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Author: John Bunyan

John Bunyan (1628 – 1688) was an English writer and Puritan preacher best remembered as the author of the Christian allegory The Pilgrim's Progress.  In addition to The Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan wrote nearly sixty titles, many of them expanded sermons.

Bunyan came from the village of Elstow, near Bedford.  He had some schooling and at the age of sixteen joined the Parliamentary Army during the first stage of the English Civil War.  After three years in the army he returned to Elstow and took up the trade of tinker, which he had learned from his father.  He became interested in religion after his marriage, attending first the parish church and then joining the Bedford Meeting, a nonconformist group in Bedford, and becoming a preacher.  After the restoration of the monarch, when the freedom of nonconformists was curtailed, Bunyan was arrested and spent the next twelve years in jail as he refused to give up preaching.  During this time he wrote a spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, and began work on his most famous book, The Pilgrim's Progress, which was not published until some years after his release.

Bunyan's later years, in spite of another shorter term of imprisonment, were spent in relative comfort as a popular author and preacher, and pastor of the Bedford Meeting.  He died aged 59 after falling ill on a journey to London and is buried in Bunhill Fields.  The Pilgrim's Progress became one of the most published books in the English language; 1,300 editions having been printed by 1938, 250 years after the author's death.

He is remembered in the Church of England with a Lesser Festival on 30 August, and on the liturgical calendar of the United States Episcopal Church on 29 August. Some other churches of the Anglican Communion, such as the Anglican Church of Australia, honor him on the day of his death (31 August).


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The Barren Fig Tree

The Barren Fig Tree

ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR

This solemn, searching, awful treatise, was published by Bunyan in 1682; but does not appear to have been reprinted until a very few months after his decease, which so unexpectedly took place in 1688. Although we have sought with all possible diligence, no copy of the first edition has been discovered; we have made use of a fine copy of the second edition, in possession of that thorough Bunyanite, my kind friend, R. B. Sherring, of Bristol. The third edition, 1692, is in the British Museum. Added to these posthumous publications appeared, for the first time, ‘An Exhortation to Peace and Unity,’ which will be found at the end of our second volume. In the advertisement to that treatise are stated, at some length, my reasons for concluding that it was not written by Bunyan, although inserted in all the editions of his collected works. That opinion is now more fully confirmed, by the discovery of Bunyan’s own list of his works, published just before his death, in 1688, and in which that exhortation is not inserted. I was also much pleased to find that the same conclusion was arrived at by that highly intelligent Baptist minister, Mr. Robert Robinson. His reasons are given at some length, concluding with, ‘it is evident that Bunyan never wrote this piece.’1 Why it was, after Bunyan’s death, published with his ‘Barren Fig-tree,’ is one of those hidden mysteries of darkness and of wickedness that I cannot discover. The beautiful parable from which Bunyan selected his text, represents an enclosed ground, in which, among others, a fig-tree had been planted. It was not an enclosure similar to some of the vineyards of France or Germany, exclusively devoted to the growth of the vine, but a garden in which fruits were cultivated, such as grapes, figs, or pomegranates. It was in such a vineyard, thus retired from the world, that Nathaniel poured out his heart in prayer, when our Lord in spirit witnessed, unseen, these devotional exercises, and soon afterwards rewarded him with open approbation (John 1:48). In these secluded pleasant spots the Easterns spend much of their time, under their own vines or fig-trees, sheltered from the world and from the oppressive heat of the sun—a fit emblem of a church of Christ. In this vineyard stood a fig-tree—by nature remarkable for fruitfulness—but it is barren. No inquiry is made as to how it came there, but the order is given, ‘Cut it down.’ The dresser of the garden intercedes, and means are tried to make it fruitful, but in vain. At last it is cut down as a cumber-ground and burnt. This vineyard or garden represents a gospel church; the fig-tree a member—a barren, fruitless professor. ‘It matters not how he got there,’ if he bears no fruit he must be cut down and away to the fire.

To illustrate so awful a subject this treatise was written, and it is intensely solemn. God, whose omniscience penetrates through every disguise, himself examines every tree in the garden, yea, every bough. Wooden and earthy professor, your detection is sure; appearances that deceive the world and the church cannot deceive God. ‘He will be with thee in thy bed fruits—thy midnight fruits—thy closet fruits—thy family fruits—they conversation fruits.’ Professor, solemnly examine yourself; ‘in proportion to your fruitfulness will be your blessedness.’ ‘Naked and open are all things to his eye.’ Can it be imagined that those ‘that paint themselves did ever repent of their pride?’ ‘How seemingly self-denying are some of these creeping things.’ ‘Is there no place will serve to fit those for hell but the church, the vineyard of God?’ ‘It is not the place where the worker of iniquity can hide himself or his sins from God.’ May such be detected before they go hence to the fire. While there is a disposition to seek grace all are invited to come; but when salvation by Christ is abandoned, there is no other refuge, although sought with tears. Reader, may the deeply impressive language of Bunyan sink profoundly into our hearts. We need no splendid angel nor hideous demon to reveal to us the realities of the world to come. ‘If we hear not Moses and the prophets,’ as set forth by Bunyan in this treatise, ‘neither should we be persuaded though one rose from the dead’ to declare these solemn truths (Luke 16:31).

GEO OFFOR.

TO THE READER

Courteous Reader,

I have written to thee now about the Barren Fig-tree, or how it will fare with the fruitless professor that standeth in the vineyard of God. Of what complexion thou art I cannot certainly divine; but the parable tells thee that the cumber-ground must be cut down. A cumber-ground professor is not only a provocation to God, a stumbling-block to the world, and a blemish to religion, but a snare to his own soul also. ‘Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet he shall perish for ever, like his own dung; they which have seen him shall say, Where is he?’ (Job 20:6, 7).

Now ‘they count it pleasure to riot in the daytime.’ But what will they do when the axe is fetched out? (2 Peter 2:13, 14).

The tree whose fruit withereth is reckoned a tree without fruit, a tree twice dead, one that must be ‘plucked up by the roots’ (Jude 12).

O thou cumber-ground, God expects fruit, God will come seeking fruit shortly.

My exhortation, therefore, is to professors that they look to it, that they take heed.

The barren fig-tree in the vineyard, and the bramble in the wood, are both prepared for the fire.

Profession is not a covert to hide from the eye of God; nor will it palliate the revengeful threatening of his justice; he will command to cut it down shortly.

The church, and a profession, are the best of places for the upright, but the worst in the world for the cumber-ground. He must be cast, as profane, out of the mount of God: cast, I say, over the wall of the vineyard, there to wither; thence to be gathered and burned. ‘It had ben better for them not to have known the way of righteousness’ (2 Peter 2:21). And yet if they had not, they had been damned; but it is better to go to hell without, than in, or from under a profession. These ‘shall receive greater damnation’ (Luke 20:47).

If thou be a professor, read and tremble: if thou be profane, do so likewise. For if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinners appear? Cumber-ground, take heed of the axe! Barren fig-tree, beware of the fire!

But I will keep thee no longer out of the book. Christ Jesus, the dresser of the vineyard, take care of thee, dig about thee, and dung thee, that thou mayest bear fruit; that when the Lord of the vineyard cometh with his axe to seek for fruit, or pronounce the sentence of damnation on the barren fig-tree, thou mayest escape that judgment. The cumber-ground must to the wood-pile, and thence to the fire. Farewell.

Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus in sincerity. Amen.

JOHN BUNYAN

THE BARREN FIG-TREE

or

THE DOOM AND DOWNFALL OF THE FRUITLESS PROFESSOR

‘A CERTAIN MAN HAD A FIG-TREE PLANTED IN HIS VINEYARD; AND HE CAME AND SOUGHT FRUIT THEREON, AND FOUND NONE. THEN SAID HE UNTO THE DRESSER OF HIS VINEYARD, BEHOLD, THESE THREE YEARS I COME SEEKING FRUIT ON THE FIG-TREE, AND FIND NONE: CUT IT DOWN; WHY CUMBERETH IT THE GROUND? AND HE ANSWERING SAID UNTO HIM, LORD, LET IT ALONE THIS YEAR ALSO, TILL I SHALL DIG ABOUT IT, AND DUNG IT: AND IF IT BEAR FRUIT, WELL: AND IF NOT, THEN AFTER THAT THOU SHALT CUT IT DOWN.’—LUKE 13:6–9.

At the beginning of this chapter we read how some of the Jews came to Jesus Christ, to tell him of the cruelty of Pontius Pilate, in mingling the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices. A heathenish and prodigious act; for therein he showed, not only his malice against the Jewish nation, but also against their worship, and consequently their God. An action, I say, not only heathenish, but prodigious also; for the Lord Jesus, paraphrasing upon this fact of his, teacheth the Jews, that without repentance ‘they should all likewise perish.’ ‘Likewise,’ that is by the hand and rage of the Roman empire. Neither should they be more able to avoid the stroke, than were those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them (Luke 13:1–5). The fulfilling of which prophecy, for their hardness of heart, and impenitency, was in the days of Titus, son of Vespasian, about forty years after the death of Christ. Then, I say, were these Jews, and their city, both environed round on every side, wherein both they and it, to amazement, were miserably overthrown. God gave them sword and famine, pestilence and blood, for their outrage against the Son of his love. So wrath ‘came upon them to the uttermost’ (1 Thess 2:16).2

Now, to prevent their old and foolish salvo, which they always had in readiness against such prophecies and denunciations of judgment, the Lord Jesus presents them with this parable, in which he emphatically shows them that their cry of being the temple of the Lord, and of their being the children of Abraham, &c., and their being the church of God, would not stand them in any stead. As who should say, It may be you think to help yourselves against this my prophecy of your utter and unavoidable overthrow, by the interest which you have in your outward privileges. But all these will fail you; for what think you? ‘A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.’ This is your case! The Jewish land is God’s vineyard; I know it; and I know also, that you are the fig-trees. But behold, there wanteth the main thing, fruit; for the sake, and in expectation of which, he set this vineyard with trees. Now, seeing the fruit is not found amongst you, the fruit, I say, for the sake of which he did at first plant this vineyard, what remains but that in justice he command to cut you down as those that cumber the ground, that he may plant himself another vineyard? ‘Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?’ This therefore must be your end, although you are planted in the garden of God; for the barrenness and unfruitfulness of your hearts and lives you must be cut off, yea, rooted up, and cast out of the vineyard.

In parables there are two things to be taken notice of, and to be inquired into of them that read. First, The metaphors made use of. Second, The doctrine or mysteries couched under such metaphors.

The metaphors in this parable are, 1. A certain man; 2. A vineyard; 3. A fig-tree, barren or fruitless; 4. A dresser; 5. Three years; 6. Digging and dunging, &c.

The doctrine, or mystery, couched under these words is to show us what is like to become of a fruitless or formal professor. For, 1. By the man in the parable is meant God the Father (Luke 15:11). 2. By the vineyard, his church (Isa 5:7). 3. By the fig-tree, a professor. 4. By the dresser, the Lord Jesus. 5. By the fig-tree’s barrenness, the professor’s fruitlessness. 6. By the three years, the patience of God that for a time he extendeth to barren professors. 7. This calling to the dresser of the vineyard to cut it down, is to show the outcries of justice against fruitless professors. 8. The dresser’s interceding is to show how the Lord Jesus steps in, and takes hold of the head of his Father’s axe, to stop, or at least to defer, the present execution of a barren fig-tree. 9. The dresser’s desire to try to make the fig-tree fruitful, is to show you how unwilling he is that even a barren fig-tree should yet be barren, and perish. 10. His digging about it, and dunging of it, is to show his willingness to apply gospel helps to this barren professor, if haply he may be fruitful. 11. The supposition that the fig-tree may yet continue fruitless, is to show, that when Christ Jesus hath done all, there are some professors will abide barren and fruitless. 12. The determination upon this supposition, at last to cut it down, is a certain prediction of such professor’s unavoidable and eternal damnation.

But to take this parable into pieces, and to discourse more particularly, though with all brevity, upon all the parts thereof.

A certain MAN had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard

The MAN, I told you, is to present us with God the Father; by which similitude he is often set out in the New Testament.

Observe then, that it is no new thing, if you find in God’s church barren fig-trees, fruitless professors; even as here you see is a tree, a fruitless tree, a fruitless fig-tree in the vineyard.3 Fruit is not so easily brought forth as a profession is got into; it is easy for a man to clothe himself with a fair show in the flesh, to word it, and say, Be thou warmed and filled with the best. It is no hard thing to do these with other things; but to be fruitful, to bring forth fruit to God, this doth not every tree, no not every fig-tree that stands in the vineyard of God. Those words also, ‘Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away,’ assert the same thing (John 15:2). There are branches in Christ, in Christ’s body mystical, which is his church, his vineyard, that bear not fruit, wherefore the hand of God is to take them away: I looked for grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes, that is, no fruit at all that was acceptable with God (Isa 5:4). Again, ‘Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself,’ none to God; he is without fruit to God (Hosea 10:1). All these, with many more, show us the truth of the observation, and that God’s church may be cumbered with fruitless fig-trees, with barren professors.

Had a FIG-TREE

Although there be in God’s church that be barren and fruitless; yet, as I said, to see to, they are like the rest of the trees, even a fig-tree. It was not an oak, nor a willow, nor a thorn, nor a bramble; but a FIG-TREE. ‘they come unto thee as the people cometh’ (Eze 33:31). ‘They delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God. They ask of me the ordinances of justice, they take delight in approaching to God,’ and yet but barren, fruitless, and unprofitable professors (Isa 58:2–4). Judas also was one of the twelve, a disciple, an apostle, a preacher, an officer, yea, and such a one as none of the eleven mistrusted, but preferred before themselves, each one crying out, ‘Is it I? Is it I?’ (Mark 14:19). None of them, as we read of (John 6:70), mistrusting Judas; yet he in Christ’s eye was the barren fig-tree, a devil, a fruitless professor. The foolish virgins also went forth of the world with the other, had lamps, and light, and were awakened with the other; yea, had boldness to go forth, when the midnight cry was made, with the other; and thought that they could have looked Christ in the face, when he sat upon the throne of judgment, with the other; and yet but foolish, but barren fig-trees, but fruitless professors. ‘Many,’ saith Christ, ‘will say unto me in that day,’ this and that, and will also talk of many wonderful works; yet, behold, he finds nothing in them but the fruits of unrighteousness (Matt 7:22, 23). They were altogether barren and fruitless professors.

Had a fig-tree PLANTED

This word PLANTED doth also reach far; it supposeth one taken out of its natural soil, or removed from the place it grew in once; one that seemed to be called, awakened; and not only so, but by strong hand carried from the world to the church; from nature to grace; from sin to godliness. ‘Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it’ (Psa 80:8). Of some of the branches of this vine were there unfruitful professors.

It must be concluded, therefore, that this professor, that remaineth notwithstanding fruitless, is, as to the view and judgment of the church, rightly brought in thither, to wit, by confession of faith, of sin, and a show of repentance and regeneration; thus false brethren creep in unawares!4 All these things this word planted intimateth; yea, further, that the church is satisfied with them, consents they should abide in the garden, and counteth them sound as the rest. But before God, in the sight of God, they are graceless professors, barren and fruitless fig-trees.

Therefore it is one thing to be in the church, or in a profession; and another to be of the church, and to belong to that kingdom that is prepared for the saint, that is so indeed. Otherwise, ‘Being planted, shall it prosper? shall it not utterly wither, when the east-wind toucheth it? It shall wither in the furrows where it grew’ (Eze 17:10).

