in himself, and a believer as in

Christ, are in a manner two different, distinct, contrary

persons. A believer as in Christ, is a new creature; as in

himself, and the remainders of corruption in him, is an old

man still, or rather, hath much of the old man in him. A

Christian hath two different opposite I’s in him; as the

apostle elegantly and deeply discourseth (Rom 7:19-25).

This genius of faith is much to be heeded in its bold

addresses to the throne of grace.

This boldness of faith in this court of grace, acts in four.

1. In a free access at all times, and in all cases. It is a

privilege allowed by the Lord to his people, and embraced

and improved by their faith. There is no forbidden time, in

which we may not come. No such command as in that

King’s court (Esth 4:11). Here it is proclaimed, (Psa 62:8)

Trust in him at all times, (Phil 4:6) Be careful for nothing:

but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with

thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.

There cannot be a more large and comprehensive account

of the matter of allowed addresses to the throne of grace,

than this. The apostle prescribes prayer as a cure of

perplexing care. He hints, that every thing that is, or may be

the matter of care, may lawfully be made the matter of holy

prayer. Turn your care into prayer; and the care will

evaporate and vanish, and your cure will be felt. Blessed be

the Lord, that hath made this good in the experience of

many who have gone before him, with hearts filled and

oppressed with many cares, and have returned light and

free, and their countenance no more sad; as Hannah (1 Sam

1:18).

2. The boldness of faith acts in free speaking of all the

mind to God. This the Greek word in the text particularly

points at. Let us come with boldness, free speaking of all

our mind; pouring out the heart to him (Psa 62:8), I

poured out my complaint before him: I shewed before him

my trouble (Psa 142:2). The tongue is not to be tied at this

throne; but all that is on the heart, is to be told to him. He

knows it before we tell it, and better than we do; but it is

his will, that we should make all our minds known to him.

A believer, the better case his faith is in, he is the more

open and free in dealing with God.

It is recorded of a man, that we should hardly have counted

a believer, had not the Holy Ghost numbered him amongst

them, in Hebrews 11:32 that he uttered all his words (or

matters) before the Lord in Mizpeh (Judg 11:11). So

Samuel did, (1 Sam 8:21) And Samuel heard all the words

of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the

Lord. It is a great favour that the Lord allows us so to do.

This is not after the manner of men. It would be counted a

troublesome impertinence, to vent all our thoughts, and

cases, and concerns, to a creature; but we may do so to the

Lord. When David refrained his speech, and kept silence, it

went badly with him (Psa 32:3).

3. This boldness of faith acts, and should act, in familiarity

with God. Believers should come to the throne of grace, not

as strangers and foreigner, but as fellow-citizens with the

saints, and of the household of God (Eph 2:19). Our Lord,

in his directing us to pray, bids us begin with, Our Father,

which art in heaven. The Spirit of adoption helps to cry,

Abba, Father (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). When faith speaks

rightly this word, and fixeth on it, all other desires will

sweetly follow. Abba and Amen, uttered in faith, are the

might of prayer. Strangers know not what familiarity the

Lord expresseth to his people, nor how much familiarity he

allows them to use with him. It was a great word of a great

saint many years ago in this land, when dying in a bright

shining of the Sun of righteousness on his soul, "Tell it to

the people, preach it at my funeral, That God dealeth

familiarly with men."

4. This boldness of faith acts in importunity at the throne of

grace. This importunity is nothing but the stiffness and

tenaciousness of faith. Faith sometimes (and then it is best)

will neither be beat back by delays from God, nor by

inward challenges; but when it hath got hold of God, it will

keep its hold. Our Lord spoke several parables to direct and

encourage to this importunity: Luke 18:1-8, that of the

unjust judge and oppressed widow; and Luke 11:5-8. We

must understand parables warily. No importunity did ever,

or can ever prevail with God, to do that for us, or give that

to us, that he hath no mind to do or give. All he doth and

gives, is in love. Yet he puts his people on importunity in

asking, as if he were unwilling to give; when indeed it is

that they may be more fit to receive, and that he may give

the more. Thus Christ tried the woman of Canaan (Matt

15:22-28).

So much for the first thing, What is the boldness of faith

allowed and commanded in approaches to the throne of

grace?

II. What grounds are there for this boldness?

There is need of great and solid ones to bear up this frame.

And, blessed be God, we have such.

1. The gracious discovery made to us of God in Christ. This

is, as it were, the essence of the throne of grace. The

Father’s name declared by the Son (John 17:25,26). It is

utterly impossible that there can be any lawful boldness in

approaching unto God, unless we know this name, and take

up this discovery of God. Many professors busy their minds

and heads with general notions and names of God; as that

he is gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in

goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity. All good names of

God. But is he not just, and a hater of iniquity; holy, and of

purer eyes than that he can behold it? But the main inquiry

is little thought on, Where shall we find the benefit of all

the comfortable names of God, and escape the harm of his

awful names? It is all in this blessed name, the God and

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 3:14). If you

approach to God out of Christ, you run into a consuming

fire. Here is the ground of the believer’s boldness: The God

he seeks, and before whom he comes, is revealed to us as

Christ’s Father, and ours in him; (John 20:17) Go to my

brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and

your Father, and to my God and your God. Blessed be the

words, and the speaker of them? and happy is the believer

of them. Faith cannot stand strong without the

remembrance of them. They are my brethren, for all their

fainting, and forsaking of me: I count and call them such,

though I be entered in part into my glory. Tell them whither

I am going, and where they are henceforth to seek me; and

how to call on and worship the Father, as mine and theirs,

and theirs because mine.

2. Another ground of boldness, is the mediation of Jesus

Christ. But this being the third thing in the text, I leave it to

its proper place.

3. The intercession of the Holy Ghost in his people, is a

great ground of boldness. They have not only Christ

making intercession for them at the right hand of God; but

they have the Spirit himself making intercession in them,

and for them (Rom 8:26,27). A special scripture; that I

would remark five things from, relating to this purpose. 1.

Who is the assister of believers in prayer? The Spirit itself;

as also he is called as to his witnessing (v 16). And the

word points at the immediateness of his assistance. 2. What

this assistance is applied to? Our infirmities; infirmities in

ourselves, and in our prayers; as the apostle declares, We

know not what we should pray for as we ought. The

communion of the Holy Ghost is only with believers, for he

dwells in them only; and his communion with them is only

with his own new creation in them; and because this, as in

them, labours with infirmities, his care is about them also.

3. The way of his helping, is in the original hinted: He

helpeth with us, or over-against us, as a powerful assistant

to the weak, in bearing a heavy burden; as (Col 1:29)

Whereunto I labour, striving according to his workings,

which worketh in me mightily. It is in vain to expect the

Spirit’s assistance in work we neglect, or against infirmities

we indulge and comply with. 4. What this assistance is?

Making intercession for us (vv 26,27) and that according to

the will of God. How can a believer but prevail, who hath

the blood of the High Priest speaking in heaven (Heb

12:24), and the Spirit of Christ crying in his heart on earth

(Gal 4:6)? The voice of the Spirit is the best thing in our

prayer; it is that God hears and regards. 5. But, lastly, How

doth this assistance and intercession work in us? With

groanings which cannot be uttered. What! only with

groanings? We would think it should be, that he assists

with piercing cries that might reach heaven, with strong

arguments that cannot but prevail, with mighty force and

power that cannot be resisted. Is all this great preamble of

the Spirit itself helping our infirmities, and making

intercession for us according to the will of God; is all this

come to a poor unutterable groaning? How strange seems

this to be! Yet how sweet is it! Some groanings are so

small, that they cannot be uttered; for the believer hardly

feels them: some groans are so great, that they cannot be

expressed; as (Job 23:2) Even today is my complaint bitter:

my stroke is heavier than my groaning. Sometimes the

Spirit of grace and supplications is a Spirit of liberty and

enlargement unto Christians in prayer; so as they can, by

his help, pour out all their hearts to God, and plead

strongly: sometimes he is a Spirit of groaning, working

only sense of want, and breathings after supply. There is

more of the Spirit in a sensible groan, than in many formal

words of prayer. The Spirit is called the Spirit of faith (2

Cor 4:13); and the Spirit of grace and supplication (Zech

12:10). Join both those names together: he is the Spirit of

faith in prayer, or, the Spirit of prayer in faith (Rom 8:15).

The Spirit of grace belongs to the throne of grace; and his

assistance doth give boldness to believers. The more you

feel of his help, pray the more boldly.

4. The covenant of grace gives boldness to believers in

their coming to the throne of grace. The covenant of grace,

as well as the Spirit of grace, belongs to the throne of grace.

Dying David had that sight of this covenant, that gave

consolation to him under sad reflections: (2 Sam 23:5)

Although 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. Let us consider some

properties of the promises of this covenant, (for the

covenant of grace is a covenant of promise, Rom 9:4; Eph

2:12), that do give just ground for the boldness of faith in

coming to the throne of grace.

1st, The exceeding greatness of the promises. They are

exceeding great and precious promises that are given to us

(2 Peter 1:4). When a believer looks within, he seeth great

and manifold wants and necessities; that he hath nothing,

and wants every thing. Some have thought, that they

wanted more grace than ever any sinner did; yet never any

wanted more than is in the promises. There is surely more

grace in the promises, than there is want in the creature.

Creature-wants cannot exhaust God’s fulness of grace; and

all this fulness is in the promises. There is more of grace in

the promise, than there can be of sin and misery in the man

that pleads it. Take heed how you compare your necessities

with the fulness of the promises. Nothing you can need, but

a supply is promised. Study your hearts and God’s

covenant, and you will quickly find it to be so. We may ask

any thing; for God hath promised every thing (Psa 84:11).

2dly, The freeness of the promises gives boldness at the

throne of grace. That they are promises of a covenant of

grace, proves they must be free. A free promise is a bond

given merely from the heart and proper motion of the

promiser, without any motion or motive from the party to

whom it is made, except it be that of his misery, that grace

works on. If the promises were not purely free to us, there

could be no boldness in pleading of them. See how the

Shunnamite pleads with the prophet Elisha, (2 Kings 4:28)

Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive

me? As if she had said, "It was not at my desire, but of

thine own motion, thou didst promise me a son; and I did

not fully believe it at first; but now the son promised is

dead." So may the believer plead: "Lord, I did not ask of

thee a promise of grace and glory. I was sinfully contented

in, and with my natural lost estate; and thou didst call me,

and quicken me with thy promise: wilt thou not make out

thy promise?" The freeness of the promise is the firmest

foundation of boldness in pleading its performance. No

other promises, but free ones, are in the covenant of grace;

and no other pleading of them but as free, is allowed to

them that come to the throne of grace. If thou be for merit

and worth in thyself, go elsewhere; there is no place for

such proud rich folks at this court.

3dly, The sureness of the promises of the covenant of

grace, is another ground of boldness at the throne of grace.

They are the sure mercies of David (Isa 55:3). Sure,

because of grace: (Rom 4:16) therefore it (the promise, or

the inheritance promised) is of faith, that it might be by

grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed.

A promise is made for faith; (would ever God or man

promise, but to be believed?) faith is given for, and acts on

the promise; (believing without a promise, is dreaming). A

promise made by the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10), to

sinners void of all grace, to give all grace to them, must be

a promise of grace: the believer of this promise must, and

can have nothing in his eye, but the grace of the promiser.

Now, saith Paul, it is this grace of the promise and

promiser, that makes the blessing promised sure to all the

seed. Again, the promises of God are sure, because they are

his (Heb 6:17,18); promises sworn for putting an end to the

strife of unbelief. Balaam was a bad man, and therefore

called a mad prophet (2 Peter 2:16); yet, by the over-ruling

Spirit of God upon him, spoke truly and highly, (Num

23:19) 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? All God’s promises are sure, because they are his

promises that cannot lie. And they are yet farther confirmed

of God in Christ (Gal 3:17). So that the believer, in his

pleading of God’s promises, may lay down this conclusion:

I want indeed great and many blessings; but I want nothing,

I ask nothing, but what he hath promised who cannot lie,

and what is confirmed in Jesus Christ, the Amen, the true

and faithful witness. Believers fail greatly in their neglect to

quicken and strengthen their faith, by taking up the

promises in their full extent, fulness, freeness, and

certainty. It is always found, that faith is weak, when the

promises are mean in our eyes: but if the promise appear,

and shine in its glory, as God’s faithful word; then faith is

aloft, and acts strongly. Hence it is, that all strong believing

gives glory to the promises (Rom 4:20), and weak faith

reflects on him, (Psa 77:8,9) Hath God forgotten to be

gracious? doth his promise fail for evermore? Alas! it was

the good man’s infirmity to say and think so (v 10). But

from his arguing I observe, that where faith is feeble, a man

thinks the promise fails; (as a giddy man thinks the rock he

stands on, shakes and reels, when all the shaking is in his

head or legs); and when he thinks the promise fails, he

thinks the promiser is changed from what he was when he

made it. And it borders on blasphemy, to rob God, by our

unbelief, of his glorious attribute of unchangeableness. If

you have a mind to believe, keep still the promise in your

eye; if you would believe strongly, view the promise

narrowly and steadily. The promise is both the father and

mother of faith; it both begets faith, and feeds it. Your first

believing is from the power of the promise; and the

continued and growing life of faith, is by sucking and

drawing nourishment from the breasts of the promise.

5. Another ground of the boldness of believers in their

approaches to the throne of grace, is, their privileges that

they are possessed of. So the apostle argues (Heb 10:19-21)

to drawing near with full assurance of faith (v 22). Some of

these I shall name, with this caution, That though all

believers have them, yet all do not know they have them;

and therefore all do not use them as they ought, and would,

if they knew them to be theirs. But all should therefore

labour to know them, that they may use them to the glory

of the giver, and to the comfort and edification of the

receivers.

1st, The first of these privileges, is election. And justly it is

called the first: for nothing can be before it; for itself is

before time; and all that they afterwards receive, flows

from it. Election is that eternal and adorable act of free

grace, wherein God the Father passed over his love to a

select company of mankind, that were to come into the

world; appointing them to salvation; appointing a Saviour

for them, and all means fit to accomplish his design of love

on them, to the praise of his grace (Eph 1:4-6). This

blessing is revealed in believing. When God gives faith, he

makes known his electing love; and when we act faith, we

may see it. Faith is the faith of God’s elect (Titus 1:1). This,

when seen, is a great ground of boldness at the throne of

grace: (Luke 18:7) Shall not God avenge his own elect, that

cry unto him day and night? This our Lord prays upon in

John 17:9,10, I pray for them: I pray not for the world; but

for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine. And

all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in

them. As if our Lord had said, "I am sure to be heard; for I

pray for them that are partakers of thine everlasting love.

They are thine by election, and given to me; they are mine,

by receiving and redeeming of them." We are bid give

diligence to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter

1:10). They are sure in themselves, and sure to God; but we

should make them sure to ourselves: and many Christians

smart sadly by neglecting this diligence.

2dly, The gift of Christ for us, is a great privilege that gives

boldness at the throne of grace. So the apostle argues, (Rom

8:32) He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up

for us all (you may see who this all are, vv 28-30) how

shall he not with him also freely give us all things? As if he

had said, "It is a small thing to God to give us all other

things, when he hath given his Son. We receive now many

blessings, blessed be the giver; we have greater things in

the promise than we yet receive, or can yet receive; but

shall surely receive in his time: yet all we get, and shall to

eternity receive, is far less than the gift of Christ." It is like

our Lord had respect to this in that word to the woman of

Samaria, (John 4:10) If thou knewest the gift of God, and

who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldst

have asked of him, and he would have given thee living

water. If she had known Christ as the well of salvation to

sinners, she would have employed him, and should have

been accepted of him. But here many Christians stick: they

doubt not but Christ was given for his church and people,

but they know not how to apply this to themselves. If I

knew, say many, that Christ was given for me, I would then

come boldly to the throne of grace, and ask any thing

confidently. I answer, None can know that Christ was given

for them, till they come unto him: and all that come to him,

may know that he was given for them, and should believe

it. He was given by the will of the Father, and his own, for

his elect. This is a secret hid with God. He comes to men in

the gospel, offering himself, and all his purchase and

fulness, to all that hear of it. He that hath his heart drawn

forth to like this bargain, and accepts by faith of the

Saviour, and of his great salvation, hath possession thereof

immediately; and by that may come to know, that it was

designed for him in God’s purpose of love. So Paul (Gal

1:14-16), he was one of the holiest and most religious Jews

in their church; and yet was at the same time one of the

most wicked young men in all the country: a very

hypocrite, a proud self-justiciary, and a bloody persecutor

of Christ and his church. Yet of this wicked creature it is

here said, that God had separated him from his mother’s

womb; and (Acts 4:15) He is a chosen vessel unto me; I will

pour out of my grace on him, and will do much for him,

and by him. When did all this break out? When he called

me by his grace, and revealed his Son in me. Then he can

say, (Gal 2:20) He loved me, and gave himself for me; and

again, (1 Tim 1:15) This is a faithful saying, and worthy of

all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to

save sinners. All say so: but had he any mind of thee? and

hast thou any share in his coming to save sinners? Yes,

saith he, of whom I am the chief. He came to save me the

chief of sinners. Any sinner may come after me, and expect

mercy at Christ’s hand, when Paul hath sped so well (v 16).

He hath made me a pattern of his mercy, for the

encouragement of all sinners that have a mind for a good

turn from Jesus Christ.

3dly, The privilege of actual reconciliation, and of being

brought into a state of grace, is a ground of boldness in

coming to the throne of grace (Rom 5:9,10); where the

apostle having shewn God’s love in giving Christ to the

death for us (v 8), he adds the blessings that flow from this

gift; justification by his blood, and therefore much more

salvation from wrath through him (v 9); and reconciliation

to God by his death, and therefore much more salvation by

his life (v 10). The improvement he makes thereof, is in

verse 11, and not only so, but we also joy in God, (the

original is, we glory or boast in God), through our Lord

Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the

atonement. A state of grace, is a state of boldness. All that

are in it should, and all that know they are in it will, use

boldness of faith at this throne of grace (Rom 5:1-6).

6. The experiences of believers are a great ground of

boldness. Experience works hope (Rom 5:4). The

experience of others, as well as our own, is of great use

herein. Sometimes we find David improving the experience

of others for the strengthening his own faith; sometimes he

offers his own experience for the comfort of others, (Psa

66:16) Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will

declare what he hath done for my soul. Because David was

in distress of conscience, and got peace and pardon, (Psa

32:1,6) For this shall every one that is godly pray unto

thee, in a time when thou mayest be found, (Psa 119:74)

They that fear thee, will be glad when they see me; because

I have hoped in thy word. There is no Christian that hath

not experience. As he hath a soul that needs much to be

done for it, so the Lord doth much for all he saves. And

because the Lord dealeth variously with his people,

therefore there is much difference in their experiences. Yet

because all believers are members of the same body, and

receive all from the same head, Jesus Christ, there is some

skill and capacity in every Christian to understand, and to

be profited by the experience of any Christian. Hence it is,

that communicating of experiences is a Christian duty, and

a good part of the communion of saints. But there is much

Christian prudence requisite in the discharge of it. Let no

man boast of a false gift, and pretend to that he hath no

sense of; nor talk vainly and proudly of what God hath

done for him. All true experiences are acts of grace from

God felt on the soul. And grace is humbling; (1 Cor 4:7)

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast

thou that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou didst receive

it? why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

Three questions confounding the pride of men and

Christians.

Of these experiences that should give boldness in coming

to the throne of grace, I shall name three.

1st, The experience of the first visit of grace, is a good

ground of confidence in asking any blessing of God. Can

you remember when you were dead in sin, and had no

thought of grace, nor of thy need and want of it, but wast

well content with thy lost state; and that, in this state, grace

came from this throne, and did beset thy heart, and

overcome it? May you not argue, If the Lord sought me

out, and found me in my departing from him, and stopped

me, and turned my heart towards himself; may not I come

now confidently, and ask mercy and grace? It is a matter of

great use to believers, to keep up a savoury remembrance

of the gracious change that preventing grace wrought upon

them. Paul could never forget first Christ’s visit to him, but

speaks of it before kings and rulers, and people (Acts

22:26). He remembers time and place, and every

circumstance. I say not that Christ’s first visit is so sensible

to all, or (it may be) to any, as it was to Paul. But Christ’s

work of grace may be known by itself, even when some

circumstances of time, and place, and outward means, are

not known.

2dly, The experience of the Spirit of prayer, and of answers

of prayer, is a great ground of boldness of faith. I join these

two together, for the Lord usually doth so: (Psa 116:1,2) I

love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my

supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, I

will call upon him as long as I live. Have ye not known,

that sometimes you have been so troubled, that you could

not speak? as Psalm 77:4: that your hearts have been so

bound up, and straitened, that you could say nothing, and

do nothing, before the Lord; but sit as dumb and oppressed,

all dark above, all dead within, and all doors shut upon you;

you durst not neglect prayer, and you could not perform it?

and have you not quickly found the two-leaved gates cast

open to you, your hearts enlarged, and your mouth wide

open in asking? The remembrance of such experiences

should strengthen the confidence of your faith. Have you

not known what the answer of prayer is? that he hath

prepared your heart, and hath caused his ear to hear? as

Psalm 10:17. Come the more boldly at all other times. They

are triflers in prayer, that know nothing of God by the name

of hearer of prayer (Psa 65:2), They that sow in tears, shall

reap in joy. Whoever hath gone forth weeping, bearing

(and sowing) his precious seed, hath doubtless come again

rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him (Psa 126:5,6); and

should therefore sow in hope.

3dly, The experience of communion and fellowship with

God, is a great ground of boldness in coming to the throne

of grace for more. Such as have most of this blessing,

desire most earnestly more of it, and may desire it the more

confidently (1 John 1:1-4). Surely we have this fellowship

with the Father, and with his Son Christ Jesus; and we

would fain have you share with us therein, that your joy

may be full. This communion with God is a mystery,

undoubted to him that tasteth it, and surpassing all the

delights of sense or reason; incredible and unintelligible to

all that have it not. A stranger intermeddles not with this

joy (Prov 14:10). It lies more deep, than that any eye of

flesh can see it. It is of that nature, that only tasting can

declare its transcendent sweetness: (Psa 34:8) O taste and

see that the Lord is good. Saints feel much of it, they talk

much of it, the word is full of suitable and savoury

expression of it; yet all are riddles and dark parables to

them that experience it not. You that know what it is,

though you cannot express it, yet you can relish and

understand some sound words about it. Yet know what it is

to be brought near to him, and to have the clouds and vails,

that are either on your hearts, or on his face, scattered, and

the light of his countenance lifted up upon you (Psa 4:6,7).

You have been sometimes so in the mount, as to think, O,

how good it is to be here! You have known what the warm

and healing beams of the Sun of Righteousness upon you

are (Mal 4:2). You have tasted that in his company, that

hath made the puddle of the world’s wells of comfort

lothsome and unsavoury; yea, as hath made you groan in

this tabernacle, and long to be in at that complete and

uninterrupted communion above, whereof all you taste on

earth, is but a small earnest and first-fruits. And may not,

should not such come boldly to the throne of grace?

APPLICATION. Is there an allowed boldness in coming to

the throne of grace? Then let us use this boldness. Alas!

many come doubtingly and discouragedly. Their unbelief is

so strong, and their faith so weak, that they not only come

without this boldness, but think that they ought not to come

with it, but with a frame contrary to it. They think, that it is

true humility, to come with a fear, that is inconsistent with

this boldness. It is indeed required, that men should come

before the Lord with awful fear and reverence, and that

they should judge themselves unworthy and undeserving,

both of the privilege of coming, and of the least of the

blessings they come for. Yet the boldness of faith is not

prejudiced thereby. I shall therefore answer some of the

common pleas of unbelief, as to this privilege, and its

improvement.

Object. 1. Is from conscience of sin and guilt, grounded

specially on these two scriptures, Psalm 66:18 and 1 John

3:20. This plea seems to be strong, and to justify or excuse

doubtings in Christians; and doth usually mar the due sense

of this duty, of coming boldly to the throne of grace. To

remove it therefore, consider, that sin affects the heart and

conscience two ways. 1. It defiles the conscience. 2. It

disturbs it.

1. Sin defiles the conscience: (Titus 1:15) Unto the pure all

things are pure: but unto them that are defiled, and

unbelieving, is nothing pure; but even their mind and

conscience is defiled.

But we must see when and how the conscience is defiled by

sin. Conscience is God’s tribunal in every man. It is an

active and awful power in men, judging of themselves, as

to their state and actions, as they think God judgeth of

them. So that there are two main causes tried, and to be

decided, at this court of conscience. 1. Am I at peace with

God, and he with me? and this is only truly resolved, when

conscience pronounceth as God declares in his word. And

that declaration is, That every man by nature, and as in the

first Adam, is an enemy to God, and God to him; and that

every one that is in Jesus Christ by faith, is a child and

friend of God, and God is at peace with him. The answer

then is different, if according to truth. Some may, but will

not conclude their state of enmity, by their not believing on

Jesus Christ; some may, but dare not conclude, that they are

at peace with God, though they cannot deny their faith in

Jesus Christ. 2. A second cause is about particular actions:

and the question then is, Is this, or that, or the other action,

pleasing or displeasing to God? And this is to be

determined by the light of conscience, acting according to

God’s holy law. For God is the only Lord of conscience,

and his will the only rule and law of conscience.

Conscience therefore may be three ways defiled.

1st, By the unpardoned guilt of a natural state, as it is in all

unbelievers. Nothing can purge the conscience, but the

blood of Christ (Heb 9:14). An unbeliever doth not apply to

it, nor apply it to himself, and God applies it to none but by

faith. Therefore all such unbelievers have all the lothsome

filth of their natural state lying on their consciences,

defiling it. The answer of a good conscience towards God,

is by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21). All

unbelievers’ consciences can speak nothing towards God,

by any thing Christ hath done or suffered; for they know

him not, and are not in him. They would give an answer, or

make their plea, from their good works and honest

meanings. But all such answers and pleas are rejected by

God, in his judging of a man’s state. For all God’s

judgments of men’s state proceeds on these two, in Christ,

or out of Christ. And as it is with them with respect to one

or other of these two, so do men stand or fall before God’s

judgment, whatever the judgment of their consciences be.

2dly, Conscience is defiled by sinful actions, known to be

such. Now, if these be loved, and delighted in, they do

justly mar confidence; neither can any man in this case

draw near to God, but with the mouth, and hypocritically

(Isa 29:13). This is a frame not to be found in a believer.

He may be guilty of known sin, but it is not delighted in.

To this David’s words refer, (Psa 66:18) If I regard iniquity

in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. It is not, If there be

iniquity in my heart; for who can say, I have made my heart

clean, I am pure from my sin? (Prov 20:9). It is not, If I see

iniquity in my heart; for where there is least sin, it is best

seen. Paul saw enough (Rom 7:23-25), and groaned under

it; and yet blesseth God through Jesus Christ for the hope

of victory. But it is only, If I regard iniquity in my heart, (if

I look kindly on it), God will not hear me. And indeed the

man in this case cannot pray. It is as impossible that a

person approving and loving sin, can make a real approach

to God, as it is for a man to depart from, and approach to

one, at the same time, and with the same motion.

3dly, The conscience is defiled by doubtful practice. Of this

the apostle speaks, (1 Cor 8:7) And their conscience being

weak, is defiled. To this belong also the words in Romans

14:5, Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind;

and verses 22, 23, Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin. In

deliberate actions, especially of worship to God, to act

without a clear warrant from the word of God, defileth the

conscience.

2. Sin disturbs the conscience. And conscience is disturbed

by sin, two ways. 1st, When the evil and filth of sin is seen,

a man lothes himself therefore. No defilement on the

conscience disturbs it, till it be seen. Men like swine

wallow in the puddle, and see no filth therein, till God open

the eyes of their consciences. 2dly, When the danger of sin

is seen, and the wrath it deserves is perceived, then

perplexing fears, and sensible sorrow, work in the soul.

Now, what is the course such a poor creature should take?

The sin is committed, the guilt is contracted, the conscience

is defiled, the defilement is seen, disturbance and trouble is

felt in the conscience; what should such a sick soul do?

Will any say to him, Wash thyself where thou canst, and

cast away the burden of thy sin the best way thou canst, and

then come to the throne of grace? This would be strange

gospel indeed. We know no other course a man should take

in this case, but coming to the throne of grace, to have the

conscience sprinkled with the blood of Christ, the only

cordial for a disturbed conscience, and the only purger of a

defiled conscience. Therefore Peter was quite out in his

prayer; he prayed backward, when he said, Depart from me,

for I am a sinful man, O Lord (Luke 4:8). Were ever those

words uttered at the knees of Jesus Christ? He had said

better, if he had prayed, "Lord, come near to me, and abide

with me, and let me ever abide with thee: for I am a sinful

man. Where can a sinful man be better, than with the

Saviour of sinners?" But Peter’s prayer is the natural prayer

of every man that seeth his sinfulness, and is ignorant of

Jesus Christ. The publican understood prayer, and plied it

better (Luke 18:13), when he said, God be merciful to me a

sinner. "I feel my sinfulness, I see thy mercy, Lord, let

them meet; and thy mercy shall be glorified, and I saved."

Whoever therefore are distressed with the guilt of sin in

their consciences, or with the power of it in their hearts and

lives, must seek all their relief at this throne of grace. It is

only the power of that grace revealed and dispensed at this

throne of grace, that is too hard for sin, and all its powers.

And for any man to think to subdue sin, except by the

power of this grace; or to think that he shall have this

powerful grace, without coming for it to the throne of

grace, is to dream to his own destruction.

Object 2. I am in the dark about my interest in God and

Christ, and therefore I cannot come boldly to this throne. If

I did know that God was at peace with me, and I reconciled

to him, and justified, then I might come boldly.

Ans. 1. Whose fault is it, that thy interest in Christ is not put

out of question? Were Christians more in self-examination,

more close in walking with God; and if they had more near

communion with God, and were more in acting of faith,

this shameful darkness and doubting would quickly vanish.

It is a thing to be heavily bewailed, that many Christians

have lived twenty or forty years, since Christ called them

by his grace, yet doubting is their life; they doubted when

they began, they go on doubting, and many die doubting,

when the blame is justly to be laid on themselves. There is

an assurance of faith, that is a duty, as well as a blessing

(Heb 10:22). And were it more minded as a duty, it would

be more often attained as a mercy. That assurance of faith I

press you to have, stands in firm and strong believing. The

faithful promise of Christ in the gospel, is the foundation of

it. And the ground will bear all the weight we can lay on it.

This assurance is not only a blessing that comes down from

heaven, but it may, by his blessing of means, spring up out

of the soul; I mean, it may spring out of the lively vigorous

actings of faith. The great believers we read of in the word,

the confidence of their faith rose up to that height and

strength that we admire, from a clear persuasion of the truth

of the promises, and of the faithfulness of the maker of

them. So it is said of Abraham, (Rom 4:20,21) He

staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but

was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully

persuaded, that what he had promised, he was able also to

perform. And lest any should think, that because the man

was singular, and the case singular, therefore ordinary

believers may only wonder at it, and not attempt to imitate

it; the apostle adds, (vv 23,24) Now it was not written (in

Gen 15:6) for his sake alone; but for us also, &c. As if the

apostle had said, "You see what ground Abraham had for

his faith; how strongly he built upon it, and how pleasing

that was to God. You have the same ground; build ye also

upon it by faith, and that faith in you will be as pleasing to

God." Abraham had God’s promise to build upon. In this

promise there was its outward part and external. And this

was an offspring of his body by Sarah, and the land of

Canaan for an inheritance. The spiritual and main thing in

the promise, was Jesus Christ the Saviour, and the blessing

of eternal salvation in him. This was Abraham’s gospel:

(Gal 3:8,9) and the scriptures foreseeing (that is the author

of the scriptures foreseeing) that God would justify the

heathen through faith, preached the gospel before unto

Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So

then they which be of faith, are blessed with faithful

Abraham. His gospel and promise was of Christ to come,

and of salvation by him. Ours is the promise of salvation in

Christ come already delivered for our offences, and raised

again for our justification (Rom 4:25); that is, imprisoned

for our debt, and set at liberty for our discharge. Now,

consider, how Abraham improved this promise. He had

nothing else in his eye, he would consider nothing, but the

promise, and the faithful and mighty promiser. So must we.

When we give place to considering of ourselves, our

sinfulness and unworthiness; when we consider the

greatness of the blessings in the promise, how far they are

beyond our deserving, how many things there be that do

make it incredible to reason that we should ever receive, or

that God should ever give such great things to us, faith

must be at a stand. It is as incredible to an awakened

conscience, that God should justify a sinner, as it was to

reason, that Abraham should have a son by Sarah. Our only

way is, to consider the promise. God hath said it, and he

will perform it, and I will believe it. If all the angels in

heaven, or faithful men on earth, had said, that God will

save me from sin and wrath by Jesus Christ; that such a vile

creature as I am in myself, shall be excepted in that

beloved, I durst not believe it. But when God himself hath

said so, why should I doubt it? God’s promise in the gospel

deserves our highest trust and confidence; and such as view

it in all its grace, truth, and power, will pay it that due.

Ans. 2. Suppose thy want of clearness as to thy interest in

Christ, and that it is thine own fault; may you not come

boldly to the throne of grace for satisfaction therein? If you

know not who is your Father, may you not come to him to

know it? There are many worse prayers made than this,

That the Lord would make manifest his own work in you.

Lord, help my unbelief, was a believer’s prayer.

Complaining of doubtings and darkness, and praying for

light and clearness, hath often dispelled the clouds, and

brought the soul under a bright sunshine.

Ans. 3. Direct trusting on God, when saints have been in

darkness as to their interest in him, is required and

commanded in the word, (Isa 50:10) Who is among you

that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant,

that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in

the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. What had the

woman of Canaan (Matt 15:22-28), but direct trusting?

Christ was silent to her first crying unto him; when the

disciples crave an answer for her, Christ tells her and them,

that he was not sent for such as she; when she comes and

worships him, saying, Lord, help me, he answers her

humble believing prayer with reproach. Yet all shakes her

not; but by faith she relies upon Christ, and makes an

argument from this very reproach. And blessed was the

issue.

Object. 3. What should a man do that never came to the

throne of grace before? I can understand how a believer

may, and should come boldly. It is no wonder that a poor

beggar go boldly to that door, that he hath been often at,

and was never sent empty from. But can, or may a poor

sinner come boldly, the first time he comes?

Ans. 1. It is granted, that usually first approaches to the

throne of grace, are feeble and weak, and not with that

confidence of faith that believers do grow unto by

experience, and exercise of faith.

Ans. 2. Yet a man may come boldly at the first time. There

is good ground for it. 1. Consider the text, Let us come

boldly, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace. Who can,

or should put in for these blessings; more than he that never

yet got any! Do receivers come to receive daily more grace

and mercy; and may not one, utterly destitute and needy,

beg somewhat of this mercy and grace! 2. Consider the

ground of this boldness lies fair and equal to all that will

use it in coming. To name only now the promise of God:

This is laid before all men in the gospel. Have you a hand

of faith to lay hold on it? That makes it yours. God’s

promise is as sure and true before we believe it, as after.

Believing adds nothing to the sureness of the promise. Our

believing is like a drowning man’s catching and laying hold

on a rope thrown out to him; his laying hold on it makes

not the rope stronger, yet it makes the rope his defence.

The promise is equally true before believing and after

believing; but it is no man’s known property, till it be

believed. The cords of salvation are cast out in the gospel to

multitudes; yet most perish, because they do not lay hold

on them. No man can sink into hell, that holds the promise

of salvation by the arm of faith. 3. Consider how the Lord

directs, (Jer 3:19) But I said, How shall I put thee among

the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly

heritage of the host of nations? That is dreadful indeed,

when God makes such a question. Who can answer the

Lord’s questions, but himself? And I said, Thou shalt call

me, My Father, and shalt not turn away from me. A most

blessed answer to a dreadful question. (v 4) Wilt thou not

from this time cry unto me, My Father, thou art the guide of

my youth? An interest in God by Christ is offered and

promised to all in the gospel; plead it by faith, and it is

yours.

3. We find instances in the word, (and the like the Lord can

make again), of great confidence in some at their first

coming to the throne of grace: As the blind man (Mark

10:46-52). He only heard of Christ’s passing by: he staid

not for Christ’s calling him, but began to cry out, Jesus,

thou Son of David, have mercy on me. When many charged

him to hold his peace, he cried the more a great deal, Thou

Son of David, have mercy on me. "Christ was never in my

way before, and he shall not pass now without shewing

mercy on me, if crying may prevail." And that his crying

was in faith, Christ witnesseth (v 52). In all appearance, the

woman of Canaan was never at the throne of grace before

(Matt 15:22-28) at least, never at Christ’s feet before: yet

she managed her first address with that confidence, that she

not only got her desire, but that high commendation with it,

O woman, great is thy faith. So the centurion (Matt 8:5-10).

But above all instances, is that of the believing thief on the

cross (Luke 23:40-43). Never had the throne of grace so

little to encourage an address to it, as when the King of

grace was dying on the cross. Never had a sinner less

encouragement to come to the throne of grace, than when

the Saviour was nailed to one tree, and the sinner to

another. Marvellous faith! a dying sinner, dying for his

sins, employs a dying Saviour for salvation, Lord,

remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. How

little did Christ nailed to, and dying on the cross, look like a

King? How strong was the man’s faith to believe, that

Christ, through death, was going to his kingdom? and that

Christ’s gracious thought of him would save him? And

Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt

thou be with me in paradise. As if our Lord had said, "This

is thy first and thy last address to me, verily it shall be

heard." Believers do not think how pleasing to the Lord,

large and high thoughts of the sufficiency, fulness, and

freedom of the grace that is in Jesus Christ, are. Believers

should devise liberal things, and by liberal things they shall

stand (Isa 32:8). Let a believer ask, and think on the

warrant of the promise, as much as he can; the Lord is able

to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,

according to the power that worketh in us. Unto him be,

glory in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages,

world without end. Amen. (Eph 3:20,21).