Had a fig-tree planted in HIS vineyard

In HIS vineyard. Hypocrites, with rotten hearts, are not afraid to come before God in Sion. These words therefore suggest unto us a prodigious kind of boldness and hardened fearlessness. For what presumption higher, and what attempt more desperate, than for a man that wanteth grace, and the true knowledge of God, to crowd himself, in that condition, into the house or church of God; or to make profession of, and desire that the name of God should be called upon him?

For the man that maketh a profession of the religion of Jesus Christ, that man hath, as it were, put the name of God upon himself, and is called and reckoned now, how fruitless soever before God or men, the man that hath to do with God, the man that God owneth, and will stand for. This man, I say, by his profession, suggesteth this to all that know him to be such a professor. Men merely natural, I mean men that have not got the devilish art of hypocrisy, are afraid to think of doing thus. ‘And of the rest durst no man join himself to them; but the people magnified them’ (Acts 5:13). And, indeed, it displeaseth God. ‘Ye have brought,’ saith he, ‘men uncircumcised into my sanctuary’ (Eze 44:7). And again, ‘When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?’ saith God (Isa 1:12). They have therefore learned this boldness of none in the visible world, they only took it of the devil, for he, and he only, with these his disciples, attempt to present themselves in the church before God. ‘The tares are the children of the wicked one.’ The tares, that is, the hypocrites, that are Satan’s brood, the generation of vipers, that cannot escape the damnation of hell.

HAD a fig-tree planted in his vineyard

He doth not say, He planted a fig-tree, but there was a fig-tree there; he HAD, or found a fig-tree planted in his vineyard.

The great God will now acknowledge the barren fig-tree, or barren professor, to be his workmanship, or a tree of his bringing in, only the text saith, he had one there. This is much like that in Matthew 15:13—’Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.’ Here again are plants in his vineyard which God will not acknowledge to be of his planting; and he seems to suggest that in his vineyard are many such. Every plant, or all those plants or professors, that are got into the assembly of the saints, or into the profession of their religion, without God and his grace, ‘shall be rooted up.’

‘And when the King came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on the wedding-garment. And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding-garment?’ (Matt 22:11, 12). Here is one so cunning and crafty that he beguiled all the guests; he got and kept in the church even until the King himself came in to see the guests; but his subtilty got him nothing; it did not blind the eyes of the King; it did not pervert the judgment of the righteous. ‘Friend, how camest thou in hither?’ did overtake him at last; even a public rejection; the King discovered him in the face of all present. ‘How camest thou in hither?’ My Father did not bring thee hither; I did not bring thee hither; my Spirit did not bring thee hither; thou art not of the heavenly Father’s planting. ‘How camest thou in hither?’ He that ‘entereth not by the door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber’ (John 10:1). This text also is full and plain to our purpose; for this man came not in by the door, yet got into the church; he got in by climbing; he broke in at the windows; he got something of the light and glory of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in his head; and so, hardy wretch that he was, he presumed to crowd himself among the children. But how is this resented? What saith the King of him? Why, this is his sign, ‘the same is a thief and a robber.’ See ye here also, if all they be owned as the planting of God that get into his church or profession of his name.

‘Had a fig-tree.’ Had one without a wedding-garment, had a thief in his garden, at his wedding, in his house. These climbed up some other way. There are many ways to get into the church of God, and profession of his name, besides, and without an entering by the door.

1. There is the way of lying and dissembling, and at this gap the Gibeonites got in (Josh 9 &c).

2. There is sometimes falseness among some pastors, either for the sake of carnal relations, or the like; at this hole Tobiah, the enemy of God, got in (Neh 13:4–9).

3. There is sometimes negligence, and too much uncircumspectness in the whole church; thus the uncircumcised got in (Eze 44:7, 8).

4. Sometimes, again, let the church be never so circumspect, yet these have so much help from the devil that they beguile them all, and so get in. These are of the sort of thieves that Paul complains of, ‘False brethren, that are brought in unawares’ (Gal 2:4). Jude also cries out of these, ‘Certain men crept in unawares’ (Jude 4). Crept in! What, were they so lowly? A voluntary humility, a neglecting of the body, not in any humour (Col 2:23).5 O! how seemingly self-denying are some of these ‘creeping things,’ that yet are to be held, (as we shall know them) an abomination to Israel (Lev 11:43, 44).

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour (2 Tim 2:20). By these words the apostle seems to take it for granted, that as there hath been, so there still will be these kind of fig-trees, these barren professors in the house, when all men have done what they can; even as in a great house there are always vessels to dishonour, as well as those to honour and glory; vessels of wood and of earth, as well as of silver and gold. So, then, there must be wooden professors in the garden of God, there must be earthy, earthen professors in his vineyard; but that methinks is the biting word, ‘and some to dishonour’ (Rom 9:21, 22). That to the Romans is dreadful, but this seems to go beyond it; that speaks but of the reprobate in general, but this of such and such in particular; that speaks of their hardening but in the common way, but this that they must be suffered to creep into the church, there to fit themselves for their place, their own place, the place prepared for them of this sort only (Acts 1:25). As the Lord Jesus said once of the Pharisees, These ‘shall receive greater damnation’ (Luke 20:47).

Barren fig-tree, fruitless professor, hast thou heard all these things? Hast thou considered that this fig-tree is not acknowledged of God to be his, but is denied to be of his planting, and of his bringing unto his wedding? Dost not thou see that thou art called a thief and a robber, that hast either climbed up to, or crept in at another place than the door? Dost thou not hear that there will be in God’s house wooden and earthly professors, and that no place will serve to fit those for hell but the house, the church, the vineyard of God? Barren fig-tree, fruitless Christian, do not thine ears tingle?

And HE came and sought fruit thereon

When a man hath got a profession, and is crowded into the church and house of God, the question is not now, Hath he life, hath he right principles? but, Hath he fruit? HE came seeking fruit thereon. It mattereth not who brought thee in hither, whether God or the devil, or thine own vain-glorious heart; but hast thou fruit? Dost thou bring forth fruit unto God? And, ‘Let every one that nameth the name of’ the Lord Jesus ‘Christ depart from iniquity’ (2 Tim 2:19). He doth not say, And let every one that hath grace, or let those that have the Spirit of God; but, ‘Let every one that nameth the name of’ the Lord Jesus ‘Christ depart form iniquity.’

What do men meddle with religion for? Why do they call themselves by the name of the Lord Jesus, if they have not the grace of God, if they have not the Spirit of Christ? God, therefore, expecteth fruit. What do they do in the vineyard? Let them work, or get them out; the vineyard must have labourers in it. ‘Son, go WORK to-day in my vineyard’ (Matt 21:28). Wherefore, want of grace and want of Spirit will not keep God from seeking fruit. ‘And he came and sought fruit thereon’ (Luke 13:6, 8:8). He requireth that which he seemeth to have. Every man in the vineyard and house of God promiseth himself, professeth to others, and would have all men take it for granted, that a heavenly principle is in him, why then should not God seek fruit?

As for them, therefore, that will retain the name of Christians, fearing God, and yet make no conscience of bringing forth fruit to him, he saith to such, Away! ‘As for you,—Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me,’ &c. (Eze 20:39). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? God expecteth fruit, God calls for fruit, yea, God will shortly come seeking fruit on this barren fig-tree. Barren fig-tree, either bear fruit, or go out of the vineyard; and yet then thy case will be unspeakably damnable. Yea, let me add, if thou shalt neither bear fruit nor depart, God will take his name out of thy mouth (Jer 44:26). He will have fruit. And I say further, if thou wilt do neither, yet God in justice and righteousness will still come for fruit. And it will be in vain for thee to count this austerity. He will reap where he hath not sowed, and gather where he hath not strewed (Matt 25:24–26). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear?

Quest. What if a man have no grace?

Answ. Yes, seeing he hath a profession.

And he came and sought fruit THEREON

A church, then, and a profession, are not places where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves and sins from God. Some of old thought that because they could cry, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!’ that therefore they were delivered, or had a dispensation to do the abominations which they committed, as some in our days; for who, say they, have a right to the creatures, if not Christians, if not professors, if not church members? And, from this conclusion, let go the reins of their inordinate affections after pride, ambition, gluttony; pampering themselves without fear (Jude 12), daubing themselves with the lust-provoking fashions of the times; to walk with stretched out necks, naked breasts, frizzled fore-tops, wanton gestures, in gorgeous apparel, mixed with gold and pearl, and costly array.6 I will not here make inspection into their lives, their carriages at home, in their corners and secret holes; but certainly, persons thus spirited, thus principled, and thus inclined, have but empty boughs, boughs that want the fruit that God expects, and that God will come down to seek.

Barren fig-tree, thou art not licensed by thy profession, nor by the Lord of the vineyard, to bear these clusters of Gomorrah; neither shall the vineyard, nor thy being crowded among the trees there, shelter thee from the sight of the eye of God. Many make religion their cloak, and Christ their stalking-horse, and by that means cover themselves and hide their own wickedness from men; but God seeth their hearts, hath his print upon the heels of their feet, and pondereth all their goings; and at last, when their iniquity is found to be hateful, he will either smite them with hardness of heart, and so leave them, or awaken them to bring forth fruit. Fruit he looks for, seeks, and expects, barren fig-tree!

But what! come into the presence of God to sin! What! come into the presence of God to hide thy sin! Alas, man! the church is God’s garden, and Christ Jesus is the great Apostle and High-priest of our profession. What! come into the house that is called by my name! into the place where mine honour dwelleth! (Psa 26:8). Where mine eyes and heart are continually! (1 Kings 9:3). What! come there to sin, to hide thy sin, to cloak thy sin! His plants are an orchard with pleasant fruits (Cant 4:13). And every time he goeth into his garden, it is to see the fruits of the valley, and to ‘see if the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.’

Yea, saith he, he came seeking fruit on this fig-tree. The church is the place of God’s delight, where he ever desires to be: there he is night and day. He is there to seek for fruit, to seek for fruit of all and every tree in the garden. Wherefore, assure thyself, O fruitless one, that thy ways must needs be open before the eyes of the Lord. One black sheep is soon espied, although in company with many; that is taken with the first cast of the eye; its different colour still betrays it. I say, therefore, a church and a profession are not places where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves from God that seeks for fruit. ‘My vineyard,’ saith God, ‘which is mine, is before me’ (Cant 8:12).

And he came and sought fruit thereon, AND FOUND NONE

Barren fig-tree, hearken; the continual non-bearing of fruit is a dreadful sign that thou art to come to a dreadful end, as the winding up of this parable concludeth.

‘AND FOUND NONE.’ None at all, or none to God’s liking; for when he saith, ‘He came seeking fruit thereon,’ he means ‘fruit meet for God,’ pleasant fruit, fruit good and sweet (Heb 6). Alas! it is not any fruit will serve; bad fruit is counted none. ‘Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire’ (Matt 3:10).

First. There is a fruit among professors that withers, and so never comes to be ripe; a fruit that is smitten in the growth, and comes not to maturity; and this is reckoned no fruit. This fruit those professors bear that have many fair beginnings, or blossoms; that make many fair offers of repentance and amendment; that begin to pray, to resolve, and to break off their sins by righteousness, but stop at those beginnings, and bring not fruit forth to perfection. This man’s fruit is withered, wrinkled, smitten fruit, and is in effect no fruit at all.

Second. There is a hasty fruit, such as is the ‘corn upon the house-top’ (Psa 129:6); or that which springs up on the dung-hill, that runs up suddenly, violently, with great stalks and big show, and yet at last proves empty of kernel. This fruit is to be found in those professors that on a sudden are so awakened, so convinced, and so affected with their condition that they shake the whole family, the endship,7 the whole town. For a while they cry hastily, vehemently, dolefully, mournfully, and yet all is but a pang, an agony, a fit, they bring not forth fruit with patience. These are called those hasty fruits that ‘shall be a fading flower’ (Isa 28:4).

Third. There is a fruit that is vile and ill-tasted, how long soever it be in growing; the root is dried, and cannot convey a sufficiency of sap to the branches, to ripen the fruit (Jer 24). These are the fruits of such professors whose hearts are estranged from communion with the Holy Ghost, whose fruit groweth from themselves, from their parts, gifts, strength of wit, natural or moral principles. These, notwithstanding they bring forth fruit, are called empty vines, such as bring not forth fruit to God. ‘Their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit; yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb’ (Hosea 9:16).

Fourth. There is a fruit that is wild. ‘I looked for grapes and it brought forth wild grapes’ (Isa 5:4). I observe, that as there are trees and herbs that are wholly right and noble, fit indeed for the vineyard; so there are also their semblance, but wild; not right, but ignoble. There is the grape, and the wild grape; the vine, and the wild vine; the rose, and canker rose; flowers and wild flowers; the apple, and the wild apple which we call the crab. Now, fruit from these wild things, however they may please the children to play with, yet the prudent and grave count them of little or no value. There are also in the world a generation of professors that, notwithstanding their profession, are wild by nature; yea, such as were never cut out, or off, from the wild olive-tree, nor never yet planted into the good olive-tree. Now, these can bring nothing forth but wild olive berries, they cannot bring forth fruit unto God. Such are all those that have lightly taken up a profession, and crept into the vineyard without a new birth, and the blessing of regeneration.

Fifth. There is also untimely fruit: ‘Even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs’ (Rev 6:13). Fruit out of season, and so no fruit to God’s liking. There are two sorts of professors subject to bring forth untimely fruit: 1. They that bring forth fruit too soon; 2. They that bring forth fruit too late.

1. They that bring forth too soon. They are such as at present receive the Word with joy; and anon, before they have root downwards, they thrust forth upwards; but having not root, when the sun ariseth, they are smitten, and miserably die without fruit. These professors are those light and inconsiderate ones that think nothing but peace will attend the gospel; and so anon rejoice at the tidings, without foreseeing the evil. Wherefore, when the evil comes, being unarmed, and so not able to stand any longer, they die, and are withered, and bring forth no fruit. ‘He that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the Word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the Word, by and by he is offended’ (Matt 13:20, 21). There is, in Isaiah 28:4, mention made of some ‘whose glorious beauty shall be a fading flower,’ because it is ‘fruit before the summer.’ Both these are untimely fruit.

2. They also bring forth untimely fruit that stay till the season is over. God will have his fruit in his season; I say, he will receive them of such men as shall render them to him in their seasons (Matt 21:41). The missing of the season is dangerous; staying till the door is shut is dangerous (Matt 25:10, 11). Many there be that come not till the flood of God’s anger is raised, and too deep for them to wade through; ‘Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him’ (Psa 32:6). Esau AFTERWARDS is fearful: ‘For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears’ (Heb 12:17).

So the children of Israel, they brought to God the fruits of obedience too late; their ‘Lo, we be here’ came too late (Num 14:40–42); their ‘We will go up’ came too late (Num 14:40–44). The Lord had sworn before, ‘that they should not possess the land’ (Matt 25:10, 27:5). All these are such as bring forth untimely fruit (Heb 12:17; Luke 13:25–27). It is the hard hap of the reprobate to do all things too late; to be sensible of his want of grace too late; to be sorry for sin too late; to seek repentance too late; to ask for mercy, and to desire to go to glory too late.

Thus you see, 1. That fruit smitten in the growth, that withereth, and that comes not to maturity, is no fruit. 2. That hasty fruit, such as ‘the grass upon the house-top,’ withereth also before it groweth up, and is no fruit (Psa 129:6). 3. That the fruit that is vile, and ill-tasted, is no fruit. That wild fruit, wild grapes, are no fruit (Rev 6). That untimely fruit, such as comes too soon, or that comes too late, such as come not in their season, are no fruit.

And he came and sought FRUIT thereon, and found none

Nothing will do but fruit; he looked for grapes. ‘When the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it’ (Matt 21:34).

Quest. But what fruit doth God expect?

Answ. Good fruit. ‘Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down’ (Matt 7:19). Now, before the fruit can be good, the tree must be good; for good fruit makes not a good tree, but a ‘good tree bringeth forth good fruit. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?’ A man must be good, else he can bring forth no good fruit; he must have righteousness imputed, that he may stand good in God;’s sight from the curse of his law; he must have a principle of righteousness in his soul, else how should he bring forth good fruits? and hence it is, that a Christian’s fruits are called ‘the fruits of the Spirit, the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ’ (Gal 5:22, 23; Phil 1:11). The fruits of the Spirit, therefore the Spirit must be there; the fruits of righteousness, therefore righteousness must first be there. But to particularize in a few things briefly:—

First. God expecteth fruit that will answer, and be worthy of the repentance which thou feignest thyself to have. Every one in a profession, and that hath crowded into the vineyard, pretendeth to repentance; now of every such soul, God expecteth that the fruits of repentance be found to attend them. ‘Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance,’ or answerable to thy profession of the doctrine of repentance (Matt 3:8). Barren fig-tree, seeing thou art a professor, and art got into the vineyard, thou standest before the Lord of the vineyard as one of the trees of the garden; wherefore he looketh for fruit from thee, as from the rest of the trees in the vineyard; fruits, I say, and such as may declare thee in heart and life one that hath made sound profession of repentance. By thy profession thou hast said, I am sensible of the evil of sin. Now then, live such a life as declares that thou art sensible of the evil of sin. By thy profession thou hast said, I am sorry for my sin. Why, then, live such a life as may declare this sorrow. By thy profession thou hast said, I am ashamed of my sin; yea, but live such a life, that men by that may see thy shame for sin (Psa 38:18; Jer 31:19). By thy profession thou sayest, I have turned from, left off, and am become an enemy to every appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22). Ah! but doth thy life and conversation declare thee to be such an one? Take heed, barren fig-tree, lest thy life should give thy profession the lie. I say again, take heed, for God himself will come for fruit. ‘And he sought fruit thereon.’

You have some professors that are only saints before men when they are abroad, but are devils and vipers at home; saints by profession, but devils by practice; saints in word, but sinners in heart and life. These men may have the profession, but they want the fruits that become repentance.8

Barren fig-tree, can it be imagined that those that paint themselves did ever repent of their pride? or that those that pursue this world did ever repent of their covetousness? or that those that walk with wanton eyes did ever repent of their fleshly lusts? Where, barren fig-tree, is the fruit of these people’s repentance? Nay, do they not rather declare to the world that they have repented of their profession? Their fruits look as if they had. Their pride saith they have repented of their humility. Their covetousness declareth that they are weary of depending upon God; and doth not thy wanton actions declare that thou abhorrest chastity? Where is thy fruit, barren fig-tree? Repentance is not only a sorrow, and a shame for, but a turning from sin to God; it is called ‘repentance from dead works’ (Heb 6:1). Hast thou that ‘godly sorrow’ that ‘worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of?’ (2 Cor 7:10, 11). How dost thou show thy carefulness, and clearing of thyself; thy indignation against sin; they fear of offending; thy vehement desire to walk with God; thy zeal for his name and glory in the world? And what revenge hast thou in thy heart against every thought of disobedience?

But where is the fruit of this repentance? Where is thy watching, thy fasting, thy praying against the remainders of corruption? Where is thy self-abhorrence, thy blushing before God, for the sin that is yet behind? Where is thy tenderness of the name of God and his ways? Where is thy self-denial and contentment? How dost thou show before men the truth of thy turning to God? Hast thou ‘renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness?’ Canst thou commend thyself ‘to every man’s conscience in the sight of God?’ (2 Cor 4:2).

Second. God expecteth fruits that shall answer that faith which thou makest profession of. The professor that is got into the vineyard of God doth feign that he hath the faith, the faith most holy, the faith of God’s elect. Ah! but where are thy fruits, barren fig-tree? The faith of the Romans was ‘spoken of throughout the whole world’ (Rom 1:8). And the Thessalonians’ faith grew exceedingly (2 Thess 1:3).

Thou professest to believe thou hast a share in another world: hast thou let got THIS, barren fig-tree? Thou professest thou believest in Christ: is he thy joy, and the life of thy soul? Yea, what conformity unto him, to his sorrows and sufferings? What resemblance hath his crying, and groaning, and bleeding, and dying, wrought in thee? Dost thou ‘bear about in thy body the dying of the Lord Jesus?’ and is also the life of Jesus ‘made manifest in thy mortal body?’ (2 Cor 4:10, 11). Barren fig-tree, ‘show me thy faith by thy works.’ ‘Show out of a good conversation thy works with meekness of wisdom’ (James 2:18, 3:13). What fruit, barren fig-tree, what degree of heart holiness? for faith purifies the heart (Acts 15:9). What love to the Lord Jesus? for ‘faith worketh by love’ (Gal 5:6).

Third. God expecteth fruits according to the seasons of grace thou art under, according to the rain that cometh upon thee. Perhaps thou art planted in a good soil, by great waters, that thou mightest bring forth branches, and bear fruit; that thou mightest be a goodly vine or fig-tree. Shall he not therefore seek for fruit, for fruit answerable to the means? Barren fig-tree, God expects it, and will find it too, if ever he bless thee. ‘For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned’ (Heb 6:7, 8).

Barren soul, how many showers of grace, how many dews from heaven, how many times have the silver streams of the city of God run gliding by thy roots, to cause thee to bring forth fruit! These showers and streams, and the drops that hang upon thy boughs, will all be accounted for; and will they not testify against thee that thou oughtest, of right, to be burned? Hear and tremble, O thou barren professor! Fruits that become thy profession of the gospel, the God of heaven expecteth. The gospel hath in it the forgiveness of sins, the kingdom of heaven, and eternal life; but what fruit hath thy profession of a belief of these things put forth in thy heart and life? Hast thou given thyself to the Lord? and is all that thou hast to be ventured for his name in this world? Dost thou walk like one that is bought with a price, even with the price of precious blood?

Fourth. The fruit that God expecteth is such as is meet for himself; fruit that may glorify God. God’s trees are trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified; fruit that tasteth of heaven, abundance of such fruit. For ‘herein,’ saith Christ, ‘is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit’ (John 15:8). Fruits of all kinds, new and old; the fruits of the Spirit are in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth. Fruits before the world, fruits before the saints, fruits before God, fruits before angels.

O my brethren, ‘what manner of persons ought we to be,’ who have subscribed to the Lord, and have called ourselves by the name of Israel? ‘One shall say I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel’ (Isa 44:5). Barren fig-tree, hast thou subscribed, hast thou called thyself by the name of Jacob, and surnamed thyself by the name of Israel? All this thou pretendest to, who art got into the vineyard, who art placed among the trees of the garden of God. God doth therefore look for such fruit as is worthy of his name, as is meet for him; as the apostle saith, ‘we should walk worthy of God’; that is, so as we may show in every place that the presence of God is with us, his fear in us, and his majesty and authority upon our actions. Fruits meet for him, such a dependence upon him, such trust in his word, such satisfaction in his presence, such a trusting of him with all my concerns, and such delight in the enjoyment of him, that may demonstrate that his fear is in my heart, that my soul is wrapped up in his things, and that my body, and soul, and estate, and all, are in truth, through his grace, at his dispose, fruit meet for him. Hearty thanks, and blessing God for Jesus Christ, for his good word, for his free grace, for the discovery of himself in Christ to the soul, secret longing after another world, fruit meet for him. Liberality to the poor saints, to the poor world; a life in word and deed exemplary; a patient and quiet enduring of all things, till I have done and suffered the whole will of God, which he hath appointed for me. ‘That on the good ground are they which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience’ (Luke 8:15). This is bringing forth fruit unto God; having our ‘fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life’ (Rom 7:4, 6:22, 14:8).

Fifth. The Lord expects fruit becoming the vineyard of God. ‘The vineyard,’ saith he, ‘in a very fruitful hill’: witness the fruit brought forth in all ages (Isa 5:1). The most barren trees that ever grew in the wood of this world, when planted in this vineyard by the God of heaven, what fruit to Godward have they brought forth! ‘Abel offered the more excellent sacrifice’ (Heb 11:4). Enoch walked with God three hundred years (Heb 11:5). Noah, by his life of faith, ‘condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith’ (Heb 11:7). Abraham left his country, and went out after God, not knowing whither he went (Heb 11:8). Moses left a kingdom, and run the hazard of the wrath of the king, for the love he had to God and Christ. What shall I say of them who had trials, ‘not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection? They were stoned; they were sawn asunder; were tempted; were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented’ (Heb 11:35–37). Peter left his father, ship, and nets (Matt 4:18–20). Paul turned off from the feet of Gamaliel. Men brought their goods and possessions (the price of them) and cast it down at the apostle’s feet (Acts 19:18–20). And others brought their books together, and burned them; curious books, though they were worth fifty thousand pieces of silver. I could add how many willingly offered themselves in all ages, and their all, for the worthy name of the Lord Jesus, to be racked, starved, hanged, burned, drowned, pulled in pieces, and a thousand calamities.9 Barren fig-tree, the vineyard of God hath been a fruitful place. What dost thou there? What dost thou bear? God expects fruit according to, or becoming the soil of the vineyard.

Sixth. The fruit which God expecteth is such as becometh God’s husbandry and labour. The vineyard is God’s husbandry, or tillage. ‘I am the true vine, ‘saith Christ, ‘and my Father is the husbandman’ (John 15:1). And again, ‘Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building’ (1 Cor 3:9). The vineyard; God fences it, God gathereth out the stones, God builds the tower, and the wine-press in the midst thereof. Here is labour, here is protection, here is removing of hindrances, here is convenient purgation, and all that there might be fruit.

Barren fig-tree, what fruit hast thou? Hast thou fruit becoming the care of God, the protection of God, the wisdom of God, the patience and husbandry of God? It is the fruit of the vineyard that is either the shame or the praise of the husbandman. ‘I went by the field of the slothful,’ saith Solomon, ‘and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof’ (Prov 24:30–32).

Barren fig-tree, if men should make a judgment of the care, and pains, and labour of God in his church, by the fruit that thou bringest forth, what might they say? Is he not slothful, is not he careless, is he not without discretion? O! thy thorns, thy nettles, thy barren heart and barren life, is a continual provocation to the eyes of his glory, as likewise a dishonour to the glory of his grace.

Barren fig-tree, hast thou heard all these things? I will add yet one more.

‘And he came and sought fruit thereon

The question is not now, What thou thinkest of thyself, nor what all the people of God think of thee, but what thou shalt be found in that day when God shall search thy boughs for fruit? When Sodom was to be searched for righteous men, God would not, in that matter, trust his faithful servant Abraham; but still, as Abraham interceded, God answered, ‘If I find fifty,—or forty and five there, I will not destroy the city’ (Gen 18:20–28). Barren fig-tree, what sayest thou? God will come down to see, God will make search for fruit himself.

‘And he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of the vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?’

These words are the effects of God’s search into the boughs of a barren fig-tree; he sought fruit, and found none—none to his liking, none pleasant and good. Therefore, first, he complains of the want thereof to the dresser; calls him to come, and see, and take notice of the tree; then signifieth his pleasure: he will have it removed, taken away, cut down from cumbering the ground.

Observe, The barren fig-tree is the object of God’s displeasure; God cannot bear with a fruitless professor.

THEN said he, &c.

THEN, after this provocation; then, after he had sought and found no fruit, then. This word, THEN, doth show us a kind of an inward disquietness; as he saith also in another place, upon a like provocation. ‘THEN the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy, shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven’ (Deut 29:18–20).

THEN; it intimateth that he was now come to a point, to a resolution what to do with this fig-tree. ‘Then said he to the dresser of this vineyard,’ that is, to Jesus Christ, ‘behold,’ as much as to say, come hither, here is a fig-tree in my vineyard, here is a professor in my church, that is barren, that beareth no fruit.

Observe, However the barren professor thinks of himself on earth, the Lord cries out in heaven against him. ‘And now go to, I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and I will break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down’ (Isa 5:5).

‘Behold, THESE THREE YEARS I come seeking fruit’

Observe, ‘THESE THREE YEARS.’ God cries out that this patience is abused, that his forbearance is abused. Behold, these three years I have waited, forborne; these three years I have deferred mine anger. ‘Therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting’ (Jer 15:6). ‘These three years.’ Observe, God layeth up all the time; I say, a remembrance of all the time that a barren fig-tree, or a fruitless professor, misspendeth in this world. As he saith also of Israel of old, ‘forty years long was I grieved with this generation’ (Psa 95:10).

‘These three years,’ &c. These three seasons: Observe, God remembers how many seasons thou hast misspent: for these three years signify so many seasons. And when the time of fruit drew nigh, that is, about the season they begin to be ripe, or that according to the season might so have been. Barren fig-tree, thou hast had time, seasons, sermons, ministers, afflictions, judgments, mercies, and what not; and yet hast not been fruitful. Thou hast had awakenings, reproofs, threatenings, comforts, and yet hast not been fruitful. Thou hast had patterns, examples, citations, provocations, and yet has not been fruitful. Well, God hath laid up thy three years with himself. He remembers every time, every season, every sermon, every minister, affliction, judgment, mercy, awakening, pattern, example, citation, provocation; he remembers all. As he said of Israel of old, ‘They have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice’ (Num 14:22). And again, ‘I remember all their wickedness’ (Hosea 7:2).

‘These three years,’ &c. He seeks for the fruit of every season. He will not that any of his sermons, ministers, afflictions, judgments, or mercies, should be lost, or stand for insignificant things; he will have according to the benefit bestowed. (2 Chron 32:24, 25). He hath not done without a cause all that he hath done, and therefore he looketh for fruit (Eze 14:23). Look to it, barren fig-tree.10

I came ‘SEEKING’ fruit

Observe, This word ‘SEEKING’ signifies a narrow search; for when a man seeks for fruit on a tree, he goes round it and round it; now looking into this bough, and then into that; he peeks into the inmost boughs, and the lowermost boughs, if perhaps fruit may be thereon. Barren fig-tree, God will look into all thy boughs, he will be with thee in thy bed-fruits, thy midnight-fruits, thy closet-fruits, thy family-fruits, thy conversation-fruits, to see if there be any among all these that are fit for, or worthy of the name of the God of heaven. He sees ‘what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark’ (Eze 8:12). ‘All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do’ (Heb 4:12, 13).

Seeking fruit on ‘THIS’ fig-tree

I told you before, that he keeps in remembrance the times and seasons that the barren professor had wickedly misspent. Now, forasmuch as he also pointeth out the fig-tree, THIS fig-tree, it showeth that the barren professor, above all professors, is a continual odium in the eyes of God. This fig-tree, ‘this man Coniah’ (Jer 22:28). This people draw nigh me with their mouth, but have removed their hearts far from me. God knows who they are among all the thousands of Israel that are the barren and fruitless professors; his lot will fall upon the head of Achan, though he be hid among six hundred thousand men. ‘And he brought his household, man by man, and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zera, of the tribe of Judah, was taken’ (Josh 7:17, 18). This is the Achan, this is the fig-tree, this is the barren professor!