 

SERMON V

Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of

need.

HEAD III. The third thing follows to be spoke to, the

ground of this boldness, implied in this therefore. And we

must look back to verses 14, 15 for the finding the force of

this therefore. The words are, Seeing then that we have a

great High priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the

Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not

an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of

our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are,

yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly, &c.

The doctrine I am to handle from this inference of the

apostle is this.

DOCT. That the main ground of all the boldness allowed in

coming to the throne of grace, is in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The interest, and room, and place, that Christ hath in this

throne of grace, is the ground of all allowed boldness in

coming to it. When people are secure, nothing is more

commonly practised by them, than fearless rushing into

God’s presence. Any carnal careless sinner can, when he

will, bow the knee, and make that he calls a prayer to God.

But when conscience is awakened, and light darts in to

make them know somewhat of God, and of themselves, it is

then found a matter of wonderful mystery and difficulty, to

perceive any thing that can justly and sufficiently support

the confidence of a self-condemned sinner, in his

approaches to God for mercy. Hence it is so often seen, that

this is the common way of all the ungodly, and of such as

are ignorant of God in Christ. While they are secure, and

blind, and hardened, they feel nothing, and fear nothing:

but when death and judgment approach, and stare them

near in the face; and when they begin to think in earnest,

that they must stand before God, and receive their eternal

doom, being ignorant of a Mediator, and quite estranged

from any believing employing of him, they sink in

discouragement and despair. And, alas! how many

miserable sinners are there, that are never awakened out of

the sleep of security, until they are plunged in the very pit

of despair?

The resolution therefore of this question, How a sinner may

draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, so as he

may be welcomed by him that sitteth on it, and may receive

good things thence? is only in this, that this boldness is all

in and by Jesus Christ. My work therefore at this time (and

it is indeed the main work of ministers at all times) is, to

declare and shew you, how our Lord Jesus Christ is the

ground and foundation of true confidence in coming to

God. And herein I would lead you to such things that

concern the Lord Jesus as are commonly known, usually

talked of, but rarely duly pondered and improved.

1. Let us consider the person of this Mediator by whom we

may have access with boldness (Eph 3:12). A wonderful

person! the Son of God made man; a marvellous man; by

whom all men may be accepted with God, when there is not

a man in the world that can be accepted of God in his own

name: yet all that come in Christ’s name are accepted. Our

Lord Jesus Christ is God’s own Son, the Son of God

tabernacling in the flesh; God manifest in the flesh; the

brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of

his person (Heb 1:3). There is one God, and one Mediator

between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave

himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time (1 Tim

2:6,7). In due time it will be seen, what this ransom was

paid for, and for whom: for every one of the ransomed shall

get their liberty and inheritance in God’s time and way.

People commonly profess the faith of this truth, That our

Mediator is God and man. But how little is it improved by

faith? We do not consider him, how great a person he is,

and how fit for us (Heb 3:1,2). Such as have any serious

thoughts of God, and of themselves (and they are in a

forlorn state that have none), find a necessity of a Mediator,

when they consider the strictness of his justice, the power

of his wrath, the perfect purity and holiness of his nature,

compared with the sinfulness and vileness of their own

nature, hearts, and lives. But there is another deeper

thought of God, that will discover as great necessity of a

Mediator; and that is of his greatness. With God is terrible

majesty; with God is unsearchable glory. How can there be

a bold and acceptable approach to him of whom we cannot

frame a right suitable thought? How is it avoidable, but that

all our worship must be to an unknown God? for no man

hath seen God at any time (John 1:18). Here comes in the

Mediator Jesus Christ; who is not only a screen betwixt

justice and us, but is a glass wherein we may behold the

glory of God. This glory is only to be beheld in the face or

person of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). All other views of

God’s glory are either confounding, or but vain

unprofitable notions. All the speculations of the Pagans,

that polished the dim light of nature; and all the curious

studies of some called Christians, about the nature, being,

properties, and attributes of God, are nothing but pretty

pieces of philosophy. There is nothing of sound theology in

those thoughts, unless they be all stinted, limited, directed

to, and determined by that discovery that God makes of

himself to us in and by his Son Jesus Christ. The mediation

then of Jesus Christ, is not only an argument which, and on

which we may plead with God; but it is the mean by which

only we must approach to God, and the light wherein we

see, and know savingly the God we worship. He knew the

way best, who is the way to the Father, and said, No man

cometh to the Father but by me; and did answer Philip’s

weighty and very natural desire, Shew us the Father, and it

sufficeth, thus, Have I been so long time with you, and yet

hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me, hath

seen the Father: and how sayest thou, Shew us the Father?

(John 14:6-9). They all worship an idol, or wander in a

perfect maze and labyrinth, that seek God out of Jesus

Christ. No where else is he to be sought or found, but as a

consuming fire. God of old put his name at Jerusalem; to it

they must come with their solemn sacrifices; when afar off,

they must look to it, as Daniel 6:10. When they are bid

remember the Lord afar off, it is added, and let Jerusalem

come into your mind (Jer 51:50). Now, Jerusalem, temple,

altar, holy of holies, mercy seat, priests, sacrifices, &c.

were all but shadows of Jesus Christ. Under the New

Testament, when Christ is come, the name of God is in

him, and all the worship and approaches are to be made to

God dwelling in this true tabernacle which the Lord

pitched, and not man (Heb 8:2).

2. Let us consider our Lord’s office of High Priest. So the

apostle calls him our great High Priest, and we have him (v

14). This is a great ground of boldness in dealing with God,

that we have Christ for a High Priest. He was of God’s own

choosing and calling. He is not of our choosing, but he is

for our using. Should that man be called a Christian, who

hath no use for this great High Priest? High priests were

taken from among men, and ordained from men in things

pertaining to God (Heb 5:1). Consider the honour of this

office to Christ, and its usefulness to his people. He

glorified not himself to be made an High Priest; but he that

said to him (v 5). Christ’s offices of King and Prophet carry

visible plain glory in them. But to be made an High Priest,

especially when he is to be both priest, altar, and sacrifice,

seems to have no glory, but abasement. But if we look to

the inside of this office, it excels in glory. What

inconceivable glory is it to Christ, to be the reconciler of all

things, to take up so honourably the grand quarrel betwixt

angry heaven and sinful earth, to purge our sins by the

sacrifice of himself, and then sit down at the right hand of

the Majesty on high? (Heb 1:3); to offer a sacrifice, in the

virtue whereof an innumerable company, out of all nations,

tongues, and languages, are redeemed, and justified, and

glorified: for which he shall be eternally praised in heaven,

by all the happy inhabitants of that blessed place! (Rev

5:9). As for the usefulness of this office to his people, I

shall only name two things. 1. In this office he manageth all

our business with God; such as we could never have done

ourselves; and must be eternally undone, if it were not done

for us; to satisfy justice, fulfil the law, and bring us in a

sure title to the inheritance of heaven. 2. By him we offer

all our spiritual services, and have them presented by him

for acceptance (Heb 13:15). We must do all in his name

(Col 3:17).

3. Let us consider what our Lord did when he was on earth,

and thence we have great ground for confidence in coming

to the throne of grace. This the apostle hath in his eye (v

15; 5:7). Two things I would take some notice of on this

point. 1. He had the same things for substance as errands to

the throne of grace that we have. 2. That he did ply the

throne of grace as we should. Only permitting this, that

there is but a likeness in what he did, to what we should do

at the throne of grace: and that likeness consistent with

manifold differences, as we shall regard.

1st, Our Lord Jesus Christ had the same things, and the

chief of them, that are to us errands to the throne of grace. I

shall instance in some of them, and answer an objection.

(1.) Our Lord had affliction for an errand, and more of it

than any of his people. He was afflicted; yea, smitten of

God and afflicted (Isa 53:4), He was oppressed and

afflicted (v 7), If any man be afflicted, let him pray (James

5:13). When Christ was afflicted, he prays.

(2.) Our Lord was deserted. Blessed be his name for it. We

should rejoice, that he had not a life without clouds. The

bitterest and saddest desertion that ever a believer was

under, is nothing to what Christ met with, when he cried

out, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? None

are so much to be pitied as a saint under desertion. When

affliction is heavy and pressing, if all be clear above,

though there be clouds round about, yet if the Lord smile

from heaven, a Christian’s case is not much to be pitied.

But if all be dark about, and the darkest of all clouds on the

amiable face of God, this is the extremity our Lord was in.

Yet he prayed, and in his agony prayed yet more fervently.

Deserted believers, take comfort in a deserted Saviour. His

desertion was penal, yours but medicinal. Though it be

bitter physic, it is of the great Physician’s prescription; and

he can and will bless it, and make you bless him, both for

the physic and the cure.

(3.) Christ had temptation as an errand to his Father: In all

points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (v 15). O that

Christians would learn to behave themselves under

temptation, in some measure, as Christ did! Temptation to

Christ was a far other thing than it is to us. Temptation is

bad to us, because of the danger of it; therefore he bids us,

Watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation (Matt

26:42) when he was in the depth of his agony. But

temptation to Christ was a mere affliction. There were

never but two sinless men in the world, the first and second

Adam. Satan came to both. When he came to the first

Adam, he found nothing of his own in him; but he quickly

got somewhat put in him, and left it with him, and in him

and all his posterity. When he came to the second Adam, he

found nothing in him, and could put nothing in him by

temptation (John 14:30). The holier a saint be, and the more

gross the sin be he is tempted to, and the more hatred he

have of the sin, the greater is his trouble in and by the

temptation. What affliction then must it have been to Christ

to be so tempted as he was? (Matt 4).

(4.) Our Lord had the charge and burden of sin on his soul,

not upon his conscience: The Lord laid on him the iniquity

of us all (Isa 53:6). And was not that a mighty load? Sense

of sin is the greatest discouragement to believers. But never

was there a man out of hell, or in it, that had such a load of

sin on him as Christ had. His own self bare our sins in his

own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). Law and justice

charged Christ severely; and exacted more of him, than

ever they did of any other person. None but Christ was

made sin (2 Cor 5:21). Men are sinners by nature, and

increase their sinfulness by their life; and an inexhaustible

fountain of sin is in their heart (Eccl 9:3). But none of them

is, or can be made sin. He only that knew no sin, was made

sin. And because he was made sin for us, he was also made

a curse for us (Gal 3:13). The law curseth the sinner, but

cannot make a sinner a curse for others: it can, and doth

make him accursed, and a curse for himself. Here is

heaven’s art: all the righteousness we are made, flows from

Christ’s being made sin for us; all the blessing we get,

springs out of Christ’s being made a curse for us.

Believers, learn where to seek and find true righteousness,

and the true blessing. In vain are they sought any where but

in Christ, and in his being thus made sin, and a curse for

us. The Lord Jehovah charged Christ with the debt of his

people’s sins, and he could not deny the debt. Though he

contracted none of it, yet he undertook as surety to answer

for it, and to discharge and pay it. Therefore the law and

justice exacted it of him, abated him nothing. Because the

law will have blood and life for sin, Christ offers, and gives

his. Our Lord Jesus had no challenges in, nor burden upon

his conscience; yet he had a heavy burden upon his soul:

therefore he had a troubled soul (John 12:27) though a

quiet conscience. For trouble of conscience properly flows

from the sight and sense of committed sin; but Christ’s

trouble of soul was from the sense of wrath, for the charged

and imputed sins of others.

Object. But, may a poor believer say, Christ knew not what

a body of sin and death was, he knew not what a bad heart

is; and these I feel, and am discouraged by.

Answ. Christ did not know these things indeed by feeling

and experience as you do; but he knew them better than

you do, or can. 1. Christ knew them by the wrath due to

them. He that paid the debt, knew best the debt that was

contracted, though he himself did not contract it. He knew

how dear the expiation was for the sin of your heart and

nature. 2. Christ knew it by temptation. Temptation brought

sin as near to Christ, as it was possible it could be brought

to a sinless man. Some saints know some sins only this

way. There are several acts of wickedness that the Lord

restrains his people from, before their conversion

sometimes, and usually after it. Those sins they know not

by the committing of them, nor it may be by any special

inclination to them; yet they may know them to be dreadful

evils, by an external temptation to them, and by the sight of

their sin and misery that wallow in them.

2dly, As our Lord Jesus Christ had many errands to the

throne of grace, so he did ply that throne. Our Saviour was

a praying Saviour. He spent whole nights in prayer to God

his Father. As he was, so should we be in the world (1 John

4:17). Are we afflicted, and should we pray? So afflicted

Jesus prays. Is our soul troubled, and do we pray? So Christ

did (John 12:27). Are we deserted, and pray? So did our

Lord. But here is a depth too deep for us to wade in; how

our elder brother, how God’s own Son in man’s nature, did

plead at the throne of grace. This throne he plied, was not

the same we come to. To us he sits on the throne himself,

and therefore it is a throne of grace to us. We approach to

God in Christ, and in Christ’s name. Christ came in his own

name, and needed no mediator. We find he came to his

Father frequently, earnestly, and confidently. The church of

Christ owe him eternal praises for that prayer (John 17),

which is only properly Christ’s prayer. That in Matthew

6:9-13 is a pattern of our prayer taught us by Christ: but

this is the prayer made by Christ; and therefore truly the

Lord’s prayer. Of Christ’s praying the apostle speaks, (Heb

5:7) Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up

prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears,

unto him that was able to save him from death, and was

heard, in that he feared. This is a great word. When a poor

believer is hanging over hell, and a spirit of prayer working

in him, how mightily doth he cry to be saved from that

death? "O let me not fall in: if ever thou hadst mercy on a

sinking soul, save me." But never did a distressed believer

cry so mightily to be saved from hell, as Christ did to be

saved from death. But that death Christ prayed against, was

another sort of death than we know, or can fully apprehend.

Christ prayed with great fervency, and with great

confidence. We rarely have them joined in our prayers. If

we have confidence of a good issue, we are apt to grow

cold in asking. Christ knew the blessed issue of all his

distress, and believed it confidently (Isa 50:7-9), yet prayed

earnestly. He was heard, and knew it: (John 11:41,42)

Father, I thank thee, that thou hast heard me. And I know

that thou hearest me always. Christians, take

encouragement and direction to pray, and how to pray, by

Christ’s practice when he was on earth.

4. Let us consider Christ’s death for encouraging us to

confidence in coming to the throne of grace. This is the

main ground of boldness in coming: (Heb 10:19) Having

boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.

There is precious blood must be shed, or we cannot enter;

we must see it by faith, or we dare not venture. We must

come to the blood of sprinkling (Heb 12:24). We dare not

step one step into God’s awful presence, unless we see the

way marked, consecrated, and sprinkled with the

Mediator’s blood. How shall the unholiest of sinners

venture to come into the holiest of all, God’s presence?

Yes, saith the Holy Ghost, such may, by the blood of Jesus.

Let us therefore consider what this blood of Christ doth,

and speaks, in order to our boldness in approaching to the

throne of grace.

1st, This blood satisfies justice, and answers all the claims

and charges of the law against us. What mars boldness, like

fears of a standing controversy betwixt heaven and us! God

is holy, we are vile sinners; God’s law is strict, we have

sinfully broke it, and deserve hell most justly. No answer

can be given, but by this blood. What would the law have,

but Christ gave? Would the law have a sinless man to

answer it, as it was first given to sinless Adam? Lo, I come,

saith our Lord Jesus, without all sin; a man against whom,

for himself, the law hath no charge or challenge. Would the

law have perfect sinless obedience? Christ did perform it.

Must the law have life and blood for every breach of it?

Christ never broke the law; but the burden of millions of

breakers, and breaches of it lay on him, and his blood was

shed for them: and thereby he fulfilled the law, put away

sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb 9:26); finished the

transgression, made an end of sin, made reconciliation for

iniquity, brought in everlasting righteousness, sealed up the

vision and prophecy, and anointed the most holy (Dan

9:24). You can never have boldness at the throne of grace,

unless by faith you apply this blood. Christ is set forth to be

a propitiation, through faith in his blood (Rom 3:25). The

propitiation is in his blood; faith in it makes it our

propitiation.

2dly, This blood, as it is satisfying blood, so it is

purchasing blood. It is both an atonement and satisfaction,

and it is a price. It is redeeming blood for persons, and

purchasing blood for blessings. All the blessings we come

to the throne of grace for, are all bought by this blood. So

that we may say, that though we have nothing, and deserve

nothing; yet when we ask all things, we ask nothing but

what is well and truly paid for by our Lord Jesus.

3dly, All the blessings purchased and bought by Christ’s

blood, are bequeathed to us, and left, by him that shed it.

Christ’s blood is a testamentary bequeathing blood: and

believers in their coming to the throne of grace may come

as suers for the execution and fulfilment of the last will and

testament of our Lord Jesus. For Christ by his death turned

the gospel and new covenant into a testament (Heb 9:15-

17). His death confirms his testament. His last will is, that

all the blessings his blood purchased, might be secured and

laid up for, and in due time given forth to them they were

purchased for, and bequeathed to. The whole legacy of

grace and glory, and all the legatees, are and were well

known to the testator and executor, (though not to us

particularly); and the testament will be punctually fulfilled.

So much for the assistance to faith that Christ’s death

affords. Learn to feed on it. He that cannot make a soul

meal, and take a soul fill of a slain Saviour, is a sorry

Christian. A true Christian is a poor starving sinner,

digging in Christ’s grave for eternal life. There it only is,

and there he surely finds it.

5. We find further in our Lord Jesus, (and indeed every

thing in and of him helps forward our confidence in coming

to God), that this great person the Son of God in our nature,

this great officer that lived so holily, and died so virtuously,

that he also rose again from the dead. The resurrection of

our Lord is also a mighty ground of boldness: (1 Peter 1:3)

Blessed be the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus

Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath

begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of

Jesus Christ from the dead. If Christ had lain still in his

grave, our hope had lain there too; but because he rose, our

hope also riseth with him. So 1 Peter 3:21 where the apostle

hath an elegant similitude. He compares Christ to the ark of

Noah. All that were in this ark, were saved, and they only;

the deluge drowned all the world besides. They that were

saved in the ark, were saved from drowning in the water,

and were saved by water. The like figure whereunto,

baptism, now saveth us, (Will bare water baptism save? No:

Not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of

a good conscience towards God), by the resurrection of

Jesus Christ. As if the apostle had said, "He that by faith

hath sucked in the virtue of Christ’s resurrection, and can

by that faith plead it before God, is a saved man. If all the

world perish in the deluge of God’s wrath, this man is in

the ark, and nothing shall hurt him." But, alas! Christ’s

resurrection is looked upon by many professors as a part of

gospel history and truth, that it is a shame for any to be

ignorant or doubt of; and therefore they profess the faith of

it. But they consider not, that a great part of the food of our

souls, and of our faith, doth lie in this point of truth. This I

would shew in three things.

1st, Christ’s resurrection was a demonstration of the divine

dignity of his person: (Rom 1:4) He was declared to be the

Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness,

by the resurrection from the dead. The glorious rays of his

Godhead did appear in his word and works; and some had

eyes to behold his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of

the Father, full of grace and truth, even when he dwelt

among men (John 1:14). But his glory was under an eclipse

till his resurrection. How stately and how sweetly doth he

himself express it! (Rev 1:17,18) I am the first and the last,

(high names of a divine eternal person): I am he that liveth,

and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen.

They that saw him dead, could hardly believe he should

ever live again; and they that saw him alive, had need of

faith to believe he had ever been dead. He asserts both, and

we should believe both. Since death entered into the world

by sin, never was there a man more truly, really, and fully

dead, than the man Christ was, who died for our sins: and

there is no man on earth more truly alive, than the man

Christ is now a living man in heaven. He in his rising gave

proof of his divine power. He was crucified through

weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God (2 Cor 13:4).

There was never such an appearance of weakness in the

man Jesus, as when he expired, and lay cold dead in his

grave. Never did sin reign so unto death, nor the law’s

power more appear, than in slaying the second Adam. As

great, and greater, was the appearance of his divine power

in his rising again: (John 10:17) Therefore doth my Father

love me, because I lay down my life that I may take it

again. Christ died that he might rise again. He went

amongst the dead that he might rise from the dead: (v 18)

No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself: I

have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it

again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

Christ was bid both die and rise again. Blessed be the

commander, and blessed be the obeyer; for our everlasting

life is in this commandment (John 12:50). Never any but

Christ had this power of his own life. We must yield our

life when God calls for it, and till then we must keep it; and

when that call comes, we must obey. We die, because we

can live no longer, and because our times are in God’s

hand. And when it shall please the Lord to raise up our

bodies at the resurrection, we receive our life again; but

have no power to take it up again, till the powerful word of

Christ come, Arise from your graves; and that word gives

us our life again. None but Christ had power of his own

life, both to lay it down, and to take it again. We dare, we

can, we should do neither; but only obey, and submit to the

sovereign will of our high landlord, at whose pleasure we

are tenants in these clay cottages.

2dly, Christ’s resurrection was a demonstration of the

acceptance of the sacrifice of himself; that the blood he

shed, and sacrifice he offered, was savoury, and acceptable

with God; that the debt was fully paid, and the payment

accepted, when the surety was discharged of his prison.

Therefore we find it so often written, that God raised him

from the dead (Acts 2:24,32), even when it is said, that it

was not possible that he should be holden of death. Death

and the grave are strong and cruel (Song 8:6). They have

taken, or will take all mankind prisoners, and are able to

keep them; only they took one prisoner, Jesus Christ, who

was too hard, too strong, for them. Death had dominion

over him but for a little while, and by his own consent

(Rom 7:9); but it hath no more dominion over him. But he

hath dominion over it: I have the keys of hell and of death

(Rev 1:18). Courage, believers in, and heart-lovers of Jesus

Christ! Death and hell are indeed dreadful jails; but as long

as Christ keeps the keys, (and that will be till he cast them

both into the lake of fire, Rev 20:14), no believer shall ever

be locked up in them. If hell were searched never so

narrowly, amongst all the condemned prisoners there, no

man or woman could be found in it, in whose heart there

was ever one spark of true faith in, or love to the Lord

Jesus, (Heb 13:20) God brought again from the dead, the

great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the

everlasting covenant. Christ is also often said to rise by his

own power. Christ put forth his divine power in his

resurrection: the Father declared his full satisfaction with

his undertaking of the work, and payment of the price of

redemption, by discharging of him in, and by his

resurrection. The angels’ work was only to roll away the

stone; but by his own divine power, his blessed soul did

take possession of his dead body; and he did rise up

immediately, a truly living man. And this he did by his

Father’s leave and will; and the angels served only as

sergeants and officers, to unlock the prison doors of the

grave: for Christ could easily have removed the stone by

his own power, as he did greater things in his resurrection.

No wonder the apostle Paul made it one of his great aims in

Christianity, to know the power of Christ’s resurrection

(Phil 3:10). It is not to know the history of his resurrection,

nor is it to know the mystery of his resurrection, but it is to

know the power of it. The same power that Christ raised

himself from the dead by, is put forth, (and no less is

needful) for the raising of a dead sinner. The same power

that raised the Saviour, dead for sin, is needful for raising a

sinner dead in sin: (Rom 6:4) Therefore we are buried with

him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised

from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should

also walk in newness of life (Eph 1:19). There is an

exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe,

according to the working of his mighty power, which he

wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, &c.

How loth are men to admit this, that the saving quickening

of a sinner requires the same divine power that quickened

the dead Saviour? All saving conversions are the fruits of

Christ’s resurrection, and of almighty power.

3dly, Christ’s resurrection is the pledge and earnest of our

resurrection, and of eternal life. How great things doth Paul

build upon it! (1 Cor 15). He proves our resurrection from

Christ’s resurrection. He argues for Christ’s resurrection,

by enumerating of absurdities that must follow on the

contrary; as, (v 14) If Christ be not risen, then is our

preaching vain, and your faith is also vain, (v 15) We (the

apostles) are found false witnesses of God, (v 17) Ye are yet

in your sins, (v 18) Then they also which are fallen asleep

in Christ, are perished, (v 19) We are of all men most

miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and

become the first fruits of them that slept, (v 20) For since

by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of

the dead. The first Adam was made a living soul (v 45). But

when he became a sinner, he became a killing head to all

his posterity, (Rom 5:12) The second Adam is a quickening

Spirit, and gives eternal life to all his seed. And he took

possession of this eternal life in his human nature, and in

our stead, at his resurrection. He conquers and subdues that

death the first Adam brought in, and reigns over it by his

grace (Rom 5:21). Christians, would you aspire after the

resurrection of the dead, as Paul did? (Phil 3:11) direct all

your aims, build all your hopes on Christ’s resurrection:

Because I live, ye shall live also (John 14:19). This living

head will in a little time have no dead members; with his

dead body shall they arise (Isa 26:19).

6. Christ’s ascension into heaven, is a ground of boldness in

coming to the throne of grace. So in the context, (v 14) He

is passed into the heavens. This is great ground of faith,

that Christ is in heaven, and for us hath entered within the

vail (Heb 6:20). How dare a sinful man adventure into

God’s presence? Because there is a sinless man there, that

went thither on purpose to mind our business, who are on

earth. No man ever went thus into heaven, and on this

errand, but our High Priest (John 3:13). All others go

thither to get for themselves: Christ ascended to get, and to

give (Psa 68:18; Eph 4:8). How kindly did our Lord deal

with his disciples about this, and how hardly were they

persuaded to submit to his going away? He told them

whither he was going, and for what; he told them of his

returning again, and receiving them to himself, never to

part more (John 14:2-4), and yet sorrow filled their hearts

(16:6). He again saith, (v 7) Nevertheless, it is expedient for

you that I go away. If you will not be content, because it is

necessary and fit for me, I tell you the truth, it is expedient

for you that I go away. How hard was it to believe this?

What was, to all reason, more expedient, yea necessary,

than that such weak scholars should have their blessed

Master’s company? It was so far from seeming expedient to

them, that they thought they would be ruined thereby; and

were very near it (Luke 24:21). Although the matter be not

so obvious to our conceptions and liking: yet really it is a

greater mercy and advantage to us, that we have our

glorified Mediator at the Father’s right hand, than if we had

him present with us upon the earth. It is more expedient for

us, that he is where he is, than it would be to have him

where we are. Poor distressed believers, they cry for

ministers and Christians to pray with them, and for them: O

if they had but one hour of Christ’s bodily presence with

them, and had him to pray for them, as he did for some

when he was on earth, what heavenly consolation would it

be to them? Take in by faith the comfort of his being in

heaven, and his being as knowing and mindful of you, and

as able to help, and that as speedily, as he was on earth, or

could be, if he were now on earth with you.

7. Lastly, Our Lord’s intercession in heaven, is a great and

strong ground of confidence in coming to the throne of

grace. This is in the context. This is the last ground of

Paul’s triumph of faith: (Rom 8:33,34) Who shall lay any

thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth:

Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea,

rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of

God, who also maketh intercession for us. His faith begins

at Christ’s death, and riseth out of his grave with him,

ascends up with him to the right hand of God, and concerns

itself in his intercession there. Not unlike this rising and

climbing of faith, is his account of the rising of grace on the

vessels of grace (Eph 2:4,5). They are dead in sins when

grace finds them first. The first thing grace doth to them, is,

to quicken them with Christ, then raising them up together,

then setting them in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. All

our life springs out of Christ’s grave: (John 12:24) Verily,

verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the

ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth

forth much fruit. This heavenly grain, Jesus Christ, must be

sown in the earth and die; and from the virtue of that death,

all the life of grace and glory grows up in all its branches.

He is indeed the tree of life, that now groweth in the midst

of the paradise of God (Rev 2:7). And he is the glory of the

place, and the eternal food of all the happy inhabitants

thereof. But he was once dead in his grave; and grew out of

that grave, up to all that glory and dignity that we shall one

day be blessed with the beholding of (John 17:24). In this

his glory in heaven, he intercedes for us. Intercession is a

sort of praying, (1 Tim 2:1) Supplications, prayers,

intercessions, and giving of thanks, are commanded to be

made for all men. We have one sad intercession, (Rom

11:2) Elias made intercession to God against Israel. He

was a severe prophet, and had severe service put into his

hand. But our great Prophet and High Priest makes no

intercession against his Israel, but all for them.

This intercession of Christ, which is so great a ground of

boldness to us at the throne of grace, stands in these:

1st, In his appearing in heaven, in our nature, and in our

name before God: (Heb 9:24) For Christ is not entered into

the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of

the true, (and those were the places the high priests of old

entered into), but into heaven itself, now to appear in the

presence of God for us. He is there, not only for himself, to

reap the glorious fruit of his hard work on earth; but for his

people, as their head and representative. All the church, the

body, is now in heaven itself, because its head is there (Eph

2:5,6). Christians, you are now lying among the pots, and

defiled with the smoke and soot of this sinful world; you

are sometimes plunged in the ditch, till your own clothes

abhor you, as Job speaks (9:31); you cry out, Wo is me, that

I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar (Psa

120:5). Let faith say, "But where is my Lord and head? Is

he not in heaven? in that glory that I am not able now to

bear a view of? And he is appearing there, as my nearest

and dearest friend. I am ashamed to look on myself, and my

loathsome deformity; I am afraid that so foul and spotted a

face as mine should be seen in heaven. But Christ is there,

and my Christ is there; and there he is to appear for me,

who must dread my personal appearance there, if it were

not for this appearance of my head for me."

2dly, Christ’s intercession stands in this, That he, in our

nature, and in our name, presents continually the savour of

his sacrifice: (Heb 9:12) He went into the holy place, not

with the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood,

having obtained eternal redemption for us. Aaron, and his

successors in the office of high priest, were appointed to

offer the great sacrifice of yearly atonement at the altar, and

with the blood thereof to enter into the holy of holies, and

to sprinkle the mercy seat (their throne of grace) with that

blood (Lev 16:14). Our Lord Jesus, the antitype, offered the

sacrifice of himself in his death; and, in and with the virtue

of that sacrifice, he entered heaven, to sprinkle the highest

altar therewith. It is but a fond Popish fancy to think, that

there do remain visible marks and signatures of his

humbled state, on the glorified body of our Lord Jesus.

That is indeed to know Christ after the flesh, in a bad sense

(2 Cor 5:16). But his entering with his own blood, is

spiritually to be understood; that Christ’s appearance in

heaven, is to bring up a memorial continually before God,

of the virtue and savour of that sacrifice he offered without

the gates of Jerusalem: (Eph 5:2) Christ hath loved us, and

hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God

for a sweet smelling savour. This savour never spends or

wears out. The blood of Jesus, in the virtue of it, in the

merit of it, and in the power of it, is as fresh this day, as in

the day it was shed on the cross. He is still the new slain

way to the holiest of all (Heb 10:20), as fresh and fragrant

as ever. If men by their unbelief account it old or stale, and

to have lost its savour and virtue to themselves; and if they

will seek for somewhat else to procure them acceptance in

heaven; let them try, and perish; for none can help them

that reject Christ. But our Lord presents nothing for the

salvation of his body, the church, but his own blood; and

nothing else is accepted in heaven for this end, but that

precious blood. And all they to whose conscience this

blood is applied, and who come into it, and feel its virtue

and power, will abhor all vain and dangerous mixtures of

any thing with this sovereign balsam. It is always savoury

in heaven; and it is always savoury to all them that are in

the right way to heaven. Our Lord, in his intercession, fills

heaven with the almighty and eternal savour of his blood;

and heaven is filled with the praises of it, and of the

shedder of it (Rev 5:9-12). If its savour do not fill the parts

of the earth where it is preached, it is because men have

lost, (or rather never had) the spiritual sense that only can

take in this savour, and not because this blood is impaired

in its virtue. But this is the sin and misery of this

condemned world, that what is most savoury in heaven, is

least savoured on earth; and what is most sought after,

prized, and doted on in earth, is vanity and abomination in

heaven (Luke 16:15).

3dly, In Christ’s intercession, there is his knowledge of,

and sympathy with the ailments and distresses of his

people. This the apostle takes notice of in verse 15. His

knowledge of their distresses, we can more easily account

for, than for his sympathy. His omniscience as God, we

believe. Peter sweetly owned it (John 21:15-17). O that

Christ would with power ask the same question at all of

you, and that you could give the same answer! Christ’s

question is, Lovest thou me more than these? "Not long

since thou saidst so, what sayest thou now?" Peter’s answer

is, Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. And on the

repeating of the question, Peter gives the same answer (v

16). When Christ a third time asked the same question,

Peter was grieved (v 17), and answers, Thou knowest all

things, thou knowest that I love thee. As if he had said, "I

dare not compare my love to thee, with that of others to

thee; thou hast reason to question my love to thee, because

of my late woeful denial of thee: but yet I dare call thee to

witness, who knowest all things, that I do love thee.

Though all my brethren love thee better than I do, or can;

though I be more unworthy than any, to be loved by thee;

yet I am sure I love thee." If the love of Christ were as a hot

fire within, and its coals were casting out a vehement

flame, as Song 8:6, believers would more often call Christ

by that sweet name, sweet to us to speak, and sweet to him

to hear, O thou whom my soul loveth (Song 1:7). Miserable

souls are they who love not Christ; and dull unobservant

people are they that know not what, or whom their souls

love. Is the love of Christ a mere notion? Is it not a most

sensible, holy, and spiritual passion, or rather a heavenly

grace! Can men love Christ, and not feel it? Should they

feel it, and not avow it? Is there any thing we should be

ashamed of in the love of Christ, but the shameful

smallness of it? that our highest and hottest love is so

unsuitable a return to his incomparable loveliness, and his

wonderful love to us, and the dear demonstrations of it? All

ye that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, look on him,

and love him more; love him with all your souls, and blush

with shame that ye love him no better. Blow the coals of

love by faith, and let the flame mount up to heaven, and

ascend ye in the flame of the altar, as Manoah’s angel did

(Judg 13:20). You that doubt of your love to Christ, go to

him, fall down before him; answer Peter’s question,

according to the true sense of your souls, and it will be,

Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. Love Christ, and ye

will quickly feel ye love him. A sight of Christ will beget

love, and love will quickly speak for itself (2 Cor 5:14,15).

But for Christ’s sympathy with his people, this is harder to

conceive, than his knowledge of their distresses. It is a

sympathy different from what he had in the days of his own

infirmity. It is as tender, but not disturbing; as real, but not

afflicting. It is inconsistent with his glorified state, to have

any trouble. His sympathy itself is to be believed: the

manner how it acts, is unsearchable: (Heb 2:17) In all

things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren;

that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, in

things pertaining to God, (Heb 4:15) He is touched with the

feeling of our infirmities; and was in all points tempted like

as we are, yet without sin. About this deep point of Christ’s

sympathy we may soberly conceive, 1. Our Lord’s

remembrance of his own infirmities, temptations, and

afflictions in the days of his flesh. This is plain and certain.

2. His sure and distinct particular knowledge and

remembrance of his people, and of all that concerns them,

within and without. 3. His interest in them, and care of

them, and concern for them, as his members. 4. His power

and wisdom as their head, to send down vital influences

upon them, as their case requires (Eph 4:16; Col 2:19).

4thly, lastly, Christ’s intercession stands in presenting his

people, and their desires and wants, to the Father, for

acceptance, and answers of peace. Both our persons and

our prayers must be presented by this great High Priest, set

over the house of God (Heb 10:21), or no welcome, no

acceptance. An Israelite, though he brought, might not offer

the sacrifice on the altar; only the priest; and the high priest

only must offer the great sacrifice for all Israel in the day of

atonement. Christians must bring themselves (Rom 12:1),

and all their spiritual sacrifices; but Christ must present

them, and we only by him (Heb 13:15). What a mighty

encouragement is there in this for faith? Our High Priest

makes another thing of our sacrifices than we can.

Believers often know not rightly their own case; Christ

knows it exactly. Many of our prayers are mere mistakes.

We complain, when we should praise; we ask what would

do us hurt, and are unwilling to receive what would do us

much good. Our Lord Jesus puts all to rights. He can say

over our prayers rightly, he can make good sense of them,

can purge them of their faults, can spy out any thing of his

own Spirit in them, and, lastly, adds his own incense to

them (Rev 8:3). And thus are they accepted. We may best

understand Christ’s heart and work in intercession, by John

17 wherein we find three.

(1.) Christ conceals all the faults and weakness of his

people. Not a word of these in all that prayer, and they were

guilty of a great many. (2.) He tells all their good, and

makes much of it; (vv 6-8) I have given unto them the

words which thou gavest me: and they have received them,

and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they

have believed that thou didst send me. He knew, and

reproved them for the weakness and staggering of their

faith; he foretold an approaching trial, and their fainting in

it (John 16:31,32); yet he knew they were true believers;

and he makes much of it in his prayer: as again, verses 14,

25. (3.) Christ declares fully their necessity, and begs

supply for them. No Christian needs any more than a full

answer of this prayer of Christ; and it was put up for all his

body, and will be answered as to every member of it.