There is a man hath a hundred trees in his vineyard, and at the time of the season, he walketh into his vineyard to see how the trees flourish; and as he goes, and views, and prys, and observes how they are hanged with fruit, behold, he cometh to one where he findeth naught but leaves. Now he makes a stand; looks upon it again and again; he looks also here and there, above and below; and if after all this seeking, he finds nothing but leaves thereon, then he begins to cast in his mind, how he may know this tree next year; what stands next it, or how far it is off the hedge? But if there be nothing there that may be as a mark to know it by, then he takes his hook, and giveth it a private mark—’And the Lord set a mark upon Cain’ (Gen 4), saying, Go thy ways, fruitless fig-tree, thou hast spent this season in vain. Yet doth he not cut it down, I will try it another year: may be this was not a hitting11 season. Therefore he comes again next year, to see if now it have fruit; but as he found it before, so he finds it now, barren, barren, every year barren; he looks again, but finds no fruit. Now he begins to have second thoughts, How! neither hit last year nor this? Surely the barrenness is not in the season; sure the fault is in the tree; however, I will spare it this year also, but will give it a second mark; and it may be he toucheth it with a hot iron, because he begins to be angry.

Well, at the third season he comes again for fruit, but the third year is like the first and second; no fruit yet; it only cumbereth the ground. What now must be done with this fig-tree? Why, the Lord will lop its boughs with terror; yea, the thickets of those professors with iron. I have waited, saith God, these three years; I have missed of fruit these three years; it hath been a cumber-ground these three years; cut it down. Precept hath been upon precept, and line upon line, one year after another, for these three years, but no fruit can be seen; I find none, fetch out the axe! I am sure THIS is the fig-tree, I know it from the first year; barrenness was its sign then, barrenness is its sign now; make it fit for the fire! Behold, ‘now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore, every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire’ (Matt 3:10).

Observe, my brethren, God’s heart cannot stand towards a barren fig-tree. You know thus it is with yourselves. If you have a tree in your orchard or vineyard that doth only cumber the ground, you cannot look upon that tree with pleasure, with complacency and delight. No; if you do but go by it, if you do but cast your eye upon it: yea, if you do but think of that tree, you threaten it in your heart, saying, I will hew thee down shortly; I will to the fire with thee shortly: and it is in vain for any to think of persuading of you to show favour to the barren fig-tree; and if they should persuade, your answer is irresistible, It yields me no profit, it takes up room and doth no good; a better may grow in its room.

Cut it down

Thus, when the godly among the Jews made prayers that rebellious Israel might not be cast out of the vineyard, what saith the answer of God? (Jer 14:17). ‘Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people’: wherefore ‘cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth’ (Jer 15:1).

What a resolution is here! Moses and Samuel could do almost anything with God in prayer. How many times did Moses by prayer turn away God’s judgments from even Pharaoh himself! yea, how many times did he by prayer preserve Israel, when in the wilderness, from the anger and wrath of God! (Psa 106:23). Samuel is reckoned excellent this way, yea, so excellent, that when Israel had done that fearful thing as to reject the Lord, and choose them another king, he prayed, and the Lord spared, and forgave them (1 Sam 12). But yet neither Moses nor Samuel can save a barren fig-tree. No; though Moses and Samuel stood before me, that is, pleading, arguing, interceding, supplicating, and beseeching, yet could they not incline mine heart to this people.

Cut it down

‘Ay, but Lord, it is a fig-tree, a fig-tree!’ If it was a thorn, or a bramble, or a thistle, the matter would not be much; but it is a fig-tree, or a vine. Well, but mark the answer of God, ‘Son of man, What is the vine-tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon?’ (Eze 15:2, 3). If trees that are set, or planted for fruit, bring not forth that fruit, there is betwixt them and the trees of the forest no betterment at all, unless the betterment lieth in the trees of the wood, for they are fit to build withal; but a fig-tree, or a vine, if they bring not forth fruit, yea, good fruit, they are fit for nothing at all, but to be cut down and prepared for the fire; and so the prophet goes on, ‘Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel.’ If it serve not for fruit it will serve for fuel, and so ‘the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burnt.’

Ay, but these fig-trees and vines are church-members, inhabiters of Jerusalem. So was the fig-tree mentioned in the text. But what answer hath God prepared for these objections? Why, ‘Thus saith the Lord God, As the vine-tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel; so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will set my face against them, they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them’ (Eze 15:6, 7).

Cut it down

The woman that delighteth in her garden, if she have a slip there, suppose, if it was fruitful, she would not take five pounds for it; yet if it bear no fruit, if it wither, and dwindle, and die, and turn cumber-ground only, it may not stand in her garden. Gardens and vineyards are places for fruit, for fruit according to the nature of the plant or flowers. Suppose such a slip as I told you of before should be in your garden, and there die, would you let it abide in your garden? No; away with it, away with it! The woman comes into her garden towards the spring, where first she gives it a slight cast with her eye, then she sets to gathering out the weeds, and nettles, and stones; takes a besom and sweeps the walks; this done, she falls to prying into her herbs and slips, to see if they live, to see if they are likely to grow. Now, if she comes to one that is dead, that she is confident will not grow, up she pulls that, and makes to the heap of rubbish with it, where she despisingly casts it down, and valueth it no more than a nettle, or a weed, or than the dust she hath swept out of her walks. Yea, if any that see her should say, Why do you so? the answer is ready. It is dead, it is dead at root; if I had let it stand it would but have cumbered the ground. The strange slips, and also the dead ones, they must be ‘a heap in the day of grief, and of desperate sorrow’ (Isa 17:10, 11).

Cut it down

There are two manner of cuttings down; First. When a man is cast out of the vineyard. Second. When a man is cast out of the world.

First. When a man is cast out of the vineyard. And that is done two ways; 1. By an immediate hand of God. 2. By the church’s due execution of the laws and censures which Christ for that purpose has left with his church.

1. God cuts down the barren fig-tree by an immediate hand, smiting his roots, blasting his branches, and so takes him away from among his people. ‘Every branch,’ saith Christ, ‘that beareth not fruit in me, he,’ my Father, ‘taketh away’ (John 15:2). He taketh him out of the church, he taketh him away from the godly. There are two things by which God taketh the barren professor from among the children of God: (1.) Strong delusions. (2.) Open profaneness.

(1.) By strong delusion; such as beguile the soul with damnable doctrines, that swerve from faith and godliness, ‘They have chosen their own ways,’ saith God, ‘and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them’ (Isa 66:3, 4). I will smite them with blindness, and hardness of heart, and failing of eyes; and will also suffer the tempter to tempt and affect his hellish designs upon them. ‘God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (2 Thess 2:10–12).

(2.) Sometimes God takes away a barren professor by open profaneness. There is one hath taken up a profession of that worthy name, the Lord Jesus Christ; but this profession is but a cloak; he secretly practiseth wickedness. He is a glutton, a drunkard, or covetous, or unclean. Well, saith God, I will loose the reins of this professor; I will give him up to his vile affections; I will loose the reins of his lusts before him; he shall be entangled with his beastly lusts; he shall be overcome of ungodly company. Thus they that turn aside to their own crooked ways ‘the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity’ (Psa 125:5). This is God’s hand immediately; God is now dealing with this man himself. Barren fig-tree, hearken! Thou art crowded into a profession, art got among the godly, and there art a scandal to the holy and glorious gospel; but withal so cunning that, like the sons of Zeruiah, thou art too hard for the church; she knows not how to deal with thee. Well, saith God, I will deal with that man myself, ‘I will answer that man by myself.’ He that sets up his idols in his heart, and puts the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes and appears before me, ‘I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb: and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord’ (Eze 14:7, 8). But,

2. God doth sometimes cut down the barren fig-tree by the church, by the church’s due execution of the laws and censures which Christ for that purpose hath left with his church. This is the meaning of that in Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 5: and that in 1 Timothy 1:20 upon which now I shall not enlarge, But which way soever God dealeth with thee, O thou barren fig-tree, whither by himself immediately, or by his church, it amounts to one and the same; for if timely repentance prevent not, the end of that soul is damnation. They are blasted, and withered, and gathered by men, God’s enemies; and at last being cast into the fire burning must be their end. ‘That which beareth thorns and briars is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned’ (Heb 6:8).

Second. And, again, sometimes by ‘Cut it down’ God means, cast it out of the world. Thus he cut down Nadab and Abihu, when he burned them up with fire from heaven. Thus he cut down Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, when he made the earth to swallow them up (Num 3:4, 16:31–33). Thus he cut down Saul, when he gave him up to fall upon the edge of his own sword, and died (1 Sam 31:4). Thus he cut down Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, when he struck them down dead in the midst of the congregation (Acts 5:5, 10). I might here also discourse of Absalom, Ahithophel, and Judas, who were all three hanged: the first by God’s revenging hand, the others were given up of God to be their own executioners. These were barren and unprofitable fig-trees, such as God took no pleasure in, therefore he commanded to cut them down. The Psalmist saith, ‘He shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath’ (Psa 58:9). Barren fig-tree, hearken! God calls for the axe, his sword; bring it hither; here is a barren professor. Cut him down, why cumbereth he the ground?

Why cumbereth it the ground?

By these words the Lord suggesteth reasons of his displeasure against the barren fig-tree; it cumbereth the ground. The Holy Ghost doth not only take an argument from its barrenness, but because it is a cumber-ground, therefore cut it down; wherefore it must needs be a provocation. 1. Because, as much as in him lieth, he disappointeth the design of God in planting his vineyard; I looked that it should bring forth fruit. 2. It hath also abused his patience, his long-suffering, his three years’ patience. 3. It hath also abused his labour, his pains, his care, and providence of protection and preservation: for he hedges his vineyard, and walls it about. Cumber-ground, all these things thou abusest! He waters his vineyard, and looks to it night and day; but all these things thou hast abused.

Further, there are other reasons of God’s displeasure; as,

First. A cumber-ground is a very mock and reproach of religion, a mock and reproach to the ways of God, to the people of God, to the Word of God, and to the name of religion. It is expected of all hands, that all the trees in the garden of God should be fruitful: God expects fruit, the church expects fruit, the world, even the world, concludes that professors should be fruitful in good works; I say, the world expecteth that professors should be better than themselves. But, barren fig-tree, thou disappointest all. Nay, hast thou not learned the wicked ones thy ways? Hast thou not learned them to be more wicked by thy example?—but that is by the by. Barren fig-tree, thou hast disappointed others, and must be disappointed thyself! ‘Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?’

Second. The barren fig-tree takes up the room where a better tree might stand; I say, it takes up the room, it keeps, so long as it stand where it doth; a fruitful tree out of that place, and therefore it must be cut down. Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? Because the Jews stood fruitless in the vineyard, therefore, saith God, ‘The kingdom of God shall be taken from you,’ and given to a nation that shall render him their fruits in their season (Matt 21:33–41). The Jews for their barrenness were cut down, and more fruitful people put in their room. As Samuel also said to barren Saul, ‘The Lord hath rent the kingdom from thee, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine that is better than thou’ (1 Sam 15:28). The unprofitable servant must be cast out, must be cut down (Matt 25:27).

Cumber-ground, how many hopeful, inclinable, forward people, hast thou by thy fruitless and unprofitable life, kept out of the vineyard of God? For thy sake have the people stumbled at religion; by thy life have they been kept from the love of their own salvation. Thou hast been also a means of hardening others, and of quenching and killing weak beginnings. Well, barren fig-tree, look to thyself, thou wilt not go to heaven thyself, and them that would, thou hinderest; thou must not always cumber the ground, nor always hinder the salvation of others. Thou shalt be cut down, and another shall be planted in thy room.

Third. The cumber-ground is a sucker; he draws away the heart and nourishment from the other trees. Were the cumber ground cut down, the others would be more fruitful; he draws away that fatness of the ground to himself, that would make the others more hearty and fruitful. ‘One sinner destroyeth much good’ (Eccl 9:18).

The cumber-ground is a very drone in the hive, that eats up the honey that should feed the labouring bee; he is a thief in the candle, that wasteth the tallow, but giveth no light; he is the unsavoury salt, that is fit for nought but the dunghill. Look to it, barren fig-tree!

And he answering, said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it; and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that, thou shalt cut it down (vv 8, 9).

These are the words of the dresser of the vineyard, who, I told you, is Jesus Christ, for he made intercession for the transgressors. And they contain a petition presented to an offended justice, praying, that a little more time and patience might be exercised towards the barren cumber-ground fig-tree.

In this petition there are six things considerable: 1. That justice might be deferred. O that justice might be deferred! ‘Lord, let it alone,’ &c., a while longer. 2. Here is time prefixed, as a space to try if more means will cure a barren fig-tree. ‘Lord, let it alone this year also.’ 3. The means to help it are propounded, ‘until I shall dig about it, and dung it.’12 4. Here is also an insinuation of a supposition, that, by thus doing, God’s expectation may be answered; ‘and if it bear fruit, well.’ 5. Here is a supposition that the barren fig-tree may yet abide barren, when Christ hath done what he will unto it; ‘and if it bear fruit,’ &c. 6. Here is at last a resolution, that if thou continue barren, hewing days will come upon thee; ‘and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.’ But to proceed according to my former method, by way of exposition.

Lord, let it alone this year also

Here is astonishing grace indeed! astonishing grace, I say, that the Lord Jesus should concern himself with a barren fig-tree; that he should step in to stop the blow from a barren fig-tree! True, he stopped the blow but for a time; but why did he stop it at all? Why did not he fetch out the axe? Why did he not do execution? Why did not he cut it down? Barren fig-tree, it is well for thee that there is a Jesus at God’s right hand, a Jesus of that largeness of bowels, as to have compassion for a barren fig-tree, else justice had never let thee alone to cumber the ground as thou hast done! When Israel also had sinned against God, down they had gone, but that Moses stood in the breach. ‘Let me alone,’ said God to him, ‘that I may consume them’ in a moment, ‘and I will make of thee a great nation’ (Exo 32:10). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? Thou knowest not how oft the hand of Divine justice hath been up to strike, and how many years since thou hadst been cut down, had not Jesus caught hold of his Father’s axe. Let me alone, let me fetch my blow, or ‘Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?’ Wilt thou not hear yet, barren fig-tree? Wilt thou provoke still? Thou hast wearied men, and provoked the justice of God! And ‘will ye weary my God also?’ (Isa 7:13).

Lord, let it alone this year

Lord, a little longer! let us not lose a soul for want of means. I will try, I will see if I can make it fruitful, I will not beg a long life, nor that it might still be barren, and so provoke thee. I beg, for the sake of the soul, the immortal soul; Lord, spare it one year only, one year longer, this year also. If I do any good to it, it will be in little time. Thou shalt not be over wearied with waiting; one year and then.

Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear what a striving there is between the vine-dresser and the husbandman, for thy life? ‘Cut it down,’ says one; ‘Lord, spare it,’ saith the other. It is a cumber-ground, saith the Father; one year longer, prays the Son. ‘Let it alone this year also.’

Till I shall dig about it, and dung it

The Lord Jesus by these words supposeth two things, as causes of the want of fruit in a barren fig-tree; and two things he supposeth as a remedy.

The things that are a cause of want of fruit are, First. It is earth-bound. Lord, the fig-tree is earth-bound. Second. A want of warmer means, of fatter means. Wherefore, accordingly, he propoundeth to loosen the earth; to dig about it. And then to supply it with dung.

‘To dig about it, and dung it. Lord, let it alone this year also, until I shall dig about it.’ I doubt it is too much ground-bound. The love of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches lie too close to the roots of the heart of this professor (Luke 14). The love of riches, the love of honours, the love of pleasures, are the thorns that choke the word. ‘For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father,’ but enmity to God; how then, where these things bind up the heart, can there be fruit brought forth to God? (1 John 2:15, 16). Barren fig-tree, see how the Lord Jesus, by these very words, suggesteth the cause of thy fruitfulessness of soul! The things of this world lie too close to thy heart; the earth with its things have bound up thy roots; thou art an earth-bound soul, thou art wrapped up in thick clay. ‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him’; how then can he be fruitful in the vineyard? This kept Judas from the fruit of caring for the poor (John 12:6). This kept Demas from the fruit of self-denial (2 Tim 4:10). And this kept Ananias and Sapphira his wife from the goodly fruit of sincerity and truth (Acts 5:5, 10). What shall I say? These are ‘foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition; for the love of money is the root of all evil.’ How then can good fruit grow from such a root, the root of all evil? ‘Which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows’ (1 Tim 6:9, 10). It is an evil root, nay, it is the root of all evil. How then can the professor that hath such a root, or a root wrapped up in such earthly things, as the lusts, and pleasures, and vanities of this world, bring forth fruit to God?

Till I shall ‘DIG’ about it

Lord, I will loose his roots, I will dig up this earth, I will lay his roots bare; my hand shall be upon him by sickness, by disappointments, by cross providences; I will dig about him until he stands shaking and tottering; until he be ready to fall; then, if ever, he will seek to take faster hold. Thus, I say, deals the Lord Jesus ofttimes with the barren professor; he diggeth about him, he smiteth one blow at his heart, another blow at his lusts, a third at his pleasures, a fourth at his comforts, another at his self-conceitedness. Thus he diggeth about him; this is the way to take bad earth from his roots, and to loosen his roots from the earth. Barren fig-tree, see here the care, the love, the labour, and way, which the Lord Jesus, the dresser of the vineyard, is fain to take with thee, if haply thou mayest be made fruitful.13

Till I shall dig about it, and ‘DUNG’ it

As the earth, by binding the roots too closely, may hinder the tree’s being fruitful, so the want of better means may be also a cause thereof. And this is more than intimated by the dresser of the vineyard; ‘Till I shall dig about it and dung it.’ I will supply it with a more fruitful ministry, with a warmer word; I will give them pastors after mine own heart; I will dung them. You know dung is a more warm, more fat, more hearty, and succouring matter than is commonly the place in which trees are planted.

‘I will dig about it, and dung it.’ I will bring it under a heart-awakening ministry; the means of grace shall be fat and good: I will also visit it with heart-awakening, heart-warming, heart-encouraging considerations; I will apply warm dung to his roots; I will strive with him by my Spirit, and give him some tastes of the heavenly gift, and the power of the world to come. I am loth to lose him for want of digging. ‘Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it.’

And if it bear fruit, WELL

And if the fruits of all my labour doth make this fig-tree fruitful, I shall count my time, my labour, and means, well bestowed upon it; and thou also, O my God, shalt be therewith much delighted; for thou art gracious, and merciful, and repentest thee of the evil which thou threatenest to bring upon a people. These words, therefore, inform us, that if a barren fig-tree, a barren professor, shall now at last bring forth fruit to God, it shall go well with that professor, it shall go well with that poor soul. His former barrenness, his former tempting of God, his abuse of God’s patience and long-suffering, his mis-spending year after year, shall now be all forgiven him. Yea, God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, will not pass by and forget all, and say, ‘Well done,’ at the last. When I say to the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if he then do that which is lawful and right, if he walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity, he shall surely live, he shall not die (Eze 33).

Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? the axe is laid to thy roots, the Lord Jesus prays God to spare thee. Hath he been digging about thee? Hath he been dunging of thee? O barren fig-tree, now thou art come to the point; if thou shalt now become good, if thou shalt, after a gracious manner, suck in the gospel-dung, and if thou shalt bring forth fruit unto God, well; but if not, the fire is the last! fruit, or the fire; fruit, or the fire, barren fig-tree! ‘If it bear fruit, well.’14

And if not, THEN after that thou shalt cut it down

The Lord Jesus, by this if, giveth us to understand that there is a generation of professors in the world that are incurable, that will not, that cannot repent, nor be profited by the means of grace. A generation, I say, that will retain a profession, but will not bring forth fruit; a generation that will wear out the patience of God, time and tide, threatenings and intercessions, judgments and mercies, and after all will be unfruitful.

O the desperate wickedness that is in thy heart! Barren professor, dost thou hear? the Lord Jesus stands yet in doubt about thee; there is an IF stands yet in the way. I say, the Lord Jesus stands yet in doubt about thee, whether or no, at last, thou wilt be good; whether he may not labour in vain; whether his digging and dunging will come to more than lost labour; ‘I gave her space to repent,—and she repented not’ (Rev 2:21). I digged about it, I dunged it; I gained time, and supplied it with means; but I laboured herein in vain, and spent my strength for nought, and in vain! Dost thou hear, barren fig-tree? there is yet a question, Whether it may be well with thy soul at last?

And if not, THEN after that thou shalt cut it down.

There is nothing more exasperating to the mind of a man than to find all his kindness and favour slighted; neither is the Lord Jesus so provoked with anything, as when sinners abuse his means of grace; if it be barren and fruitless under my gospel; if it turn my grace into wantonness, if after digging and dunging, and waiting, it yet remain unfruitful, I will let thee cut it down.

Gospel means, applied, is the last remedy for a barren professor; if the gospel, if the grace of the gospel, will not do, there can be nothing expected but cut it down. ‘Then after that thou shalt cut it down.’ ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ Therefore ‘your house is left unto you desolate’ (Matt 23:37, 38). Yet it cannot be, but that this Lord Jesus, who at first did put a stop to the execution of his Father’s justice, because he desired to try more means with the fig-tree; I say, it cannot be, but that a heart so full of compassion as his is should be touched, to behold this professor must now be cut down. ‘And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes’ (Luke 19:41, 42).

After that thou shalt cut it down

When Christ giveth thee over, there is no intercessor, no mediator, no more sacrifice for sin, all is gone but judgment, but the axe, but a ‘certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries’ (Heb 10:26, 27).

Barren fig-tree, take heed that thou comest not to these last words, for these words are a give up, a cast up, a cast up of a cast away; ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’ They are as much as if Christ had said, Father, I begged for more time for this barren professor; I begged until I should dig about it, and dung it. But now, Father, the time is out, the year is ended, the summer is ended, and no good done! I have also tried with my means, with the gospel, I have digged about it; I have laid also the fat and hearty dung of the gospel to it, but all comes to nothing. Father, I deliver up this professor to thee again; I have done; I have done all; I have done praying and endeavouring; I will hold the head of thine axe no longer. Take him into the hands of justice; do justice; do the law; I will never beg for him more. ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’ ‘Woe also to them when I depart from them!’ (Hosea 9:12). Now is this professor left naked indeed; naked to God, naked to Satan, naked to sin, naked to the law, naked to death, naked to hell, naked to judgment, and naked to the gripes of a guilty conscience, and to the torment of that worm that never dies, and to that fire that never shall be quenched. ‘See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not, who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven’ (Heb 12:25).

From this brief pass through this parable, you have these two general observations:—First. That even then when the justice of God cries out, I cannot endure to wait on this barren professor any longer, then Jesus Christ intercedes for a little more patience, and a little more striving with this professor, if possible he may make him a fruitful professor. ‘Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it; and if it bear fruit, well,’ &c. Second. There are some professors whose day of grace will end with, Cut it down, with judgment; when Christ, by his means, hath been used for their salvation.

First. The first of these observations I shall pass, and not meddle at all therewith; but shall briefly speak to the

Second, to wit, that there are some professors whose day of grace will end with, Cut it down, with judgment, when Christ, by his means, hath been used for their salvation.

This the apostle showeth in that third chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews, where he tells us that the people of the Jews, after a forty years’ patience and endeavour to do them good by the means appointed for that purpose, their end was to be cut down, or excluded the land of promise, for their final incredulity. ‘So we see that they could not enter in, because of unbelief.’ ‘Wherefore,’ saith he, ‘I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart, and they have not known my ways; so I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.’ As who should say, I would they should have entered in, and for that purpose I brought them out of Egypt, led them through the sea, and taught them in the wilderness, but they did not answer my work nor designs in that matter; wherefore they shall not, I swear they shall not. ‘I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest.’ Here is cutting down with judgment. So again, he saith, ‘As I have sworn in my wrath, If they shall enter into my rest; although the works were finished from the foundation of the world’ (Heb 4:4, 5). This word ‘if’ is the same with ‘they shall not,’ in the chapter before. And where he saith, ‘Although the works were finished from the foundation of the world,’ he giveth us to understand that what preparations soever are made for the salvation of sinners, and of how long continuance soever they are, yet the God-tempting, God-provoking and fruitless professor, is like to go without a share therein, ‘although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.’ ‘I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels that kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day’ (Jude 5, 6). Here is an instance to purpose, an instance of men and angels: men saved out of the land of Egypt, and in their journey towards Canaan, the type of heaven, cut down; angels created and placed in the heavens in great estate and principality; yet both these, because unfruitful to God in their places, were cut down—the men destroyed by God, for so saith the text, and the ‘angels reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.’

Now, in my handling of this point, I shall discourse of the cutting down, or the judgment here denounced, as it respecteth the doing of it by God’s hand immediately, and that too with respect to his casting them out of the world, and not as it respecteth an act of the church, &c. And as to this cutting down, or judgment, it must be concluded, that it cannot be before the day of grace be past with the fig-tree; but according to the observation, there are some professors whose day of grace will end with, Cut it down; and according to the words of the text, ‘Then,’ after that, ‘thou shalt cut it down.’ ‘After that,’ that is, after all my attempts and endeavours to make it fruitful, after I have left it, given it over, done with it, and have resolved to bestow no more days of grace, opportunities of grace, and means of grace upon it, then, ‘after that,’ thou shalt cut it down.

Besides, the giving up of the fig-tree is before the execution. Execution is not always presently upon the sentence given; for, after that, a convenient time is thought on, and then is cutting down. And so it is here in the text. The decree, that he shall perish, is gathered from its continuing fruitless quite through the last year—from its continuing fruitless at the end of all endeavours. But cutting down is not yet, for that comes with an afterward. ‘Then, after that, thou shalt cut it down.’

So then, that I may orderly proceed with the observation, I must lay down these two propositions:—PROPOSITION FIRST. That the day of grace ends with some men before God takes them out of this world. And, PROPOSITION SECOND. The death, or cutting down of such men, will be dreadful. For this ‘Cut it down,’ when it is understood in the largest sense, as here indeed it ought, it showeth not only the wrath of God against a man’s life in this world, but his wrath against him, body and soul; and is as much as to say, Cut him off from all the privileges and benefits that come by grace, both in this world and that which is to come. But to proceed:

PROPOSITION FIRST.—The day of grace ends with some men before God taketh them out of the world. I shall give you some instances of this, and so go on to the last proposition.

First. I shall instance Cain. Cain was a professor, a sacrificer, a worshipper of God, yea, the first worshipper that we read of after the fall; but his grapes were wild ones. His works were evil; he did not do what he did from true gospel motives, therefore God disallowed his work (Gen 4:3–8). At this his countenance falls, wherefore he envies his brother, disputes him, takes his opportunity, and kills him. Now, in that day that he did this act were the heavens closed up against him, and that himself did smartingly and fearfully feel when God made inquisition for the blood of Abel. ‘And now art thou cursed,’ said God, ‘from the earth; which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand,’ &c. ‘And Cain said, My punishment is greater than I can bear.’ Mine iniquity is greater than that it may be forgiven. ‘Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth, and from thy face shall I be hid’ (Gen 4:9–14). Now thou art cursed, saith God. Thou hast driven me out this day, saith Cain, and from thy face shall I be hid. I shall never more have hope in thee, smile from thee, nor expect mercy at thy hand. Thus, therefore, Cain’s day of grace ended; and the heavens, with God’s own heart, were shut up against him; yet after this he lived long. Cutting down was not come yet; after this he lived to marry a wife, to beget a cursed brood, to build a city, and what else I know not; all which could not be quickly done; wherefore Cain might live after the day of grace was past with him several hundred of years (Gen 4:10–17).

Second. I shall instance Ishmael. Ishmael was a professor, was brought up in Abraham’s family, and was circumcised at thirteen years of age (Gen 16:12, 17:25, 26). But he was the son of the bond-woman, he brought not forth good fruit; he was a wild professor. For all his religion, he would scoff at those that were better than himself. Well, upon a day his brother Isaac was weaned, at which time his father made a feast, and rejoiced before the Lord, for that he had given him the promised son; at this Ishmael mocked them, their son, and godly rejoicing. Then came the Spirit of God upon Sarah, and she cried, Cast him out, ‘cast out this bond-woman and her son; for the son of this bond-woman shall not be heir with my son, with Isaac’ (Gen 21:9–11). Now Paul to the Galatians makes this casting out to be, not only a casting out of Abraham’s family, but a casting out also from a lot with the saints in heaven (Gal 4:29–31). Also Moses giveth us a notable proof thereof, in saying, that when he died he was gathered to his people—his people by his mother’s side; for he was reckoned from her, the son of Hagar, the son of the bond-woman (Gen 25:17). Now, she came of the Egyptians, so that he was gathered when he died, notwithstanding his profession, to the place that Pharaoh and his host were gathered to, who were drowned in the Red Sea; these were his people, and he was of them, both by nature and disposition, by persecuting as they did (Gen 21:9).15 But now, when did the day of grace end with this man? Observe, and I will show you. Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised, and then was Abraham ninety years old and nine (Gen 17:24–26). The next year Isaac was born; so that Ishmael was now fourteen years of age. Now, when Isaac was weaned, suppose he sucked four years, by that account, the day of grace must be ended with Ishmael by that time he was eighteen years old (Gen 25:12, &c.). For that day he mocked; that day it was said, ‘Cast him out’; and of that casting out the apostle makes what I have said. Beware, ye young barren professors! Now, Ishmael lived a hundred and nineteen years after this, in great tranquility and honour with men. After this he also begat twelve princes, even after his day of grace was past.

Third. I shall instance Esau (Gen 25:27, &c.). Esau also was a professor; he was born unto Isaac, and circumcised according to the custom. But Esau was a gamesome professor, a huntsman, a man of the field; also he was wedded to his lusts, which he did also venture to keep, rather than the birthright. Well, upon a day, when he came from hunting, and was faint, he sold his birthright to Jacob, his brother. Now the birthright, in those days, had the promise and blessing annexed to it. Yea, they were so entailed in this, that the one could not go without the other; wherefore the apostle’s caution is here of weight. Take heed, saith he, ‘lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears’ (Heb 12:16, 17). Now, the ending of Esau’s day of grace is to be reckoned from his selling of his birthright; for there the apostle points it, lest there be among you any that, like Esau, sells his birthright: for then goes hence the blessing also.

But Esau sold his birthright long before his death. Twenty years after this Jacob was with Laban, and when he returned home, his brother Esau met him (Gen 31:41, 32:4). Further, after this, when Jacob dwelt again some time with his father, then Jacob and Esau buried him. I suppose he might live above forty, yea, for ought I know, above fourscore years after he had sold his birthright, and so consequently had put himself out of the grace of God (Gen 35:28, 29).16

Three things I would further note upon these three professors.

1. Cain, an angry professor; Ishmael, a mocking one; Esau, a lustful, gamesome one. Three symptoms of a barren professor; for he that can be angry, and that can mock, and that can indulge his lusts, cannot bring forth fruit to God.