Whenever you are upon your knees at the footstool,

remember who is at the throne above, and what his

business is there. Footstool supplications of believers

would be all quite lost, if it were not for the Saviour’s

intercession at the throne (Heb 8:1). Our High Priest is set

on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the

heavens. And he ever liveth to make intercession for us

(Heb 7:25). This is the end of his living in heaven, to make

intercession for us. Take heed, and mind Christ much in

your prayers; and never fear his forgetting you. Shall Christ

live for ever to make intercession for you? and will you live

all your days without making use of him as an intercessor?

Alas! that Christ in heaven gets so little employment from

believers on earth! He seeks your employment, he loves it,

and loves them best that give him most of it. He undertakes

for every thing put in his hand, and in due time will give

you a good account of all you intrust him with, and make

you say, He hath done all things well (Mark 7:37).

APPLICATION. Is all the ground of confidence at the

throne of grace, laid in Jesus Christ our High Priest? Build

then your confidence on this safe and sure ground. Not only

may you lawfully make use of Christ’s mediation, but you

must do it. It is not only a privilege the Lord allows you to

make use of, but it is his command, and your duty to use it.

You are commanded to come to the throne of grace, and

commanded also to come in Christ’s name, and to come

boldly in this name. The neglect of either of these is sin.

Not to come to the throne of grace when he calls, is a great

sin. To come to it (or rather to pretend to come) in any

other name but Christ’s, is a great sin too. And to come in

this name diffidently, is to reflect unworthily on Jesus

Christ, and the power and virtue of his mighty name: (John

14:13,14) Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I

do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall

ask any thing in my name, I will do it. Can a man desire a

larger promise than this? Can one desire a stronger plea

than Christ’s name, and a better hand than his to have our

answers from? Be ye askers, and askers in my name, I will

be the doer. The Father’s glory in the Son, and the Son’s

glory, is concerned in giving good answers to all prayers

put up in Christ’s name. You cannot honour and please

Christ more, than in using his name confidently. All bills

with Christ’s name at them will be accepted at the throne of

grace, and will surely be answered. But coming to the

throne of grace in Christ’s name, is another thing than

commonly people take it to be. Some think it enough, that

they conclude their prayers with the words Christ taught

(Matt 6:9), but never for that use it is oft formally and

superstitiously put to. Some think, that it is only to say in

their prayers, for Christ’s sake. To ask in his name, is a

higher business, than to be reached by unbelievers, and

men void of the Spirit of God. If no man can say that Jesus

is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost (1 Cor 12:3); if praying

be required to be in the Holy Ghost (Jude 20); if praying

always with all prayer and supplication, should be in the

Spirit (Eph 6:18); how shall men call on him in whom they

have not believed? (Rom 10:14). But can you take the

searcher of hearts to witness, that you build all your hopes

of acceptance at the throne of grace, in this name and

mediation of Jesus? that you durst no more rush into God’s

awful presence, without the protection of this great name,

than you durst leap into a devouring flame? Can ye say, "I

have no name to come to God in, but Christ’s. My own

name is abominable to myself, and deservedly hateful in

heaven. No other name is given under heaven, but that of

Jesus Christ, in which a sinner may safely approach to God.

Since the Father is well pleased in this name, and the Son

commands me to use it, and the Holy Ghost hath broke this

name to me, and made it as an ointment poured forth (Song

1:3), and since its savour hath reached my soul, I will try to

lift it up as incense to perfume the altar and throne above.

Since all that ever came in this name were made welcome, I

will come also; having no plea but Christ’s name, no

covering but his borrowed and gifted robe of righteousness.

I need nothing, I will ask nothing but what his blood hath

bought, (and all that I will ask); I will expect answers of

peace and acceptance, only in that blessed Beloved;

beloved of the Father, both as his Son and our Saviour; and

beloved of all that ever saw but a little of his saving grace

and glory."

Let such go and prosper. The Lord is with you, the Lord is

before you. He will welcome the Mediator in his bringing

you to him (1 Peter 3:18), and welcome you with salvation,

who come in his name for it. The prodigal’s welcome

(Luke 15) is but a shadow of what ye shall meet with.

Christ welcomes dearly all that come to him; and the Father

welcomes the believer that cometh in Christ’s name, and is

brought in Christ’s hand, to this throne.

 

SERMON VI

Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of

need.

From this text, I have already spoken to three of the things I

did take up in it.

1. Unto the throne of grace itself, that is erected for, and

revealed to sinners in the gospel; that new court of grace,

which the Lord invites the fallen seed of Adam to come

unto.

2. I have spoke to that boldness that is allowed and

commanded in coming to it. We are not only allowed to

come, but we must come, or perish, and bring the guilt of

our own soul’s blood upon our heads, by refusing (Acts

18:6). We not only may come and try, but we may and

must come boldly and confidently, expecting to speed in

our coming.

3. I have spoke to the great ground of this confidence,

couched in the word therefore, in the text, and relating to

verses 14, 15. Were it not for Christ’s place, and business,

and heart in heaven, no man on earth could have boldness

at the throne of grace.

HEAD IV. The fourth and last thing in the verse, is, the end

we should come for, and the great blessings we may receive

by coming; expressed in two words, that we may obtain

mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. God’s mercy

and grace are the most comprising, comprehensive

blessings; and these expressions of them contain all that is

needful for our happiness. Nothing can be added to them;

no blessing but is in them; no blessing is without them. It is

the common apostolic prayer, (and such prayers made by

the penmen of the holy scripture, under the immediate

guidance of the Holy Ghost, are equivalent to divine

promises, yea are such), Grace be to you; sometimes,

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. So that these words, as

they stand in the text, do equally answer these two

inquiries:-

1. What good things shall we get at the throne of grace?

The Spirit of God answers, You may, and shall obtain

mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. And are not

these well worth coming for? are they any where else to be

had? And here they may surely be found. How should this

endear the throne of grace to us, and engage to coming to

it?

2. Wherefore should we come? with what design? what end

should be in our eye? Come, saith the Spirit, by the

apostle’s pen, that ye may obtain the one, and find the

other. Come, that you may get both. Design this getting in

your coming.

I would first speak of our coming, that we may obtain

mercy, and on it discourse of these three things:

I. Of the mercy that is to be got at the throne of grace.

II. Of the import of the phrase, obtaining of mercy.

III. Of the duty required of coming with this design, that we

may obtain this mercy.

I. I shall discourse of the mercy that is to be obtained at the

throne of grace. You see that it is only mercy that is named,

without any mention made, whose mercy it is, or of what

sort it is. But when miserable sinners are invited to come to

God’s throne of grace for mercy, it may be easily known

whose it is, and what it is. It is God’s mercy in Jesus Christ,

who is the mercy seat, or throne of grace. It is not angel-

mercy, or creature-mercy; but God’s mercy. And who can

tell what a great and vast thing his mercy is? Mercy, in the

proper notion of it, is a kind, relieving, compassion to the

miserable. The object of mercy, is a miserable creature.

Divine goodness shines in giving being to nothing, and in

creating all things; wisdom, in ordering them, and guiding

them to his glory; justice, in disposing of them according to

his will, the essential rule of righteousness. But mercy hath

no fit object, till misery appear for mercy to act on. The

shewer of mercy is a compassionate person; its nature and

end is, to relieve the miserable. Mercy with God is another

sort of mercy than what is required of, and can be practised

by creatures. We may, and should have compassion on the

miserable, whom we are not able nor allowed to relieve.

The judge that condemns the criminal, should do it with

mercy and compassion; but he breaks the law, if he suffer

his mercy to delay or divert a righteous sentence and

execution. But the Lord’s mercy is not only tenderness and

compassion in his own heart, (so we borrow words, by the

pattern of sound words in the scripture, to speak of God

after the manner of men), but it is always relieving to the

person on whom it is bestowed. Let the misery be never so

great, and of what kind soever it be; whoever they be that

are the objects of his mercy, they are certainly relieved

thereby. There is no redemption out of the pit, though their

misery that are there is the greatest. Why? Because there is

no mercy for them. If it were possible that God’s mercy in

Christ could enter into hell itself, (as it falls on many very

near to it,) that mercy would bring them out. But the door

of mercy is quite shut upon them; and the Lord hath

resolved and declared, that his mercy shall never visit them.

That we may the better understand what this mercy of God

is, the getting whereof we should make our great errand to

the throne of grace, it will be needful to consider that

misery in men that renders them needy of this mercy.

And this I would consider, as it actually lies on them, and is

incumbent; or as it is coming on them, and imminent.

1. The misery that all natural men lie under. It is true, they

do not see it, nor feel it; but this makes not their misery the

less, but the greater. For insensibleness of misery,

especially where it is removable, and when this

insensibleness is a hindrance of using the right means of

removing it, is a great plague, and an aggravation of the

misery. I shall give you a few scripture-accounts of this

misery.

1st, The misery of a natural man, and of all natural men, is,

that they are utterly destitute of all true good: In me, that is,

in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing (Rom 7:18). Must it not

be so much more with them that are flesh, and in the flesh,

and have nothing in them but flesh? the first notion we have

of misery is this, that it stands in a deprivation of good.

And the greater that deprivation be, and the more good

things a man is deprived and destitute of, the more

miserable we count the person to be. He is a miserable man

that is blind; because the light of the world is so pleasant

and useful, and the eye simply needful to behold and use it.

It is a great addition to this man’s misery, if he be dumb

also; because the tongue is a man’s glory, and the organ of

expressing our thoughts, and communion with our own

kind. The misery is yet farther heightened, if a man be also

deaf; for the ear is the door of knowledge, both of things

natural and divine. If you go to the inward senses or

powers; if a man be deprived of those, his misery is yet

greater; as it is a greater misery to be void of understanding

and memory, to be an idiot, (an innocent, as we call them),

than it is to be deprived of any of the bodily senses. Now, if

one wanted all the senses of the body, and powers of the

soul (if such a creature should be called a man), would we

not account this a most miserable creature? But if there be

yet somewhat better than all these, surely then he that is

altogether void of that, must be more miserable still. That

there is somewhat better than all these good gifts of body

and mind, and that every man by nature is without it, is

most manifest in the word. To be without God, without

Christ, without hope (Eph 2:12), is more and worse, than to

be without any, or all outward good things. This destitute

state is expressed by our Lord, (Rev 3:17) Because thou

sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need

of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched and

miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. What a great

difference is there betwixt Christ’s, and their opinion of

their state? And must not Christ’s be right and true, and

theirs false if it contradict his? Were they any thing the less

miserable; were they not rather much more so, that they so

misjudged? Our Lord aggravates both their sin and misery

from their ignorance, Because thou knowest not. Spiritual

blessings are of that nature, that all are miserable indeed

that are without them; but no man is sensibly miserable, till

he seeth that he is without them. It is the knowledge of this

want that brings in the sense of misery: as every

unpardoned sinner is a miserable man; but he never counts

himself miserable, till he feel the weight of sin, and see the

want of pardon.

2dly, Every natural man is needy of God’s mercy, because

he is a condemned man. A condemned man, is a dead man

in law. As there is no condemnation to them that are in

Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1); so there is nothing but

condemnation to all that are not in him: (John 3:18,36) He

that believeth not, is condemned already; and the wrath of

God abideth on him. You may have seen and heard, how

malefactors will cry for mercy from the judge, when he

cannot, and ought not to pity them, so as to spare them:

when they are bid hold up their hand at the bar to receive

their doom, how earnestly on their knees, with tears, they

will cry, Mercy, my lord, mercy for God’s sake. Every

natural man is condemned. But how few of their

consciences can witness for them, that they ever sought

God’s mercy? so as convicted criminals an earthly judge’s

mercy? The mercy they beg is small, in regard of what

sinners stand in need of from God. An earthly judge may

reprieve or pardon today, and the pardoned man may die

tomorrow. But if the great Judge condemn you, and you are

not pardoned, you are sentenced to a never-dying misery.

Prisoners beg mercy of a man, who, may be, is bound up by

law, and conscience of his oath, to shew none, but to

execute justice. Here the case is just contrary. The Lord

bids men beg his mercy, and condemns them only that

despise it. We have his command, and promise, and many

acts of pardon, for our encouragement. What pleading for

pardon would there be at earthly bars, if they had the

judge’s command to ask, his promise to grant it, and his

hand and seal to that promise? Such is our case; yet few

beg it in good earnest. Be ashamed, and convinced of your

sin, when you see men begging a frail, short life of a judge;

and say, "Alas! I never begged the mercy of eternal life so

earnestly at the throne of grace, as these wretches do a frail,

short, uncertain life."

3dly, The natural man hath all the creation against him, and

therefore is needy of God’s mercy. The whole creation

groans under him; he is a burden to God’s earth, a plague to

the creation (Rom 8:20-22). What a noise do men make,

and what pains do they take, to heap up dust? If God

prosper their endeavours, they think he blesseth them, and

count themselves happy in their enjoyment. But what is all

this for, to a natural unrenewed man? All these creature-

comforts will be but as so many witnesses against them in

the day of the Lord (James 5:1-4). Men seek the creatures

to satisfy their carnal desires, and supply their outward

wants; but they do not remember, that, unless the special

saving mercy of God come along with them, the creatures

are abused, and, in their way, witness and groan to God

against them. They groan to be put in God’s room in men’s

hearts, and to be made fuel for men’s lusts. They all wait

but for God’s call to execute vengeance on his enemies. Is

not such a man needy of God’s mercy, that hath the whole

creation of God at war with him?

4thly, But there is worse than all these: The man himself,

and all he is, hath, and doth, is under the curse of God (Gal

3:10). What is the curse? It is the malediction of God, on a

man: it is God’s devoting him to ruin. He is cursed in his

body, cursed in his soul, cursed in his family, cursed in his

trade and estate, cursed in his crosses, cursed in his

mercies, cursed in his life, and cursed in his death; cursed

in time, and cursed to eternity. Ah, how long and broad is

this curse! (Zech 5:2-4). O what need is there of God’s

mercy! for it is this mercy only that can take away the

curse. There is no evil we are in danger of from an angry

God, but must be removed or prevented by the opposite

good from a reconciled God. If God’s anger be our plague,

nothing can remove it but his love. If his curse be our

burden, only his blessing can take it away. The whole

creation cannot make up the loss of God’s favour. And this

they know well, that ever saw the face of an angry God.

So much of the necessity of God’s mercy, from the present

misery of natural men.

2. I might proceed to speak of that which is coming on

them, without the intervening of this mercy of God. We do

not reckon a man miserable only, on the account of what he

feels, but also on that of his just fears. And generally the

smart of misery is raised from fear, rather, and more than

from feeling. If any thing renders a man’s present state

miserable, the apprehension of the duration or increase of

what he feels, adds greatly to his misery. Many things

would be little complained of as great evils, were a man

sure that in a moment they shall be removed. But in a

sinner’s case, for as bad as it is at present, it will surely be

worse with him shortly, if mercy prevent not. There is

certainty of its coming, and an eternal duration of it when it

comes. It is called the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10).

Nothing like it ever came on them. Present wrath, though

dreadful, is but a trifle to that that is to come. It is wrath to

come; for it will surely come. As surely as God lives, as

surely as God is true in his word of threatening, this wrath

will come on the world of the ungodly. There is no putting

of this evil day far away, but in vain thoughts; no diverting

or keeping it back a moment. All the united force of the

rebellious part of the creation will not be able to stem or

stop this fearful tide of wrath. It is wrath to come; for it is

still coming and approaching. As many days and years as

an ungodly sinner counts in his life, as many days and

year’s journeys hath God’s wrath made towards him. Think

on this, old sinners; God’s wrath and you are near to meet,

except mercy interpose. You think that you run from it, but

it runs after you. It will come upon you, and pursue you,

and overtake you, as Deuteronomy 28:45. It is wrath to

come; because it is always a-coming, and never past. The

tide of God’s wrath on the damned is an eternal flood; there

will never be an ebbing. Look down to hell, and see how

they fare there. Alas! men will not believe, and fear, and

fly; and therefore must feel. How many daily hear of this

wrath to come, and yet never have any fear of it, till they be

irrecoverably plunged into it? who never awaken out of the

sleep of security, till they are awakened by the flashes of

hell-fire? who will never believe God’s wrath, till they feel

it? No true believer goes to hell; all unbelievers are sent

thither: but as soon as they come there, they become woeful

believers, because eternal feelers of this wrath to come.

Men’s danger of this dreadful state, should make them cry

mightily for God’s mercy, as it renders them unspeakably

needy of it. But your own serious thoughts about it, would

do you more good than many words can.

II. The second thing proposed, is, What is the obtaining of

mercy? A frequent manner of speech in scripture: (1 Tim

1:13) Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and

injurious: but I obtained mercy, (1 Peter 2:10) Which in

time past were not a people, but are now the people of

God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained

mercy.

This phrase of obtaining mercy speaks forth,

1. That the mercy is God’s gift. Our obtaining, is the fruit

of his giving. I obtained mercy, saith Paul, and may every

believer say. How so? He gave it; he shewed, he

demonstrated it, as 1 Timothy 1:16. It is the Lord’s

shewing it, tendering, and giving of it, that is the only

spring of our obtaining it. We do not buy it, we do not work

it out, we are no way meet for it but by misery. God’s

mercy springs not out of the earth, but comes down from

heaven. It is the gift of God: and as such must all seek it,

that would obtain it; and as such will all eternally own it,

that do obtain it.

2. This phrase speaks forth a particular application of

mercy to the receiver by the giver of it. I obtained mercy,

saith Paul. "General mercy would not do my business,

another man’s mercy would not save me; I must have it of

my own, for myself; and so I got it. Mercy came to me,

made me a visit, and applied itself to me in particular." So

must it be with you. You will never be saved, you shall

never see God’s face in glory, unless his mercy deal with

you, and apply itself as particularly to you, as if there were

no other person in the world to be saved by mercy besides

thyself. There is indeed a blessed multitude of the vessels

of mercy, and the Captain of our salvation brings many

sons to glory (Heb 2:10). But yet there is a personal

particular application of saving mercy to every saved

sinner. And for this application of mercy, we should come

to the throne of grace. Though there be infinite mercy at his

throne, and though many receive of this mercy; yet you

must have of this mercy for yourselves, or you cannot be

saved. Your soul is your own, and no man’s else; your

danger, sun, and misery, is your own, and no man’s else;

and the mercy that saves you, must be as much your own,

and not another body’s mercy. That deep discourse of the

apostle looks this way, (Rom 11:30-32) For as ye in times

past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy

through their unbelief: even so have these also now not

believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain

mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that

he might have mercy upon all. It is a great mystery of

judgment and mercy the apostle is speaking of; the

rejecting of the Jews, and calling in of the Gentiles. Mercy

took occasion, from the just casting off of the Jews, to visit

the Gentiles; and will in due time bestow itself again upon

the Jews. But both of them must have mercy of their own.

Mercy to the Jews will not save the Gentiles; mercy to the

Gentiles will not save the Jews. Both must have their own

mercy. The fountain is the same, the streams are the same;

but the vessels are not the same, and every vessel of mercy

must have its own measure of its own particular mercy. So

must it be with you, if you be saved by mercy. It must be

your own, and no man’s else.

3. Obtaining of mercy, speaks forth the receiver’s

possessing of it. Obtained mercy, is not only bestowed and

applied mercy, but it is possessed mercy. Such things as

cannot be possessed and kept, are worth little pains in

seeking. But God’s mercy is well worth the seeking;

because it may be both had by seeking, and kept when

obtained, and is unspeakably beneficial when enjoyed: (Psa

103:17) The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to

everlasting upon them that fear him. As if the Psalmist had

said, "Man is but a flower; his life is a wind and vapour that

quickly and surely passeth away. But it is not so with God’s

mercy, it eternally abides on all it falls upon." O that men

would think on this! As God lives, and is true in his word,

God’s everlasting mercy, or God’s everlasting wrath, will

eternally lie upon every one of you. And what an amazing

difference is there betwixt these two! And yet how many

behave, as if indifferent which of these two shall be upon

them? God’s saving mercy is such a jewel, that though the

Lord gives it but to few, yet he will never take it away from

any he hath given it to (Psa 89:28-33). Believers, God may

take any thing from you, but his mercy; and you may spare

any thing, but his mercy. If God come to take away your

children, give them; if he come to take away your estate, let

him have it; if he come to take away your health and lives,

yield them; strive not with him; bless a giving, and bless a

taking God. If he crave thy right eye, or right hand, and

what is dearest to you, give, yield all to him. But say, "Let

me only keep thy mercy; I cannot part with that, it is the

only thing I cannot spare." The blessed Canaanite’s striving

with Christ was about his mercy: "Be silent, disown,

reproach me, I care not; but thy mercy I must have." It were

a cruelty that only unbelief can charge God sinfully with, to

take away so precious a gift as saving mercy is. Let but this

mercy follow me, as Psalm 23:6, and it is no great matter

where I go. If I be in the lowest hell, mercy will bring me

out: (Psa 86:13) For great is thy mercy toward me: and

thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. There is

no time-hell that a vessel of mercy can be in, but mercy

will bring him out again; and this mercy will secure him

from the eternal hell. This mercy is God’s mercy; therefore

sovereignly free, therefore almighty, therefore eternal. You

sin, believers, when you fear his taking away his mercy. He

gave it at first, that you might be eternally possessed of it.

Mercy gave mercy, and mercy will keep mercy, and mercy

will stay with you, and keep you for ever.

III. The third thing to be spoke to, is, the end and design of

coming to the throne of grace; and that is, that we may

obtain mercy. Not only that this mercy is to be got at the

throne of grace, and there only; nor that this throne of grace

is erected on purpose to dispense this mercy; nor is it only

that we should come to the throne of grace, to ask and beg

this mercy; but that we should come to obtain it. This is the

duty exhorted to in the text. And in the setting about this

duty, two things are required.

1. Come as sensible of your need of mercy. No man can

come truly without this sense. He that hath no sense of

misery, compliments God in asking mercy, and takes this

saving name of God in vain. It is dreadful to provoke God

to wrath in our way of asking his mercy: and all such

contract this guilt, and expose themselves to his wrath, that

have no heart-sense of their need of this mercy. It is an

amazing stupidity that the power of sin hath brought on

men, that, in a world of sinners sinking into everlasting

misery, so few are really sensible of their need of saving

mercy. And no man is sensible, till God by his grace make

him so.

2. Come in faith of his mercy. You cannot come at all

without this faith. Faith is coming to God (Heb 11:6).

Unbelief is departing from the living God (Heb 3:12). No

man can come, but he that is sensible of misery; for coming

is the act of a man drawn and moved by the cords of a man.

No man can come but in faith; for there is no other coming

for a Christian. These three things should be in this faith:-

1st, A believing that there is abundance of mercy with the

Lord; which if shewed and put forth to you, and on you,

would save you abundantly. So argues the prodigal, (Luke

15:17,18) And when he came to himself, he said, How many

hired servants of my father’s have bread enough, and to

spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise, and go to my

father, and say &c. (Psa 130:7) Let Israel hope in the Lord:

for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous

redemption. The highest working of unbelief is, when men

judge their misery greater than his mercy: the great work of

faith is, to get these two to meet fairly: and mercy will

surely prevail. His tender mercy is over all his works; much

more is his abundant mercy above a sinner’s misery. Cain’s

words should be left for himself, and used by none else,

(Gen 4:13) And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is

greater than I can bear; or, My iniquity is greater than that

it may be forgiven; words sounding like the language of

hell, and not to be spoken by any that would escape it. I

know many secure people find no difficulty in that they

count believing of this, that there is mercy enough with the

Lord. But yet the matter is far otherwise. It is mighty

difficult to believe the abundance of his mercy, when men

are in great pressures of misery. The best of saints have

sometimes stumbled here. When Moses is pleading with

the Lord for mercy to Israel, (Num 14:17,19) And now, I

beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according

as thou hast spoken. And pardon, I beseech thee, the

iniquity of this people, according unto the greatness of thy

mercy. As if Moses had said, "Lord thou hast proclaimed

thy name, and I heard it, and believed it; but I did not think,

that their wickedness would have been so great, as now I

find it to be." Was not Moses a great believer? yet he

stumbled in this point of the power of God’s mercy (Num

11:18-23). Israel murmureth for flesh, God promiseth a

whole month’s diet of it. What saith Moses (vv 21,22)?

How doth the Lord answer him? (v 23) And the Lord said

unto Moses, Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? thou shalt see

now, whether my word shall come to pass unto thee, or not.

This great man’s unbelief was greatly aggravated, in that he

saw the Lord bring that people out of Egypt, with signs and

wonders, and with a mighty hand; he saw them daily fed,

clothed, and led, and protected with miracles of divine

power and mercy: yet one new difficulty shakes his faith.

When Paul gives us his last account of his faith, (for that

epistle was his last writing), he lodgeth his faith on Divine

power: (2 Tim 1:12) I know whom I have believed, and I

am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have

committed unto him against that day. "If I be persuaded

that he is able, I shall not doubt of his being willing to keep

that charge safe I have committed to him." Let the eye of

faith take up clearly the power of mercy; and the faith of its

application to thy benefit, will be the more easy. But he is a

rare believer, whose view of the power of mercy is not

darkened by a clear sight and deep sense of his own great

misery, at least at sometimes.

2dly, To come for mercy in faith, is to believe the fitness

and suitableness of God’s mercy to our misery. Here many

stumble woefully. Their question is, "Am I fit for mercy?"

when it should rather be, "Is his mercy fit for me?" And

this question every sensible soul can answer; the other none

in heaven or earth can answer. If any man think himself fit

for mercy, of all men, that man is most unfit for it, and

farthest from receiving of it. But every sensible soul will

say, "Though I be unfit for, and unworthy of mercy; yet

mercy is very fit for me. Is there pardoning mercy with

God? who is it so fit for as a guilty vile sinner? Is there

saving mercy with him? who is it so fit for as for a lost

man, as I am?" Come to the throne of grace for mercy, in

faith of this, "Mercy is fit for me exactly, though I be

utterly unworthy of it." They that think they are fit for

mercy, will never get it, nor indeed can ask it. But they that

think they are needy of it, and that it is fit for them, will

both ask it and get it.

3dly, To come to the throne of grace in faith for mercy, is,

to believe that there is all good will in him that sits on this

throne to give and shew mercy. It is implied in the text, Let

us come to obtain mercy. But what if, when we come, he

will not shew mercy? That is an ungodly supposition,

mischievous to ourselves, and reflecting upon God. He hath

mercy in abundance to give; he delights in giving, he never

refused mercy to any that came for it, he hath promised he

never will: and why should men harbour such a suspicion,

that we may come and not obtain? Benhadad could

adventure on a report, that the kings of Israel were merciful

kings; and yet Ahab was one of the worst of them (1 Kings

20:31). And shall not sinners come upon a more sure report

of the mercifulness of the King on this throne of grace? It is

on this truth of the Lord’s good-will to shew mercy that our

faith so readily halts. Many think they ought not to believe

this good-will to shew mercy. I would have you consider

some instances of Christ’s dealing with sinners. (John 4:10)

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest this gift

of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink:

thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given

thee living water. Where we are to regard, 1. To whom

these words were spoken by our Lord: To a Samaritan; a

vile creature, as to the former course of her life; a blind,

ignorant, sottish sinner, that was guilty of refusing Christ a

cup of water, the greatest sin she ever committed in her life.

2. What our Lord saith to her: If thou knewest me, thou

wouldest have asked; if thou hadst asked, I would have

given thee living water. And before he had done he made

her know him; made her ask, and gave her of his living

water. But that I mainly observe from the word of Christ, is

a truth, which few will believe when they hear it, even few

believers themselves will believe it as they ought, That

Christ is more ready to give begging sinners eternal life,

than they can be to give Christ himself a cup of cold water.

Our Lord saith it, but men will not believe it. Another of

Christ’s words is in Luke 11:13, If ye then, being evil, know

how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more

will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that

ask him? Christ makes the comparison favourably (vv

11,12) of a child’s asking necessaries; will a parent refuse

that desire, and give what is hurtful? But consider our

Lord’s design in this saying. It is plainly to encourage to

seeking. And the argument he useth, is from the greater

love and readiness in God to give the best things, than

earthly parents have to give their children the necessaries of

this life. The preference is not here given to God’s greater

riches and fulness, than that of parents, who may have their

children beg of them what they have not to give, as in

Lamentations 4:4; but it is a preference given to God’s

greater willingness to give. Now, who believes this, and

makes the just application to his own case? and says

confidently, "The Lord is much more willing to give me

saving mercy, if I ask it, than I am to give a bit of bread to

maintain the life of the nearest and dearest relation I have

in the world?"

APPLICATION. I shall only add a few words of

application. 1. There is no principle of natural religion

engraven more deeply on the hearts of men, than that there

is misery in men, and mercy in God; and that God’s mercy

only can relieve men under this misery. This runs through

the whole world in all ages; and will continue as long as

sense of misery is in men, and any notions of God are

preserved in the minds of men. And these sentiments are

not to be defaced. Attempts of atheists are damnable to

themselves, but vain efforts against the Rock of ages.

2. Notwithstanding of this, God’s true mercy in Jesus

Christ is the greatest riddle, offence, and stumbling-block,

to all natural men. God’s mercy they like well enough, and

would have applied to their own relief under misery; but

God’s only and true mercy in Christ, they cannot away

with. That there is no mercy with God for sinners, but what

flows through the blood of Jesus Christ; that God’s love

should appear in sending his own Son, under the charge of

men’s sin, and under the smart and feeling of their

miseries; that as God shews mercy only this way, so men

that would have it, must only seek it this way; the world

never did, never can, never will understand, nor relish it,

nor betake themselves to it. They would have mercy to

come to them another way; and so seek it, and look for it in

vain, and perish by the miss of it.

3. There is no address made to God, more honourable to

God, more acceptable to him, and more becoming a

miserable sinner, than an address to God for his mercy. It is

his glory to be the sovereign Lord of mercy; it is his honour

to be attended with the addresses of miserable men; it is his

delight to dispense mercy to the addressors. What is more

becoming God, than to shew mercy? and what can be more

fit, than that a miserable sinner should beg his mercy?

4. There is no provocation more common, than sinful ways

of begging God’s mercy. I shall briefly instance in a few.

Many profane careless creatures have this word frequently

in their mouths, God be merciful to me; who yet have no

more sense, either of God or of themselves, of his mercy or

of their misery, than the ground they go on. This is a gross

taking of God’s name in vain. Undue addresses to God for

mercy, are great provocations. Some beg only outward

mercies. Such people would like this text well, if it had

been, "Let us come that we may obtain gold, and silver, and

health, and long life." If prayer was ordained by God for

such mercies, the throne of grace would be crowded with

supplicants. But you will never ply prayer rightly, till you

understand that there is something to be got at this throne

of grace, that is better in itself, more needful for you, and

that will do you more good, than all that the world hath to

give. Some beg mercy only when they are under God’s

afflicting hand: (Psa 78:34) When he slew them, then they

sought him. Some beg God’s mercy limitedly; they only

beg one mercy, and desire no more. His mercy is of a large

extent, and we should beg it all. We may beg a particular

mercy, according to our present felt necessities; yet we

must not make an exception against any act of mercy. We

must not beg the mercy of pardon, with a heart-quarrel

against the mercy of sanctification. The Lord be merciful to

thy servant in this thing (2 Kings 5:18) was a faulty prayer,

if there was any sincerity in Naaman. Though we may ask

any particular mercy, yet we must lay open our hearts to the

whole flood of mercy: (Psa 119:132) Look thou upon me,

and be merciful unto me as thou usest to do unto those that

love thy name. So Psalm 106:4,5. Lastly, some beg mercy

for themselves, and for their idols in the same address. One

part of their prayer is for mercy to themselves, and another

part of it is for mercy to their idols. Is not that a woeful, ill-

made prayer? and yet how frequently is it done? Idols are

such things as have a greater, nearer room in the heart, than

God hath. Whatever is loved, feared, trusted, and delighted

in, more than God, that is an idol, be it the best or basest

thing we can name, or think on. These idols are of two

sorts; lawful, and unlawful. Not that it is lawful to have any

idol; but many make idols of lawful things: such things I

mean, that in their proper place may be sought, and

lawfully used; but are woefully abased, when put in God’s

room. These are the most dangerous, because least

perceived idols. Christian, it is lawful to love thy relations,

to pray for wife and children, to beg God’s blessing on thy

lawful diligence in thy calling: but watch well, that none of

these lawful things come in between thy heart and God. If

they do, thou wilt fall into this snare, of begging God’s

mercy to thyself and idols in the same prayer. Unlawful

idols, or idols in unlawful things, are, sins, lusts, and heart-

plagues. Woe to him that begs God’s mercy to them. We

should daily beg God’s mercy against them. The more

mercy (that is, forbearance) God sheweth to such idols, the

more wrath, and the less mercy, he sheweth to the man

himself. God’s mercy cannot be shewn both to a man and

his idols. The purest mercy is then shewn to a man, when

the Lord dealeth severely with his idols. Kill my sinful

idols, and save me, is a fit prayer at the throne of grace; and

he is a happy man that gets it answered.

5. Sinful addresses for God’s mercy, are great provocations

of his wrath. His mercy is so sacred a name of God, that he

will hold no man guiltless that taketh it in vain. In this

matter the best contract much guilt. All have many sins in

their holy things, and in their approaches to the holiest of

all, the throne of grace, and do stand in need of atonement.

And we should all come to the throne of grace, for mercy to

pardon the sins that are in our seeking of mercy. But where

then shall the ungodly and sinner appear? He perisheth for

want of mercy. He should come for it; and he cannot come

for mercy, while he is what he is, but he provokes the Lord

to more wrath against him. This is one of the inextricable

straits that every unbeliever is in, that nothing but sovereign

grace and mercy can bring one out of. Look to him for this

deliverance, and he will shew you mercy.

 

SERMON VII

Hebrews 4:16.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of

need.

The last thing in this verse is, what is to be had at the

throne of grace, and what we should come for? And that is,

mercy and grace; and we need no more. And we should

come that we may obtain and find them: and we should, in

our coming, design no less.

Of the first I began to speak last day, and did open these

three things:-

1. What is this mercy we should come for? It is God’s

saving mercy in Christ, suitable unto, and of relieving of

that misery that every natural man is perishing under.

Mercy in God, and misery in man, are relatives; and happy

is that person that hath them well married and matched

together.

2. What is in this phrase, obtaining of mercy? I told you,

that it implied three things. 1. That mercy is God’s free gift.

We only come by it, because he gives it. 2. That there is a

personal particular application of this mercy to the obtainer

of it. 3. That it is given as a possession; not as a gift that

may be recalled and retaken; but it is given for an

everlasting possession. Whoever is made partaker of God’s

special saving mercy, it shall never be taken from him. It

shall never waste, nor spend, nor wear out; but shall stay

with him, follow him, and grow up with him to eternity.

The burden of that heaven-like song (Psa 136) is six and

twenty times repeated. For his mercy endureth for ever.

How sweetly will it be sung from all the mansions in

heaven, and by all the blessed dwellers in them! O give

thanks to our God; for he is good, for his mercy endureth

for ever. Can you learn this song? as the word is,

Revelation 14:3. Only the redeemed of the Lord can say so;

but all they should say so (Psa 107:1,2). His mercy is most

sweet; a crumb of it will save a starving soul, as Matthew

15:27. A large measure of it on earth, is a heaven. But the

eternity of this mercy, is the mercy of this mercy. Time-

mercies in regard of this, are no mercies.

3. I spoke of the design and end we should have before us

in coming to the throne of grace: come that we may obtain

mercy.

That which I would do at this exercise, is to apply this

truth. And the Lord apply both doctrine and application.

And,

First, I would put this question to your consciences, and let

them speak as in God’s sight, Whether have ye obtained

mercy, or not? Can you say with Paul, But I obtained

mercy? You must have it as well as he, and may know it as

really as he did; though ye receive not so much, nor know it

so clearly, as so great a believer as Paul did. See to get your

consciences well resolved in this main case, that you may

be able to give a peremptory answer. The importance of

this question is very obvious. Can a man retire within, and

look up to God, and consider this, "I am a miserable sinner

in myself, as all are; nothing but God’s special mercy can

relieve me"; and not think it a matter of vast consequence

to know whether he hath obtained this mercy or no? Woe to

them that never asked the question; and they are but in a

sorry case that cannot answer it.

I would propose a few things to enforce the duty of trying

yourselves in this matter.

1. It is mercy you have been seeking. If ever you made any

fashion of prayer, surely it was mercy you sought. Most of

you, if not all, pray at least sometimes. Now, whenever you

pray, unless you be woefully formal and stupid, your

consciences must tell you, it is mercy you seek. Have you

long and often begged God’s mercy? and will ye never

inquire whether or not you have got it? None ask in earnest,

but they will try how they speed. There is no surer and

plainer argument of trifling in prayer, than when men are

careless what they get by prayer. We would be called of the

generation of them that seek God’s face: and shall we not

inquire if we have found him? Our Lord bids us ask, that

we may receive; and shall we ask, and not think of

receiving? nor try if we have received?

2. A great many round you have obtained mercy; therefore

it becomes you to inquire, whether you have obtained it. If

the mercy of God were so very rarely dispensed, that none,

if any, in an age, did partake of it, this neglect would be a

little more excusable. But when mercy falls round about

thee; when one on thy right hand obtains mercy, and

another on thy left hand obtains mercy; when this mercy

falls on some of the family thou livest in, on some of the

congregation thou hearest in; when this mercy falls on one

that hath the same natural parents that thou hast: will none

of these things make you ask, Have I also obtained mercy?