2. The day of grace ended with these professors at that time when they committed some grievous sin. Cain’s, when he killed his brother; Ishmael’s, when he mocked at Isaac; and Esau’s, when, out of love to his lusts, he despised and sold his birthright. Beware, barren professor! thou mayest do that in half a quarter of an hour, from the evil of which thou mayest not be delivered for ever and ever.17

3. Yet these three, after their day of grace was over, lived better lives, as to outward things, than ever they did before. Cain, after this, was lord of a city (Gen 4:17). Ishmael was, after this, father of twelve princes (Gen 25:16). And Esau, after this, told his brother, ‘I have enough, my brother, keep that thou hast unto thyself’ (Gen 33:8, 9). Ease and peace, and a prosperous life in outwards, is no sign of the favour of God to a barren and fruitless professor, but rather of his wrath; that thereby he may be capable to treasure up more wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Let this much serve for the proof of the first proposition, namely, That the day of grace ends with some men before God takes them out of the world.

signs of being past grace

Now, then, to show you, by some signs, how you may know that the day of grace is ended, or near to ending, with the barren professor; and after that thou shalt cut it down. He that hath stood it out against God, and that hath withstood all those means for fruit that God hath used for the making of him, if it might have been, a fruitful tree in his garden, he is in this danger; and this indeed is the sum of the parable. The fig-tree here mentioned was blessed with the application of means, had time allowed it to receive the nourishment; but it outstood, withstood, overstood all, all that the husbandman did, all that the vine-dresser did.

But a little distinctly to particularize in four or five particulars.

First sign. The day of grace is like to be past, when a professor hath withstood, abused, and worn out God’s patience, then he is in danger; this is a provocation; then God cries, ‘Cut it down.’ There are some men that steal into a profession nobody knows how, even as this fig-tree was brought into the vineyard by other hands than God’s; and there they abide lifeless, graceless, careless, and without any good conscience to God at all. Perhaps they came in for the loaves, for a trade, for credit, for a blind; or it may be to stifle and choke the checks and grinding pangs of an awakened and disquieted conscience. Now, having obtained their purpose, like the sinners of Sion, they are at ease and secure; saying like Agag, ‘Surely the bitterness of death is past’ (1 Sam 15:22); I am well, shall be saved, and go to heaven. Thus in these vain conceits they spend a year, two, or three; not remembering that at every season of grace, and at every opportunity of the gospel the Lord comes seeking fruit. Well, sinner, well, barren fig-tree, this is but a coarse beginning: God comes for fruit.

1. What have I here? saith God; what a fig-tree is this, that hath stood this year in my vineyard, and brought me forth no fruit? I will cry unto him, Professor, barren fig-tree, be fruitful! I look for fruit, I expect fruit, I must have fruit; therefore bethink thyself! At these the professor pauses; but these are words, not blows, therefore off goes this consideration from the heart. When God comes the next year, he finds him still as he was, a barren, fruitless cumber-ground. And now again he complains, here are two years gone, and no fruit appears; well, I will defer mine anger. ‘For my name sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off,’ as yet (Isa 48:9). I will wait, I will yet wait to be gracious. But this helps not, this hath not the least influence upon the barren fig-tree. Tush, saith he, here is no threatening: God is merciful, he will defer his anger, he waits to be gracious, I am not yet afraid (Isa 30:18). O! how ungodly men, that are at unawares crept into the vineyard, how do they turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness! Well, he comes the third year for fruit, as he did before, but still he finds but a barren fig-tree; no fruit. Now, he cries out again, O thou dresser of my vineyard, come hither; here is a fig-tree hath stood these three years in my vineyard, and hath at every season disappointed my expectation; for I have looked for fruit in vain; ‘Cut it down,’ my patience is worn out, I shall wait on this fig-tree no longer.

2. And now he begins to shake the fig-tree with his threatenings: Fetch out the axe! Now the axe is death; death therefore is called for. Death, come smite me this fig-tree. And withal the Lord shakes this sinner, and whirls him upon a sick-bed, saying, Take him, death, he hath abused my patience and forbearance, not remembering that it should have led him to repentance, and to the fruits thereof. Death, fetch away this fig-tree to the fire, fetch this barren professor to hell! At this death comes with grim looks into the chamber; yea, and hell follows with him to the bedside, and both stare this professor in the face, yea, begin to lay hands upon him; one smiting him with pains in his body, with headache, heart-ache, back-ache, shortness of breath, fainting, qualms, trembling of joints, stopping at the chest, and almost all the symptoms of a man past all recovery. Now, while death is thus tormenting the body, hell is doing with the mind and conscience, striking them with its pains, casting sparks of fire in thither, wounding with sorrows, and fears of everlasting damnation, the spirit of this poor creature.18 And now he begins to bethink himself, and to cry to God for mercy; Lord, spare me! Lord, spare me! Nay, saith God, you have been a provocation to me these three years. How many times have you disappointed me? How many seasons have you spent in vain? How many sermons and other mercies did I, of my patience, afford you? but to no purpose at all. Take him, death! O! good Lord, saith the sinner, spare me but this once; raise me but this once. Indeed I have been a barren professor, and have stood to no purpose at all in thy vineyard; but spare! O spare this one time, I beseech thee, and I will be better! Away, away you will not; I have tried you these three years already; you are naught; if I should recover you again, you would be as bad as you were before. And all this talk is while death stands by. The sinner cries again, Good Lord, try me this once; let me get up again this once, and see if I do not mend. But will you promise me to mend? Yes, indeed, Lord, and vow it too; I will never be so bad again; I will be better. Well, saith God, death, let this professor alone for this time; I will try him a while longer; he hath promised, he hath vowed, that he will amend his ways. It may be he will mind to keep his promises. Vows are solemn things; it may be he may fear to break his vows. Arise from off they bed. And now God lays down his axe. At this the poor creature is very thankful, praises God, and fawns upon him, shows as if he did it heartily, and calls to others to thank him too. He therefore riseth, as one would think, to be a new creature indeed. But by that he hath put on his clothes, is come down from his bed, and ventured into the yard or shop, and there sees how all things are gone to sixes and sevens, he begins to have second thoughts, and says to his folks, What have you all been doing? How are all things out of order? I am I cannot tell what behind hand. One may see, if a man be but a little a to side, that you have neither wisdom nor prudence to order things.19 And now, instead of seeking to spend the rest of his time to God, he doubleth his diligence after this world. Alas! all must not be lost; we must have provident care. And thus, quite forgetting the sorrows of death, the pains of hell, the promises and vows which he made to God to be better; because judgment was not now speedily executed, therefore the heart of this poor creature is fully set in him to do evil.

3. These things proving ineffectual, God takes hold of his axe again, sends death to a wife, to a child, to his cattle, ‘Your young men have I slain,—and taken away your horses’ (Amos 4:9, 10). I will blast him, cross him, disappoint him, and cast him down, and will set myself against him in all that he putteth his hand unto. At this the poor barren professor cries out again, Lord, I have sinned; spare me once more, I beseech thee. O take not away the desire of mine eyes; spare my children, bless me in my labours, and I will mend and be better. No, saith God, you lied to me last time, I will trust you in this no longer; and withal he tumbleth the wife, the child, the estate into a grave. And then returns to his place, till this professor more unfeignedly acknowledgeth his offence (Hosea 5:14, 15).

At this the poor creature is afflicted and distressed, rends his clothes, and begins to call the breaking of his promise and vows to mind; he mourns and prays, and like Ahab, awhile walks softly at the remembrance of the justness of the hand of God upon him. And now he renews his promises: Lord, try me this one time more; take off thy hand and see; they go far that never turn. Well, God spareth him again, sets down his axe again. ‘Many times he did deliver them, but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity’ (Psa 106:43). Now they seem to be thankful again, and are as if they were resolved to be godly indeed. Now they read, they pray, they go to meetings, and seem to be serious a pretty while, but at last they forget. Their lusts prick them, suitable temptations present themselves; wherefore they turn to their own crooked ways again. ‘When he slew them, then they sought him, and they returned and inquired early after God’; ‘nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongue’ (Psa 78:34–36).

4. Yet again, the Lord will not leave this professor, but will take up his axe again, and will put him under a more heart-searching ministry, a ministry that shall search him, and turn him over and over; a ministry that shall meet with him, as Elijah met with Ahab, in all his acts of wickedness, and now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees. Besides, this ministry doth not only search the heart, but presenteth the sinner with the golden rays of the glorious gospel; now is Christ Jesus s set forth evidently, now is grace displayed sweetly; now, now are the promises broken like boxes of ointment, to the perfuming of the whole room! But, alas! there is yet no fruit on this fig-tree. While his heart is searching, he wrangles; while the glorious grace of the gospel is unveiling, this professor wags and is wanton, gathers up some scraps thereof; ‘Tastes the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come’; ‘drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon him’ (Heb 6:3–8; Jude 4). But bringeth not forth fruit meet for him whose gospel it is; ‘Takes no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart’ (2 Kings 10:31). But counteth that the glory of the gospel consisteth in talk and show, and that our obedience thereto is a matter of speculation; that good works lie in good words; and if they can finely talk, they think they bravely please God. They think the kingdom of God consisteth only in word, not in power; and thus proveth ineffectual this fourth means also.

5. Well, now the axe begins to be heaved higher, for now indeed God is ready to smite the sinner; yet before he will strike the stroke, he will try one way more at the last, and if that misseth, down goes the fig-tree! Now this last way is to tug and strive with this professor by his Spirit. Wherefore the Spirit of the Lord is now come to him; but not always to strive with man (Gen 6:3). Yet a while he will strive with him, he will awaken, he will convince, he will call to remembrance former sins, former judgments, the breach of former vows and promises, the misspending of former days; he will also present persuasive arguments, encouraging promises, dreadful judgments, the shortness of time to repent in; and that there is hope if he come. Further, he will show him the certainty of death, and of the judgment to come; yea, he will pull and strive with this sinner; but, behold, the mischief now lies here, here is tugging and striving on both sides. The Spirit convinces, the man turns a deaf ear to God; the Spirit saith, Receive my instruction and live, but the man pulls away his shoulder; the Spirit shows him whither he is going, but the man closeth his eyes against it; the Spirit offereth violence, the man strives and resists; they have ‘done despite unto the Spirit of grace’ (Heb 10:29). The Spirit parlieth a second time, and urgeth reasons of a new nature, but the sinner answereth, No, I have loved strangers, and after them I will go (Amos 4:6–12). At this God’s fury comes up into his face: now he comes out of his holy place, and is terrible; now he sweareth in his wrath they shall never enter into his rest (Heb 3:11). I exercised towards you my patience, yet you have not turned unto me, saith the Lord. I smote you in your person, in your relations, in your estate, yet you have not returned unto me, saith the Lord. ‘In thy filthiness is lewdness, because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged; thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I cause my fury to rest upon thee’ (Eze 24:13). ‘Cut it down, why doth it cumber the ground?’

The second sign. That such a professor is almost, if not quite, past grace, is, when God hath given him over, or lets him alone, and suffers him to do anything, and that without control, helpeth him not either in works of holiness, or in straits and difficulties. ‘Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone’ (Hosea 4:17). Woe be to them when I depart from them. I will laugh at their calamities, and will mock when their fear cometh (Prov 1:24–29).

Barren fig-tree, thou hast heretofore been digged about, and dunged; God’s mattock hath heretofore been at thy roots; gospel-dung hath heretofore been applied to thee; thou hast heretofore been strove with, convinced, awakened, made to taste and see, and cry, O the blessedness! Thou hast heretofore been met with under the word; thy heart hath melted, thy spirit hath fallen, thy soul hath trembled, and thou hast felt something of the power of the gospel. But thou hast sinned, thou hast provoked the eyes of his glory, thy iniquity is found to be hateful, and now perhaps God hath left thee, given thee up, and lets thee alone. Heretofore thou wast tender; thy conscience startled at the temptation to wickedness, for thou wert taken off from ‘the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 2:20–22). But that very vomit that once thou wert turned from, now thou lappest up—with the dog in the proverb—again; and that very mire that once thou seemedst to be washed from, in that very mire thou now art tumbling afresh. But to particularize, there are three signs of a man’s being given over of God.

1. When he is let alone in sinning, when the reins of his lusts are loosed, and he given up to them. ‘And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient: being filled with all unrighteousness’ (Rom 1:28, 29). Seest thou a man that heretofore had the knowledge of God, and that had some awe of Majesty upon him: I say, seest thou such an one sporting himself in his own deceivings, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and walking after his own ungodly lusts? (Rom 1:30–31). His ‘judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and his damnation slumbereth not’ (2 Peter 2:13). Dost thou hear, barren professor? It is astonishing to see how those that once seemed ‘sons of the morning,’ and were making preparations for eternal life, now at last, for the rottenness of their hearts, by the just judgment of God, to be permitted, being past feeling, to give ‘themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness’ (Eph 4:18, 19). A great number of such were in the first gospel-days; against whom Peter, and Jude, and John, pronounce the heavy judgment of God. Peter and Jude couple them with the fallen angels, and John forbids that prayer be made for them, because that is happened unto them that hath happened to the fallen angels that fell, who, for forsaking their first state, and for leaving ‘their own habitation,’ are ‘reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day’ (Jude 5, 6; 2 Peter 2:3–8). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? (1.) These are beyond all mercy! (2.) These are beyond all promises! (3.) These are beyond all hopes of repentance! (4.) These have no intercessor, nor any more share in a sacrifice for sin! (5.) For these there remains nothing but a fearful looking for of judgment! (6.) Wherefore these are the true fugitives and vagabonds, that being left of God, of Christ, of grace, and of the promise, and being beyond all hope, wander and straggle to and fro, even as the devil, their associate, until their time shall come to die, or until they descend in battle and perish!

2. Wherefore they are let alone in hearing. If these at any time come under the word, there is for them no God, no savour of the means of grace, no stirrings of heart, no pity for themselves, no love to their own salvation. Let them look on this hand or that, there they see such effects of the word in others as produceth signs of repentance, and love to God and his Christ. These men only have their backs bowed down alway (Rom 11:10). These men only have the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, to this very day. Wherefore as they go to the place of the Holy, so they come from the place of the Holy, and soon are forgotten in the places where they so did (Eccl 8:10). Only they reap this damage, ‘They treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God’ (Rom 2:3–5). Look to it, barren professor!

3. If he be visited after the common way of mankind, either with sickness, distress, or any mind of calamity, still no God appeareth, no sanctifying hand of God, no special mercy is mixed with the affliction. But he falls sick, and grows well, like the beast; or is under distress, as Saul, who when he was engaged by the Philistines was forsaken and left of God, ‘And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem, and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets’ (1 Sam 28:4–6). The Lord answered him no more; he had done with him, cast him off, and rejected him, and left him to stand and fall with his sins, by himself. But of this more in the conclusion: therefore I here forbear.

4. These men may go whither they will, do what they will; they may range from opinion to opinion, from notion to notion, from sect to sect, but are steadfast nowhere; they are left to their own uncertainties, they have not grace to establish their hearts; and though some of them have boasted themselves of this liberty, yet Jude calls them ‘wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever’ (Jude 13). They are left, as I told you before, to be fugitives and vagabonds in the earth, to wander everywhere, but to abide nowhere, until they shall descend to their own place, with Cain and Judas, men of the same fate with themselves (Acts 1:25).

A third sign that such a professor is quite past grace is, when his heart is grown so hard, so stony, and impenetrable, that nothing will pierce it. Barren fig-tree, dost thou consider? a hard and impenitent heart is the curse of God! A heart that cannot repent, is instead of all plagues at once; and hence it is that God said of Pharaoh, when he spake of delivering him up in the greatness of his anger, ‘I will at this time,’ saith he, ‘send all my plagues upon thine heart’ (Exo 9:14).

To some men that have grievously sinned under a profession of the gospel, God giveth this token of his displeasure; they are denied the power of repentance, their heart is bound, they cannot repent; it is impossible that they should ever repent, should they live a thousand years. It is impossible for those fall-aways to be renewed again unto repentance, ‘seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame’ (Heb 6:4–6). Now, to have the heart so hardened, so judicially hardened, this is as a bar put in by the Lord God against the salvation of this sinner. This was the burden of Spira’s complaint, ‘I cannot do it! O! how I cannot do it!’20

This man sees what he hath done, what should help him, and what will become of him; yet he cannot repent; he pulled away his shoulder before, he stopped his ears before, he shut up his eyes before, and in that very posture God left him, and so he stands to this very day. I have had a fancy, that Lot’s wife, when she was turned into a pillar of salt, stood yet looking over her shoulder, or else with her face towards Sodom; as the judgment caught her, so it bound her, and left her a monument of God’s anger to after generations (Gen 19:26).

We read of some that are seared with a hot iron, and that are past feeling; for so seared persons in seared parts are. Their conscience is seared (1 Tim 4:2). The conscience is the thing that must be touched with feeling, fear, and remorse, if ever any good be done with the sinner. How then can any good be done to those whose conscience is worse than that? that is, fast asleep in sin (Eph 4:19). For that conscience that is fast asleep, may yet be effectually awakened and saved; but that conscience that is seared, dried, as it were, into a cinder, can never have sense, feeling, or the least regret in this world. Barren fig-tree, hearken, judicial hardening is dreadful! There is a difference betwixt that hardness of heart that is incident to all men, and that which comes upon some as a signal or special judgment of God. And although all kinds of hardness of heart, in some sense may be called a judgment, yet to be hardened with this second kind, is a judgment peculiar only to them that perish; hardness that is sent as a punishment for the abuse of light received, for a reward of apostacy. This judicial hardness is discovered from that which is incident to all men, in these particulars:—

1. It is a hardness that comes after some great light received, because of some great sin committed against that light, and the grace that gave it. Such hardness as Pharaoh had, after the Lord had wrought wondrously before him; such hardness as the Gentiles had, a hardness which darkened the heart, a hardness which made their minds reprobate. This hardness is also the same with that the Hebrews are cautioned to beware of, a hardness that is caused by unbelief, and a departing from the living God; a hardness completed through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:7, &c). Such as that in the provocation, of whom God sware, that they should not enter into his rest. It was this kind of hardness also, that both Cain, and Ishmael, and Esau, were hardened with, after they had committed their great transgressions.

2. It is the greatest kind of hardness; and hence they are said to be harder than a rock, or than an adamant, that is, harder than flint; so hard, that nothing can enter (Jer 5:3; Zech 7:12).

3. It is a hardness given in much anger, and that to bind the soul up in an impossibility of repentance.

4. It is a hardness, therefore, which is incurable, of which a man must die and be damned. Barren professor, hearken to this.

A fourth sign that such a professor is quite past grace, is, when he fortifies his hard heart against the tenor of God’s word (Job 9:4, &c.) This is called hardening themselves against God, and turning of the Spirit against them. As thus, when after a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus, and of the doctrine that is according to godliness, they shall embolden themselves in courses of sin, by promising themselves that they shall have life and salvation notwithstanding. Barren professor, hearken to this! This man is called, ‘a root that beareth gall and wormwood,’ or a poisonful herb, such an one as is abominated of God, yea, the abhorred of his soul. For this man saith, ‘I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination’ or stubbornness ‘of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst’; an opinion flat against the whole Word of God, yea, against the very nature of God himself (Deut 29:18, 19). Wherefore he adds, ‘Then the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy, shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in God’s book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven’ (Deut 19:20).

Yea, that man shall not fail to be effectually destroyed, saith the text: ‘The Lord shall separate that man unto evil, out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant’ (Deut 19:21). He shall separate him unto evil; he shall give him up, he shall leave him to his heart; he shall separate him to that or those that will assuredly be too hard for him.

Now this judgment is much effected when God hath given a man up unto Satan, and hath given Satan leave, without fail, to complete his destruction. I say, when God hath given Satan leave effectually to complete his destruction; for all that are delivered up unto Satan have not, nor do not come to this end. But that is the man whom God shall separate to evil, and shall leave in the hands of Satan, to complete, without fail, his destruction.

Thus he served Ahab, a man that sold himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord. ‘And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also; go forth, and do so’ (1 Kings 21:25, 22:20–22). Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail; do thy will, I leave him in thy hand, go forth, and do so.

Wherefore, in these judgments the Lord doth much concern himself for the management thereof, because of the provocation wherewith they have provoked him. This is the man whose ruin contriveth, and bringeth to pass by his own contrivance: ‘I also will choose their delusions’ for them; ‘I will bring their fears upon them’ (Isa 66:4). I will choose their devices, or the wickednesses that their hearts are contriving of. I, even I, will cause them to be accepted of, and delightful to them. But who are they that must thus be feared? Why, those among professors that have chosen their own ways, those whose soul delighteth in their abominations. Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved: for this cause God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

‘God shall send them.’ It is a great word! Yea, God shall send them strong delusions; delusions that shall do: that shall make them believe a lie. Why so? ‘That they all might be damned,’ every one of them, ‘who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (2 Thess 2:10–12).

There is nothing more provoking to the Lord, than for a man to promise when God threateneth; for a man to delight of conceit that he shall be safe, and yet to be more wicked than in former days, this man’s soul abhorreth the truth of God; no marvel, therefore, if God’s soul abhorreth him; he hath invented a way contrary to God, to bring about his own salvation; no marvel, therefore, if God invent a way to bring about this man’s damnation: and seeing that these rebels are at this point, we shall have peace; God will see whose word will stand, his or theirs.

A fifth sign of a man being past grace is, when he shall at this scoff, and inwardly grin and fret against the Lord, secretly purposing to continue his course, and put all to the venture, despising the messengers of the Lord. ‘He that despised Moses’ law, died without mercy;—of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?’ &c. (Heb 10:28). Wherefore, against these despisers God hath set himself, and foretold that they shall not believe, but perish: ‘Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in nowise believe, though a man declare it unto you’ (Acts 13:41).

After that thou shalt cut it down

Thus far we have treated of the barren fig-tree, or fruitless professor, with some signs to know him by; whereto is added also some signs of one who neither will nor can, by any means, be fruitful, but they must miserably perish. Now, being come to the time of execution, I shall speak a word to that also; ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’

[PROPOSITION SECOND. The death or cutting down of such men will be dreadful.]

Christ, at last, turns the barren fig-tree over to the justice of God, shakes his hands of him, and gives him up to the fire for his unprofitableness. ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’

Two things are here to be considered:

First. The executioner; thou, the great, the dreadful, the eternal God. These words, therefore, as I have already said, signify that Christ the Mediator, through whom alone salvation comes, and by whom alone execution hath been deferred, now giveth up the soul, forbears to speak one syllable more for him, or to do the least act of grace further, to try for his recovery; but delivereth him up to that fearful dispensation, ‘to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb 10:31).

Second. The second to be considered is, The instrument by which this execution is done, and that is death, compared here to an axe; and forasmuch as the tree is not felled at one blow, therefore the strokes are here continued, till all the blows be struck at it that are requisite for its felling: for now cutting time, and cutting work, is come; cutting must be his portion till he be cut down. ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’ Death, I say, is the axe, which God often useth, therewith to take the barren fig-tree out of the vineyard, out of a profession, and also out of the world at once. But this axe is now new ground, it cometh well-edged to the roots of this barren fig-tree. It hath been whetted by sin, by the law, and by a formal profession, and therefore must, and will make deep gashes, not only in the natural life, but in the heart and conscience also of this professor: ‘The wages of sin is death,’ ‘the sting of death is sin’ (Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 15:56). Wherefore death comes not to this man as he doth to saints, muzzled, or without his sting, but with open mouth, in all his strength; yea, he sends his first-born, which is guilt, to devour his strength, and to bring him to the king of terrors (Job 18:13, 14).

But to give you, in a few particulars, the manner of this man’s dying.

1. Now he hath his fruitless fruits beleaguer him round his bed, together with all the bands and legions of his other wickedness. ‘His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins’ (Prov 5:22).

2. Now some terrible discovery of God is made out unto him, to the perplexing and terrifying of his guilty conscience. ‘God shall cast upon him, and not spare’; and he shall be ‘afraid of that which is high’ (Job 27:22; Eccl 12:5).

3. The dark entry he is to go through will be a sore amazement to him; for ‘fears shall be in the way’ (Eccl 12:5). Yea, terrors will take hold on him, when he shall see the yawning jaws of death to gape upon him, and the doors of the shadow of death open to give him passage out of the world. Now, who will meet me in this dark entry? how shall I pass through this dark entry into another world?

4. For by reason of guilt, and a shaking conscience, his life will hang in continual doubt before him, and he shall be afraid day and night, and shall have no assurance of his life (Deut 28:66, 67).

5. Now also want will come up against him; he will come up like an armed man. This is a terrible army to him that is graceless in heart, and fruitless in life. This WANT will continually cry in thine ears, Here is a new birth wanting, a new heart, and a new spirit wanting; here is faith wanting; here is love and repentance wanting; here is the fear of God wanting, and a good conversation wanting: ‘Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting’ (Dan 5:27).

6. Together with these standeth by the companions of death, death and hell, death and evils, death and endless torment in the everlasting flames of devouring fire. ‘When God cometh up unto the people he will invade them with his troops’ (Hab 3:16).

But how will this man die? Can his heart now endure, or can his hands be strong? (Eze 22:14).

(1.) God, and Christ, and pity, have left him. Sin against light, against mercy, and the long-suffering of God, is come up against him; his hope and confidence now lie a-dying by him, and his conscience totters and shakes continually within him!

(2.) Death is at his work, cutting of him down, hewing both bark and heart, both body and soul asunder. The man groans, but death hears him not; he looks ghastly, carefully, dejectedly; he sighs, he sweats, he trembles, but death matters nothing.

(3.) Fearful cogitations haunt him, misgivings, direful apprehensions of God, terrify him. Now he hath time to think what the loss of heaven will be, and what the torments of hell will be: now he looks no way but he is frighted.

(4.) Now would he live, but may not; he would live, though it were but the life of a bed-rid man, but he must not. He that cuts him down sways him as the feller of wood sways the tottering tree; now this way, then that, at last a root breaks, a heart-string, an eye-string, sweeps asunder.

(5.) And now, could the soul be annihilated, or brought to nothing, how happy would it count itself, but it sees that may not be. Wherefore it is put to a wonderful strait; stay in the body it may not, go out of the body it dares not. Life is going, the blood settles in the flesh, and the lungs being no more able to draw breath through the nostrils, at last out goes the weary trembling soul, which is immediately seized by devils, who lay lurking in every hole in the chamber for that very purpose. His friends take care of the body, wrap it up in the sheet or coffin, but the soul is out of their thought and reach, going down to the chambers of death.

I had thought to have enlarged, but I forbear. God, who teaches man to profit, bless this brief and plain discourse to thy soul, who yet standest a professor in the land of the living, among the trees of his[1]

 

 

1 General Doctrine of Toleration, 8vo, 1781.

2 This awful destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans is narrated by Josephus in his sixth book of the Jewish Wars, in language that makes nature shudder. Multitudes had assembled to celebrate the passover when the invading army beleaguered the city; a frightful famine soon filled it with desolation: this, with fire and sword, miserably destroyed one million, three hundred and thirty-seven thousand, four hundred and ninety Jews, while the Christians fled before the siege, and escaped to the mountains. Well might the sun vail his face at that atrocious deed, which was so quickly followed by such awful punishment.—Ed.

3 Reader, do not imagine that this was peculiar to Bunyan’s days; look not upon your neighbours to find an example, but search your own heart—’Lord, is it I?’ and strive and pray that you may bring forth more fruit.—Ed.

4 The mode of admitting a member to church-fellowship, among the Baptists, was and now is by introducing the trembling convert to a private meeting of the whole church, that they may hear why the union is sought, how the soul became alarmed, and fled for refuge to Christ, with the grounds of hope; inquiries having been previously made into Christian character and godliness. If, with all these precautions, a barren professor gains admittance, the punishment is not upon the garden, but upon the barren tree.—Ed.

5 ‘Humour,’ the temper or disposition of mind. Not out of love to humility, but these creeping things pretend to be humble, to gain some sinister end.—Ed.

6 However strange it may appear, it is true that the Ranters, in Bunyan’s time, used these arguments, and those so graphically put into the mouth of Bye-ends, in the Pilgrim, to justify their nonconformity to Christ. The tom-fooleries and extravagancies of dress introduced by Charles II, are here justly and contemptuously described. The ladies’ head-dresses, called ‘frizzled fore-tops,’ became so extravagant, that a barber used high steps to enable him to dress a lady’s head!—Ed.

7 A word not to be found in our dictionaries, being local and almost obsolete. It means a division, end, or border of a town or village.—Ed.

8 See the character of Talkative, in the Pilgrim’s Progress. ‘His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savour. There is in his house neither prayer, nor sign of repentance for sin. He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion. Thus say the common people that know him, A saint abroad and a devil at home.’—Ed.

9 How great is the mercy that those horrid barbarities, perpetrated upon peaceful Christians, are now only heard of in those distance parts of Satan’s empire, China and Madagascar! Has the enmity of the human heart by nature changed? No; but the number of Christians has so vastly increased with a civilizing influence, as to change the face of society. What a paradise will this earth become when Christ shall reign in every heart!—Ed.

10 In the midst of these faithful admonitions, we venture to remark that, according to Lightfoot, so valuable was the fig-tree that it was never destroyed until means were carefully used to restore its fruitfulness, and that the use of these means occupied a period of three years. This illustrates the wisdom of our Lord in selecting the fig-tree as the principal object presented to view in his parable. It is a most valuable tree-capable of bearing much fruit; still, after every trial, if it remains barren, it must be cut down as a cumber-ground, and sent to the fire.—Ed.

11 A ‘hit,’ in some parts of the country, is used to express a good crop. A ‘hitting season’ means a fruitful season.—Ed.

12 This mode of infusing new vigour into plants and trees is thus described in the Gemara—’They lay dung in their gardens, to soften the earth. They dig about the roots of their trees, and sprinkle ashes, and pluck up suckers, and make a smoke beneath to kill vermin.’—Ed.

13 Among the superstitions of the ancients, Michaelis states that both the Greeks and Asiatics had a superstition that a tree might be rendered fruitful by striking it, at the intercession of a friend, three times with the back of an axe.—Ed.

14 However painfully unpleasant these terms may appear to eyes or ears polite, it is a homely but just representation, and calculated to make a lasting impression on every reader. Afflictions, trials, crosses, are used as a means of creating or reviving spiritual life, as manure is applied to vegetation.—Ed.

15 Mahomet professed descent from Ishmael, and that he came to revive the religion which God had revealed to Abraham, who taught it to Ishmael. Mahometanism is the religion of the outcast of God.—Ed.

16 Bunyan had been haunted with the temptation ‘to sell and part with Christ,’ and, under a fear that he had fallen under that temptation, the case of Esau made a dreadful impression upon his soul; extreme horror and anguish seized upon his spirit; ‘he was like a man bereft of life and bound over to eternal punishment,’ for two years. At length, after an awful storm, he found peace in the promise, ‘his blood cleanseth from ALL sins,’ and a proof that he had not sold Christ.—See Grace Abounding, No. 139–160.

17 How solemn a thought! What an appeal to perpetual watchfulness. Why have I not made shipwreck of faith? Most emphatically may we reply, Because God has sustained my soul.—Ed.

18 Bunyan’s tongue and pen are here fired by his vivid imagination of eternal realities. With such burning words, we need no messenger from the invisible world to alarm the consciences of sinners. What angel could arouse more powerfully, alarmingly, convincingly, the poor sinner, than the whole of this chain of reasoning.—Ed.

19 This picture is drawn by a master hand: the master is laid by for a season; or, as Bunyan quaintly expresses it, ‘a little a to side’: when raised from affliction earthly affairs absorb his attention, and he forgets his good resolves. According to the old rhyme:-

‘The devil was sick, the devil a saint would be

The devil to well, the devil a saint was he.’—Ed.