We find our Lord aggravating the misery of the damned, by

their seeing of the blessedness of the saved, (Luke 13:28)

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye

shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the

prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust

out. A most dreadful passage! Christ is telling men that

were to be excluded from heaven, what they would think,

say, and do, in that dismal case. Prevent this misery in time,

by inquiring whether you have obtained mercy: and do so

the rather, that ye may see others partaking of this mercy.

When you see the saving mercy of God sought and

obtained by others, it should provoke you greatly; not to

envy them their share, but to desire a share of your own; for

there is enough, and to spare. And the Lord doth shew

mercy to some, on purpose that he may encourage others to

come, and ask, and obtain. So Paul tells wherefore he got

his mercy: (1 Tim 1:16) Howbeit, for this cause I obtained

mercy, that in me first (or the chief) Jesus Christ might

shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which

should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. There

were other ends Christ had in shewing mercy to Paul. The

Lord shewed him mercy, that he might be saved eternally;

he shewed him mercy, that he might be an able minister of

the New Testament (2 Cor 3:6) and a successful apostle (1

Cor 15:10); and the church of Christ hath good cause now,

for many ages, to bless our Lord Jesus for that rich mercy

which that chosen vessel obtained, and was filled with. But

the apostle, in that place, takes notice of another design of

Christ’s in his mercy to him; and that was, to set up Paul as

a pattern and copy of the freedom, riches, and power of

saving mercy. And Christ can, when he will, write another

copy, like Paul; and somewhat like it he doth in all that he

calls savingly (Eph 2:4). Take in this argument, "Many

obtain mercy; and why not I? None deserve it; yet many

have it. None deserve it less, and need it more than I; why

then not I?" If you see the Lord shewing mercy to others,

and you care not for mercy to yourselves; how can you

expect it, or think you have got it?

3. Inquire whether you have received God’s saving mercy;

because this mercy is brought so near you, that it must

either be received or refused. There is no midst. No man

doth neither, no man doth both. All that have the offer of

God’s saving mercy in the gospel, do and must necessarily

either receive or reject it. This should make people inquire

the more narrowly, whether they have obtained mercy. If

ye have not obtained it, ye have refused it: (Acts 13:46) It

was necessary that the word of God should first have been

spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge

yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the

Gentiles. This last is a strange phrase. I am persuaded in the

Lord, that no man shall ever get everlasting life, that thinks

himself worthy of it. It is always to be sought by us, always

given by the Lord, and always taken by the receivers of it,

as an alms of grace for Christ’s sake. Nothing surely was

farther from Paul’s mind, than to have these foolish Jews to

count themselves deserving of eternal life; or that, on the

account either of their privileges or works, they did or

could deserve salvation at the hand of God. But all the

apostle meant, was this:- "Everlasting life is brought near

to you in this word of the gospel: you put the word from

you; thereby you declare, you are unwilling to receive

everlasting life, and God counts you unworthy of the offer

of it; and we will carry it to others"; as he tells other

unbelieving Jews at Rome, (Acts 28:28) Be it known to you,

that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that

they will hear it.

Now, for resolving of this question, Whether you have

obtained special saving mercy, or not? this seems easily

determinable. There is so great a difference betwixt that

state of sin and misery that mercy finds men in when it first

visits them, and that state that mercy brings them to, that

we are apt to think the change may be easily known. See

Ephesians 2:1-18. Yet there are so many things that

obstruct, both them that have obtained mercy, from owning

it, and them that have not obtained it, from acknowledging

their want of it, (of which I shall not now speak), that

searching is needful. And for your help in that work, I offer

these few plain marks.

1. A high value of special saving mercy above common

mercy, is a good sign of one that hath obtained saving

mercy. There is a special mercy of God, and there is a

common mercy. Special mercy is saving; it comes from the

heart and love of God (Eph 2:4), and is treasured up for,

and laid out only upon his chosen. It is the favour he bears

to his people (Psa 106:4). Common mercies are thrown

about with a large and indifferent hand: He maketh his sun

to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the

just and one the unjust (Matt 5:45). Now, these two sorts of

mercies are as far different, as heaven and earth. The

excellency of the one is far beyond that of the other, though

we be unworthy of either. I am less than the least of all thy

mercies, said a great saint (Gen 32:10); and so should all

say. But few do perceive this great difference; and many

give the preference to common outward mercy. Who but a

Christian doth count it a greater mercy to have the

conscience sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, than to have a

large and prosperous estate in the world? that the light of

God’s countenance, and an hour spent in his courts, (when

the King’s presence is in them), is better than all the

enjoyments of this world? Moses was a man that obtained

singular mercy from the Lord. It appeared in this, that he

esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the

treasures in Egypt (Heb 11:26). He had excellent balances

and true weights. He put in the one scale, Egypt’s honours,

treasures, and pleasures, (and how weighty are such things

in the worldling’s balances!); and in the other, the reproach

of Christ, and affliction with the people of God. His

judgment on this weighing, is, That this reproach, because

of Christ’s concern in it; and this affliction, because it is of

and with God’s people, is better than all the other things.

The true test of men’s spirits is justly taken from their

settled inward apprehension of the worth and value of

spiritual saving mercy, above all outward mercy. (Psa

4:6,7) There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?

Most men are for any good, they know not well what, and

from any hand that can show it, and give it. But David

knew what good he would have, and who could show it.

Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.

Why is he so earnest for this blessing? Thou hast put

gladness in my heart, (carnal men seek gladness, and make

it, and take it to themselves, as well as they can; but

gladness of God’s putting in their heart, they know not),

more than in the time that their corn and their wine

increased. David doth not here compare, though he doth

discover, the holiness of his heart, with the earthliness of

that of others; he compares not the tenderness of his

conversation with theirs: but he compares the joy God gave

him by the light of his countenance, not with the joy he

had, but with that the ungodly have, in their sensual

satisfactions. Try yourselves by this. Where is your esteem

lodged? What sort of things are they that relish with your

spirits? Common outward mercies carry away the hearts of

the most part of men, and this shews that few men have

obtained special mercy.

2. He that hath obtained special mercy, hath a love to it,

and to the giver of it, and to the way God gives it, and in

which he receives it. He that is a lover of God’s mercy in

Christ, is an obtainer of it. A natural man may have a liking

of God’s mercy in general: but mercy as from God through

Jesus Christ, mercy shown on the account of a full

satisfaction made to justice in and by his blood, mercy

given freely to glorious ends and purposes, every natural

man seeth no glory, no goodness, no beauty, in it. But

every obtainer of it doth admire every thing in it. "It is rich

mercy, saith he; it flows from a blessed fountain, free love;

runs in a blessed channel, the redemption of Jesus; comes

to me in a well-ordered covenant; and was shown me for

his praise in my salvation from sin and misery."

3. An obtainer of mercy, is a daily beggar for more mercy.

Whenever God’s special mercy is tasted, hunger and thirst

after more is raised. No sooner did Paul obtain mercy, but

behold, he prays (Acts 9:11). There is more of mercy yet to

be had. Mercy quickens the soul’s desires, and enlargeth

them. The greatest receivers are the greatest beggars: (1

Peter 2:2,3) Desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye

may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is

gracious. This mark is plain, and will never fail. They that

drive not a trade of prayer for special mercy, have not yet

obtained it.

4. An obtainer of mercy from the Lord, is a shewer of

mercy to others. He is a merciful man to others, (Matt 5:7;

Col 3:12,13) Put on therefore (as the elect of God, holy and

beloved) bowels of mercies, kindness &c.; forbearing one

another, and forgiving one another; even as Christ forgave

you: and (Eph 4:32) Forgiving one another, even as God,

for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you. How unbecoming is it,

that such should have bowels of brass, on whom God’s

bowels of mercy have been poured out? This is a mark that

will never fail, but in a high fit of temptation. All that have

obtained God’s mercy, will be disposed to shew their

mercy. Forgiving one another, is an easy thing; it costs

nothing but to think a kind thought: yet how hard is this to

many, through the power of corruption? There are some

acts of mercy, as bounty and charity, that poor Christians

have no ability for. But the principal act of mercy is in

every Christian’s power; and that is mercy to men’s souls.

We cannot give them that mercy we have obtained; but we

can, and should wish the like to them. Never did a man

obtain mercy from the Lord for himself, but he wished that

others should partake of it also. The woman of Samaria

(John 4), (of whose conversion we have the largest account

of any convert in the Bible), as soon as she obtained mercy,

(she forgot what she came to the well for, she had got

somewhat better than the water of Jacob’s well; she met

with Jacob’s God, and had got Jacob’s blessing), she goes

to the city, and turns a sort of a preacher to them: Come,

see a man that told me all things that ever I did: is not this

the Christ? (v 29). She obtained mercy, and would have all

the city come, and get mercy also. And a great many came,

and obtained mercy. Christ caught that woman by his

grace, and made her as a bait to catch many more. No

believer can deny his sense of such a frame as this. There

are some persons thou dost love, and shouldst love: thou

prayest for them. What does thou mainly ask for wife,

children, brothers, sisters, and all or any thou lovest

heartily? Is it not, O that they might share in God’s saving

mercy? If thou ask it for others as the greatest mercy, thou

thyself art on obtainer of mercy. Paul obtained mercy. He

loved his countrymen the Jews dearly, and on good grounds

(Rom 9:1-5). What prays he for them? (Rom 10:1) My

heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they

might be saved. All right prayer should be the heart’s

desire. Salvation is the best thing we can pray for to

ourselves, or to them we love. And no man can heartily

pray for salvation to others, who hath not got it himself.

Secondly, I would now direct some words to them that

have obtained mercy, and know it. Blessed be the Lord,

that there are not a few in the world, not a few in this city,

and, I hope, not a few in this meeting, that have obtained

mercy of the Lord, and know it also; who can remember

when their misery was great; and when the mercy of the

Lord made a visit to them; and what great things it brought

to them, and wrought in them.

1. Let such be very thankful for special saving mercy.

Praise is a great debt, as well as a great blessing. Let none

take this as an ordinary duty; but let all Christians know,

that the main point of the life and practice of Christianity

lies in the performance of it (1 Peter 2:9). Praise should rise

according to the worth of what we praise for. Greatest

favours call for highest praises; and special mercy from the

Lord is the highest favour. It is a good custom, and a duty

also that people, when they receive their daily bread from

God, do give him thanks for it, as well as beg his blessing

on it. Pray then, how do you think the Lord will take

unthankfulness for his special mercy? How many hath the

Lord to give in this charge against? "I never gave thee a

night’s rest, but thou gave me thanks for it in the morning;

but I have by my mercy raised thee up to newness of life,

and I was never thanked for it. I never fed thy body, but

thou blessed me for my bounty; but I have given thee my

Son for the bread of thy soul, but no praise for this gift.

When thou wast near death, I did in mercy restore thee, and

was praised for it; but special mercy hath delivered thy soul

from eternal destruction, but when didst thou praise for

that?" Have a care this charge be not given against you.

Live to his praise, and let praise be the main work of your

life.

2. Walk tenderly under God’s special mercy. The more

special the mercy be, the more carefully it should be

improved. God’s saving mercy is a load, a burden; not

indeed hard to be borne, but it is hard to bear it aright; a

burden that will not break the back, but will weigh heavy

on the shoulders of the bearers; and such as are under it, are

in no small danger of stumbling: (Isa 38:15) What shall I

say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done

it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.

And that there was special mercy in his eye, see verse 17,

Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of

corruption; for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.

Here is a right sense of mercy, and a good resolution about

the guiding of it: "I will walk softly all the years (fifteen of

them) that God hath added to my life." But what

performance was there? (2 Chron 32:25) But Hezekiah

rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him:

for his heart was lifted up.

3. Obtainers of mercy should ask grace to guide mercy; and

ask it the more earnestly and confidently, because they

have obtained mercy. Be not discouraged in asking more

mercy, because you have made so poor improvements of

what you have received. Every mercy lays us under an

obligation for more service; and grace to enable for that

service must be given, and therefore should be asked. We

need mercy, God gives it: When we get it, we should guide

it well; and in order to that, we must beg more; new mercy

to enable us to guide the old. No mercy from the Lord but it

may be ill guided, but the last, eternal life (Jude 21). A

Christian is not out of all danger of abusing any mercy of

the Lord, till he receive perfecting mercy in heaven.

Thirdly, To them that have not obtained mercy, or at least

do not know that they have, only four things I would say to

such. Ask mercy, receive mercy, plead mercy, hope in his

mercy.

1. Ask mercy. The Lord hath two designs in offering and

dispensing his mercy to men: to be honoured by the prayers

of them that want it; and to be glorified by the praises of

them that get it. This duty of asking mercy, is frequently

commanded by the Lord, commonly practised by his

people, and never in vain. (1.) Ask mercy like itself. Ask

some way according to your need, and its worth. If our

begging bore any tolerable proportion to the great blessing

of God’s saving mercy, what mighty praying would there

be? Let not mercy be sought as a small thing. It is the one

thing needful, and it is the one thing we should seek of the

Lord. God’s mercy, saving mercy, free mercy, mercy great,

vastly above all our misery; O how would it be asked if

asked like itself! (2.) Ask mercy at the right door. There is

not a crumb of saving mercy that comes to any perishing

sinner, but by Jesus Christ. There is no corn in Egypt, but

what comes through this Joseph’s hand. He is a mad beggar

of mercy that forgets Christ. (3.) Ask mercy in God’s time.

He that commands us to ask, and tells us at what door to

beg, and promiseth to give, tells us also when we should

ask. Men have their times; as in great distress, when dying,

and at judgment. Beware of putting off asking, till God’s

time of giving be past. It is an awful word of Christ, (Luke

13:25) When once the master of the house is risen up, and

hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to

knock at the door, saying, &c. There are two sad

beginnings here. Beginnings to stand without when the

door is shut; such will eternally stand without. Beginning to

knock at the door; such as begin to knock at God’s shut

door, will never get in. There is no good answer to be given

by God to such for eternity. Is not that a very unhappy

beginning? So our Lord tells us in the parable of the ten

virgins (Matt 25:10). The foolish came when the door was

shut. They were foolish that they came no sooner; and

miserable that they came too late. I believe the damned will

see more of the blessedness of the saved, than the saved

will see of the misery of the damned. Christ expressly

aggravates the misery of the damned, by what they shall

see of the bliss of the saved (Luke 13:28). But all we see in

the word that the saved shall see or hear of the misery of

the damned, is their resurrection to damnation (John 5:29)

(which is a most miserable one; better were it for them to

have their bodies lie eternally in the grave, than to be raised

for damnation), their sentence of condemnation, and their

vain pleas and pleadings for mercy. But O that men would

come in at God’s time, and cry for mercy, as they will do

out of time! How much better would it be for them! God’s

time is now, today, the present time (2 Cor 6:2), Now is the

accepted time, now is the day of salvation. If men refuse

God’s mercy in his time, he will deny his mercy when

sought in their time, and out of his. (Isa 30:18) He waits to

be gracious, and willing to be exalted in having mercy.

Notwithstanding all the mercy with the Lord, all the mercy

that is offered in the promise, the Lord never promised a

sinner his mercy tomorrow. If you will beg his mercy

today, you may have it, and it shall endure for ever. But

God never gave an allowance and liberty to any man, to

spend one day or hour in consulting whether he should beg

God’s mercy or not. David had indeed a sad choice of

judgments laid before him (2 Sam 24:13), and is bid by the

Prophet, Advise now, and see what answer I shall return to

him that sent me. But for a perishing sinner, that hath an

offer of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ, there is no delay

allowed, but only he is bid ask it presently.

2. Receive God’s mercy. Receiving is easier than asking.

Asking requires some pains; receiving is but a consent of

the heart to take what is offered. Asking supposeth a great

and needful blessing, that he that wants it would fain have;

and therefore he begs it. Receiving implies, that this great

blessing is in his offer fully and freely; and therefore he

must accept it. Here is the state of things betwixt God and

men in the gospel. The Lord brings his mercy near to them,

offers it to them, bids them take and receive it; but many

will not. God offers quarter to rebels in arms against him;

but they stand upon their sword, and will not take quarter.

Ministers’ work is, to intreat and beseech in Christ’s stead

(2 Cor 5:20). God only can persuade and prevail with men.

Mercy comes prepared and ready for men. It is prepared in

the purchase of Christ; it is prepared in the well ordered

covenant; and as prepared and ready, it is tendered freely to

sinners: All things are ready, come to the marriage (Matt

22:4). All things are ready. God himself is ready to give

mercy. Christ is ready; he is slain for us: let us come and

keep the feast (1 Cor 5:7,8). The Holy Spirit is ready to seal

you to the day of redemption, if you will accept of God’s

mercy in the Redeemer. Heaven is ready, the way is plain,

and all hindrances of law and justice removed (Heb

10:19,20). The city of refuge is ready; and its gates are

open continually, to receive and give entrance to all that

flee for safety (Heb 6:18). Alas! all things are ready; but

men are not willing. There is not a moment’s time needed

to ripen God’s mercy for men. No perishing sinner, that

seeth his need of God’s mercy, and is willing to receive it,

needs stay a moment, till mercy be ready for him, or he

more ready for it: (Rom 10:6-8) The righteousness which is

of faith, speaketh on this wise, (How very few have ears to

hear such a speaker, and such a speech?), Say not in thine

heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is to bring

Christ down from above): Or who shall descend into the

deep: (that is to bring up Christ again from the dead).

(Christ is come down already from heaven, and is gone

back again to heaven.) But what saith it? The word is nigh

thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is the word of

faith which we preach. Mercy and salvation for lost sinners

is prepared by Christ’s coming down, and going up again;

and he hath lodged the power and virtue of his undertaking

in the gospel. Suck at that well with faith, and thy soul shall

be saved: there thou wilt find Christ, and all his fulness.

There was never such a treaty made in the world. We can

fetch no similitude fully like this amongst men. Thus the

Lord pleads with men in the gospel:- "You are already

undone with sin and misery lying on you, and you are every

hour sinking into greater; let but my mercy in my Son enter

in, and it will cure all that is past and present, and prevent

all the misery that is coming on you." And will not

miserable sinners receive God’s mercy? Are you afraid of

saving mercy? will it hurt you? why do ye not give it

entrance? It is one of the greatest demonstrations what

monsters sin hath made men, that they are unwilling to be

saved by free mercy, in Jesus Christ. Open a door for God’s

mercy, by a free receiving of it; or else you will find the

door of his mercy shut against you, when you need it most.

Your giving way to his mercy, is your receiving of it. Say

with the heart, "Let God’s mercy enter in upon me, and

save me its own way." A yielding, and giving, and putting

of a lost soul into the hand of Christ, is the nature of saving

faith in him. Will ye not trust in his mercy? Is it not able to

save you? Your want of a sense of your need of his mercy,

is a giving the lie to all the threatenings and curse of the

law; your doubting of the ability of his mercy to save you,

is to give the lie to all the faithfulness and truth of God

declared and sworn in the gospel.

3. Plead mercy. When you beg it, use no other plea for

mercy, but mercy. When you beg mercy, you must beg

mercy only for mercy’s sake. That that moves God to shew

mercy, must be our argument in pleading for mercy.

Wherefore doth God shew mercy? Because he will shew

mercy, and delights in it (Micah 7:18). And therefore

should we plead it. Mercy in his heart, is the only spring of

mercy from his hand. David, who knew God’s mercy well,

had tasted of it often, and needed it greatly, when fallen

into a foul pit, thus pleads for mercy: (Psa 51:1) Have

mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness:

according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out

my transgressions. Have a care of making any other plea

for mercy from the Lord, but that of mercy with him. And

stick to this plea, and it will prevail. If the Lord for trying

of your faith, or Satan for shaking it, should say, How dare

such a vile sinner as thou art, beg so great a gift as saving

mercy, from so holy a God? the poor pleader hath a ready

answer: "I want mercy as much as my soul is worth. In vain

do I seek it of any creature; nothing but his mercy can save

me. I beg mercy only for mercy’s sake: I bring nothing but

a starving soul, and an empty hand. I beg his mercy as an

alms, which will eternally enrich the receiver, and not

impoverish the giver. What can such as I beg of such a God

as he is, but mercy? His name is Mercy, my name is

Misery. I would have my misery relieved by his mercy, and

his mercy glorified in my relief."

4. Hope in his mercy: (Psa 147:11) The Lord taketh

pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his

mercy, (Psa 130:7) Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the

Lord there is mercy. It is from the devil, for whom there is

no mercy, that any of the most miserable out of hell are

tempted to think there is no mercy with God for them. He

envies men God’s mercy. He doth not only tempt to sin, but

also to security in it, till the day of mercy be past. If God

awaken a sinner to see his need of mercy in time, Satan

tempts him to think that it is out of time. In such

temptations he acts most like himself, a reprobate damned

spirit; and in managing of them he hath great advantages,

from his own craft and malice, and men’s just deserving of

wrath. Look on all such thoughts as from that adversary,

and treat them accordingly. When you beg mercy, look for

it: expect to obtain it, when you would lay hold on it. The

Lord will never keep back his saving mercy from a sinner

that would have it as his life. When you plead for mercy,

for mercy’s sake, hope to prevail; and that will help you to

plead better.

So much for this exhortation. Will ye go home and do so?

Will you study more your misery, and the greatness of his

mercy; and ask and plead for it more earnestly? There is

never better fruit of preaching, than when the hearers are

sent away hungering and thirsting after the Lord’s mercy.

 

 

SERMON VIII

Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of

need.

I have spoke to the first of the blessings to be got at the

throne of grace, which we should come for, obtaining of

mercy. The second is, The finding of grace to help in time

of need. This expression, finding of grace, is probably

borrowed from the Old Testament, wherein the bestowing

of favour is usually so expressed. We find it in men’s

pleadings with one another. So Jacob to Esau, (Gen 32:5,

33:1) These are to find grace in the sight of my lord. And

he pleads upon it, (v 10) If I have found grace in thy sight,

then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have

seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God; and

thou wast pleased with me. Jacob had seen God’s face that

morning, and had found grace in his sight, and he

remembers it when he finds grace in the sight of his angry

brother. So we find the phrase used in dealing with God, by

Moses, (Exo 33:12,13) Yet thou hast said, I know thee by

name, and thou hast found grace in my sight. Now

therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight,

shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find

grace in thy sight.

The first thing I would remark here, is, the connection

betwixt these two blessings and errands, obtaining of

mercy, and finding of grace. Mercy and grace are joined

together by God, and are not be put asunder by man. Many

would separate them. They would be content to obtain

mercy; but they care not so much for his grace. But such

are only profane ignorant persons, that know neither God

nor themselves, nor his mercy, nor his grace. The Lord will

not give mercy without grace, nor grace without mercy. All

that receive either, receive both; and all that would have

either, must ask both; and none can ask either aright, but he

that asks both.

This grace we are called to come to the throne of grace for

the finding of, is specified from its great advantage and

usefulness. It is grace to help in time of need. The words in

the original are, grace for seasonable opportune help. It is

the nature of this grace, that it is helpful. Its helpfulness

mainly appears in a time of need. A time of need will

come: this grace is to be asked before that time come; it is

to be waited upon till the time of need come, and used

when it comes.

The truth to be spoke to, is this plain one:-

DOCT. That all that hear of God’s offer of grace, should

come to God to ask it, to get it, to find it.

Men should come to God’s throne of grace, for grace for

themselves. They should come to God in Christ Jesus, for

the grace of God in and by Christ Jesus. This is a truth so

bright in its own evidence, that there is no need to confirm

it. What hath been said of coming to obtain mercy, is

equally binding unto coming to find grace.

Two things, then, I would speak unto at this time.

I. What is this grace we are called to come to the throne of

grace for?

II. What finding of grace is; what speciality is there in this

expression? It is certain, never did a man find grace, before

grace found him. Grace is always the first finder: but the

sense of it, and our knowledge of our having found it,

follows after.

I. What is this grace we are to come to the throne of grace

for finding of? We have need to know this distinctly. The

reason why many are so confused, and dark, and barren in

their prayers, is, because they know not what is to be got by

prayer. If we had a clear knowledge of the full extent of

this grace that is to be dispensed at this throne of grace, we

should quickly know what to ask, and find matter for

asking continually.

This grace of God, that we are invited to come to the throne

of grace for finding of, comes under three different

considerations. 1. As it is in the fountain from whence it

flows. 2. As it is in the channel in which it runs. 3. As it is

in the vessels that do receive it.

1. Grace considered as in the fountain from whence it

flows, is grace in God. The scriptures take notice of the

special interest that each of the three blessed persons of the

godhead have in dispensing of grace. We find the Father

called the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10); and there Christ

is also named, and the Holy Ghost implied. The Father, the

God of all grace, is the caller; he calleth us to his eternal

glory by Christ Jesus; we are fitted for the possession of it

by the grace of the Holy Ghost. Our Lord Jesus Christ is oft

spoke of as the fountain of grace, (John 1:14) Full of grace

and truth; and that we might know that this fountain-

fulness in him is for communication, (v 16) and out of his

fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. The Holy

Ghost is called the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29); of grace

and supplication (Zech 12:10); of faith (2 Cor 4:13). When

we come to the throne of grace, for grace in this

consideration, we come for the manifestation and

communication of grace from the fountain, according to his

will and our need, for the carrying on of our salvation to the

praise of his grace. It is to be observed in that apostolic

wish, which by a good custom is made the concluding

blessing in Christian assemblies, (2 Cor 13:14) The grace

of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the

communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all, Amen, that

there is grace in the Father’s love, and grace in the

communion of the Holy Ghost, as well as there is love and

communion in the grace of our Lord Jesus. For grace is in

all divine favour, and in all its fruits, freely bestowed on the

undeserving sons of men.

2. Grace may be considered as it is in the channel in which

it runs, in the way and means of its conveyance, usually

called the means of grace. And this is the gospel. It is true,

that this form of speech, means of grace, is not a scriptural

phrase, though it be usual with us. But by it we mean

nothing, but such means as are hallowed by divine

institution, and backed with a gracious promise of

bestowing grace on the right users thereof. The main of

which means, is the gospel itself, called by Paul, in Acts

20:24, the gospel of the grace of God, and (v 32) the word

of his grace. And in Titus 2:22, the gospel is called simply,

the grace of God. If you take away the doctrine of free

grace, you take away the gospel. It is but an empty shadow,

a false name, to call that doctrine gospel, that is not the

word of his grace. The grace of God in the means is

universally offered to all that hear the gospel; but the

blessing itself is sovereignly dispensed, like grace. There is

ground sufficient in the promise for faith in waiting on the

Lord in the use of his appointments: but yet the Lord never

used any outward mean that was always effectual to all

them that had it. The greatest of any outward means that

ever men were under, was the personal ministry of Christ;

yet all his hearers did not believe, yea, but a few did (John

6:26, &c.). What a heavenly discourse doth Christ deliver!

but what was the effect of it? (v 66) From that time many of

his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. The

Lord hath wisely ordered it thus, that the means (the

channel his grace runs in) are at some times, and to some

persons, filled with his grace; and at other times are but

empty pipes, that the means themselves may not be doted

on, and that the fountain may still be depended on. When,

then, we come to the throne of grace, for grace, as in the

means, we come begging, that the Lord, who hath

appointed the means, and keeps the blessing of them in his

own hand, would fill the means with his grace, and fill our

souls with the communication of that grace, in our use of

these means.

3. Grace is considered as it is in the vessels that receive it,

in men that partake of it. And here it will be needful to

distinguish. The grace of God as received, comes under a

very notable distinction of common grace, and saving

grace, or special. Somewhat hath been hinted of the same

distinction, betwixt common and special saving mercy. But

of this distinction, as to grace received, I would speak more

fully.

First, Common grace is so called, not because it is ordinary

and usual, (for in bad times it is rare enough), but because it

is not saving. It is most likely, that in such happy times

(which we cannot now boast of, but only hope for) when

saving grace is bestowed on many, common grace is

dispensed more frequently also. That there is such a thing

as common grace, is as certain, as it is that there is such a

creature (if I may so call him) as a hypocrite in the church,

or in the world. For an hypocrite is nothing else but an

unrenewed sinner, painted over with more or less common

grace. And to men that see the outside of others only, he

may appear like a true Christian.

I would give some particular instances of this common

grace.

1. There is a common enlightening grace, a common

illumination (Heb 6:4, 10:26). The apostle supposeth, that

there is an enlightening, and a receiving a knowledge of the

truth, that may be where a fatal apostasy may follow. The

Lord may give the light of his word; and, in and by that

light, may dart in some clear beams of gospel-truth on such

that are led no farther. It is far from being true, that all

knowing heads have sound hearts. There may be, and often

is, much clear light in the mind about points of saving truth,

when there is no sense, no savour, no faith in the heart.

Acts 26 we find Paul speaking in the most noble assembly

that it is like he ever spoke in; a King and a Queen, and a

Roman Governor greater than both. In this august

assembly, Paul, though a prisoner in bonds, remembers his

being an apostle, and preacheth Christ, and takes Christ’s

grace in converting him for his text: (v 24) When he is thus

speaking, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul thou art

beside thyself, much learning doth make thee mad. At the

same time, (v 28) Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou

persuadest me to be a Christian. This was a great deal

better than Festus’ word, yet a poor word in itself. It spoke

some glancing of ineffectual light on his mind. An almost

Christian, and no more, is but a sinner almost saved, and no

more; or one that is no Christian, and never saved at all.

2. There is common awakening grace. The Lord sometimes

alarms the consciences of the ungodly, and may raise a

great sense of sin in such as are never forgiven; and fears of

hell, yea, a foretaste of hell, in some that never escape it. I

have sinned, saith Pharaoh; I have sinned, saith Saul: I have

sinned (saith Judas), in betraying innocent blood. Alas,

poor wretch! it had been better to have confessed his sin

against his master, to his master, than to his murderers.

Felix trembled when Paul preached. It was grace in God to

come so near to him, and great power was put forth. What

else could make such a great prince as Felix was, to tremble

at the words of a poor prisoner standing before him in his

chains? Awakening grace is but common grace. The law

wounds many a conscience that the gospel doth not heal,

because not applied to. No wound can the law make, which

the gospel cannot heal. Boast not of your wounds by the

law, unless you can tell how you were healed. There is no

cure for a conscience wounded by sin and by the law, but

the blood of Jesus shed for sin. Did ye come to it? (Heb

12:24). Did he apply it to you? Were you cured of your

wounds before ye went to him, and before he came to you?

Woeful is that cure, and worse than the wound. Many poor

creatures are wounded by the law, and to the law they go

for healing. But God never appointed the law to heal a

wounded conscience; and it never did, nor can, nor will, to

the end of the world, nor to eternity. It is Christ’s name,

and property, and glory, to be the only physician of souls;

and all must die of the disease of sin, that are not his happy

patients.

3. There is common restraining grace; an act of God’s

grace and wisdom, which he often puts forth in his ruling of

this wicked world. How quickly would this earth become a

hell, were it not for this restraining grace? if all unrenewed

men were permitted by God, to commit all the sin Satan

tempts to, and their natures incline them to, there would be

no living in this world for the godly. This restraining grace

we find a Heathen had: (Gen 20:6) I with-held thee from

sinning against me, saith the Lord to Abimelech. And,

which is more, we find a great saint praying for it, (Psa

19:13) Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins,

let them not have dominion over me: that is, "Lay a

powerful restraint on me by thy grace, that when I am

tempted, my way may be hedged up, and I may be kept

from complying with the temptation." But yet bare

restraining grace is not desired by a Christian in good case,

without sanctifying grace. He desires not only the

restraining of the outward acts of sin, but the removing of

inward inclinations to sin; he begs the renewing and

changing of the heart. So David, when he had fallen foully,

by the strength of inward corruption, and God’s leaving

him to himself; when recovered by grace, and renewed unto

repentance, prays like a wise believer, (Psa 51:10) Create

in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within

me.

4. There is common assisting grace. Many a bad man hath

had good assistance from God in a good work. The Spirit of

God hath clothed many, and enabled them to great and

good works, which God gets service by, and the world

good by, though the doers thereof be not accepted: (Matt

7:22) Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have

we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast

out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

All great things, and all done in Christ’s name, and done by

his assistance. In their casting out of devils, and in working

of miracles, there was an exerting of omnipotency, with

and by their faith; which is the greatest divine assistance we

can imagine. And no doubt they were assisted by Christ’s

Spirit in their prophesying in his name. Now, such things

they thus did. Christ, in his reply, denies not their doing of

them, finds no fault with the works in themselves; but all

his quarrel is with the workers: I never knew you, you are

workers of iniquity.

5. To common grace belongs some comfort and joy

reaching the heart in hearing the word. Our Lord expressly

explains the stony ground this way, (Matt 13:20) He that

received the seed in stony places, the same is he that

heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it.

6. Lastly, There is reforming grace, that belongs to

common grace. The power of the word may come so on

natural men’s consciences, that they may reform many

things; as Mark 6:20, Herod, when he heard John Baptist,

did many things, and heard him gladly. So 2 Peter 2:20.

If any say, What! should we come to the throne of grace for

common grace? I answer, Not for it alone, but for it, and

better. It is a mercy to have common grace; it is grace that

is undeserved: but it is a woeful snare to him that rests in it.

If the Lord restrain your corruptions; if he enlighten your

minds, and awaken your consciences; if he assist you with

gifts for good works; if he help you to mend any thing that

is amiss in your conversation; bless him for all: but rest not

on any of these things. It is a higher and better grace that is

saving, and that you must seek after.

Secondly, Saving grace, as distinct from, and beyond all

that is common, respects three things.

1. It respects and works a change in a man’s state, which

common grace never performs. Saving grace changeth a

person’s state. By this grace an enemy is reconciled to God,

a guilty sinner is justified freely through the redemption

that is in Christ Jesus, a stranger receives sonship by Christ.

Common grace never alters the state of a man’s person, but

it leaves him where it found him. It never doth, nor can take

him out of the old stock of fallen Adam; he still lies in that

pit; and is never by it translated into Christ, and ingrafted in

him, as a new head. But saving grace, when it comes, doth

all (Eph 2:4-18).

2. Saving grace respects man’s sinful nature, and changeth

it. And this grace thus working, is called regenerating,

sanctifying, and renewing of men. Christ calls it, being born

again (John 3:3). If any man be in Christ, (through this

grace), he is a new creature (2 Cor 5:17). This the apostle

calls, (Titus 3:5) According to his mercy he saved us, by the

washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

Natural men are apter to look to their conversation, than to

their nature. They may see many things amiss in their way,

who are loth to look into their heart. And if light shine in,

to discover inward heart-faults, they are still backward to

own that all is naught, and that there is no good in their

hearts. If the light pursue them yet closer, and make them

see that all is stark naught within, they are still more

backward to own the true spring of their disease, and the

true remedy for it; that all this dominion of sin over them,

flows form the natural state of their persons, as standing

still in and under the first sinful Adam; and can never be

altered and mended, but by grace putting them into Christ,

as the root of their new life.

3. Saving grace respects and works on the new nature.

Special grace not only changeth a man’s state, nor his old

corrupt nature only: but it works on this new nature

wrought by grace. The special operation of the grace of

God, in and from the fountain, is upon his own new

creation in the hearts of his children. We cannot conceive it

fully; our minds are not able to take in these depths of God.

We hear from, and read in the word, of the intimate

correspondence the Lord entertains with them in whom he

dwells. Christ dwells in the heart by faith (Eph 3:17), His

Spirit dwells in his people (Rom 8:9-11). But what is it in

their hearts that he dwells in? He dwells in his own

workmanship in their hearts, in his own new creation, in his

own garden that he hath planted in them. There his

presence is, and there his eye is, on that his hand is; this is

that he waters, and carefully looks after. When a believer

comes to the throne of grace, for this grace, he comes to

beg that the new creation in him may be visited, refreshed,

and strengthened, and brought to perfection. They that have

no planting of Christ in them, want this errand to the throne

of grace, that believers daily come upon.

So much for the first thing, What this grace is?

II. What is the finding of this grace? Why the apostle useth

this phrase, different from the former, about mercy? That

was obtaining of mercy, this is finding of grace. Mercy and

grace are near a-kin; and so is obtaining and finding.

Besides the Hebrew phrase, remarked already, these things

I would note in it:-

1. I conceive, that this phrase of finding grace, doth imply

the duty of seeking it; according to our Lord’s own

direction, (Matt 7:7) Ask, and it will be given you: seek, and

ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Where, and in verse 8 our Lord gives three commands to

one duty of prayer, under three several names; and six

promises for encouragement, under three different names

also, redoubled.

2. This form of speaking, points forth the giving and

bestowing of grace. His grace and favour is what is given

to, bestowed on, and enjoyed by them that come to the

throne of grace. When the old world was exceeding bad, all

stark naught, and but one good man in it, (you must needs

think that it was a bad world then), and that was Noah,

(Gen 6:8) But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

This word we should regard the more, that it is the first

place where the grace of God is mentioned in scripture.

Thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation,

saith the Lord to him (Gen 7:1). And how this man came by

his righteousness, see in Hebrews 11:7, By faith, Noah

being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with

fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his house; by the

which he condemned the world, and became heir of the

righteousness which is by faith. Who but the Spirit of God

by Paul (who, I think, was the penman of this epistle)

would have found the righteousness of faith in Noah’s

building of the ark? Many, nay, most of men, called

Christians, cannot see this righteousness that is by faith, in

the gospel itself. There was a brave inheritance, and estate

in this righteousness of faith, secured and revealed in the

first gospel (Gen 3:15). Of this estate Abel and Enoch were

possessed; and Noah became (that is, declared himself) an

heir of it, by his faith, and the fruits of it. The whole world

had the warning; Noah from God, the world by Noah. All

were equally concerned in the danger. Noah preached it to

them; and God’s Spirit was with him, striving with them a

hundred and twenty years. But not one man found grace,

but he alone. A prodigious depth of judgment and mercy!

such a man as Noah preached so long to the world of the

ungodly, as 2 Peter 2:5, and not one single man or woman

believed. He only found grace in the eyes of the Lord, (Jer

31:2) Thus saith the Lord, The people that were left of the

sword, found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I

went to cause him to rest. It is a great blessing to find grace

any where; but to find grace in the wilderness, to find grace

where and when the sword of God’s anger and justice is

destroying multitudes, is heightened grace. Grace falls still

on remnants. Justice and wrath seizeth on the bulk and

whole piece: (Rom 11:5) A remnant according to the

election of grace, (v 7) The election obtained it, (that is,

grace): and the rest were blinded and hardened. The more

be left, and the fewer be savingly taken, the greater is the

grace shewed to those few, and the more happy are they

that find it.

3. In this phrase of finding grace, there may this be

conceived, if you will understand it rightly, the casualty of

the getting of grace. There is no such thing as casualty to

God: he always knows when, and where, and on whom to

bestow his grace. But the bestowing of his grace is a mere

casualty to all men; both to them that receive it, and to

others that look on. My meaning is, grace comes unlooked

for, undeserved, undesired, unexpected, in its first visit

especially. So that all receivers of it may say as Hagar, the

only good word we have of that bond-woman, (Gen 16:13)

And she called the name of the Lord that spake to her, Thou

God seest me; (Happy are they that can name God from his

grace and mercy to them. David calls him, the God of my

mercy, Psa 59:10,17); for she said, Have I also here looked

after him that seeth me? "The Lord hath had his eye on me

for good, when I was not thinking on him." Grace always

comes at first by surprise. How many are there that attend

diligently on all the means of grace, and never find grace?

when some that come but by accident, (as we think,) grace

finds them, and they find it. This is the treasure hid in the

field of the gospel; blessed is he that finds it (Matt 13:44).

Many dig in this field, and never find the treasure in it. Men

should use means (Prov 8:33,34); ministers should design

wisely to catch souls, and labour painfully in it: but the

Lord, in his application of his grace, passeth by many that

we would fainest have saved, and lights on others we never

thought on. And let him do with his own grace as seemeth

him good. Little thought little Zaccheus of salvation, when

he climbed the tree to see Jesus pass by (Luke 19). If Christ

had not called him down, the poor rich publican was as like

as any in the company to have let Christ pass on in his

journey. When Saul was going his wicked journey (Acts 9),

who would have thought that grace would have fallen on

him as it did! All partakers of grace, that can remember its

first visit, can witness, that their finding of grace was a

mere casualty to them. They thought not of it, they sought

it not; yet it found them, and was found by them: (Isa 65:1)

I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of

them that sought me not. Seeking is our duty, and finding is

our mercy; but both right seeking, and gracious finding, are

singly owing to his grace. The apostle, after a deep

discourse of the sovereignty of God in dispensing his grace,

saith, (Rom 9:30,31) What shall we say then? That the

Gentiles which followed not after righteousness, have

attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is

of faith; but Israel, which followed after the law of

righteousness, hath not attained to the law of

righteousness. The cause of Israel’s missing righteousness,

he gives, (v 32) Because they sought it not by faith, but as it

were by the works of the law; for they did not build and

believe on Christ as a foundation, but stumbled at him as a

stumbling-stone. A most dreadful way of ruin, for men to

break their necks on the Saviour. But the apostle gives no

cause why the Gentiles attained the righteousness of faith;

but his discourse hints it plainly. Grace sent the gospel to

them, and grace blessed it to them, in working faith in

them; by the which they laid hold on the righteousness

offered to them; and so they were possessed of it, and saved

by that possession.

APPLICATION. Should we come to the throne of grace for

grace? The, 1st, I infer, That every man should pray. Have

you found grace already? Come for more; for more grace is

needed by you, and more is to be had from the giver. It is a

blessed name of God, much to be called upon by us, (James

4:6) He giveth more grace. It is much that he giveth any

grace at all; but more, that he still gives more. If he gives

more and more grace, you should come more and more for

this more grace. If you have never received grace, you must

come to this throne of grace, where only it is to be found.

This text hath a strong argument in it, as well as a great

encouragement. Are men invited to the throne of grace, that

they may find grace? Then surely graceless folks should

mainly come, and have most need to come. You will say,

that the prayer of the wicked man is an abomination to the

Lord. True; what then? Therefore, say you, I should not

pray. A bad inference. But say you, Were it not better that a

man should mend and grow better, and then come, and not

till then? This is a perverse method, that Satan befools

multitudes with. I pray you, how long may a man be a-

mending himself, ere he be one bit better, till the grace of

God come and mend him? A sinner never doth know truly

his badness, till he see it incurable by all his own doings,

and that it is only curable by sovereign grace. Men see a

little of the fruits of sin in their walk; and them, or some of

them, they think they may remove; and so indeed they may.

But the fountain remains still, and will send forth its

streams one way or other. Till a man see his heart and

nature, he seeth but the outside of sin in himself. It is the

sight of sin in our nature, of sin as our nature, that is truly

humbling. Then a man seeth himself quite lost, and for ever

undone, without any possible ground of hope, unless

almighty free grace undertake for him.

In answer to this objection, in all its strength, I say four

things.

1. Coming to the throne of grace for grace, is required by

God. He commands it as a piece of honour to him, that all

should implore his grace. No sinful or miserable

circumstances can be in the condition of any out of hell,

that can dissolve men’s obligations to this duty. The power

of sin, and guilt on an ungodly man, disables him quite

from the right performance of any command of God; but

doth not loose the obligation of God’s law upon his

conscience. You are bound to pray; you cannot pray. This

is your strait; own it. Grace can only extricate you out of it.

2. Secure neglect of prayer, is a great deal worse than a

faulty managing of it. Let such folks say then, I will pray,

and try to pray: and though I should mar twenty prayers, I

will pray still; for it is better to try it as we can, than to

neglect it quite. What know you but grace may come in,

and help you, when sinking under the weight of prayer?

3. Is not that a good prayer, and fit for your case, (Luke

12:1) Lord, teach us to pray? "Lord teach us to come the

right way to the throne of grace?" If you can say no more,

say that, and you can say nothing better. An humble

groaning to Christ, to be taught by him to pray, hath more

of true prayer in it, than many fine words, which men call

prayer, and commend as brave praying.

4. Is it not a throne of grace you are called to come to, that

ye may find grace? You want grace, and cannot come, say

ye; You want grace, and therefore come, say I. You are not

to bring grace of your own working, but to find it of his

giving at this throne. Would you have grace? Come, and

get it. Men perish under the gospel only for their refusing

of the grace of God. And justly are they counted refusers of

grace, that will not come where it is to be found: and most

righteous is their condemnation.

Inference 2. Should we come to the throne of grace, that we

may find grace? Then prayerless people are graceless

people. Grace is only to be had at this throne; therefore

such as have no business at the throne of grace, are a

graceless people. A prayerless person is a graceless person;

a prayerless family is a graceless family; and London

would be a graceless city, and England a graceless

kingdom, if there were no seekers of God in them. But

blessed be God, there are a great many. The Lord make

them an hundred times more, and that our eyes may see it,

as Job said to David about numbering of Israel, (2 Sam

24:3; Jer 10:25) Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that

know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy

name. Heathens that know not God, and families that call

not on his name, are the same sort of folks, and the same

wrath of God hangs over them. Wrath overtakes all that

have not found grace at this throne.

Inference 3. It follows also, that the most diligent pliers of

the throne of grace, are the greatest receivers of grace: and

the greatest receivers of grace, are the greatest comers to,

and users of the throne of grace. Would ye try the measures

of grace received? Try it by your diligence in praying.

Some would fain know how it is with their souls. Here is a

short, plain, and sure mark to judge it by. How goes the

work of praying? It is a better mark, than you increase in

light and knowledge of the letter of gospel-truth; better than

to try yourselves by your public duties, and attendance

upon all outward ordinances. It is impossible, that a man

can be diligent, painful, and serious in plying of the throne

of grace, but there will be grace found, more or less, of one

sort or other. Every one must say with the Psalmist, (Psa

73:28) But it is good for me to draw near to God; and the

oftener the better. He hath not said to us, that we should

seek his face in vain (Isa 45:19). And none of the seekers of

his face dare say, that they do seek him in vain, unless in a

fit of temptation, when they lie against their right. It is also

as impossible that the work of grace can prosper, when this

highway is unoccupied, as Deborah sings (Judg 5:6). That

Christian that lets grass grow on the road betwixt him and

heaven, rottenness is entering into his bones, a consumption

is coming on upon his soul, and the holy flesh is passed

from him, as Jeremiah 11:15. The savour and relish the soul

finds in approaching to the throne of grace, is the surest test

of soul-prospering. In this I appeal to the consciences of all

that ever knew communion with God. Is it not best with

you every way, when you are most with him? Do not your

burdens grow light, when you cast them on the Lord? Is not

your path plain, when his candle shineth upon you; and

doth it not shine when you are much in company?

Difficulties vanish, and hard work grows easy, when the

Lord is with you, and you with him. See how the apostle

joins things together, (Jude 20,21) But ye, beloved, building

up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy

Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the

mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Your faith,

your love, your hope, are all to be acted in prayer: and are

cherished by prayer, and strengthened by the answer of

prayer. Would you have plenty of the grace of God? Here is

a plain and sure way taught you by the apostle; and he joins

himself with them he exhorts, Let us come to the throne of

grace, that we may find grace.

 

 

SERMON IX

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of

need.

The gracious call and invitation contained in this text, hath

been often spoke to: an invitation frequently delivered in

the preaching of the gospel, and as frequently slighted by

most of the hearers of the gospel. It is such an invitation, as

if it were delivered in the last day to the miserable company

on Christ’s left hand, we may think what complying with it

would there be. If there were a throne of grace set up then

for but one hour, where mercy and grace might be had in

that time of need, think ye not that there would be coming

and crowding, crying and roaring, for mercy and grace?

But that day will afford no such privilege. Now you have it;

and the Lord knows, and next to him your consciences

know, how this is entertained. What this throne of grace is;

what coming to it is; what boldness in coming is allowed;

what ground there is for this boldness, have been spoke to.

The last thing in this verse, what blessings may be had by

coming, hath been spoke to also; of the mercy to be

obtained, and of the grace to be found. Of this last I have

handled two things. 1. What is the grace that is to be found?

2. What the phrase of finding grace imports?

There are two things more that remain in the text:-

I. The helpfulness of this grace. We are called to come to

find grace to help.

II. The seasonableness of this help of grace. It is grace to

help in time of need. So our translation carries it, and pretty

well. The original runs in fewer words, grace unto

seasonable help, or help in due season.

Of these two I would speak at this time.

I. I would speak of the helpfulness of grace. God’s grace is

a most helpful blessing.

1. It is promised, by him that gives it, as help. (Isa 41:10)

Fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am

thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I

will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Alas! who hath faith enough to draw at this deep well of

salvation? Every word hath rich food for faith. Whenever

God would engage the heart of a poor creature to a

dependence on him, he doth it, by promising to be that to

them, and to do that for them, that none besides himself can

be or do. No man can truly act faith on God, for that he

thinks a creature can do for him. You never believe

soundly, but when you look to, and wait on God, for that is

impossible utterly to the whole creation to give to you, or to

do for you.

2. Again, we find the saints beg God’s help. Whenever they

come to God in earnest, they com to this, Lord, help: for all

other help is vain. There is no more common prayer in the

Old and New Testament, and to this day, than prayer for

the Lord’s helping grace. All our prayers, in their greatest

variety, centre in this, Help us by thy grace. The great

believer, (Matt 15:25) came and worshipped him, saying,

Lord, help me. A short prayer, but mighty, and full of faith.

A weaker man in faith than this woman, (Mark 9:22) Have

compassion on us, and help us, praying for himself and his

son; (v 24) he prays for himself alone, Lord, help my

unbelief. There is no believer on earth who may not daily

pray this prayer.

3. All the people of God find the helpfulness of his grace.

All that seek it, find it; and all that find it, find the

helpfulness of his grace.

First, I would in a few things shew the helpfulness of grace.

1. The grace of God helps always to purpose, and

effectually. This grace helped Paul to labour more

abundantly than all the apostles (2 Cor 15:10). I say not,

that this is always sensible to the receiver; but only that

grace given is always really effectual for the end for which

it is given. It is not given in vain.

2. The grace of God helps universally. There is no case

wherein it is not helpful. As without Christ we can do

nothing (John 15:5); so, through him strengthening, we

may do all things, or any thing (Phil 4:13). A Christian can

imagine, can foresee no condition, no trial, no difficulty,

wherein the Lord’s grace cannot help him. So the text runs,

that we may find grace to help in time of need. Let the time

be what it will, and the need what it will, grace can help in

it. It were a sad weakness of faith for any Christian to say, I

am in that condition, that the grace of God cannot help me

in. His grace is omnipotent.

3. Grace helps sweetly. I mean, that it doth not help as an

external help, but as an internal. As for a familiar

similitude: A weak and weary, or lame person, may be

helped by the strength of another, or by being carried; but

this is but external help. This weak or lame person is helped

far better, when his infirmity is removed, and new strength

given to him, so that he can pleasantly walk and run: (Psa

138:3) In the day when I cried, thou answeredst me; and

strengthenedst me with strength in my soul. It is true, the

grace of God, wherein our strength consists, is without us,

and in him; but it is inwardly applied to us, when strength

is found and felt. Therefore is it that believers not only find,

by the dispensings of his helping grace, an effectual

strength for their work and duty; but a great deal of

sweetness and easiness in the exerting of that gracious help.

So Psalm 119:32, I will run the way of thy commandments,

when thou shalt enlarge my heart. When he draws, we run

(Song 1:4). When such helping influences of grace come on

believers, holy obedience becomes in a manner as sweet,

easy, and natural to them, as it is to a man that hath bodily

strength, to use it in speaking, walking, or working: (Isa

40:31) They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew (or

change) their strength: they shall mount up with wings as

eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk

and not faint. (Psa 103:5) Thy youth is renewed like the

eagles, is one of the notes in the Psalmist’s sweet song. No

saint is ignorant of this in his own experience. Who knows

not, that at some times their work is heavy, and is a burden

too heavy for them; at other times it is as light as a feather;

and as pleasant and easy to them, as for a bird that hath

wings to fly?

4. Lastly, The grace of God helps very mysteriously.

Sometimes its help is very secret; and at other times it is

very plain to be discovered. Its help is sometimes so secret,

that the saints cannot know or discern it at present, but they

are made to know it afterwards: (Psa 73:2) But as for me,

my feet were almost gone: my steps had well-nigh slipt, (v

22) So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before

thee. This is the account he gives of the power of the

temptation he was under, and of the bad frame it had

brought upon him. (v 23) Nevertheless, I am continually

with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. He did

not know this, till he was brought out of the darkness of the

temptation: but then he did discern, that there had been a

secret support given him, otherwise he had fallen utterly.

Secondly, What encouragement have we to come to the

throne of grace for this helping grace?

1. The proposal and revelation made to us of this grace as

helpful, is an encouragement to come for it. Hath the Lord

revealed his grace, as only helpful to his people; and should

they not come for that help? Your faith is not very strong

and active, unless you can catch at the grace of God,

without a plain particular promise. I say not, but there are

promises many and great of this helping grace, and that

faith must build upon them, and doth: but I only mean, that

the bare revelation of the treasures of grace that are with

the Lord, should, when an interest in the promises is dark,

encourage a poor soul to come for a share of this grace of

God: (Psa 130:4) But there is forgiveness with thee. He

saith not, There is forgiveness for me, but, There is

forgiveness with thee. So verse 7, Let Israel hope in the

Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is

plenteous redemption. Wherefore is this forgiveness, this

mercy, this redemption, with the Lord; and why is it

revealed; but that the guilty should come for this

forgiveness, the miserable for this mercy, the many-ways

captives for this plenteous redemption? The Lord’s fulness

of grace is an argument for our faith, as well as his

goodness and faithfulness in making and performing

promises of grace.

2. But we have promises also for our encouragement.

Promises imply God’s fulness of grace; but do express his

good will to dispense it, and do bind and engage his truth to

fulfil them, to all that take God at his word, and trust him

on his word. It is a pity, that ever the exceeding great and

precious promises, and precious faith (2 Peter 1:1,4) should

be parted. (Mark 10:49) And Jesus stood still, and

commanded him to be called: and they call the blind man,

saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.

They had no promise; but they understood Christ’s calling

of the blind man, was an act of mercy, and on a design of

shewing more mercy. But we have many promises of grace.

3. We have all the experience of the communication of his

grace, according to his promises, for our encouragement in

coming for grace. Every supplicant for grace should

encourage his heart, by all the Lord’s dispensings of his

grace. How many of these are revealed in the word! and

many like them daily are to be seen in the church of Christ.

If you have such experiences of your own, build upon

them, praise for them, and beg more. If you have none of

your own, behold the showers of grace, that have fallen

upon many as bad as yourselves, and which have changed

them into that same blessed state that you desire to be in.

APPLICATION. 1. Is the grace of God thus helpful? and

should we come to the throne of grace for the help of

grace? Then we see, that weak Christians should pray most.

Such as can do least for themselves, have most need of

grace to help them, and should seek it most. Is any man

under a clear conviction, by the light of the word, and his

own sensible experience, that he is extremely weak, and

utterly unable for any good word or work? This man, of all

men, should pray most. Manage your sense of weakness, as

a call to ask much of this helping grace of God.

2. Surely, then, coming to the throne of grace for grace to

help, must be hopeful work. If at any time Satan, or an

ungodly world, should tempt you, or your own heart fail

you, in fears of the unprofitableness of seeking God, have

this as a ready answer: "I am fit for nothing, his grace can

help me in every thing. Whither should I go but to the

throne of grace? what can I beg there but his grace?" Say

with David, (Psa 57:2,3) I will cry unto God most high,

unto God that performeth all things for me. He shall send

from heaven, and save me. God shall send forth his mercy

and his truth. And will not these save any man?

Exhortation. I would give you a few directions in the

practice of this duty of coming to the throne of grace for

helping grace.

1. Come to seek this helping grace.

2. When you seek it, expect it.

3. When you expect it, receive it.

4. When you receive it, guide it.

Exhort. 1. Come to the throne of grace to seek helping

grace. Seeking (as is already remarked) is not expressed in

the text; yet it is plainly implied, both in the duty of

coming, and in the blessings of obtaining and finding. You

must seek grace to help you. Grace will not help to sin, but

helps against it; yet, blessed be God, grace can, and will

help sinners, otherwise we were in a forlorn state indeed.

Grace will not help to laziness, (that were an hindrance, and

no help); but grace will help lazy people, and help them out

of it. To engage your diligence in seeking helping grace, I

would shew you what help grace gives.

1. Grace helps to save you. If people come to the throne of

grace, if men pray, and have not salvation in their eye, they

come not aright, they pray not. We are saved by grace (Eph

2:5). Nothing but grace can save a sinner: and if it were not

the grace of God, and therefore omnipotent, it could not

save. Is not it a great help, to be helped to salvation? Is not

that a great lift, to be delivered from the power of darkness,

and to be translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son

(Col 1:13). Who would not prize and desire a saving lift of

God’s grace? All that have found it, value it: and they that

never found it, should (but will not) beg it earnestly. The

grace of God brings salvation (Titus 2:11). It brings it near

to men in the gospel. This is all that it doth to many. But to

some this grace brings salvation, and gives it; plants it in

their hearts, and waters it, and makes it grow with the

increases of God, till it be ripe, full-grown salvation. Would

you be helped to heaven? Employ and implore the grace of

God. It only can do it. And must not they perish, and do

they not perish justly, that will not accept of saving grace,

nor beg it, when they must perish without it?

2. Grace helps to grace. All the grace that is given to us, is

but a drop from the great fountain of grace that we make

our application to. The first grace that is in us, is a gift and

stream of that grace that is with him. That gracious change

that is wrought on a sinner, by which, of a graceless, he is

made a gracious person; how do you think it is brought

about? There is a mystery in it that a master in Israel did

not know (John 3:9,10). No similitude from the old creation

can fully declare it; yet some of them are used in the word,

and gives some light. This work of grace on the ungodly

whom this grace falls on, is like a sun-beam darted from the

body of the Sun of righteousness, upon a sinner dead in

sins, that doth immediately quicken him, and enliven him.

It is both light and life. It is all originally in Christ, and out

of his fulness given to all that partake of it; (John 1:4) In

him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 8:12) I

am the light of the world; he that followeth me, shall not

walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life, saith our

Lord Jesus. Christ is such a sun that all on whom his

gracious beams light, are saved. He quickens all he shines

upon. Men perish under the gospel indeed; but it is because

the light of it shines only about them, and without them (2

Cor 4:4,6), but not into their hearts. All the grace whereby

any, and all the redeemed of the Lord, are converted,

beautified, and saved, is from the highest spring, grace in

Christ: (1 Tim 1:14) And the grace of our Lord was

exceeding abundant, with faith and love which is in Christ

Jesus. How came Paul by all the faith and love his blessed

soul was filled with? All came from the grace of the Lord

Jesus. And every partaker of true grace will own the same

original.

3. The helping grace which we should ask, not only helps

to salvation and grace, but also helps grace itself. The grace

received, must be refreshed and watered, and made to

grow, by influences from the same fountain from whence it

first flowed, or else it will wither quickly. Therefore we

have the grace of God in the fountain to betake ourselves

unto, for the helping of his grace in us. For though grace as

in Christ needs no help; yet his grace given to, and dwelling

in us, needs a great deal. The father of the lunatic (Mark

9:22,24) came to the throne of grace but sorrily. What a

marvellous change was wrought in him, and that suddenly?

In his first address he acted unbelief grossly; in the next he

acts faith, professeth faith, and prays Christ’s help against

his unbelief. Many did cast out devils in Christ’s name; but

none could help other folks’ unbelief, nor their own. His

begging help against his unbelief, was the same prayer with

that of the apostles, (Luke 17:5) Lord, increase our faith.

And it gave more honour to Christ in his office of a

Saviour, and did signify more, both of true faith in Christ,

and of an honest heart in the man, than if he had addressed

with the highest confidence to the Lord, to cast the devil

out of his son. The youth is lying wallowing and foaming,

and torn by the evil spirit, in the sight of his tender father:

yet no sooner doth the light of faith shine in his heart, but

he seeth a devil of unbelief there also; and he first begs that

Christ would cast out that, and help his faith. For helping of

unbelief, and helping of faith, is the same thing. He that

seeks the helping of his unbelief, seeks the removing of it;

and he that seeks the helping of his faith, seeks the increase

and strengthening of it. And both are done by the same

hand, by the same act of grace, and at the same time,

whenever and where-ever they are done. And as it is with

faith, so it is with all the graces of the Spirit in believers;

they do need help of his grace; and it must be sought at the

throne of grace. Can you say, I repent? add, Lord, help my

impenitence. I love? say, Lord, help its coldness, and blow

it up to a flame. Where the true grace of God is, there is

still some sense of its weakness, and inclination after an

increase therein; and some dependence acted on the Lord,

who began the good work, for performing it to the day of

Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6).

4. The grace of God helps our infirmities (Rom 8:26). If it

were not written, we should think it hard to use the

expression. If the Spirit of God plant grace in the heart, is

not that fair? if he water his own plants, is not that fair?

Nay, but, saith the apostle, he helps our infirmities also.

Might not the Holy Spirit disdain to have any dealing with

the infirmities of his people? Yes: but he will not. If he take

no care of our infirmities, we may, and must be lost

thereby. A criminal pardoned by an act of grace, may die of

a disease, if not cured; may starve of hunger and cold, if not

provided with necessaries; may be slain by his enemies, if

not protected. Sense of infirmities should make us beg

helping grace.

5. Grace helps in all the work and duty we are called to.

Without assisting grace, the least piece of work cannot be

rightly done, and by its help any work may be done: (2 Cor

9:8) God is able to make all grace abound towards you;

that ye always having all-sufficiency in all things, may

abound to every good work. There is grace, all grace, and

it abounding in God toward his people. From this given to

them, there is sufficiency and all-sufficiency, and that

always and in all things; and thence flows good work,

every good work, and abounding to every good work. Like

to this is his prayer, (Heb 13:20,21) The God of peace make

you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in

you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus

Christ. We need grace’s help in every good work. No work

is truly good, but what grace helps us to. Grace and works

agree sweetly in this order. Grace begins, and works

follow. Grace works on the man, and makes him a worker:

grace passeth on the person and his works, and makes them

accepted; and the accepted worker gives grace all the glory,

both of his works, and of his own and their acceptance.

Whence his help comes, thither his praises go.

6. Lastly, Grace helps in extremities. But of this in the last

thing in the text.

This then is the first exhortation, Come to the throne of

grace, seeking helping grace. Enlarge and heighten the

sense of your need and weakness as much as you will, the

supply to be had at the throne of grace is sufficient: (Phil

4:19) My God shall supply all your need, according to his

riches in glory, by Christ Jesus. And, in Paul’s style, glory

and grace change names frequently (Eph 1:6,12,14, 3:16; 2

Cor 3:18).

Exhort. 2. You must not only seek grace to help; but when

you seek it, you must expect it. The text runs plainly this

way. The apostle implies asking; but expresseth finding,

and coming that we may find. Therefore we should come

with expectation of finding. The spirit and life of prayer in

faith, lieth more in expectation than in asking. Unwise

Christians let out the life-blood and vital spirits of prayer,

when they let their expectations languish. Here is a

common, but unregarded error, in Christians’ exercise.

When they set their face to pray, they make some

conscience of searching out their wants; they labour to

improve that sight to the raising of fervent desires of a

supply of them: if they yet go hither, to take in a sense of

the fulness and freeness of that grace where their help is;

yet how rarely are they careful to raise up expectations of

that helping grace? Few can say, as Psalm 55:16, As for me,

I will come upon God; and the Lord shall save me, (v 17)

Evening and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry

aloud; and he shall hear my voice. Few can charge their

souls as he did, (Psa 67:5) My soul, wait thou only upon

God; for my expectation is from him. See how the prophet’s

faith rose, (Micah 7:7) I will look unto the Lord; I will wait

for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Looking

is a needy act of faith, waiting is an expecting act, and

assurance is the highest. If you look to the Lord, you may

quickly know he is the God of your salvation; if you know

him as the God of your salvation, and your God, you will

ask earnestly, wait patiently, and by the same faith

prophesy a gracious answer. What do you take praying in

faith to be (James 1:6)? It is not only to pray, believing that

we call upon the true God, in the name of Christ, and for

things agreeable to his will: it is not only that we believe

that he is able to give what we ask; but that he will give

what is good. But because his grace to help, is not only

good, and always good, but nothing is good without it,

Christians should beg grace with confident expectations.

What means Christ’s frequent answer to men: (Matt 8:13)

As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee? and (Matt

9:29) According to your faith, be it unto you? Is it not to tell

us, that he measures out his bounty to men, according, to

their believing expectations from him? (John 11:40) Jesus

saith unto Martha, Said I not unto thee, that if thou

wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Our

way is, if we could see the glory of God, then we would

believe. Christ’s way is just contrary: we must first believe,

and then we shall see the glory of God. We say, If the Lord

would glorify himself in performing his promises, and in

hearing our prayers, then we would believe strongly. But

this is inverting of Christ’s order. Martha was a believer in

Christ, and expresseth faith several ways in this chapter. It

appears in the joint message they sent to Christ, (v 3) Lord,

behold, he whom thou loves, is sick, (v 5) Now Jesus loved

Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. A blessed family, and

few like it; all loved of Christ, and doubtless lovers of

Christ. But they built more on his love to them, than on

their love to him, like humble and wise believers: (v 21)

Martha said unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my

brother had not died. Her sister Mary said the same (v 32).

It is likely, that none ever died in Christ’s presence, when

he was on earth; he cured all that employed him. But I

know, that even now whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God

will give it thee (v 22). Here was some faith. When Christ

promiseth (v 23) that her brother should rise again, she

acts faith as to the doctrine of the resurrection, (v 24) I

know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last

day. When Christ goes on in preaching himself (vv 25,26)

and asks her of her faith; she answered bravely, Yea, Lord:

I believe that you art the Christ the Son of God, which

should come into the world (v 27). A confession like

Peter’s (Matt 16:16). What then was wanting in this good

woman? Why doth our Lord put such an if thou wouldest

believe, to one that did believe so much and so well?

Because, notwithstanding her faith in Christ’s person, as

the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world;

notwithstanding her faith of his power; yet, in this instance

of raising Lazarus, she expected nothing. When Christ (v

39) bids take away the stone, she said, Lord, by this time he

stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. She that believed

Lazarus should rise at the last day, could not believe that he

should rise after death had held him but four days. Such is

the very nature of unbelief, or of weak faith in true

believers; they can, or rather think they do, believe greater

and harder things, when not much tried about them, better

and more easily, than smaller and easier things that their

faith is called to a present exercise about. Let all Christians,

in all their approaches to the throne of grace, behold this as

written on the open gates to this throne, and hear it

proclaimed by him that sitteth on it, Said I not unto thee,

that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of

God? Some believers are apt to think, that a trembling

fearing frame is fitter for them; and that raising of

expectation of good from God, will prevent or hinder

humility, and lying low before the Lord. But they are quite

mistaken that think faith and humility are inconsistent.

They not only agree well together, but they cannot be

parted: (Hab 2:4) Behold, his soul which is lifted up, is not

upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. To

bottom expectations of grace from God, on the account of

any good, real or apprehended, in us, or done by us, is not

only destructive of humility, but of faith also. A boaster is

an abominable creature at the throne of grace; but a pleader

for, and expectant of grace, for grace’s sake, is an humble

believer, and a right courtier at this throne.

Exhort. 3. You must not only seek grace when you come to

the throne of grace, and expect it when you seek it, but you

must be careful to receive grace when it is given. Make

room for it. What is said by the Lord in the prophet (Mal

3:10) though spoke in another case, is applicable to this: I

will open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a

blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Felt want, and strong faith, make much room for the grace

of God, Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it (Psa 81:10).

It must be a wide-mouthed soul that takes in, and a well-

filled soul that receives a fill of God. How mighty is that

prayer, Ephesians 3:17-19? We have all need not only to

get it by heart, but to get it into our hearts, and to send it up

to heaven daily from our hearts. Paul makes a special

preface to that prayer (vv 14,15). In it he prays for the

strengthening of the inner man, by the Spirit (v 16), That

Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith (v 17), that being

rooted in love, they might measure the dimensions of

Christ’s love, and know it that passeth knowledge (vv

18,19). Can any man go higher in prayer? Yes, one step

higher; that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Now, who hath room in his soul for the answer of such a

prayer as this is? If we had not these mighty words in this

way, we should be tempted to think that it were rather a

prophecy of what is to be enjoyed within the vail, than a

prayer of faith to be put up by travellers in the way to

heaven, and for blessings to be enjoyed in the house of their

pilgrimage. But a prayer it is, and some good performance

is given within time; though the main measure of the

answer of this (as of all the most spiritual prayers of saints

in this life) is reserved for the day of the Lord. It is a

greater matter, both of duty and difficulty, than most

Christians think, to have the everlasting doors of our souls

lifted up, and cast open, that the King of glory may enter

with his super-abounding grace. Many believers take much

pains, and make many prayers, for that grace of God, which

yet they receive not, when it comes, and craves room and

admittance. Grace comes always in and with Jesus Christ.

Whatever therefore hinders his welcome, excludes his

grace from entering. Grace comes in and by the promise. If

the promise be not received by faith, how can the grace

promised be received? Grace comes always as grace, free

and undeserved. How can a proud person receive it? And

there is pride often working in the discouragements of

Christians. They find they want much of the helping grace

of God: they ask it, they see it in the promises, and in

Christ’s hand: but they think, Should such as I lay hold on

such a precious gift as his grace? Why not? It is grace,

grace offered of grace, given of grace. Do you need it?

Why do you not receive it, and make room for it? Some

receive not that grace that is tendered to them; because it is

not the particular grace they sought, and expected, or

because it comes not to them in that way they looked for it

in. Others receive not, nor welcome the grace they beg;

because they think they cannot receive it. They look on

receiving as a great and difficult business, far above their

ability. But is refusing of it hard also? Alas! that is easy,

because natural to our hearts. Is not the seed of receiving in

all sincere asking and expecting of grace from God?

Receiving of his grace, is no more but a heart-willingness

that his grace may enter in, and act like itself upon us. And

this receiving act of faith doth greatly glorify God. Some

think it very strange, and hardly credible, that any believer

can ask earnestly that grace, which when tendered he is not

willing to receive. See how it was with some eminent

saints: (Job 9:16) If I had called, and he had answered me;

yet would not I believe that he had hearkened unto my

voice. Why so? For he breaketh me with a tempest (v 17).

But may not fatherly love and correction be together on a

believer? (Rev 3:19). Yet the sense of the smart of

correction, is a strong temptation to question the love of the

corrector. David, or Asaph, (Psa 77:1-3) I cried unto God

with my voice, even unto God with my voice, and he gave

ear unto me. Who would think that this man refused to be

comforted? Did he not pray for consolation? Yet he saith,

My soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and

was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was

overwhelmed. There is a peevishness of unbelief, that

Christians should watch against.

Exhort. 4. You must take care to guide this helping grace of

God, when you have received it. Guiding of grace, is an art

and mystery that Christians should study diligently. The

rule of this art is this, Guide the grace of God received by

you, for those ends for which it is given by him. Now, what

ends hath the Lord in giving of his grace? They are only

two. 1. For the praise and glory of the giver. 2. For the

benefit of the receivers. Guide his grace for those ends, and

you guide and use it well. Christians have little of his grace,

and complain sorrowfully; not because he gives, and they

receive little; but because they guide and manage this

richest talent poorly. Dare any believer forbear to say, If I

had kept all I had got, and guided well all he hath given, I

had been far richer in grace than now I am? Misguiding of

grace received is the greatest sin, because an abuse of the

greatest blessing. Watch against it, if you love his glory,

and your own weal.

II. I come now to the fourth and last thing in the verse,

about this grace of God; and that is, the seasonableness of

its help. It helps always, but especially in time of need. On

this I shall now only note some few things in general.

Obs. 1. Whatever believers’ present case be, a time of need

may come; and they should foresee it. Though they know

not particular circumstances, yet they should lay their

account with it. The Lord gives faithful warnings in the

word; faith should take them. We see the times of need that

many others come in; and we should take warning by their

experience. Every Christian hath found times of special

need formerly; the like may come again.

Obs. 2. Christians should pray before the time of need

come, for that grace that may help them when it comes.

The prophet speaks of hearing for the time to come (Isa

42:23); the apostle, (1 Tim 6:19) of laying up in store a

good foundation for the time to come. So here, men must

pray for the time to come. Is any man afflicted? let him

pray (James 5:13); and because any man may be afflicted,

he should pray beforehand.

1. Because we know not but we may be surprised by a time

of need; our Lord’s argument, (Mark 13:33) Take ye heed,

watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. The Lord

rarely gives particular warning of the time when special

need is coming. It ordinarily comes by surprise to us. Death

may, but sickness, losses, and affliction, usually come on

suddenly: and surprising trials are sore and searching ones.

2. We should pray before a time of need come; for often

when that time comes, we are thereby disabled for prayer.

The distress may be such, that even a believer can do

nothing. The night may come, when no man can work (John

9:4). Pray much before it come.

3. Because many prayers have their answer delayed till a

time of need comes. Christians think, that every day and

hour of their life it a time of need, (and so it is in some

sense); but there are some special seasons of great need, of

which the Lord is the only disposer; and he fits such times

with dispensings of that grace, that his people have many a

day begged before. There may be worse reasoning than

this: "It may be there are some blessings of grace, that I

have oft sought, and have not yet got, that are reserved for

me by the Lord, against a time when I shall need them

more than now I do."

Thus you see, in the scope of the apostle in these words,

that there is strong arguing for constant seeking of God’s

grace. You are either at present in a time of special need; or

if it be not present, it may come. Whatever case a believer

is in, his obligation is in a manner equal to this great duty,

of coming to the throne of grace, for grace to help him, as

his matters do require.

 

 

SERMON X

Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of

need.

You have heard that the gracious exhortation in the text, to

coming to the throne of grace, is directed with respect to

the getting of two great blessings, or of one under two

names, God’s mercy and grace. Concerning this grace I

have spoken to three things. 1. What this grace is. 2. What

the finding of this grace is. 3. What is the helpfulness of

this grace so found. I also entered upon the fourth and last

thing, the seasonableness of this helping grace.

The truth I am to speak to, is this:-

DOCT. The grace of God is specially helpful in times of

special need.

My work then is to shew,

I. What are those times of need.

II. What the helpfulness of grace in them is.

Only I would usher in this discourse, with a general

consideration of the constant need that all stand in of God’s

mercy and grace. And that I would branch into four. We

need God’s mercy and grace, as creatures, as men, as

sinners, and as Christians; and that always.

1. As creatures. The native notion of a creature is, that it is

a contingent, necessitous being: For his pleasure they are,

and were created (Rev 4:11). The Lord did not make all or

any creature because he needed them; but he made them

that they might need him. He did not build this glorious

fabric of heaven and earth, as a house to dwell in, or to

contain him (1 Kings 8:27); but he made this world as a

stage, on which to display his glorious wisdom and power:

and he made some of its inhabitants, angels in the upper

rooms, and men in the lower, to be spectators and praisers

of his glory. It is not proper to say, that creatures needed

their being before the Creator gave it: For when there was

nothing but God, there could be no need. Need and want is

essential to a creature, and springs up with their being. As

soon as the creation received its being by the word of his

power, it needs upholding by the same power: (Heb 1:3)

our Lord Jesus upholds all things by the word of his power.

The whole creation would fall back immediately into its

mother Nothing, if the same power that gave it a being did

not every moment preserve it. Would you have a joyful

view of heaven and earth? Look on all as in our Lord’s

hand. Why do the heavens keep their course? Why doth the

sun shine so gloriously, move so regularly, and influence

the earth so virtuously with his light and heat? It is because

Christ upholds all things by the word of his power. He is

before all things, and by him all things consist: all things

were created by him, and for him (Col 1:16,17). Many are

without Christ in the world (Eph 2:12). Many see daily the

works of creation and providence, and never think on

Christ as the head of all. But it is no wonder, that men that

have no eyes to see Christ in the new creation of grace,

cannot see him in the old creation of nature. We, as

creatures, are needy of God’s helping grace and favour: for

in him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28),

In his hand our breath is, and his all our ways are (Dan

5:23).

2. Our need of God’s grace appears yet more, as we are

such creatures, men. We are, through the bounty of God,

the most considerable part of this lower creation. Of man

some understand that elegant phrase, (Prov 8:26) The

highest part of the dust of the world. But there is no earthly

creature needy of God’s grace but man, even in his natural

frame, abstract from his sinful state. The great former of all

things hath given to all a being, and to many of his

creatures no more. To some of his creatures he hath given

life, a nobler sort of being. But to all living creatures, but

man, he gives no more, and they need no more; they have

not, they need not eternal life. When the breath of the other

living creatures goes downward, as the word is Ecclesiastes

3:21, there is an end of them. But man is created in that

state, that he must be for ever, and therefore be eternally

happy or miserable. This state he is made in, makes him

vastly needy of God’s grace and mercy.

3. We grow yet more needy as sinners. Sinners are

creatures, with this great blemish, of guilt, sin, and

corruption. A sinner is needy of a Mediator to deal for him

with God; for he cannot deal with God for himself. A

sinner is needy of the righteousness of another to

recommend him to God’s acceptance; for he hath none of

his own. The righteousness of a sinner is a plain

contradiction. And unless the power of sin had blinded men

in the right knowledge of God, and of themselves, and

unless it had puffed up their hearts in this darkness, there

had never been any pretence made by fallen men to self-

righteousness. But now nothing is more common, more

groundless, and yet more rooted in men’s hearts, than that a

sinner can, and may, if he will, bring or do somewhat that

may have some interest in, and influence on his acceptance

with God. A sinner is needy of a right to eternal life: and

this must be bought by another; for he can never purchase it

for himself. He is needy of safety from the wrath to come,

which is so woefully well deserved by him; and the man

can do nothing of himself, but what deserves it more and

further.

4. We are needy of the help of grace as Christians, as new

creatures. A Christian is a creature, by nature a human

creature, a sinful creature; but made a new creature by

grace. Yet there are some springs of constant need of grace,

in this new creature, the Christian.

1st, The necessary and constant dependance of the new

creature on its fountain and author, makes a Christian to be

a very needy creature. The dependance of the beams on the

sun is not more necessary, than the dependance of a

Christian on Christ: Without me (or separate from me) ye

can do nothing (John 15:5). The Christian’s life is by a

continual efflux from Christ; and is to be sought and

maintained by a constant dependance on him, as light from

the sun. Never was there, nor can there be a room so full of

light from the sun-beams, but if either the sun withdraw his

light, or if you exclude its light, by closing doors and

windows, it immediately becomes dark, and that

necessarily. It is so with all Christians. If it were not that

the new covenant hath assured us, that there shall be no

final and total separating of the fountain from the stream,

there would soon be an expiring of all that good that is in

the best of saints.

2dly, A Christian is always a needy creature; because he

hath much work to do, and most necessary work, and all

above his strength. He that hath most work, and least

strength, is most needy of help: (Phil 2:12,13) Work out

your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God

which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good

pleasure. If the exhortation or command had been without

the argument, it had been discouraging. What can a man do

about his own salvation? It is God that begun a good work

in them, and will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ (Phil

1:6). Put hand to your work; for help is near. As the

exhortation, Work out your own salvation with fear and

trembling, hath the height of duty in it; so the argument,

For it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of

his good pleasure, doth deeply debase man’s sufficiency,

and highly advance both the sovereignty and efficacy of his

assisting grace. And happy is that Christian, who can lay

the weight of the command on his conscience, and can at

the same time improve the encouragement for believing

obeying. Whoever is void of sense of his need of God’s

assisting grace, looks not rightly on the great work lying

before him, and seeth not the great weakness that is in him:

(2 Cor 3:5) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think

any thing as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is of God.

3dly, In this great work above his strength, the Christian

meets with much opposition, both from within, and from

without: not always in the same measure; but some always.

Special measures of opposition, make times of special

need;

of which I shall speak. But there is somewhat of opposition

that is constant: (Gal 5:17) For the flesh lusteth against the

spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are

contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the

things that ye would. This flesh and this spirit is in all

Christians. If a man were all flesh, he were no Christian; if

he were all spirit, he would be perfect, as the saints

glorified be. This flesh and spirit lust and strive one against

the other: and so they must do; for they are contrary the

one to the other. The effect of this lusting and contrariety

is, that the Christian cannot do the things that he would. He

cannot do all the flesh lusts to, because of the spirit’s

opposition; he cannot do all the spirit lusts after, because of

the opposition of the flesh. Of this combat the apostle

speaks largely from his own experience (Rom 7). And the

more opposition a Christian meets with, (and I have named

but one head of it), the more needy is he of helping grace.

4thly, The Christian’s state of absence from the Lord,

renders him a needy creature. He is made for the Lord;

framed so, that, as a Christian, nothing short of being for

ever and immediately with the Lord reigns in his heart as

his prize and mark, (2 Cor 5:2,4) In this we groan

earnestly, desiring to be clothed upon with our house which

is from heaven. We that are in this tabernacle do groan,

being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but

clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

What ails a believer to groan so oft and so deeply? It is to

be in heaven with the Lord. And the more heavenly and

holy a Christian be, the more frequent and earnest are these

groanings. He hath the most healthy soul, who is sick of

love: whose heart is sick with desires of being present with

the Lord. The believer that is most assured of heaven,

groans deepest. Unbelievers run on in sin, and sing to hell;

while hell groans for them: and sad will the meeting be. We

find Paul groaning for himself, only for two things; the

body of sin and death, its dwelling in him (Rom 7:24) and

his dwelling in the body. We do not, nor can we know the

vast difference that is betwixt the happy state of the saints

in heaven, and the best state of believers on earth. We do

but guess in the dark; and our guesses are but negative; that

they are removed from all the evils we find here; no sin, no

clouds, no death, no crying, nor any thing to complain of.

But these negatives taken in by faith and experience, with

the foretaste and firstfruits of that good land, make

believers groan to be possessed of it, although they go, as

Abraham did, (Heb 11:8) not knowing whither. Heaven will

be a blessed surprise to all the possessors of it. They will

find it a far better state than their highest thoughts and

largest desires could point forth.

But, besides these springs of constant need, there are

special seasons of Christians need of God’s grace. And they

are easily known by this general rule. That time that comes

on a believer, wherein he is in great and special danger,

from which only present supplies of grace can preserve

him, that is a season of special need of grace. And in the

prospect of, or in such seasons, Christians should ply the

throne of grace.

Of such times of need, I would speak to six of them. 1. The

time of temptation. 2. Of a spiritual decay. 3. Of high

enjoyments and attainments. 4. Of affliction. 5. Of special

duty and service. 6. Of dying. These are all seasons and

times of special need of God’s grace. And how such render

Christians needy of grace, and how helpful his grace is in

such times, is all I mind to say on this scripture.

I. The first time of need, is the time of temptation: An hour

of temptation (Rev 3:10), A time of temptation (Luke 8:13),

A day of temptation (Psa 95:8). But because temptation is

of large signification, and of sundry sorts, and from various

quarters, I shall confine myself to that sort that is from

Satan. And on this head would confine myself to these

three: 1. What temptation is. 2. What need of grace to the

tempted. 3. How grace helps in time of temptation.

1. What is temptation? As we are concerned in it, three

things are in a temptation. An outward object, the occasion;

inward corruption, that is as fuel for the temptation; and

Satan’s motion to sin, and his working on these two, to

hatch sin. He is but twice called the tempter; first, when he

came to Christ (Matt 4:3); and again, when he comes to

Christians (1 Thess 3:5). These three are not necessarily in

all temptations. In his tempting the first and second Adam,

there was only an outward object, and a motion of Satan.

But in all men besides, these three are in all temptations.

And the Spirit of God in the word gives the name of

temptation to all of them: (1 Tim 6:9) They that will be

rich, fall into temptation. Few either of the poor or of the

rich believe this. (James 1:14,15) Every man is tempted,

when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then

when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin,

when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Hence the

difficulty is great in discovering Satan’s hand in tempting;

because there is inward corruption in men, that acts and

works of itself, as well as it is fit to be acted upon by Satan.

If temptation from Satan came to a sinless man, the tempter

might be easily known: but when it comes to a sinner, who

hath an active principle of corruption in him, that prompts

him to the same sin that the tempter tempts unto, it

becomes very hard to a man to say, "This motion is of the

devil"; and "This is of my own corrupt heart." And here

seldom doth the devil get his due. Some blame the devil

more than he deserves, and excuse themselves more than

they should; and some excuse the devil, and blame

themselves more than they ought. What shall we do here?

How shall we know when temptation riseth from corruption

within, or from the devil without? There is no very great

need to know it exactly; as in some cases it is very hard to

know it. Temptation is so natural to us, that if the devil be

the first mover, it seizeth so quickly on our corrupt heart,

that we may justly take the blame to ourselves. The

workings of the Spirit of God on the new creature, and of

the spirit of Satan on the old man, are great mysteries. It is

far wiser work to set about resisting of our spiritual

enemies, than to perplex ourselves with questions about

their order. Therefore,

2. What need is there of the grace of God to help the

tempted? This is plain. Every one that is in this case, knows

his great need of grace. Yet, to make them that are not in it

pity them that are, and to direct them that are in it to

entertain a deeper sense of their need of God’s grace, I

would shew how needy a person under temptation is of the

helping grace of God. This appears in these:-

1st, Our Lord Jesus Christ commands us to pray against

temptation. He doth not so command us to pray against

affliction. In that pattern of prayer (Matt 6:9-13), (the

words whereof are better known, than the deep sense and

meaning of the words is understood), there are but two

petitions for spiritual blessings for ourselves. One is, for the

pardon of sin, that relates to the state of our persons: the

other is, for sanctification and preservation; and that is

expressed thus, Lead us not into temptation. Sanctification

is prayed for, in praying against temptation; and much of

sanctification is acted in making such a prayer. But may not

a man enter into temptation, and come well out of it again?

Yes. But, in that case, more thanks is due to the Lord’s

grace and mercy, than to his own good conduct. Christ

would have you to be afraid of temptation, and to pray

against it: (Matt 26:41) Watch and pray, that ye enter not

into temptation. Whatever temptation a man rusheth

confidently upon, he usually falls by. In temptation, no

believer is safe, but the self-diffident and fearful; and fear

of temptation acts in praying against it. Peter failed in his

fearlessness. His going to the high priest’s hall after the

warning his Master gave him, was rushing on a temptation;

and so came on it. It must therefore be a case wherein one

is very needy of grace to help, that Christ bids us pray

against.

2dly, We find the whole armour of God is provided and

prepared on purpose for the case of temptation (Eph

6:10,13). The apostle is sounding the alarm of war to all

Christians. He shews them where their strength lies, (v 10)

Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. He

shews them their weapon of war (vv 10-19), and tells them

how to use them. Their armour is that of God. No armour

but that that is from heaven, is proof against the batteries

and assaults of hell. How doth the devil laugh at, despise,

and pierce through that soul, whose armour is forged and

framed on earth? This armour of God the Christian must

put on, and take to himself. It is not enough that he know it,

and have it lying by him. It is no armour to him, till it be

put on by him. And why such armour, and so put on? (v

12). Because of such dreadful enemies as we have to deal

with: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, (enemies

formidable, and dangerous sufficiently against them that

have no more but flesh and blood to oppose them with), but

against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of

the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in

high places. What but the whole armour of God can secure

a poor believer from all the armies of hell?

3dly, Our blessed Lord Jesus himself was tempted, that he

might succour them that are tempted (Heb 2:18). There are

several states and conditions that believers are in that Christ

himself was never in. We are oft sick and weak in body;

Christ was always in sound and perfect health of body: for

sickness is a consequent of inherent sin, and corruption of

nature; and of that Christ had none. Many particular

distresses we meet with, and wrestle with, that Christ knew

not by his own experience. But this sad case of temptation

he knew and felt. But, ye may say, if Christ had never been

tempted, had he not been able to succour them that are

tempted? Yes, no doubt; for no bounds can be set to his

divine power as God. What then doth his experience of

temptation signify to the succour of the tempted believer? It

is the ground of his sympathy with them; and sympathy

draws forth his helping grace. It is a ground for the faith of

the tempted to act upon. How sweet is this thought to a

Christian thus exercised: "I am indeed a tempted believer;

but I have a Saviour that was tempted himself, and

remembers it still, and pities them, and will help them that

are in that case, that was once so grievous to himself?"

4thly, A tempted person is needy of God’s helping grace,

because sin came in at first by temptation. Temptation was

the door that sin came in by, and entered into the world of

mankind. How sin came in upon the angels that fell, is

deeper than that we can know it. And it is no great matter

for us to be ignorant of it. We know they are now the worst,

and most wicked, and most miserable of all the creatures;

and that originally they were of the most eminent order (as

one well said), "The Lord wisely would not declare the

nature of that disease he was resolved never to cure." And

so we must leave it in the dark. But as to sin’s coming into

the world of mankind, we have more light. The Lord

created the root of mankind upright and perfect, first the

man, then the woman. In their created state, there was no

sin in either of them. But temptation was so applied by

Satan, that it quickly begot sin. This argument the apostle

useth, (2 Cor 11:3) I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent

beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be

corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. If Satan did

prevail to bring in sin by temptation upon the sinless and

perfect; what may he not do on sinners, in whom he hath so

much interest, and over whom he hath so great advantage

by somewhat of his own in them?

5thly, There is great need of the grace of God in a time of

temptation, because of the frequent sad effects of

temptation, unless present help of grace be given. Rarely

doth a temptation and our hearts meet but some fire of sin

is kindled. I would name a few of those effects of

temptation.

(1.) Temptation doth often discover hid and unseen evil,

and brings it to light. It brings forth that which the person,

before the temptation, never thought was in him. So it is

with the ungodly, and the godly themselves. When Hazael

was told by the prophet Elisha, what mischief he would do

to Israel, he said, (2 Kings 8;13) But what, is thy servant a

dog, that he should do this great thing? But (saith Elisha)

the Lord hath shewed me, that thou shalt be king over

Syria. "Then thou wilt have power, and will to do it." What

wickedness will not that man do, whom Satan tempts, and

whom God leaves? David fell dreadfully by temptation.

And so did Hezekiah, (2 Chron 32:31) Howbeit, in the

business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who

sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the

land, God left him to try him, that he might know all that

was in his heart. When the vessel is broached by a

convenient temptation, that liquor will come out that was

never thought to be within. When Herod feared John and

observed, or preserved him; when, on his hearing him he

did many things, and heard him gladly; who would have

thought he would have beheaded him? (Mark 6:20,21). But

a convenient day came; a day when Herod lay fair for

temptation; and a day that Satan, and Herodias and her

daughter, his servants, laid the temptation before him: then

the poor wretch was soon overcome. But indeed it was

more strange, that such a king as Herod should hear such a

prophet as John Baptist preach, than that he should murder

him. At least, it is, and hath been far more usual to bad

kings, to slay prophets, than to hear them gladly. Peter was

so confident in his courage, that, in a manner, (though

against both grace and good manners), he gives the lie to

his Master, (Matt 26:31-35) Then said Jesus unto them, All

ye shall be offended because of me this night, (v 33) Peter

answered and said unto him, Though all men should be

offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. As if

he had said, "Lord, at least except me out of this all thou

speakest of." Because he would not take the general

warning, Christ gives him a particular one, (v 34) Jesus

said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, that this night before

the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Will not Peter

believe Christ speaking so peremptorily and plainly? No: (v

35) Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, (or

for thy sake, as John 13:37), yet will I not deny thee.

Likewise also said all the disciples. So loth and backward

are even godly men to own that to be in them, that they do

not see and feel at present working in them. These words

Peter and the rest spoke, (bating that awful fear that should

have seized on them, from such a warning as Christ gave

them), were words of duty; and were doubtless the honest

expressions of their present thoughts. Yet when the

temptation came, Christ’s warning took place, and their

resolutions vanished like smoke. They all forsook him and

fled. Peter followed afterward, and denied him shamefully.

The voice of a damsel overthrew this man, that had courage

to draw his sword in his Master’s defence against armed

men (John 18:10). He denied he knew his dear Master;

when, if he had owned him, and himself as his servant,

there was no danger. John was there, and at the cross too,

without any harm.

(2.) Temptation often brings on a great and sudden damp

and eclipse on the work of God’s grace in the heart. It is as

the smoke of hell in the soul, that darkens the room; so that

a believer cannot see what of God is in him. It is, as Christ

calls it, (Luke 22:31) a sifting a man as wheat. Wheat, and

chaff, and dust, are then mingled together. No believer in

this case can give such a clear and distinct account, nor

have so plain a discovery of God’s work in him, as before

and after the temptation. Christians give the devil the

advantage he seeks, when they judge of themselves and

their state in the fit of a temptation. Act grace diligently

when in temptation, and try your state as carefully as you

can when you are out of temptation.

(3.) Temptation increaseth greatly and suddenly, seen and

known corruption. If temptation come on a latent hid

corruption, it may bring it forth: but if it come on a known

corruption, though it was not so powerful before,

temptation will make it rage. The temptation came on

Judas. For as hateful as his name is justly to all Christians;

yet, before he fell, no man suspected him; only Christ knew

him. When Christ gave the warning (John 13:21) that one

of the twelve should betray him; all the eleven said, Is it I?

and at last the traitor said so; and was answered (Matt

26:21-25). The lust the devil acted on, was his

covetousness. He was a thief, a lover of money; and the

devil put him at last upon a bargain that was his ruin. For a

servant to betray his master, and such a master; for a sinner

to sell the Saviour of all sinners that are saved, for so

inconsiderable a sum, after so fair a warning of his sin and

ruin by it, was a proof of the mighty power of temptation

over a man. The apostle Peter chargeth Ananias thus, (Acts

5:3) Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy

Ghost? The filling of his heart was Satan’s work, as Peter

saith: Why then doth he ask the man an account of, or

charge him with Satan’s action? Because the devil can fill

no man’s heart with a sinful purpose, till the man give way

to, and comply with the devil’s working.

3. What is that help that grace gives to the tempted? We

have heard how temptation renders a man needy of grace;

now let us consider how this grace can, and doth help in

this case. Paul, in his temptation (2 Cor 12:7-9) betakes

himself to the right course? to prayer to the Lord; and

thrice he besought the Lord, that it might depart from him.

He is answered, My grace is sufficient for thee. We would

be apt to think, that Paul’s great stock of grace, and

manifold experience, and his late extraordinary enjoyment,

might have been sufficient to have supported Paul in his

conflict. No: they could not. Our Lord saith not, "Thy grace

is sufficient for thee, which I have abundantly bestowed on

thee"; but, My grace is sufficient for thee. So the apostle

exhorts another, (2 Tim 2:1) Be strong in the grace that is

in Christ Jesus; and Ephesians 6:10. There are many

enemies of the grace of God, because few are partakers of

it. Such as have not felt the power of it on their own hearts,

will always pick quarrels with the pure doctrine of grace.

Some cannot receive this plain gospel-truth, That a man

must be constituted righteous in the sight of God, only

through the righteousness of another person, even Jesus

Christ, imputed to the sinner of free grace. And some that

own this truth, stumble again on this other truth, That the

sanctification of a justified believer flows from the constant

supplies of grace from Christ, their head and root. They

think, that there are habits of grace implanted in the new

creature, (and this is not to be denied); and if they guide

well what they have received in the grace of regeneration,

they may live well, and grow on to perfection. But it is not

duly minded in men’s spiritual exercise, that no stock of

grace was ever given to any believer, to take him off the

sense of his need of daily dependance on the original grace

in Christ Jesus. But the greatest receivers always act their

dependence most humbly, and see their need of it most

clearly, and find the benefit of that dependence most

comfortably. Observe also our Lord’s argument for the

encouragement of Paul: For my strength is made perfect in

weakness. What is Christ’s grace in the answer, is Christ’s

strength in this argument; what is sufficiency in the one, is

making perfect in the other. As if Christ had said to Paul, "I

see the devil is too hard for thy weakness; but thy

weakness, supported by my strength, shall be too hard for

Satan." Now, see how Paul improves this answer, Most

gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that

the power of Christ may rest upon me. No wonder he

gloried in Christ, and in Christ’s grace bestowed on him;

for that any Christian can do: but this glorying in

infirmities, is an exercise of grace only found with such

fathers in Christ as Paul was. Who is not humbled, and

afraid of his infirmities? Here is a believer that glories in

them. But why? and how? That the power of Christ may

rest upon me. Infirmities as infirmities, having nothing in

them to excite glorying: but infirmities as opportunities for

displaying of the glory of Christ’s grace in helping under

them, are to be gloried in. Christ acts on them, and the

sensible believer employs him therein. Our weakness is the

field his strength is glorified in. Whoever doth not own his

infirmities, forfeits the assistance of the grace of Christ.

The grace that helps in temptation, is Christ’s grace: the

employing of him for it, and drawing it from him, is by

faith, and should be the Christian’s work.

How doth this grace help the tempted believer?

1st, In discovering of Satan’s wiles and devices (Eph 6:11).

He hath fiery darts (v 16) and he hath wiles also. His most

dangerous temptations are his most cunning ones. This

serpent hath his subtilty (2 Cor 11:3). The less they be

perceived, the more dangerous temptation is: and the more

clearly they are seen, the more easily they are overcome.

The apostle owns this, (2 Cor 2:11) Lest Satan should get

an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Satan gets greatest advantage of them that are (and because

they are) ignorant of his devices. The case the apostle

speaks of, is that of the incestuous Corinthian. He had

sinned greatly; the church had not resented it as they ought.

Paul, in his first epistle (chap 5), chargeth them for their

want of zeal, commands them to cast out that scandalous

member. The Lord blesseth that letter and his advice, both

to that church and to the offending person. Now, here lay

Satan’s device: he that had puffed them up with pride and

security in their former carriage toward that offender when

impenitent, seeks also to stir them up to an uncharitable

severity towards him, when renewed again unto repentance.

And of this kind are many of his wiles. He drives men to

extremes on each hand. Thus many professors are like the

devil’s footballs, kicked about from one extreme to another,

and seldom are kept in the right midst. The devil keeps men

asleep in sin as long as he can. If they awake against his

will, he runs them on despair; if faith be wrought in them,

he labours to make them turn the grace of God into

wantonness. The instances of his devices are innumerable.

The multitude and danger of his wiles must be great, if we

consider, 1. His created state: a spirit more knowing than

man. A sinless angel is a higher creature than sinless Adam

was. 2. By his fall he hath lost happiness and purity; but

retains his knowledge, which his corruption hath turned

into craft, malice, and wiles. 3. His long experience in

cheating of men. 4. That in men that his wiles are proposed

to. It is to the heart, deceitful above all things, and

desperately wicked (Jer 17:9). It is to the old man, which is

corrupt according to the deceitful lusts (Eph 4:22). Such a

devil dealing with such a deceitful heart, must have many

dangerous wiles. Christ’s grace only can enable a man to

discern them; and it should be much prayed for. Many have

been skilful in the theory and knowledge of the doctrine of

Satan’s wiles, that have been, notwithstanding, prevailed

upon by them. A man must know his own heart well, and

observe its motions narrowly, and be much at the throne of

grace, that would know Satan’s particular wiles on himself.

2dly, Grace helps the tempted, in helping to hate the sin

they are tempted to. Many believers, though they cannot

tell well whence the wind comes that drives them, whether

from their own heart, or the devil; yet they know whither it

drives them; to sin that they are averse from. Tempted

Joseph spake like a man that had present assistance of

grace, when he said, (Gen 39:9) How can I do this great

wickedness, and sin against God? As far, and as long, as

the sin tempted to, stands black and ugly in the eye of the

tempted person; so far, and so long, is the temptation

ineffectual. Temptation prevails, when the sin tempted to

takes with the heart and will; (James 1:14) A man is

tempted, (i.e. successfully,) when he is drawn away of his

own lust, and enticed. Sin was without him, but near to him

by the temptation; now it is within him, and it is his sin.

The temptation to numbering of the people, took with

David; but his command about it was abominable to Joab,

a man far short of David’s grace, if he had any (1 Chron

21:6).

3dly, Grace can help the tempted to resist and stand (Eph

6:13). No man is overcome of Satan till he flee and yield.

Resisting is overcoming of him: (James 4:7) Resist the

devil, and he will flee from you, (1 Peter 5:9) Whom resist,

stedfast in the faith, (Eph 6:16) Above all, taking the shield

of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery

darts of the devil. They are darts, they are the devil’s darts,

they are fiery darts, there is an all of them; yet by faith you

may be able to quench them all. Why is so much said of

faith? Because, as Christ’s strength is the believer’s

strength, so faith is that only in a believer that acts on this

strength, draws it in, and acts in it. Separate faith from its

object, Christ, either in justification or in sanctification, and

it becomes an imagination, a vanity, a nothing. Now,

consider how cunningly Satan deals with believers, and

how simply they are gulled by him in temptation. He

persuades, and often prevails with them, to lay aside the

shield of faith, when they should mainly use it. How foolish

were that man that would yield his arms to an implacable

enemy? Christ knew Peter’s danger, and provides

graciously for it: I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail

not (Luke 22:32).

4thly, The helping grace of God assists tempted believers,

in preventing an utter foil by Satan, and in recovering them

from a begun foil. So did Christ for Peter; and Paul (2 Cor

12:8,9). The devil never gets all his will on a believer: nor

are any wounds he gives to a saint, mortal in the issue;

whatever they be in their own nature, in believers’ fears, or

in the devil’s design. All the glory is due to the grace that is

in Christ Jesus.

5thly, lastly, Grace can rebuke the tempter, and call him

off. This Joshua the high priest needed and got: (Zech 3:2)

And the Lord said unto Satan, (who was standing at

Joshua’s right hand to resist him, when he is standing

before the angel of the Lord, verse 1) The Lord rebuke thee,

O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke

thee; is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? This mercy

was the first thing in Paul’s prayer, (2 Cor 12:8) For this

thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from

me. This messenger of Satan was of Christ’s sending and

giving: there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a

messenger of Satan to buffet me (v 7). "Lord save us from

such gifts," will Christians be apt to say. There is no reason

to pray for them. If the Lord see them needful, he will send

them. But it is comfortable, that all the devil’s assaults are

of Christ’s ordering. He must have Christ’s leave to tempt

(Luke 22:31); and our Lord, when he pleaseth, can, and

will call him off. When Christ was tempted (Matt 4) he

resists all his temptations by the word, as his people should:

at lat he put forth is divine power, (v 10) Get thee hence,

Satan, &c. Then the devil leaveth him (v 11). This we

cannot do, but Christ can do it for us. It is a blessed

promise, (Rom 16:20) The God of peace shall bruise Satan

under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

be with you. Amen. Poor tempted Christians think, that they

are not only in Satan’s sieve, and in his hands, but that they

are often under his feet. But lift up your heads by faith on

this promise. Complete victory is coming; and the faith of it

should not only encourage you to resist, but this faith is a

present victory: Faith is our victory (1 John 5:4). The

believer (not only shall be, but) is an overcomer.

 

SERMON XI

Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of

need.

The Lord hath been pleased so to order and determine the

state and condition of his children, while they are in this

life, that they shall be constantly needy. This dispensation

we should submit unto with all quietness of mind, not

quarrelling with the wisdom and mercy of our God therein.

Yea, more than submission is called for. There is a further

duty required, though it be hard to perform it, to take

pleasure and to rejoice in this needy state, that the power of

Christ may rest upon us. For as the Lord hath laid us, or left

us, under manifold necessities; so hath he laid up, and is

ready to lay out, of his grace for helping us under them.

And surely such wants as lay us open for those supplies of

his grace, will be found to have a great deal of mercy in

them, in the issue. The exhortation in the text implies, that

grace can help in every time of need. There are some times

of need, contrived by the Lord on purpose, that the

helpfulness of his grace might the more shine and appear. I

was speaking last day from this truth, That there are some

special necessitous times, in which believers are specially

needy of Christ’s grace, and in which his grace is specially

helpful.

I have spoke to the first of these times of need: A time of

temptation. Though all believers be not always tempted; yet

there is no saint on earth who is out of the devil’s gun-shot.

No saint on earth hath reason to expect, that (if I may so

speak) God should serve the devil with a Noli prosequi.

God gives not, in this life, an utter discharge to the devil,

from meddling with, or molesting of any saint. Till we

come to heaven, this adversary must be expected and

prepared for. This world is his dominion; he is the wicked

god of it (2 Cor 4:4). And all the wicked in it, are his

people, subjects, and children: and all the remaining

corruption in the saints, is of the devil.

II. The second time of special need of God’s grace, is the

time of a spiritual decay; a decay in the new creature, a

decay in the work of God in the heart. This passeth under

many names in the word, and well known in the sense and

experience of believers. Sometimes it is called darkness

(Isa 50:10). It is the misery of a natural state, that they that

are in it, are darkness. It is the blessedness of a renewed

state, that the partakers of it are light in the Lord. Their

duty is, to walk as children of light (Eph 5:8). Though they

that are made light in the Lord, are never suffered to

become darkness again; yet they may walk in darkness, and

have no light; and the days of that darkness may be many,

as the wise man saith (Eccl 11:8). We all know what

natural darkness is. All the natural light of the world is

from the sun; and therefore natural light and darkness, day

and night, have their vicissitudes and revolutions,

according to the shining or not shining of the sun. All the

spiritual light believers have, is from the light of God’s

countenance. As the Sun of Righteousness ariseth on them

(Mal 4:2) or withdraws from them, so is their spiritual day

or night; so do they walk in darkness, or in the light of the

Lord. Sometimes this decay is called death, and deadness;

a state of inability and inactivity, for working and doing

what they are called to. Hence so many prayers for

quickening, especially in Psalm 119. Natural death we

know not; but sickness, weakness, and fainting, we do

know. Spiritual death is known and felt by none that are

under its total power; but a weakness in spiritual life, saints

do know.

Of this decay I would speak, in handling three things. 1.

Whence it comes. 2. How needy such are of God’s grace. 3.

How grace doth help in it.

1. Whence comes this decay on Christians? It is a state too

common to be questioned, and too plain to need to be

proved, that true Christians are, and may be in it. I would

name some of its springs and causes.

1st, It flows from the infant, infirm state of the new

creature, in its first forming. It is a new-born babe (1 Peer

2:2). When the first man was made, he was as perfect and

strong a man the first hour he was made, as ever he was in

all his life. He came out of his Maker’s hands a perfect

man. But the new creature is born a weak thing, and is to

grow up to the stature of a perfect man in Christ (Eph

4:13); and will never come to its full growth, till it come to

heaven. None on earth knows what a perfect Christian is.

There are degrees of perfection on earth; in respect whereof

some are less, some more perfect. But the most perfect

labour greatly under imperfection (Phil 3:12-14), and press

most after perfection. I will not speak of the wise design of

God, in framing the new creature thus. Only the glory of its

preservation, and of its perfection, is not due to the new

nature in believers; but to the original of it, God the Father;

to the blessed root thereof, Jesus Christ his Son; to the

inhabitation of the Spirit; and to the great security of the

new covenant.

2dly, The new creature is not only in an infant, weak state,

but it is planted in a bad and unfit soil for it. It is planted

out of its element. Heaven is the proper element and

country whence the new creature came, whence it is

maintained, and whither it natively tends. But it is planted

here in the heart of a sinner. Now, the heart of a man,

though mended by grace in part, is a very unfit and

unsuitable soil for such a foreign heavenly plant, as the new

creation is. And hence it is, that the grace of God in us is

endangered by the place of its residence.

2dly, There is also much corruption remaining in the heart

of a believer, as noisome weeds growing near this precious

planting of the Lord. The Lord never designed to root all

corruption out of the hearts of his people in this life, by the

first planting of his grace in them; but only to give that

grace that shall break the dominion of sin, and that shall

maintain a war with indwelling sin, and at last shall prevail

completely. So that it is plain, that on the account of those

three, if there were no more, Christians are very liable to

spiritual decays. And it is sadly confirmed from frequent

experience. It may be in some, the work of grace was in

best case when it was first begun; and that, from the day of

their conversion, to the day of their being glorified, they

never had much of any remarkable growth. But this is their

sin, and their shame.

2. Hence you may see, how needy such persons are of the

help of the grace of God. An inward decay in the work of

his grace in us makes us very needy of help from the

fountain of grace in him.

For this decay gives great advantages to our spiritual

enemies to attack us, and lays us under great disadvantages

in resisting them. I am apt to think, (I cannot now give the

reasons of it), that the devil knows the frame of our hearts,

though he does not know the heart immediately: that is

God’s property, Acts 1:24), and the condition of the work

of God in us, a great deal better than we ourselves

ordinarily do. Great is the intimacy he hath with our spirits,

especially with the remaining corruption in them. Great is

his craft, acquired by observation, practice, and experience,

as well as by his malicious sagacity. And when he seeth a

believer in a bad case, if he have permission, he will

improve that desired opportunity to make their bad case

worse. Psalm 71:11,12 David prays for hasty help from

God, on this argument, his enemies saying, God hath

forsaken him: persecute and take him, for there is none to

deliver him. Caleb and Joshua encourage Israel to go in and

possess the land (Num 14:9) by this, Their defence is

departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.

It is from this bad case that believers are in, that Satan hath

so easy and speedy victory over them at some times, more

than at other times. When it is well with the new creation

within, Christians can keep the devil at a bay and stand;

when it is otherwise, he prevails immediately; we are

disarmed, and his darts pierce and enter. There is some

ground to suspect, that David’s heart was not in so good a

frame as usually, some time before his foul fall (2 Sam 11).

As to Peter, it is plain, his vain self-confidence gave Satan

an opportunity to sift him, as he did.

3. How doth the grace of God help in a decayed state?

1st, Grace helps, in preserving life at the root. There is

some witness for God kept up. I sleep, but my heart waketh,

saith the bride (Song 5:2). It is well all was not asleep. The

spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, saith meek Jesus, in

his agony in the garden to the three distempered disciples

(Matt 26:41). These same three sleep in the mount of

transfiguration (Luke 9:32), and in the garden of agony.

Paul found this witness preserved in his captivity to the law

in his members (Rom 7:23).

2dly, Grace helps under a decayed state, by making a secret

growth downward: A growth, that the believer cannot feel

in himself, and that others cannot quickly perceive; yet it is

a real growth, and will in God’s due time appear. We

commonly value most that growth in grace that hath fair

blossoms and fruit, appearing to our comfort, and to the

Lord’s praise before others. And it is indeed desirable, and

to be studied (Matt 5:16; John 15:8). But there is a growth

that may be carried on in the root only, in the rooting grace

of a Christian: as in clearer discoveries of indwelling sin in

the heart, and in more self-diffidence and self-distrust. Paul

had this fruit (2 Cor 1:8,9). It is a sad thing, that many

Christians are so fond of themselves, of the good that is in

them, that the Lord seeth that nothing is so fit to cure them

of this, as leaving them to themselves. And when this

leaving of them to themselves hath brought them to a

discovery of themselves, and that discovery hath wrought a

distrust of themselves, and that distrust hath taught them

faith in God; then the Lord hath reached his end on them,

and will change his way with them.

3dly, Grace can revive the decayed state of a believer: (Psa

23:3) He restoreth my soul. He reneweth their strength (Isa

40:31). Thy youth is renewed like the eagles (Psa 103:5).

This is impossible in nature, and as to our bodies; but as to

our souls, and the work of God in them, it is what is

promised, and often done. Old people may, and do often, in

their folly and vanity, counterfeit youth; but all their arts

cannot make themselves one hour younger. But the Lord

can renew the youth of the new creature, and make it better

with him than ever it was. David prays for it, (Psa 51:10)

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit

within me. Peter got a new conversion (Luke 22:32). They

both had been converted and renewed before; but they fell

under a sad decay, and needed this restoring grace, and got

it.

So much of the second time of need. I proceed to a third,

not so common.

III. A time of special enjoyments, is a time of special need

of God’s helping grace. You may think it strange, but it is

true, that they that receive most of the Lord’s gracious

bounty, stand in most need of grace to guide it well.

Concerning this season, I would speak in five particulars.

1. Most Christians know what those enjoyments are by

experience, although in various measures. It is very

suspicious, that that person is an hypocrite, that is always in

the same frame, let him pretend it to be never so good. The

true Christian’s sky is never long clear, and without clouds.

Change of weather and ways, is usually found by travellers

to heaven. It is to be suspected, that he is not right who

hath no changes (Psa 55:19). These special enjoyments are

of several sorts.

1st, There is some special nearness to God enjoyed by

Christians at some times. We are not at all to be offended

at, but rather confirmed by the reproaches of the ungodly,

that are utter strangers to such enjoyments, and cannot

endure nor understand the scripture-names of such

blessings that they themselves are unacquainted with. What

is more frequent in the word, than this nearness to God?

What is better known in the experience of saints than this

nearness? He makes gracious approaches to men’s spirits,

and causeth them to approach to him (Psa 65:4). They find

it good for them (Psa 73:28). The first gracious change

wrought on a soul, is by bringing a distant sinner near to

God: (Eph 2:13) But now in Christ Jesus, ye who

sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of

Christ. "Whenever the virtue of that blood came upon you

by the Spirit of Christ, God came near to you, and you were

brought near to God." But besides this nearness that is

begun in the first application of grace, and changeth their

state; there is more nearness given by the Lord, and

enjoyed by his people, for the cheering of their hearts, and

bettering of their frame. Exercised Christians are able to

give a distinct account of their having of this nearness at

some times, and of their want of it at other times. How

much of both are in the Psalms of David? And such as can

understand the nearness to, and distance from God, so

frequently mentioned there, as only the psalmist’s sense of

God’s favourable or cross providence towards him in

outward things, are to be pitied for their ungodly ignorance,

and despised for their expounding the words of a man after

God’s heart according to the carnal sentiments of their own.

2dly, There are effusions of the Spirit spoke of in the word,

and found by Christians, which are special enjoyments.

Sometimes they are found in the performance of spiritual

duties of worship; sometimes in the exercise of grace.

Grace should be acted in all duties of worship; but it may

be, and should be acted out of any formal duty. You should

never pray, but there should be acting of faith and love on

Christ. But, God be thanked, you may act faith and love

when ye do not pray, when you are about no settled

spiritual duty of worship. There is a being in the fear of the

Lord all the day long (Prov 23:17), A walking up and down

in the name of the Lord (Zech 10:12), A doing of every

thing in the name of the Lord Jesus (Col 3:17). Every

believer hath the Spirit of Christ: If any man have not the

Spirit of Christ, he is none of his (Rom 8:9). But there are

some singular pourings out of this Spirit promised and

bestowed, and well known by believers? and they are

precious enjoyments. This Spirit the world cannot receive;

because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know

him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you, as Christ

saith (John 14:17).

3dly, There is communion and fellowship with God much

spoke of in the word, well known by believers (1 John 1:3).

But I shall name no more of these enjoyments.

2. As all Christians know what these special enjoyments

are, so all of them do greatly desire them. This is so sure,

that many do over-desire them. This desire ariseth,

1st, From the genius and instinct of the new nature. What is

more natural to the new creature, than kindly breathing

after heaven? When a poor soul hath got of the water of life

from Christ, it becomes in him a well of water springing up

into everlasting life (John 4:14). Immediately the soul saith,

"What shall I do to be saved? when shall I be saved?" Now,

if desires of heaven be the native breathing of the new

creature, surely breathing after much of heaven upon earth

must be so too; for the highest enjoyments of God on earth,

are far short of what is reserved for heaven.

2dly, Experience of first love, and of the first gracious

welcome he gave to the believer, when he first fled to the

city of refuge, makes them desire more of those

enjoyments.

3. These special enjoyments are very profitable, as well as

pleasing. They are given for profit, and do usually profit.

1st, They are supported under tribulation: In the multitude

of my thoughts within me, (and doubtless they were sad

ones), thy comforts delight my soul (Psa 94:19). Usually

much affliction, and joy of the Holy Ghost, are together (1

Thess 1:6). The promises are fitted for distress, and the

performance of them given to Christians under it. Some

distresses are so great, that nothing can bear up under them,

but a special appearance of divine grace; and in that case

such blessings may be more importunately begged.

2dly, Special enjoyments do fit and strengthen for work and

service. There is a joy of the Lord that is the believer’s

strength (Neh 8:10). Elijah’s double meal was to strengthen

him for a forty days journey in the wilderness; and the

extraordinary manifestation he had of God, was to fit him

for his translation (1 Kings 19). Many saints have found

this so often in their experience, that they do with fear

receive singular enjoyments of God, because they have so

oft found them followed with some special trial and

difficulty.

4. Although most Christians have somewhat of these

special enjoyments, and all desire them, and they be

profitable in themselves; yet special spiritual enjoyments

are dangerous, and render a man very needy of the helping

grace of God.

1st, Because they do usually expose to special temptations.

Satan is a constant enemy to all Christians. But there are

two times especially that he would fainest assault the

believer; when he is at his worst, and when he is at his best.

Let believers be never so low, if Satan get his will, he

would bring them lower. No man is as low as the devil

would have him, but he that is in hell; but thither he cannot

bring a believer. If a Christian be never so high, if the devil

be let loose upon him, he will quickly bring him down. Do

not think, that the devil will fear to engage a believer, even

when in his best state. He that had the boldness to fall on

sinless Adam in paradise, will think it an easy matter to

deal with any sinful man in this wilderness. He that had the

impudence to tempt our almighty sinless Saviour, will he

have either modesty or fear in tempting a feeble believer?

You whom the Lord makes at any time to ride on your high

places, bless him, and yet fear your adversary.

2dly, There are some special corruptions that are apt to

grow under special enjoyments, as weeds by warm

sunshine. If there were any such enjoyment of God to be

found in this life as would remove corruption altogether out

of the heart, there would be no fear of abusing it: but now,

when the greatest enjoyments that can be had in this life,

are given to them that have a body of death dwelling in

them, there are some workings of that remaining corruption

that are very ready to appear in this case. As,

(1.) Pride of heart; spiritual pride. All pride is a spiritual

sin; but pride that riseth on spiritual blessings received, is

specially spiritual pride. Pride on the account of beauty of

body, or strength, or riches, is a carnal foolish pride. If it

rise on the account of gifts and endowments of the mind, it

grows yet a worse pride. But if the gifts of God be yet of a

more high and noble kind, as his special love, and the

precious fruits of that love, in begun conformity to Christ,

and communion with him; if pride rise on such grounds, it

is yet the worst of all sorts of pride. For the more gracious

the gifts of God be, and the more eminently they be of free

distinguishing grace, and the more plainly the design of

God in giving those gifts be to glorify the grace of the

giver, and to save the receiver, to the praise of that grace;

pride of heart on the account of such gifts, is yet the worst

of all pride. Now, that such a corruption may grow under

special enjoyments of God, is past all doubt. (2 Cor 12)

Paul speaks of his being lifted up unto heaven, like a man

that had not fully recovered himself: I knew a man in Christ

above fourteen years ago, (whether out of the body, or in

the body, I know not: God knoweth) (v 2). It was a long

while since; but in the time of the enjoyment, and fourteen

years after it, he could not tell whether he was in or out of

the body. He never speaks plainly of it, till he came to

speak of his infirmities, (v 7) Lest I should be exalted above

measure through the abundance of the revelations, there

was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan

to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. Where

we may perceive plainly, that whatever was in that

extraordinary enjoyment Paul had in that vision from

heaven, or in that visit to heaven, that was allowed him;

when he came back, he found the same heart he had

formerly felt, and the same body of death he so often had

groaned under before. Although we know not what Paul

enjoyed in that time, nor what the nature of that exercise by

Satan was that he was put to: yet the Lord’s design, and

Paul’s danger, is plain. It is indeed a marvellous passage.

Such an extraordinary person as Paul was, the chief of the

apostles, and most eminent saint in all the New Testament,

after such a great revelation, must be exercised with hell, to

prevent harm by his being in heaven, before he was fully

ready and fit for heaven.

(2.) Contentedness with a present good condition, and

dullness of desires after a better state, is a common

corruption that is apt to rise up under special enjoyments. If

the disciples be on the mount of transfiguration, and Christ

be glorified in their sight, and glorified saints from heaven

in his company; then it is good to be here, say they; not

minding that which was more needful for them and all the

church. And if they heard (as is most likely) the discourse

of Moses and Elias concerning the decrease of our Lord

which he should accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:30,31),

they were the more faulty. It is very hard to be truly

desirous of heaven, when we have much of heaven on

earth; yet it may be attained, and grace can help to it. Of

which in the last place.

5. The grace of God, as it is needed, so it is useful and

helpful to believers under special enjoyments.

1st, Grace can humble the soul under them, and by them.

Though Satan make them temptations to pride, the Lord

can sanctify them to be means of humbling. Great comforts

do not natively tend to humble us; but all discoveries of the

glory of God are humbling. Isaiah found it so, (Isa 6:5)

Woe is me, for I am undone; for mine eyes have seen the

King, the Lord of hosts. The vision was great and glorious;

it was a sight of God in Christ; as John 12:41, These things

said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. We

would be apt to think the prophet should rather have said,

"Happy am I, that I have seen now what I never saw before,

what few, if any, besides me, have seen." But such was the

impression the Spirit of God made on the heart of this man,

that this extraordinary manifestation of God effects him

with more deep self-abasement than ever he had before.

Happy is the man that lies still the more low in himself, and

before God, the more highly the Lord exalts him. Job found

this fruit of a clearer discovery of God (42:5,6). Jacob (in

Genesis 32:30) called the name of the place Peniel: for I

have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. This

place where he wrestled all night with the Lord, where the

Lord blessed him in the morning; this place he calls Peniel,

to be the name of it to him and his seed; that whenever they

saw the place, or heard of it, they might remember, that

there the great God and a poor man met in great familiarity,

and the man was not consumed. Jacob wonders, that his life

was preserved in such a meeting. Near approaches of God

to his children, are sometimes too hard for them to bear.

This made one eminent saint cry out under such a high

enjoyment, "O Lord, destroy me not with thy glory"; and

another, "Hold thy hand, O Lord; thy servant is a clay

vessel, and can bear no more." And both these were

persons not oppressed by his wrath, but overcharged with

his love and glory.

2dly, Grace can help to record and remember special

enjoyments. There are some spiritual enjoyments of God,

that are like lightning, that dart from the one end of heaven

to the other, that make a dark night to become like the

morning. They come quickly, and they are quickly gone;

they are of speedy access, and of as sudden a recess. But

though they be but short in their continuance, their fruit

may remain. And one way for making their fruit continue,

is, to remember and record them. I will remember the

years, the works, the wonders of the Lord (Psa 77:10-12), I

will meditate, I will talk of them, saith the saint. Thus David

prays for Israel, (1 Chron 29:18) Keep this for ever in the

imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people. What

was this he prayed for Israel’s remembering of, and for the

Lord’s keeping in their minds? It was, that they might

remember with what joy they made their willing offerings

for the service of God. We have a gracious promise of

Christ, (John 14:26) The Holy Ghost shall teach you all

things, and bring all things to your remembrance,

whatsoever I have said unto you. And this promise we

should plead, for bringing to our remembrance the things

Christ hath done for us, as well as for what he hath said to

us. And no man can imagine (but they that feel it) how one

of these remembrances will fortify the soul in a day of

distress. Spiritual things are so unlike to carnal things, that

all comparisons betwixt them must needs halt greatly. That

a poor, hungry, starving man, should, in a dungeon, or

desolate wilderness, be refreshed, and made strong, by the

bare remembrance of a feast he had seven years ago; this is

impossible in nature. But in spiritual things it is otherwise.

The savoury remembrance of a spiritual enjoyment long

since past, can bring back the taste, and power, and virtue

of it, to the soul that wants it. Believers are usually upon

their recovery from a sad disconsolate state, when they are

exercised in remembering with savour their former

enjoyments. Thus saith returning Israel, (Hosea 2:7) I will

go and return to my first husband: for then it was better

with me than now.

3dly, Grace can help to improve enjoyments, to desires of,

and endeavours after perfection. We must not say, when it

is well with us, It is good to be here; but rather, It is good

to be there, where it will be a great deal better. (Phil

3:13,14) This one thing I do, (it must be a great thing

doubtless that is Paul’s one thing), forgetting those things

which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things

which are before, I press toward the mark, &c. There is a

forgetting that is our duty; and a remembering that is our

duty also. To remember, so as to support our faith, and feed

our praising of the Lord, that is duty: but to forget

attainments, so as to press after the mark, that is another

duty. Alas! we are bad, both at right remembering, and

right forgetting. You and I think, that if we had but a little

of what Paul had in one day; if we had but a little of what

he had that night he lay in the stocks, when he prayed, and

sang praises unto God (Acts 16:25), we could never have

forgotten it as long as we had a day to live. But Paul could

forget all in his ardent desires of perfection. And so must

you; and this grace can teach you.

These special enjoyments of God are but rarely felt. Dote

not on them, neither despise them. Mock not such as know

them in their experience, though ye do not. If you be sound

believers, ye may live in your souls, and live to his praise,

without enjoying any thing very extraordinary. But if the

Lord grant singular communications of himself, know that

it is a season of special need of grace to guide them well.

They would return more frequently, and would rise and

spring higher, and last longer, if they were better improved.

The greater the blessing be, the more provoking is the

abuse of it; the greater the blessing be, the greater is the

difficulty of guiding it well: and the more difficulty be in

our work, the more is our need of the grace of God; and the

more frequent and fervent should our applications be to the

throne of grace for that needful, helpful grace.

 

SERMON XII

Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of

need.

Having spoke of the need of God’s grace, and of its

helpfulness in general; I came to condescend on some

seasons wherein the grace of God is specially needful and

helpful. Of them I named six; three of which I have spoke

to, and the other three remain to be handled.

1. The first season named, was the time of temptation.

There was never a believer so little beloved of Christ, as to

be given up as a prey to Satan; and never lay a believer so

near Christ’s heart, but the devil may get him into his sieve.

Therefore let us never flatter ourselves in a state of security

from disturbance by the devil. Blessed be God, we are

brought into a state of safety from ruin by him.

2. A season of spiritual decay: soul sickness, a weakness in

the new creature. There are some people that never knew

by experience what bodily sickness means, but have

enjoyed perfect health all their life. But I am apt to think,

that few, if any Christians, find it so as to the new creation

in them.

3. A season of special enjoyments. Though these two seem

to be very far from, and contrary to one another; yet they

agree in this, that in both grace is needful and helpful. The

unaccountable wisdom and sovereignty of the Lord our

God, shines in his conduct of his people. Some of them

have extraordinary receivings; others know little what they

mean. There are some Christians, whose way to heaven lies

all along in the depths and in the vales, when others ride on

their high places. Now, these singular manifestations from

God, though desirable and profitable, yet are not without

special dangers. To prevent which, the Lord provides and

ministers special physic to them: and it is strong and

unpleasant; but the physician can bless it; as Paul’s

experience witnesseth (2 Cor 12). He had been in heaven,

he knew not how; he had heard, he could not tell what

when he came back. But he well knew what he met with on

his return, and how needful and useful it was for him. Lest

he should be exalted above measure with what he had seen

and heard in paradise, hell is sent to humble him. May we

not infer this, How unfit are believers, while in the body,

and a body of death is in them, to be in heaven, when any

special enjoyment of heaven must have so dreadful a

remedy administered to prevent hurt?

IV. A fourth season of special need of grace, is the time of

affliction. Afflictions are of many sorts and kinds. I am apt

to believe, that though there be some likeness in the

afflictions of many, yet every afflicted man hath a

particular affliction of his own. As it is with people’s faces,

so it is with their crosses. For as many thousand faces as

are amongst mankind, though all are somewhat like, yet

every one hath some distinction. The world is full of

crosses; yet every afflicted person hath his own cross. Our

Lord hints at it (Matt 16:24) Let a man take up his cross.

The Lord appoints a proper cross for every one: though

people are ready to think and say, that their cross is unfit

for them, and that they would bear another cross better. In

crosses we must neither choose nor refuse. David’s case

was singular (2 Sam 24). The Lord chooseth for us, and we

must not, cannot refuse: (Job 34:33) Should it be according

to thy mind? he will recompense it, whether thou refuse, or

whether thou choose, and not I: therefore speak what thou

knowest. There is a general distinction of afflictions. Some

are from God’s hand, for sin, or trial, or prevention: and

some are from man’s hand, for Christ’s sake, and the

gospel’s. In all of them grace is helpful and needful. But I

would speak only something in general, that every one may

apply to themselves according to their experience and

exercise; and that on these two heads: 1. The needfulness of

grace to the afflicted. 2. The helpfulness of grace to the

afflicted, whatever their affliction be.

1. I would speak of the need of the grace of God to the

afflicted. Some sense of this is engraven on the hearts of

men by the light of nature. The Heathen mariners in the

storm express this, (Jonah 1:5,6) What meanest thou, O

sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will

think upon us, that we perish not. A sad case! A Heathen

shipmaster challenging a godly prophet for his neglect of

seeking God! He calls him by a shameful, but well-

deserved name, O sleeper. The storm came on for Jonah’s

sake, as he told them (v 12): yet he is the securest person in

the ship. He only knew God, yet he is last in calling on him.

An honest Pagan may outdo a distempered prophet, in

some things, at some times. This sense was expressed

greatly by the king, nobles, and inhabitants of Nineveh

(Jonah 3:5-10). And they again go far beyond Jonah. They

believed God on Jonah’s preaching, repented, prayed, and

fasted, and the Lord repented of the evil. But Jonah was not

grieved at all (4:1,2). If it were not for his excellent prayer

(chap 2), and that he was a prophet of the Lord, and the

penman of the Holy Ghost, to record his own sin and

shame, for the benefit of the church; we should be tempted

to question this man’s grace, of whose fearful sins we have

so large an account. He rebels against the Lord’s call to

preach to Nineveh. When he flees, the Lord overtakes him

by a storm, takes him by the lot; he is cast into the sea,

schooled in the whale’s belly three days and three nights; a

miraculous chastisement, and a miraculous preservation.

He now obeys the repeated call. But when his labour had a

gracious effect, he is displeased exceedingly, and prays

most sinfully. Jonah’s instance should teach ministers and

Christians to pray more, Lord, lead us not into temptation.

As nature’s light teacheth afflicted people their need of the

Lord’s grace and mercy, the word declares it more plainly

(James 5:13; Psa 50:15; Hosea 5:15). This need of the

helping grace of God in affliction, I would instruct in

these:-

1st, Affliction-sins are readily fallen into without the help

of the grace of God. Such sins, I mean, that affliction doth

easily and naturally tempt unto; as fretting, impatience,

murmuring, and quarrelling with the hand of God. It is

sadly and frequently seen, that affliction hath not only

brought along with it discovery of sin, but also the actings

and workings of more corruption, than either the person

himself, or any else, thought was in the man. It was a sad

character of a very bad man, (2 Chron 28:22) And in the

time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the

Lord: this is that king Ahaz. This is a man noted for a

never-do-well. A brother in the same office, and in the

same iniquity, said, Behold this evil is of the Lord; what,

should I wait for the Lord any longer? (2 Kings 6:33).

2dly, Affliction-duties are only practicable by the help of

the grace of God. Every cross hath its work, as well as its

trial. There is that required and called for in affliction, that

craves a special assistance of the grace of God for the doing

of it. It is remarkable, that the great duty of the afflicted is

expressed by two negatives, Hebrews 12:5 from Proverbs

3:11, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord,

nor faint when thou art rebuked of him. What then is the

positive duty? It is that which is neither of these two. If the

affliction be light, we are apt to despise it; and if it be

heavy, we are as apt to faint under it. But, saith the Holy

Ghost, see that ye do neither. If it be never so light, do not

despise it; if it be never so heavy, faint not under it. And

there is no small need of grace to preserve us from those

extremes, and to keep us in the right midst.

3dly, The consolations of an afflicted state are very

needful, and grace only can furnish us with them. Be ye

assured of it, that never did a Christian bear up patiently

under God’s heavy hand, but by the strong secret working

of some consolation. It is true, we value and seek most that

consolation that comes in as a great flood of sense, and that

doth swallow up the bitterness of affliction. This the Lord

can, and sometimes doth give to his people. But there is a

secret, silent spring of consolation, that is a profitable, and

more common in the Lord’s way with his children. Of this

the apostle speaks in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. Everlasting

consolation, and good hope through grace, are his

blessings (2 Thess 2:16,17).

2. Wherein doth the helpfulness of grace consist, in an

afflicted state?

1st, God’s grace helps with light to know God’s mind in

affliction. It is dreadful to be struck in the dark, when a

man neither seeth the path he walks in, nor the hand that

smiteth him, nor the weapon he is smote with. The great

blessing that grace can help us to, is, to know what the rod

means, what its voice is, who hath appointed it, and what of

God’s name is written on the rod (Micah 6:9). Job was very

earnest for this light, (Job 10:2) I will say unto God, Do not

condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.

Elihu adviseth him well, (Job 34:31-32) Surely it is meet to

be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not

offend any more. That which I see not, teach thou me; if I

have done iniquity, I will do no more. Many a poor believer

has been put to this, that if he had all the world, he would

have parted with it, to have known God’s mind in his

afflictions. Sometimes by the light of the furnace, we come

to know our hearts and corruptions, and thereby what God

smites for, and calls to. The Lord can, by the teachings of

his word and Spirit, and by the wisdom of his providential

dispensations, engrave that particular meaning that is in his

heart, on the rod that is in his hand, that men may know it.

And happy is that person that is so dealt with. But it is

indeed harder to be sincerely willing to know and admit of

God’s mind in affliction, than it is to find it out. But his

grace can help to both, and the throne of grace should be

much plied for both.

2dly, Grace can give in strength and support under

affliction: (2 Cor 4:16) For which cause we faint not; but

though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is

renewed day by day. It is a wonderful thing, to see how

much pain, sickness, and torment, a poor frail body is able

to bear. We think how close and sticking a thing is life, that

is not squeezed out by such a stress. Yet the frailty of the

flesh,in bearing the distress of the flesh, is a small thing, in

regard of the frailty of the heart in bearing of God’s

rebukes: (Prov 18:14) The spirit of a man will sustain his

infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? Yet many

have borne it; but surely by divine support. It is the

common sense of distressed Christians, that they have been

put to bear such burdens; that they thought at first would

surely have crushed them. The reason of their wonder is,

because the weight of the burden upon them was sensible;

but the everlasting arms underneath them and their burden,

were not seen (Deut 33:27).

3dly, Grace helps in affliction, by enabling the afflicted to

believe, that there is love in the afflicter. He saith it, (Rev

3:19) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; and he can

make us believe it. Nothing but his mighty grace can do it.

Nothing is like anger than affliction, especially when

severe. Nothing is more difficult to believe, than that

which, to all our sense and reason, is ruining to us, should

be in love in him that doth it. Who can believe this without

the help of grace? and how great must that help be, that

enableth a man to believe so unlikely a thing?

4thly, Grace helps in affliction, by teaching to profit

thereby: (Heb 12:11) Now no chastening for the present

seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless,

afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness,

unto them which are exercised thereby. The fruit of

sanctified affliction is a great mystery, as all spiritual fruit

is. You cannot tell how you profit by the word. I am afraid,

that there is but little profiting at all; but they that do profit

cannot tell how they profit. They may see the seed sown,

they may find it sown in their hearts, they may perceive its

fruits in their worship and walk; but how the grace of God

works with the word in making them profit, is too deep for

the most discerning Christians. It is some way more

mysterious how the Lord works out profit by afflictions. It

is indeed often found, blessed be his name. Many can say

with David, (Psa 119:67) Before I was afflicted, I went

astray: but now have I kept thy word, (v 71) It is good for

me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

But none can tell how the grace of God makes the bitter

seed of affliction bring forth the peaceable fruit of

righteousness. And where is that saint, who, when the Lord

is writing bitter things against him, and multiplying his

wounds, can say in faith, "Now, at this time, and in this

manner, the Lord is sowing that seed in me, that shall

spring up in fruits of righteousness, to his praise, and my

certain profit; and the day will come, wherein I shall bless

his name from my heart, for all the sorrows I now feel and

mourn under?"

I shall say no more of this head of affliction; but only

would give you this warning. Afflictions are very common,

and much complained of. Some professors spend all the

little religion they have upon their afflictions. Take heed to

your hearts under afflictions. It is to be bewailed, that many

Christians, their afflictions come on them they know not

whence, they lie on them they know not wherefore, and

they go off they know not how; that, if I may allude to such

sacred words, and apply the phrase to such a sinful frame,

afflictions come on many, and they feel the smart of them,

but know not whence they come, nor whither they go. They

come on them when they are sent, and go off when they are

called; but they neither knew what God meant by them, nor

did by them. No Christian can ever make a spiritual and

hearty song of praise for afflictions, unless there be some

sense or hope of profit thereby. If the profit be seen, the

wisdom and love of God in afflicting, will be heartily

acknowledged.

V. The fifth time of special need of the grace of God, is, a

time of special duty and service to God called for. All the

course of our life is to be constant service. We ought to live

to his praise. We are made as creatures, and as new

creatures, for this end (Isa 43:21; 1 Peter 2:9). But there are

some seasons in which special work is called for, and then

there is great need of grace to help in that hour. It is a

mighty word of the preacher, (Eccl 8:6) Because to every

purpose there is time, and judgment; therefore the misery

of man is great upon him. And it is only the wise man’s

heart that discerneth time and judgment (v 5). I would

name four of those times.

1. The time that men are called to believe on Jesus Christ,

and to secure their eternal salvation by a full closing with

him. This is a now, a day, an accepted time, a day of

salvation (2 Cor 6:2). All that hear the gospel, are bound by

the call of God in it, and warranted by the promise of it, to

receive by faith Jesus Christ, and eternal life, every time

they hear the gospel. But sometimes this duty is specially

called for; which, if neglected, may be of fatal consequence

to men. Hence that exhortation, (Isa 55:6) Seek ye the Lord

while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.

When Christ is knocking at the door of the heart, then it is

special duty to open to him (Rev 3:20). This was the day

Jerusalem had, and neglected; and that that Christ mourned

over them for (Luke 19:41,42). Unspeakable is men’s need

of the prevailing help of grace, when their hearts and

consciences are warmed with the calls of grace in the

gospel. In such seasons, the everlasting bargain is either

fixed by the power of grace working faith in the heart; or

people are left to themselves, and are farther from heaven

than ever.

2. Some special call to men to give their testimony to Christ

and his gospel by suffering. The Lord comes and craves

men’s testimony to his truth, and chargeth them thus: "If

thou hast any love to me and my honour, I demand thy

witness, venture thy all, take up thy cross." Many

Christians have neglected such trying seasons, which in

vain and sorrowfully they have wished for again. There is

much of God’s grace needful to discern these seasons, and

wisely to improve them.

3. There is another remarkable seasons of men’s need of

God’s grace to help them in; and that is, the season of the

Lord’s calling them to a duty-trial; a duty called to by way

of trial. The Lord gives the call to try men; and very great

are the consequences of obeying or disobeying of such a

call. Many instances are of this in the word. One is in

Numbers 14. The passage is plain and awful. When Israel

had been above a year in the wilderness, twelve spies are

sent to view the land: they all bring back an evil report,

save Joshua and Caleb: the people murmur; God threatens

them with judgments: they seem to be sensible of their sin;

it is like by the plague that slew the ten false spies (v 37),

and by what Moses spake to them. They acknowledge their

sin; and resolve to go up next morning (v 40). Moses tells

them, they now sinned again, and that the Lord was not

among them (vv 41,42). What severe dealing is this? The

Lord was among them yesterday, not this morning: they

were bid go up yesterday, they are forbid next morning.

Because they did not what the Lord bid them do in his time,

he will not protect them when they do the same thing in

their time. Thus Saul was tried twice (1 Sam 13). Samuel

bid him tarry for him seven days at Gilgal: Saul tarried six

days, and part of the seventh, and then offered sacrifice;

not, as I think, that he did invade the priest’s office himself,

but command some priest to do it. Profane princes never

want profane chaplains. What a severe sentence doth

Samuel pronounce against him (vv 13,14)? Again, the same

man is tried with another duty (1 Sam 15), and fails therein,

and is punished therefore. This sort of trying men by duty,

is like that in 2 Kings 13:14-20 which Elisha did put Joash

unto. How many of the people of God, through the want of

the present help of grace in some duty-trials, have stepped

into such paths, and have fallen into such pits and snares, as

they have never got well and clearly out of, as long as they

lived?

4. It is a season of great need of grace to help us in, when

the Lord, by his providence, puts several things in a

person’s choice, and leaves them to choose. The fullest of

this kind was that offer made to David about judgments (2

Sam 24:12,13). A hard choice; but David did choose

wisely. His son Solomon had another offer; but it was of

blessings, and not of judgments, (2 Chron 1:7) Ask what I

shall give thee. And he chose wisely: and by his choice

proved, that he had already received a good measure of

wisdom. Moses had a great offer, and things of vast

difference were in his choice; and he chose like a man

taught of God (Heb 11:24-26). Moses, in his last sermon to

Israel (Deut 30:15-20) puts them on choosing: I call heaven

and earth to record this day against you, that I have set

before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore

choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: that thou

mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey

his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is

thy life, and the length of thy days. So did his successor

Joshua, when he had settled Israel in the promised land, a

little before his death: (Josh 24:15) Choose you this day

whom you will serve. Elijah did so with apostate Israel (1

Kings 18:21). Somewhat like this is laid before men in the

daily ministry of the word. The curse of the law, or the

blessing of the gospel, is in men’s offer; and men get as

they choose. If men refuse the blessing, the curse belongs

to them; if they receive the blessing, they are delivered

from the curse. But the choosing I mean, is that the Lord

puts men often to, in the several turns of his providence

towards them: (Psa 25:12) What man is he that feareth the

Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.

Many gracious promises are in the word, of God’s guiding

of his people; many prayers put up by saints in the word for

this gracious guiding; and many praises rendered to the

Lord for their blessed experience of his guiding. Who can

walk safely through this wilderness, without the pillar of

cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night? How many of

men’s sorrows may be laid on their being left of God, in

choosing for themselves? and how many of our mercies are

owing to the Lord’s gracious guiding of us in doubtful

cases? But it is a very hard thing to ask direction from God.

Three faults are common in this practice. 1. Pre-

engagement of heart. As it is a great sin after vows to make

inquiry (Prov 20:25); so is it to ask direction from God,

when men are resolved on the way they will take. An

eminent instance of this sinful frame, we have in Jeremiah

42 and 43. They sought counsel of God by the prophet in a

great strait; they promised to follow it whatever it was: God

gives his mind; they reject it, because it suited not their

inclinations. It is no easy thing to ask direction of God,

with an undetermined frame. 2. Pride of understanding.

Men think they are wise enough to choose their own way.

Therefore that command should be much minded, (Prov

3:5-7) Trust in the Lord with all thine heart: and lean not

unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge

him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own

eyes. And that other word, (Prov 20:24) Man’s goings are

of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?

(Prov 16:9) A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord

directeth his steps. 3. Haste. Men wait not for God’s

counsel (Psa 106:13); and therefore go without it, and

stumble in dark paths. He that believeth, maketh not haste

(Isa 28:16). A little more patient waiting on the Lord, as

Psalm 40:1, hath often brought in determining light in

doubtful cases.

So much for the fifth season of need of grace.

VI. The last time of need of grace is, the time of dying. It is

indeed the last; for he that is helped by grace in that time,

will need no more help of grace to eternity. This time of

dying, is what we should all think on; and if you think

aright on it, it will not be unwelcome to hear of it.

On this I would shew, 1. The need of grace. And, 2. The

help of grace in this last and greatest time of need.

1. I would speak of the need of grace to help in this season.

Though all men have some conviction of it; yet, to

strengthen that conviction, I would speak to a few things

about it.

1st, This time of need is unavoidable. It is a time that must

come. Other times of need may come, and may not come.

We may be tempted, we may be afflicted, we may be tried,

we may be cast down, and we may be lifted up again: but

die we must. It is appointed unto men once to die (Heb

9:27). As sure as we live, we must die. We live our

appointed time, and we die at our appointed time (Job

14:5,14), and all our times are in his hand (Psa 31:15; Eccl

3:2). There is a time to be born, and a time to die (v 11). He

hath made every thing beautiful in his time. That man must

have better eyes than those of flesh, that can see any beauty

in death. If there had been but two or three of mankind, that

had lived from Noah to this day, and had been privileged

with an exemption from this general appointment, every

fool on earth would have dreamed, that, it may be, he shall

partake of the same privilege also. But when all that ever

breathed from Adam to this day, are dead, (save the present

generation, whom a few more years will sweep away, as it

hath done their predecessors); what folly is there in men’s

thoughtlessness of this unavoidable fate? But if you say, All

shall not die, but be changed, as 1 Corinthians 15:51 and 1

Thessalonians 4:17; consider, that this change is to them, as

death is to us; and it may be will be as terrible to the saints

alive then, as death now is. As believers now dread not

death, and to be dead, so much as they fear to die; the state

of the dead in Christ is not terrible, but the passage to it is:

so they that are changed at Christ’s coming, may have the

same sentiments, till the change be wrought on them. It is

(though none knows the particular manner of it) a putting

off of mortality and corruption, and a putting on the robes

of immortality and incorruption. The same is done as to

every saint at death and the resurrection. Both are done to

every believer in an instant, who are found alive at Christ’s

second coming. Elijah’s translation (2 Kings 2), and

Enoch’s (Heb 11:5) were emblems of the change on

believers at Christ’s second appearance; as the raising of

Lazarus, and others, both in the Old Testament and New,

were of the general resurrection: and in special manner they

spoke of, (Matt 27:52,53) And the graves were opened; and

many bodies of saints which slept, arose, and came out of

the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy

city, and appeared unto many. But whatever the change on

saints at Christ’s coming be to them, and if it may be

thought a more easy trial than natural death is; it is certain,

that the change that shall then pass on the ungodly, will be

far more dreadful than bare dying is now. This is then the

only exception from the general appointment on all men

once to die. How amazing then is the stupidity of men, that

so few seriously think on it, and prepare for it? that so

many men and women, that are under the sentence of

death; that have the seeds of death in them; that live in a

world wherein all things that have life, are dying before

their eyes: that live on creatures that lose their lives to

support theirs; that have so many warnings of death’s sure

and speedy approach, are yet, after all, surprised by it when

it comes, as if they had never heard of it? This stupidity is

both a sad sign and effect of the plague of unbelief.

Judgment and eternity, that follow at death’s heels, are

matters of pure faith. But death is obvious to sense, reason,

and universal experience. Yet men only think they may die,

and do not entertain the persuasion with assurance into

their hearts, and serious daily thoughts, that they must die.

2dly, Dying is not only unavoidable, but it is a new trial.

None can tell what dying is. Many know what it is to be

sick, to be in great pain, to faint and fall into a swoon,

which is a little image of death; as also the Heathen poet

called sleep death’s elder brother: but none knows what

dying is. It was a very sensible word a dying Christian in

this city spoke to myself, when visiting him a few hours

before his death, "No man can tell another what dying is. I

feel I am dying; but I cannot tell you what it is." Death is a

path that you never trod before; you never walked in it

hitherto; you may have thought yourselves to have gone a

good way in the valley of the shadow of death, but you

never walked through it. Paul died daily (1 Cor 15:31); he

was in deaths often (2 Cor 11:23): yet he was a living man

then, when he said so; and he died but once. All new trials

require new supplies of grace; and the trial of death is quite

new. When we are tempted one day, we may know what

temptation is thereby, and be thereby fitted for the next: but

no past experience can teach us fully what dying is.

3dly, Dying is not only a necessary, and new trial; but it is

such a trial, in which a man’s all is concerned for eternity.

Immediately on death follows judgment (Heb 9:27). Death

is the dark trance betwixt time and eternity. While we live,

we are in time; when we are a-dying, we are leaving time,

and passing into eternity; when we are dead, we are quite

and for ever out of time, and are in eternity for ever. If a

man miscarry in this passage, if a man stumble in the dark

valley of death, if he fall here, he falls for ever. I would not

have people to imagine, that the stress of their salvation

depends on their frame when a-dying; for some Christians,

when near to death, have neither the use and exercise of

sense or reason, much less of grace. But surely, when the

case of men’s bodies permits acts of a man, or of a

Christian, there is great need of grace to enable us to die

well.

4thly, Dying is a great trial of faith. Though we know not

fully what dying is; yet we may know so much of it, as to

be convinced, that it is much harder to die in faith than to

live by faith: and yet living by faith is the hardest thing we

have to do in this world. To trust in an unseen God; to

believe his unchangeable love, when we feel his anger, to

trust his bare word, when we see no appearance of

performance, but many to the contrary, are no easy things

to the best. Our frequent experience of the difficulty, and of

our many failings in this daily exercise, of living by faith,

may justly make us sensible of our need of great help of

grace, when we shall be called to the new and more hard

work of dying by faith. To inforce this a little, consider,

(1.) Usually when death draws near to men, and they draw

near to it, the eye of the mind is clearer, and the conscience

more tender and sharp-sighted, in the review of their life

and actions. Many never saw their lives well, till they are

just at the end of them. And many believers walk so, as a

spiritual review of their ways breeds no small storm in their

consciences, and trial and shaking to their faith. Though

death be a dark valley, yet great light of convictions and

challenges springs up in it. Woe to them that never know,

till they are a-dying, what an awakened conscience is.

Ways that are pleasing to men, when the evil day is put far

away, look frightfully on them when that day approacheth,

and is very nigh.

(2.) A dying time, is a time wherein the devil is very busy.

He fetcheth then his last stroke on saints, and on sinners.

He doth his utmost to secure the damnation of sinners, that

he may not lose them at last. The devil’s death-hold of a

dying sinner is a strong one. He also doth his utmost

against believers, if not to mar their salvation, yet to hinder

their consolation. The devil’s parting-blow hath been

dreadful to many a saint. It is a weighty word (Heb 2:14)

where he is said to have the power of death. It is true, there

it is said also, that Christ overcame him, and through death.

Death is properly and strictly in the devil’s dominions. Sin

and death are properly the devil’s, though the Lord hath the

wise ordering of both. He permits sin, and inflicts death;

and death lies near the devil’s great prison, hell. Through

the valley of death there are two passages; one leading to

hell, and another to heaven. Most fall into the pit; others are

brought through safe and sound, by the skill and mercy of

their blessed guide, Christ. It fares here with believers as

with Israel, and with unbelievers as with the Egyptians,

(Heb 11:29) By faith they passed through the Red Sea, as

by dry land; which the Egyptians assaying to do, were

drowned.

(3.) Judgment and eternity, when near, and seen at hand,

are awful things: and a near view of them will try faith

greatly. This view blows away the presumption and hope of

the hypocrite; (Job 27:8) What is the hope of the hypocrite,

though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?

(Job 11:20) Their hope is as the giving up of the ghost. His

hope lived as long as he lived; and when he dies, it dies

also. Woe to them that have a dying hope, a hope that

cannot outlive death. Christians are begotten to a living or

lively hope (1 Peter 1:3). He hath hope in his death (Prov

14:32). The man’s body dies, but the Christian’s hope and

faith lives. He lies down in the grave in hope (Psa 16:9). He

dies in that faith he lived by (Heb 11:13).

2. What is the helpfulness of grace, in this time of great

need, a time of dying. I am speaking to living men, but to

such as must die, and know not how soon. I shall only insist

on one thing at this time. The grace of God helps believers,

by strengthening of their faith. That is the help they mainly

need in that hour. And this help stands in these:-

1st, When a dying believer is helped by grace to see death

in Christ’s hand. There is a vast difference betwixt death in

the devil’s hand, who hath the power of it; and death in

Christ’s hand, who is master both of death and the devil:

betwixt a man’s seeing death approaching, and the devil

behind it, and with it; and a man’s seeing death coming on

him, and Christ with it. Paul’s triumph rose on this ground:

(1 Cor 15:55-57) O death, where is thy sting? O grave, (or

hell), where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and

the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which

giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ. That

by which death stings men, is sin unpardoned, and God’s

holy law binding sin and wrath on their persons. Victory

over both sin and the law, comes by Jesus Christ. When

this victor, and victory in Christ, is seen by a believer,

death is defied and despised, as a stingless overcome thing.

Much and strong faith is needful to enable a man to play on

the hole of his asp. Christ reveals himself to John almost

dead with fear, (Rev 1:17,18) Fear not; I have the keys of

hell and of death. "Behold them in my hand, and behold me

as the lord of them." Should a believer in Jesus fear any

thing that Christ hath the power of? The bitterness of death

is past to all believers, by Christ’s death, and victory over

it. And if their faith was strong, their fears would be small.

2dly, To have faith enabled to look through death, and

beyond death. If a man’s eyes be fixed on death only, and

see no further, it is death to look on death: but when the

believer’s eye of faith is so quickened, that he can look

through the trance of death, and see within the vail, where

Christ is, that is a blessed help of grace. Christians’ faith

and hope enters within the vail (Heb 6:19). And a view

within the vail is specially desirable and useful, when the

Christian is walking in the valley of the shadow of death

(Psa 23:4).

3dly, Faith is helped, when the dying believer is enabled to

cast his anchor on God in Christ confidently in this last

storm. This last act of faith is a great one. The more

sensible a man is that he is on the point of eternal ruin, the

nearer he is to drop into hell without divine help; the more

sensibly he acts faith. Then the clingings and graspings of

faith on Christ, are sensible and strong. When a believer

looks on himself, and on his way, and seeth nothing in

them pleasing or staying to his soul; he looks into the dark

passage before him, and it is frightful to heart and flesh; he

looks on judgment and eternity as just at hand, and his

thoughts are swallowed up with their greatness. In this case

to stay his soul, and say with dying David, (2 Sam 23:5)

Although my house be not so with God, (Though my heart,

my ways, be not so with God as they ought to have been);

yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered

in all things and sure: and this is all my salvation and all

my desire, requires singular help of the grace of God. To

shut the eyes, and give the hand to Christ, and to quiet the

mind, by trusting our guide in this last step, is a mighty

blessing.

I would conclude this discourse with these four:-

1. It is a great mystery of faith, and a great trial of faith,

that the way to eternal life should lie through the midst of

this dark valley of death. Our Lord Jesus Christ bought

eternal life for us, by the price of his blood; he went

through death to take possession of his kingdom and glory:

and yet his people must go through death to take possession

of the gift of eternal life. If there were any allowed room or

place for prayer in this affair, how many, and how earnest

prayers would we make to be delivered from going in this

way to glory? But after a life of trials, temptations, and

manifold tribulations, this last is still before us; and we

must pass through, and set our feet in the cold waters of

this Jordan, ere we enter the heavenly Canaan. After all the

lively hopes of heaven, and sweet foretastes of it, we have

had; after our faith hath risen us to a full assurance; yet

through death must all the heirs of glory pass.

2. There is no wisdom like that of preparing for this awful

hour; (Job 14:14) If a man die, shall he live again? All the

days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.

"I will think on it, I will look for it, I will prepare for it."

Men are wise or foolish, according to their faithful

diligence, or unbelieving negligence, in this preparing for

death. Many have bewailed their neglect; never did any

repent their diligence, in this work.

3. There is no right and sure way of preparing for death, but

by seeking saving acquaintance with Jesus. If you set about

the study of holiness without Christ, you mistake your way,

and will never reach your end. But labour to be intimately

acquainted with Jesus Christ, and the communications of

his grace will make you holy. Death deals with men, and

billets them into their eternal quarters, in heaven or hell, as

men are in Christ, or out of Christ. Their works, according

to which they are judged, are but the fruits and effects of

their different states. These two different states of men in

this life, in Christ, or not in Christ, are the foundation of the

two different states in the next life, in heaven, or in hell;

though all in Christ are holy, and all out of Christ are

unholy.

4. There is no life truly comfortable, but that which hath a

comfortable prospect of death and judgment. Never envy

the condition of them who seem to be the only cheerful

men in the world, whom one quarter of an hour’s serious

thought of death and judgment, is enough to make them

like Belshazzar at his great feast (Dan 5:6) whose

countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him,

so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees

smote one against another. Amazement seized on soul and

body. How can a man be said to live comfortably, that dare

not think of death, for fear of marring his comfort?

Miserable is that consolation that cannot bear a serious

thought of an approaching unavoidable thing. This is the

wisdom and mercy of the Lord to his people, that their true

consolation doth not only stand and abide in the view of

death and judgment, but it ariseth from that view that is so

terrible to all natural men. This is the blessedness of

believers, that this grace allows them a right to, and can

give them a possession of. And therefore we should come

to the throne of grace for it. Then you are happy Christians,

when serious thoughts of death breed serious joy.

 

SERMON XIII

Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that

we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of

need.

You have heard of the helpfulness of the grace of God in

time of need, both in general, and with particular instances

of some special times of need. The last whereof is the time

of dying. This I left off at last day, and would speak a little

more to it; and then conclude all in a few words.

Death is a theme of great importance, and of very obvious

influence. If people would let it enter into their serious

thoughts, and would take a serious and steady view of it,

they would quickly find more in it and about it than ever

they did, or could hear, by all that is told them. Next to the

saving illumination of the Holy Ghost, with and by the

word, there is no better school for men to learn, weigh, and

duly to understand the things of God in, than a frequent and

near view of death. What an edge would this put upon our

praying, hearing, worship, and walking? Every thing that is

done by men as dying persons, is usually well done. I shall

only add this, That there are some sorts of dying that are

very desirable, in which the grace of God is very useful and

needful.

1. Patient dying. Dying is not properly a duty, but a

suffering. It is not our act; but there is a manifold exercise

of grace called for in dying. Never did any man act in dying

but Jesus Christ: he could lay down his life, and take it

again (John 10:17,18). We cannot lay down our lives; they

are not our own. We are bid keep them as long as we

lawfully can: and when the great command comes, Return,

we are to yield obedience to it. It is a great blessing, to have

patience for dying, and patience in dying: (Heb 10:36) Ye

have need of patience; that after ye have done the will of

God, ye may receive the promise. And we often need

patience most, when just upon the receiving of the promise.

We should run with patience the race that is set before us

(Heb 12:1). And most of patience is usually most needful in

the last stage of this race. Patience should have her perfect

work (James 1:4). And the perfect and perfecting work of

patience, is the last act of it. We all know, that usually

death comes on by such steps as are grievous to the flesh.

There are pains, sickness, and languishings, that are no

small trials of patience: but these are in a manner but trials

of the patience of the flesh. There are other things about

dying that patience is tried by; as time and place, and many

circumstances, that is no small or easy thing to be quietly

submitted to. Jacob, the heir of the promise, goes down to

Egypt, to Joseph, for bread, after he is starved out of the

land of promise; and must die in Egypt, and leave his

family there, where they were to be long and heavily

oppressed, as the Lord told his grandfather Abraham (Gen

15:12). Moses must die on the other side of Jordan. David

must not see a stone laid in the temple. Josiah must die in

battle, and that by not hearkening to the words of Necho

from the mouth of God (2 Chron 35:22). But what of such

sad circumstances of dying? Did not our Lord himself die

under a dark cloud on his dear Father’s face, and on his

own blessed soul? My God, my God, why hast thou

forsaken me? were sad words, from the sad soul of our

dying blessed Lord. His disciples forsook him, the sun

forsook him, death and hell bandied against him; yet all

was nothing to his Father’s forsaking him. How bitter was

this to our Lord! And yet how sweet is it to the faith of

believers! If you be called to die under a cloud, remember,

The Lord, the heir, the purchaser of heaven, went to heaven

in the greatest storm that ever blew from earth, and hell,

and heaven, on any man’s face, at death. Men are ashamed

to express any quarrel against dying; but there are many

things about it that makes us needy of much grace to help

to quiet submitting unto it, both in substance, and all

circumstances attending it.

2. Safe dying. This is very needful, and it is grace’s doing.

Many die patiently, as men think, that die not safely. There

are no bands in the death of the wicked sometimes (Psa

73:4). Some go out of this life to hell more calmly, than

some of the heirs of glory pass to their blessed home. Safe

dying, is to die without any hurt to the soul; that when the

cage of the body is broken by death, the soul, the bird, may

take wing, and fly straight and safe to heaven. Death is the

believers’ (1 Cor 3:22), as well as life. But what have we to

do with death, or death with us? It is a black boat, that we

must sail out of time to heaven in: and Christ steers the

boat, and lands all believers safely on heaven’s shore. This

is all we have to do with death. And when all the

passengers are brought over, Christ will burn this ugly boat:

(Rev 20:14,15) And death and hell (or the grave) were cast

into the lake of fire: this is the second death. And

whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was

cast into the lake of fire. And then in the new Jerusalem,

there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying,

neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things

are passed away (Rev 21:4). Who would not venture to

pass out of this bad world, to that blessed land, under

Christ’s conduct, though sailing through the gulf of death

be unpleasant in itself to us? Men for gain will sail from

one end of the earth to the other; through heat and cold, and

stormy seas and winds, and manifold perils, in the probable

hope of advantage. But believers may be assured, that they

shall arrive at their port. Never did a believer in Jesus

Christ die or drown in his voyage to heaven. They will be

all found safe and sound with the Lamb on Mount Zion.

Christ loseth none of them; yea, nothing of them (John

6:39). Not a bone of a believer is to be seen in the field of

battle. They are all more than conquerors, through him that

loved them (Rom 8:37).

3. It is very desirable to have an honourable dying. It is a

part of the vanity of this world, that many dote upon an

honourable burial. Some respect indeed should be paid to

the dead bodies of believers; but honourable dying is a

great deal more considerable, than that men call an

honourable burial. Our Lord told Peter of his dying, (John

21:19) This spake Jesus, signifying by what death Peter

should glorify God. That is honourable dying that brings

glory to God. Paul is confident of this as to himself: (Phil

1:20) According to my earnest expectation, and my hope,

that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all

boldness, as always, so now also, Christ shall be magnified

in my body, whether it be by life or by death. The most

honourable dying, is dying for the Lord. This honour is not

given to all his saints. All saints die in the Lord, and

blessed are they (Rev 14:13). Our desires should be, to be

enabled by his grace to bear our dying testimony to Christ

and his gospel. There have been strong convictions given to

the consciences of sinners, wonderful supports to the hearts

of surviving saints, by the honourable dying of some

believers. Their example, their words, their very looks and

behaviour, in the shadow of death, have been of great use

to them that have seen and heard them.

4. It is also desirable to have the mercy of comfortable

dying; to have an entrance ministered to us abundantly,

into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus

Christ (2 Peter 1:11). The Lord’s dealings with his people

in this matter, are a great depth. Some that have given most

shining evidences of the truth and strength of the grace of

God in them, who have spent their days eminently to the

Lord’s praise, and to the edifying of his body the church,

have gone to heaven under a cloud: others, that were hardly

known or regarded in Christ’s flock, have gone off the

stage triumphantly. No observer can escape the notice of

such instances. Therefore we must not say, that consolation

in dying is a certain sign of eminency in grace, or of

tenderness in walking. It is not very unusual, to see the

greatest storm overtake even a strong believer, just as he is

putting into the harbour. However, this dispensation of the

Lord’s grace in granting a comfortable exit, is what we

should beg earnestly, and pray for heartily. I believe that

there are few Christians so cast down with fears, and

clouds, and darkness, but if they could be assured, that all

shall be dispelled at death, (and it is sometimes so); and

that they should have a clear evening, and strong

consolation, in their last hours, they would bear their

present sorrows better. Though comfortable dying be not

simply necessary to the salvation of a believer; yet it is a

blessing more valuable than many others that are more in

our prayers. Grace can help to it; and a precious help it is,

and we should mind it much in our addresses to the throne

of grace.

So much of these times of need, and of the help of grace in

them.

There are a few exhortations from this whole doctrine of

the helpfulness of grace in a time of need, that I would

conclude this text with.

The general exhortation is this, Learn not only to submit as

to what is determined, and that you cannot alter; but to be

heartily content with this wise dispensation of God about

your need and his grace, as a contrivance becoming his

wisdom, and levelled at your good: As,

1. That our necessities are so many, so great, and so

unavoidable; and yet there is a sufficient supply provided

for them. The new creature is the most needy creature of all

God’s creation. The Lord hath framed the new creature in a

singular way, and for a singular use and end. All other

creatures have their being from God, and have that being

continued by God in the common course of his wise and

powerful providence. But the new creature is not only of

and from God, but it is wrought, and hath its being in Christ

Jesus, and its life is continued by a continual gracious

efflux from him; for without him the new creature can do

nothing (John 15:5). Let not such a thought arise in your

heart, (or if it arise, give it no entertainment), Why hath

God made this new creature so needy a creature as it is?

Surely he might have done otherwise. He made the first

Adam in another state. He was made perfect in soul and

body immediately. His state was perfect; he needed little,

and all at hand. But the new creature is framed weak and

necessitous. The difference is as great betwixt the first

Adam, and a Christian at his regeneration, as betwixt

perfect Adam, and a young babe newly born, or a child

conceived in the womb. Yet the Lord hath made provision

of grace sufficient for all these necessities. And he loves

the glory of his grace so, and takes so great delight in

giving of his grace, that he not only lets the heirs of this

grace fall into the common pit of sin and misery with

others, and sometimes deeper than many of them that are

left, that his grace may be glorified, in loving them out of

the pit of corruption, as Hezekiah’s word is (Isa 38:17);

(for all that are converted, are plucked out of their natural

damnable state, by a mighty act of the love of God, Eph

2:4); but when he hath pulled them out, he sets them down

in his kingdom of grace, in so indigent and weak a

condition, that they may glorify him by begging and

believing, and he may glorify himself in giving of his grace

to them. Who should find fault with this wise way?

2. Be satisfied, that this grace which is your supply, is all in

Christ Jesus, and not in your own hand. Since Adam fell,

and ruined himself and all his posterity, by having his and

their stock in his own hand, and sinning it away; the Lord

in mercy hath resolved never to intrust a mere man again

with his own stock; but hath lodged all the grace his people

are saved and supplied by, in Christ’s hand. And there it is

safe. Adam was created perfect, and had a sufficient stock

to have enriched himself, and all his offspring; but he was

left to his free will, and so came on it. This is an eternal

disgrace to man’s free will. What must the free will of a

sinner be able to do, when the free will of perfect sinless

man opened the door to sin, and death, and ruin, upon the

whole world of mankind? It is therefore graciously and

wisely provided, that free will shall have no hand in the

salvation of sinners, (and indeed free will to good, is but a

vain name, usurped by willing and willful slaves of sin);

and that in its stead, the free grace of God in Jesus Christ

shall be, and do all in all. But we are so proud, that we

would fain have somewhat in our own hand; and are so

used to sense, and unskillful in believing, that we can

hardly reckon that our own, that is not in our possession,

and at our disposing. But, in this order, the Lord consults

the interest of his glory, and the security of our salvation,

and daily supplies, by lodging our all in Christ’s hand; who

is able to keep it safely for us, and ready and willing to give

forth of it to us, according to our real necessity.

3. Be satisfied with this, that the special times of our need

are not usually known to us before they come. There is

none of the people of God, nor of the children of men, that

usually know twenty-four hours before, what temptations

and trials they may meet with. We know we may be

tempted; but we know not when, nor how, and in what part,

the adversary may assault us, or with what weapons. We

know we may be afflicted: but we know not with what rod,

nor when. We know we must die; but we know not how,

nor when. There is a foolish and sinful curiosity in our

nature, that raiseth desires to know future things concerning

ourselves. It were well, if men were duly desirous to know

from the word, what their eternal state shall be. But in other

things that may befall us in time, it is dangerous curiosity to

be inquisitive. People imagine, that it would be of great

advantage to them to foreknow future events, as to

themselves. But I am sure it would be a great disadvantage,

and what you would quickly repent of. If the Lord should

reveal to any of you, and set in a clear light before the eyes

of your mind, all the particular providences, trials, and

afflictions, and temptations, you are to meet with in seven

years time to come; what a dread would it be you! You

would soon beg that it might be forgot again. It is a great

deal better for us, that future things that belong to God, are

secret and kept from us; and that we are led on believing,

and come to the waters in our way to heaven, one after

another, and get through them, by the gracious conduct of

our blessed guide, Christ. He will give no Christian a

particular and exact map of all his way, and stages, and

entertainment, in this wilderness-journey to heaven, though

our Lord hath fixed them all in his decree. Should it not be

enough for us, that he will lead us well and safely; that no

water shall drown us; that he will never leave us, but be

with us wherever he leads us, and will bring us safe home

at last to his Father’s house?

4. Be satisfied with this part of his wise order, that this

supply of his grace to help in time of need, must be come

for. Not only that we may come for it, which is a great

privilege, but that we must come for it, if we would have it.

Is there any so unreasonable, as to find fault with this

order? Is it not fair and easy, Ask and have? Would any

have grace to help them, unsought? If you would have it,

you are asking it. Is it not fit then to come for it, and tell

Christ you would have it? If you would not have it, you are

praying against it. And wicked are those prayers, that are in

aversion from the grace of Christ? Every believer will find

his heart reconciled to this order. They know, that there is a

blessing in coming, as well as a blessing to be got by

coming. And most Christians, I am apt to think, continue

their approaches to the throne of grace, as much, if not

more, from the delight they find in coming, as from the

profit they find by coming; though these two are not

inconsistent. He that delights not himself in the Lord, will

not always call upon God (Job 27:10). So much for this

general exhortation.

Exhort. 2. In the next place, I would speak somewhat to

them that are not acquainted with the grace of God, nor

with the throne of grace. Graceless people is so bad a

name, that few will own it, though many deserve it. Such

fill up much room in most assemblies, and sometimes may

step up into the pulpit, in the name of ministers of that

grace of God they never knew but in a book. But God calls

all by their right names, and only can make men answer to

those names. Let these four things enter into such folks

thoughts:-

1. Unavoidably a time of need will come, that the grace of

God can only help in. None but a great atheist can make

any doubt of this. Dost thou believe there is a God? that

thou art a mortal man, whom a few days more will turn out

of this world? Dost thou believe that thou hast an immortal

soul, that must be for ever? (and how much a beast is that

man, and worse than a beast, that doubts of any of these?)

If thou believe these plain principles, canst thou doubt but a

time of need will come, wherein nothing can stand thee in

any stead, but only this God’s mercy and grace?

2. This present time you have, is the only time given you

for preparing for the time of need that must come. How

little is that precious golden talent, time, laid out for that

the Lord gives it for? Can men think that God gives them

time, to spend it in the ways they spend it? That must be ill-

spent time, that is spent so, as men know they must either

repent of, or perish by. We are bid redeem the time (Eph

5:16). But most men throw it away, or sell it to sin and

Satan, as if they had no use for it. The best use of time, is to

spend it in preparing for eternity: All the days of my

appointed time will I wait, till my change come (Job 14:14).

These are well-spent days. But how few of the hours of

your days are thus spent?

3. There can be no greater folly, than to neglect this present

only season of preparing for an unavoidable time of

extremity. Our Lord, in the parable, calls the five negligent

virgins, foolish (Matt 25:2). If a man throw away his estate

in folly and vanity, the world will brand him with the name

of a fool, and justly. If a man throws away his health and

life, there is folly in that too. But for a man to throw away

his soul, and all his hopes of well-being for eternity, is the

rankest of all folly: yet is the world so full of such fools,

that very few give it its true name. He must be greatly

plagued with blindness and stupidity, that is not convinced,

that that is the greatest folly that shuts a man eternally out

of heaven, and locks him up in hell.

4. There can be no reflection and remorse more sad and

bitter than that that ariseth on the review and sense of this

folly, when it is remediless. We read of the worm that dieth

not (Mark 9:44,46,48). This is commonly understood of

conscience. Conscience stings two ways; and one way

more dreadfully than the other. Conscience stings for sin,

as it is an offence against God, a breach of his holy law,

and as it exposeth the sinner to God’s dreadful anger. But

conscience stings more dreadfully, for neglecting the

remedy for sin provided in Christ, and revealed to men in

the gospel. Therefore our Lord lays the condemnation of

the world that perisheth under the gospel, on this (John

3:9). It is not laid on the evil of their deeds: but on this, that

their love to their deeds made them hate the light that

discovered them, and the grace that only can pardon and

heal them. Men perish not under the gospel, because they

are sinners against God’s law, (though the least sin

deserves hell; and they that have not the light of the gospel,

are justly judged by the law); but because they believe not

in Jesus Christ (John 3:18). And believers in Christ are not

saved because they are holy, (though all that believe are

holy); but because they are in Christ by faith; that the glory

of salvation may be Christ’s entirely, and the blame of

men’s perdition under the gospel may be their own entirely.

Let men therefore prevent this dreadful ruin, by giving an

ear to him that calleth them. Christ offers you salvation

from a throne of grace: come and take it. Come and put

forth your hand, and take and eat of the tree of life, and live

for ever. You must all shortly stand before Christ’s throne,

when it will be no more a throne of grace: (2 Cor 5:10) We

must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. That

will be a time of great need; and none can stand with peace

before that throne, but they that have been acquainted with

this throne of grace in my text. Christ on the throne of

grace, and Christ on the judgment-seat, is the same Christ.

Christ in the gospel, and Christ in the clouds, is the same

Christ. Yet we must distinguish. Christ on the throne of

grace is no judge; and Christ on the judgment-seat hath no

grace to dispense. Now is his time of dispensing grace; then

will be the day of his punishing the despisers of grace, and

of giving the crown of glory to the receivers of his grace.

In the last place, I would give a few directions unto real

Christians, in order to your providing of grace to help in

time of need.

1. Lay the foundation sure. A time of need will try it, (1

Cor 3:11) Other foundation can no man lay, than that is

laid, which is Jesus Christ. The Father hath laid Christ for a

foundation: (Isa 28:16) Therefore thus saith the Lord God,

Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried

stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation: he that

believeth, shall not make haste. Applied to Christ (1 Peter

2:6). The faithful ministers of the gospel lay Christ for a

foundation; (1 Cor 3:10) According to the grace of God

which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder I have

laid the foundation. But how can a poor sinner lay Christ

for a foundation to himself? Turn but the words, and the

question is answered: Thy laying of Christ for a foundation,

is thy laying thyself upon Christ for a foundation; and it is

neither more nor less, nor any thing else. Cast yourselves,

and all your concerns about salvation, on Christ alone. Let

him bear all. He only can, and calls for this from you. One

of the first questions that ariseth in the mind of a Christian

in a time of need, is this: Is the foundation right laid? am I

founded on Christ? The storm will try the foundation. It

were great wisdom to secure that before the storm come.

2. Clear up your evidences against a time of need. The

evidences of a Christian are not his charters for heaven,

(the covenant of grace contains them); but they are as light,

by which a Christian reads his charters. Evidences are of

great use in a time of need. They stand in God’s work in us.

Our faith stands on God’s word of promise to us, and on

Christ’s work for us; the evidences of believers stand in

God’s gracious working in, and on, and by them. These

four words I would give about your evidences: (1.) When

you cannot perceive them, search for them: (2 Cor 13:5)

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your

ownselves: know ye not your ownselves, how that Jesus

Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates, or disapproved?

The exhortation is so delivered, as to persuade us, that very

narrow and exact searching is called for in this work. May

not that Christian’s heart condemn him, who is daily

complaining of his ignorance of his state, when he knows

that serious self-examination is neglected by him? (2.) If

upon searching you cannot yet find, beg the help of the

Spirit of God to discover his own work in you: (1 Cor 2:12)

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the

Spirit which is of God; that we may know the things that

are freely given to us of God. The illumination of the Holy

Ghost is not only simply needful, to give us a saving

knowledge of the mystery of the gospel; but is so also to

give us a right knowledge of the mystery of his grace in us

(Eph 1:17-19), where the apostle prays for the Spirit, for

both these ends. David prays for the Lord’s help in his

examining of himself (Psa 139:23,24). A heart laid open to

God’s search, a heart willing to have all in it viewed and

discovered by the Lord, is an upright sincere heart.

Whoever is willing to know his worst, is not stark naught:

yet he that seeth but the least half of his badness, will judge

himself to be very bad. (3.) If you cannot yet find your

evidences, make them presently. Many Christians need this

advice. They formerly had evidences of their interest in

Christ; they had a clear sight of the truth and fruits of their

faith, and love, and repentance: this refreshing sight is

gone, and they mourn as without the sun, as Job speaks

(30:28). Let such take this course. Act afresh that grace,

when you are doubtful whether you ever acted it before.

See you at present no clear evidences of your former

believing? Act faith presently. There are few things more

evident, than strong believing is in the very acting of it.

And if the acting of faith on Jesus Christ, as speaking in

righteousness, and mighty to save (Isa 63:1) be evident to

thee, thou hast the best evidence for eternal life that is in all

the Bible. Most of the promises run this way. Whosoever

believeth on the Son of God, hath everlasting life (John

3:15-17). It is the gracious and wise constitution of the

Lord, that no grace can be ordinarily evident to a man in

whom it is, so, as in and by the exercise and acting of it.

(4.) When you find evidences of God’s work in you, bless

the worker and discoverer of them, and believe more and

more. Say with David, (Psa 71:14) I will hope continually,

and will yet praise thee more and more. It is just with God,

and merciful too, that darkness should come upon that

man’s evidences, who sits down upon them, and blesseth

himself in them, more than he doth God for them; and

pleaseth himself in a life of sense, with neglecting the life

of faith.

3. Make good use of your former experiences of the mercy

and grace of God, helping you in former times of need. The

Lord’s kindness is not shown to us for the present time

only, but for the time to come. It is not given to us, to play

or please ourselves with at present, but for good and

needful uses; for strengthening of our faith, exciting of

praise, and directing and encouraging us to come to the

same door we were formerly relieved at. It is a part of the

work of faith, to look back on formerly-bestowed mercy

and grace, as well as to look forward to the greater and

better things to come. It is a great sin, but very common,

that a believer who hath many years experience of the

mercy of God, if there be a stop put to the stream of mercy,

he is often as much shaken in his faith, as if he had never

tasted that the Lord is gracious.

4. In preparing for a time of need, be careful to keep your

consciences clean. There is no worse company in an evil

day, than an evil conscience. It is worse company than the

devil’s. His company is that of a tempter and accuser; but

an evil conscience is a judge condemning, and an

executioner tormenting a man. Therefore herein excise

yourselves, to have a conscience void of offence toward

God, and toward men (Acts 24:16). It is usually seen, that

times of great trials do dart in some light into men’s

consciences, and do make men look into their hearts and

ways more narrowly, and spy small faults that they could

not see at other times; for they are days of darkness in one

sense, and days of light in another. Study therefore to keep

thy conscience clean and pure, by holy and tender walking,

and by daily believing; for it is the blood of Christ that only

can purge the conscience from dead works to serve the

living God (Heb 9:14). And let me assure you of this, (and

if you will not believe it, I dare say you will feel it, and feel

it the more then, if you believe it not now), that such as

make all their care about their consciences to stand in

watchfulness about their hearts and ways, and are utterly

estranged from believing applications to the blood of Jesus,

when an evil day and an evil conscience meet together,

(and meet they will), that they will be in a sad and dreadful

confusion. And no better will their condition be, who, upon

a false pretence (and in this case it is always false) of

trusting in Christ, have no care either of their conscience or

conversation. The mystery of the faith is to be held (and

kept) in a pure conscience (1 Tim 1:19). We should hold

faith and a good conscience (1 Tim 3:9). They cannot be

got, nor kept, but together. Whoever suffers shipwreck of

the one, loseth the other. Christ is the Saviour of sinners;

but he is no minister of sin (Gal 2:17). He came into the

world to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15): not to save saints; for

there are none in it, but of his making: and his making

sinners to be saints, is a notable part of his saving (2 Tim

1:9). The inheritance is for them that obtain forgiveness of

sins, and who are sanctified by faith in him (Acts 26:18).

None are saved but the sanctified; and none are sanctified

but by faith in Christ Jesus. There may be in an unbeliever

a picture and shadow of holiness: but it is an abomination

in the sight of God; whatever the man that hath it, or they

that see it, may think of it. A holy unbeliever, or an unholy

believer, never was since the world began, nor will be

while it lasts.

5. Multiply your addresses to the throne of grace, before the

time of need come. Happy were that Christian that could

cry as earnestly for that grace that can help him, before the

time of need come, as he will see it needful to have it, when

that time doth come. But it is the weakness of our minds as

men, and of our grace as Christians, that we cannot take up

so clear a prospect of things to come; and that they are not

so big in our eyes at a distance, as when present. Yet by

faith we may foresee times of need; and should pray much

for grace to help us when that time comes. Suppose you

should, for twenty years together, beg that grace and mercy

that you should not have occasion for till those years were

expired; would there be any hurt in it?

6. In any special prospect of an approaching time of need,

make special addresses to the throne of grace, for grace to

help in that time. There are two things in these addresses I

recommend to you: (1.) Let them be personal, particular,

and secret; our Lord’s direction (Matt 6:6). Many

Christians find it an easier thing to keep a day of prayer

with others, than to spend an hour in prayer in secret by

themselves. It were far easier to know a man’s frame and

state, by his secret dealings with God, (if we were

acquainted with them), than by all his professions and

duties besides. (2.) Let these addresses be sometimes

solemn and long. There are some mercies not to be got (as

some sort of devils are not to be cast out) but by fasting and

prayer (Matt 17:21). Secret, personal fasts, I am afraid, are

very rare amongst Christians in our days. Christ commands

and directs us about them (Matt 6:16-18), as well as about

secret prayer (6:6,7). Ministers should not load Christians

with work above the strength of their bodies, or minds, or

grace. But surely it is but reasonable service required of

you, that you should make addresses to the throne of grace,

in some suitableness to your need of that grace that is

dispensed from it.

There are four things, which if they were the fruit of my

speaking and of your hearing so often from this text, we

should both have cause to bless the Lord, who teacheth his

people to profit (Isa 48:17).

1. If you learn to pray better, and to ply prayer more. David

gave himself to prayer (Psa 109:4). The apostles, these

extraordinary officers of the primitive church, gave

themselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the

word (Acts 6:4). There are times in which private

Christians should give themselves to fasting and prayer (1

Cor 7:5). If you belong to God, he will make you pray: and

teach you with briers and thorns, if you will not yield to

more gentle methods. How sad is the reflection that riseth

in the heart, under some heavy trial, "This is brought on me

for my indulged distance and estrangement from God!"

2. If you learn to mind Christ more, and make more use of

him in your praying. He is the King on this throne of grace.

As much as Christ is out of your minds in praying, so much

are you out in praying, and your praying out of that it ought

to be. That which we beg, is out of Christ’s store. In whose

name do we beg it, but in his? for whose sake, but for his?

Out of whose hand do we receive what we ask and get, but

out of his? It is marvellous, that people should pretend to

prayer, and think they pray, who yet forget Jesus Christ,

who is all in all, in all right prayer.

3. If you learn to mind and plead more God’s free grace in

Jesus Christ, in your praying. Free grace is the sensible

humble man’s plea. He is a proud ignorant person, that

seeks or uses any other plea at God’s throne of grace. Free

grace is the only thing that faith can first lay hold on. It is a

plea that any man may use; it is the constant and powerful

plea of a wise believer. It answers every case, and suits

every prayer; and the lowest case, and the highest prayer,

best.

4. If you learn never to leave off improving of Christ, and

pleading for grace at this throne of grace, till ye have no

more need of grace. And that will never be as long as you

live. If any man fall into such a dream, that he has got

beyond the need of grace, and so of praying, he is one that

never rightly knew himself, nor grace, nor Christ, nor

praying. The believer knows he stands in need of Christ

and grace; and therefore prays as long as he liveth, as

David resolved (Psa 116:2). And when he comes to die, and

hath prayed his last prayer, with Stephen, (Acts 7:59) Lord

Jesus, receive my spirit, and gets it answered; praying,

believing, and the throne of grace itself, as to him, is at an

end; and everlasting praises before the throne of glory, of

God, and of the Lamb, begin, never to have an end.

"Even so come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Finish thy work;

fulfil all thy promises; answer fully all the prayers of all thy

people. Put an end to sin, and time, and trouble, and

temptation: and hasten the marriage day, that thy people

may be glad and rejoice, and give honour to thee (Rev

19:7). Let the bride be made ready, and let the Bridegroom

appear in his wedding-garments of glory. O how blessed

will the meeting and the marriage be! He married his bride

when on earth, in garments dyed in his own precious blood;

and the bride receives him as glorious, even in his bloody

raiment. This most precious blood was shed in love to his

bride, and for her salvation; and therefore he is amiable to

her in that dress. Believers in Christ are contracted to a

slain husband; but shall be married to him in a far other

manifestation of himself. How great is the difference

betwixt our dearest Lord Jesus, under his cross, and under

his crown? And yet, under his cross, he is infinitely amiable

to a believer’s heart and eye. If it were not that the light of

that glorious day of his appearance will prevent all

mistakes, the nations of them which are saved (as they are

called, for their multitude out of all nations, Rev 21:24)

might doubt, (but doubt they cannot; but wonder they will,

both at him and at themselves, 2 Thess 1:10), and say, Is

this that blessed Saviour I believed on so feebly? whom I

trusted with my soul and its salvation, with so much

fainting, and with so many fears? Is this he whom I loved

so little, and so coldly? Is this he whom (all the time I lived

on earth, after he had revealed himself to me), I depended

and lived on by faith, and that with so many staggerings

through unbelief, because I knew not so well, as now I do,

whom I then believed?

"And until this blessed day come, (and come it will; for it is

promised and sworn by him who cannot lie. It is not far off;

for it is above sixteen hundred years since he testified,

Surely I come quickly, Rev 22:20. It is his last promise to

his bride), let his most excellent name be poured out as

ointment; and let the savour of his knowledge be made

manifest in every place. Let his saving blessed death be

remembered, gloried in, and fed upon, by all believers: (the

greatest token of his love to us, the only price of our

redemption, 1 Peter 1:19, and the only fold of our souls).

Let his justifying righteousness be only mentioned before

God on earth by believing sinners, as it will be only

mentioned by glorified praising saints in heaven. Let the

throne of grace, reared up by the Father in his Son, and

consecrated by the blood of his Son, God manifest in the

flesh, be revealed to the darkened world, and set up

amongst the blinded nations: and let grace from thence be

dispensed to many thousands of perishing sinners. Let the

glory of God’s free, most free, every way free grace in

Jesus Christ, shine so in the nations, as it may (and when

that glory shines, it will) darken, confound, and put to

shame, all the Antichristian darkness, (and dreams of false

Christs of mean’s making, and of works, hire, and merit,

under all their names and pretences), and make it all hateful

in sinners eyes, as it is hurtful to their souls, and as it is

hateful in God’s sight. Let the praises of my Lord and my

God, as recovered Thomas calls him (John 20:28), fill

heaven and earth; and fill the hearts, and fill the mouths,

and shine in the lives of all believers on his name; and let

his praise fill all the gospel-worship in all the churches, till

the day of the glorious appearing of the great God, and our

Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). And unto these wises let

every believer on, and sincere lover of Jesus Christ, say

(and every one that is such, will say) Amen. So let it be, so

will it be."

 

 




 

 

 

 

 

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2002 by Kevin W. Michael.
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