20 This is referred to in the Pilgrim, at the Interpreter’s house, by the representation of a man in an iron cage, who says, ‘I cannot get out, O now I cannot!’ The awful account of Spira’s despair must have made a strong impression upon Bunyan’s mind. It commences with a poem.

‘Here see a soul that’s all despair; a man

All hell; a spirit all wounds; who can

A wounded spirit bear?

Reader, would’st see, what may you never feel

Despair, racks, torments, whips of burning steel!

Behold, the man’s the furnace, in whose heart

Sin hath created hell; O in each part

What flames appear:

His thoughts all stings; words, swords;

Brimstone his breath;

His eyes flames; wishes curses, life a death;

A thousand deaths live in him, he not dead;

A breathing corpse in living, scalding lead.’

Fearful Estate of Francis Spira.—Ed.

[1] Geo Offor. (2006). Advertisement by the Editor. In The Barren Fig-Tree (Vol. 3, pp. 560–585). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

 

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Of AntiChrist and His Ruin

Of AntiChrist and His Ruin

And Of

The Slaying the Witnesses

Prefatory remarks by the Editor

This important treatise was prepared for the press, and left by the author, at his decease, to the care of his surviving friend for publication. It first appeared in a collection of his works in folio, 1692; and although a subject of universal interest; most admirably elucidated; no edition has been published in a separate form.

Antichrist has agitated the Christian world from the earliest ages; and his craft has been to mislead the thoughtless, by fixing upon the humble followers of the Lamb his own opprobrious proper name. The mass of professed Christians, whose creed and mode of worship have been provided by human laws, has ever been opposed to the sincere disciples of Christ. To imbibe every principle from investigation and conviction of the holy oracles—to refuse submission to any authority in the spiritual kingdom of God, except it is to Christ, the supreme head and only lawgiver in his church—to refuse obedience to human laws in the great concern of salvation and of worship; whether those laws or decrees emanate from a Darius, a Nebuchadnezzar, a Bourbon, a Tudor, or a Stuart—to be influenced by the spirit which animated Daniel, the three Hebrew youths, and the martyrs, brought down denunciations upon them, and they were called antichristian: but alas! the sincere disciples of Jesus have ever known and FELT who and what is Antichrist. They have been robbed—incarcerated in dungeons—racked and tormented—transported—drowned—hung or burned. The most frightful atrocities have been committed upon the most peaceful and valuable members of society; because they valued their soul’s peace in preference to temporal advantages. These cruelties are THY cursed deeds, O Antichrist! The hand writing against thee is exhibited in blood-stained and indelible characters. The Great God has decreed thy downfall and ruin—”That wicked—whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth,” (2 Thess 2:8). All who are found partakers in his community, must be consumed with an everlasting destruction. No “paper-winkers1 can hide this truth from the enlightened regenerated mind. “O my soul, come not thou into their secret, unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel!”

In Bunyan’s time great cruelties were practiced to compel uniformity. To that absurd shrine many thousand invaluable lives were sacrificed. Blessed be God, that happier days have dawned upon us. Antichrist can no longer put the Christian to a cruel death. It very rarely sends one to prison for refusing obedience to human laws that interfere with religious worship. “My kingdom is not of this world,” said the Redeemer: and his followers dare not render unto Caesar, or temporal governments, that which belongs exclusively to God. Human coercion, in anything connected with religion, whether it imposes creeds, liturgies, or modes of worship, is Antichrist: whom to obey, is spiritual desolation, and if knowingly persevered in, leads to death.

On the contrary, the kingdom of Christ is love, meekness, forbearance, persuasion, conviction, and holy faith. The Christian who dares not obey Antichrist may still, in some countries, suffer personal violence; but the olden cruelties have given way to the spread of the gospel. Should the wicked spirit of persecution still light its unhallowed fire in any sect; may heaven forgive and convert such misguided men, before the divine wrath shall consume all that pertains to Antichrist. “Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord.”

Bunyan conceives that previous to the universal triumphs of the Savior, Antichrist will spread his influence over the whole earth; and the church be hidden from outward observation, in the hearts of believers. This idea, which was also cherished by Dr. Gill, and others, deserves careful consideration; while we keep in mind, that leaven which must spread, however invisible in its operation, until the whole earth shall be leavened.

The dread enemy may yet appear in a different shape to any that he has hitherto assumed. When mankind, by the spread of knowledge, shall throw off the absurdities and disgraceful trammels of hypocrisy, fanaticism, and tyranny, which has so long oppressed them; there may be experienced a vast overflowing of infidelity, and perverted reason assume the place of Antichrist. Through this and all other opposing systems, Christianity must make its irresistible progress: all that opposes is doomed to ruin by the Great God. Every heart will be subdued by that blessed knowledge, which has the promise of the life that now is as well as of that which is to come. Bloodless victory! The ark being exhibited, every Dagon must fall before it, then shall be realized the heavenly anthem, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.”

GEORGE OFFOR.

 

 

1Paper-winkers,’ in every edition, except the first, which was from the author’s manuscript, has been altered to ‘paper-windows.’ Bunyan’s allusion is to the winkers, called by many ‘blinkers,’ put by the side of a horse’s eyes, to keep him under the complete control of his driver—and by ‘paper-winkers’ the flimsy attempt of Antichrist to hoodwink mankind by printed legends, miracles, and absurd assumptions—it is one of the almost innumerable sparks of wit, which render all the writings of Bunyan so entertaining and strikingly instructive.—Ed.

The Water of Life

The Water of Life

“And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely”—Revelation 22:17

Forward:

Often, and in every age, the children of God have dared to doubt the sufficiency of divine grace; whether it was vast enough to reach their condition—to cleanse them from the guilt of all their sins-and to fit their souls to dwell with infinite holiness in the mansions of the blessed. To solve these doubts—to answer these anxious inquiries, Bunyan wrote many of his works; for although he was a Boanerges, or son of thunder, to awaken the impenitent, he was eminently a Barnabas—a son of consolation—an evangelist to direct the trembling inquirer to Christ the way, the truth, and the life. He proclaims first, from his own experience, that there is “Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners”; then he proclaims “Good News for the Vilest of Men, the Jerusalem Sinner is Saved”—“Christ is an Advocate”—“Christ is a complete Savior.” Every one is invited with a “Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.” There is “Justification by his Righteousness”—“Salvation by his Grace.” “He is a Throne of Grace” to which all are freely invited. Even “The Broken Heart is an acceptable sacrifice.” There is “The Holy City, New Jerusalem,” to receive such at the end of their pilgrimage, and directions amply given to the pilgrim to guide him in his progress to the celestial city; and he now introduces us to a majestic overflowing river, “The Water of Life,” sufficient for the refreshment and solace of the myriads of God’s saints who have lived from the creation, and will live until the final consummation of all things, when the prophet in holy vision saw “a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, stand before the throne, and before the Lamb.” This work was the result of the author’s mature experience, being published by him during the last year of his eventful life. In it he refers to one of those ten excellent manuscripts left by him at his decease, prepared for the press, and afterwards published by Mr. Doe. It is called, The Saint’s Privilege and Profit. The way in which he alludes to this, as if it had been printed, shows that he had fully determined to publish it shortly, and this, if it was needed, would confirm our confidence in those treatises. He thus refers to it: “Because I have spoken of this thing, more particularly upon that text, ‘Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,’ I shall therefore here say no more.”

Two things are rather extraordinary with regard to this valuable treatise on the Water of Life. One is, that although inserted in every list of our author’s works, both published by himself and by his friends after his decease, it escaped the researches of Doe, Wilson, Chandler, Whitfield, and others who collected and published Bunyan’s works, excepting only the edition with Mason’s notes, printed for A. Hogg about 1785. The other singular circumstance is, that although the separate treatises of Bunyan were all most wretchedly and inaccurately printed, the Water of Life has in this respect suffered more than any other of his works. A modern edition of this book, published at Derby by Thomas Richardson, is, without exception, the most erroneously printed of all books that have come under my notice. The Scriptures are misquoted—words are altered so as to pervert the sense—whole sentences and paragraphs, and even whole pages in three or four places, and, in one instance, four consecutive pages, are left out!!! I should be grieved if more penal enactments were added to our statutes, but surely there should be some punishment for such a crime as this. The other editions are more reputable, but very incorrect. One of them bears the imprint of “London, for James Bunyan, 1760.” Another has “London, sold by Baxter, Doolittle, & Burkit,” evidently fictitious names, adopted from those three great authors. The Pilgrim’s Progress was twice published by D. Bunyan, in Fleet Street, 1763 and 1768; and the Heavenly Footman, “London, sold by J. Bunyan, above the Monument.” All these are wretchedly printed, and with cuts that would disgrace an old Christmas carol. Thus the public have been imposed upon, and thus the revered name of Bunyan has been sacrificed to the cupidity of unprincipled men. Had his works been respectably printed they would have all been very popular and useful, and his memory have been still more venerated.

To attract his readers to come personally, and partake the blessings imparted by the water of life, Bunyan shows that, as a medicine, it alone is the specific to cure the sin-sick soul—all other applications must fail most fatally—“all other remedies come from and return to the Dead Sea”—while the water of life issues from, and leads the soul to, the throne of God. It cleanseth from the old leaven. The Divine Physician is ever ready to administer to the wearied soul. Be not misled by worldly-wisemen to take advice of the doctor’s boy, but go direct to Jesus; he is ready—he is willing to cure and save to the uttermost. His medicine may be sharp, but merely so as to effect the cure “where bad humors are tough and churlish.” “It revives where life is, and gives life where it is not. Take man from this river, and nothing can make him live: let him have this water and nothing can make him die.” The river of water of life allegorically represents the Spirit and grace of God; thus the truth is mercifully set before us, for “what is more free than water, and what more beneficial and more desirable than life?” Vast and majestic rivers convey but a faint idea of the immensity of Divine grace; in comparison with which “the most mighty mountain dwindles into the least ant’s egg or atom in the world.” A stream of grace issued from the same source during the patriarchal dispensation, and then mankind were directed to it by immediate revelation, or by the tradition of their fathers. It extended under the Jewish or Levitical law, in its course passing through the temple, issuing from under the threshold of God’s house, revealed by types, and shadows, and an earthly priesthood, and then “grace ran but slowly because Jesus was not glorified.” Now it flows like a majestic river from the throne of God, open to all, without limit of family or nation, revealed to every creature by the volume of inspiration. This water admits no mixture—it is pure and perfect as its origin—free as the air we breathe to sustain life. “There is no grudge, or a piece of an upbraiding speech heard therein.” Any attempt to mix with it human merits destroys all its efficacy. In it, and in it only, spiritual life, exciting to works of mercy, and giving sure hopes of immortal bliss, is to be found. God’s children can no more live separated from this river than fish can live out of water. As a fish, by natural instinct, avoids foul and unwholesome water, so a Christian has spiritual powers to judge of the purity of doctrine. Like the manna from heaven, and our daily bread, it must be supplied day by day. No church cistern of works of supererogation can supply this pure water. All such pretended supplies are poisonous. It must come direct from heaven without human interference. Those only who spiritually thirst will seek it. Some prefer wine that perisheth in the using, while this water, once received, becomes a well-spring of living waters, springing up into everlasting life. How marvelous that river which swallows up all the impurities of the myriads of the redeemed, so that they are seen no more for ever. These are the truths pressed upon our attention in this treatise. Well may our venerated Bunyan say, while richly enjoying the blessings of this river of grace, just before he waded through the black river which absorbs our earthly bodies—“O grace! O happy church of God! all things that happen to thee are, for Christ’s sake, turned into grace!” It is a river that so reflects the splendor of God, that the first sight of it was to Paul above the brightness of the sun; a light that did, by the glory of it, make dark to him all the things in the world.

Reader, may your soul and mine be abundantly refreshed from this inexhaustible river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God.

Geo. Offor

The Epistle to the Reader:

I have now presented thee with something of a discourse of the water of life and its virtues; therefore, thou mayest, if thou wilt, call this book Bunyan’s Bill of his Master’s Water of Life. True, I have not set forth at large the excellent nature and quality thereof, nor can that so be done by the pen or tongue of men or angels. Yet this I have said, and so saying, said truly, that whosoever shall drink of this water shall find it in him a well of water; and not only so, but a well springing up in him to everlasting life, let his disease be what it will. And as men, in their bills for conviction to readers, do give an account to the country of the persons cured, and the diseases that have been removed by liquors and preparations, they have made for that end, so could I, were it not already (by Holy Writ) done by an infallible pen to my hand, give you accounts of numberless numbers that have not only been made to live, but to live forever, by drinking of this water, this pure water of life. Many of them indeed are removed from hence, and live where they cannot be spoken with was yet; but abundance of them do still remain here, and have their abode yet with men.

Only, if thou wouldst drink it, drink it by itself, and that thou mayest not be deceived by that which is counterfeit, know it is as it comes from the hand of our Lord, without mixture, pure and clear as crystal. I know there are many mountebanks in the world, and every of them pretend they have this water to sell; but my advice is, that thou go directly to the throne thyself (Heb 4:16); or as thou art bidden come to the waters (Isa 55:1), and there thou shalt be sure to have that which is right and good, and that which will certainly make thee well, let thy disease, or trouble, or pain, or malady, be what it will. For the price, care not for that, it is cheap enough, this is to be had without money or price. “I will give,” saith God and the Lamb, “unto him that is athirst, of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev 21:6). Hence he says again, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). So that thou hast no ground to keep back because of thy poverty; nay, for the poor it is prepared and set open, to the poor it is offered, the poor and needy may have it of free cost (Isa 41:17, 18).

But let it not be slighted because it is offered to thee upon terms so full, so free. For thou art sick, and sick unto death, if thou drinkest not of it, nor is there any other than this that can heal thee, and make thee well. Farewell. The Lord be thy physician! So prays thy friend,

JOHN BUNYAN

The Water of Life:

“and he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of god and of the lamb.” Revelation 22:1

These words are part of that description that one of the seven angels, which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, gave unto John of the New Jerusalem, or of the state of that gospel church, that shall be in the latter days (Rev 21:9). Wherefore he saith, “And he showed me”; HE, the angel, showed me it.

In the text we have these things to consider of,

FIRST. The matter, the subject matter of the text, and that is the water of life. “He showed me the water of life.” SECOND. We have also here the quantity of this water showed to him, and that is under the notion of a river: “He showed me a river of water of life.” THIRD. He shows him also the head, or well-spring, from whence this river of water of life proceeds, and that is, “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” “He showed me a river of water of life, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.” FOURTH. We have also here the nature and quality of this water; it is pure, it is clear as crystal: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

[the water of life]

[FIRST.] We will begin with the first of these, to wit, with the matter, the subject matter of the text, which is, THE WATER OF LIFE. These words, water of life, are metaphorical, or words by which a thing most excellent is presented to and amplified before our faces; and that thing is the Spirit of grace, the Spirit and grace of God. And the words, water of life, are words most apt to present it to us by; for what is more free than water, and what more beneficial and more desirable than life? Therefore I say it is compared to, or called, the water of life. He showed me the water of life.

That it is the Spirit of grace, or the Spirit and grace of God, that is here intended: consider, FIRST, the Spirit of grace is in other places compared to water: and, SECOND, it is also called the Spirit of life. Just as here it is presented unto us, “He showed me the water of life.”

FIRST. The spirit of grace is compared to water. “Whosoever,” saith the Lamb, “drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). What can here by water be intended, but the Spirit of grace that this poor harlot, the woman of Samaria, wanted, although she was ignorant of her want, as also of the excellency thereof? Which water also is here said to be such as will spring up, in them that have it, as a well into everlasting life.

Again, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” But of what? Why of his rivers of living waters. But what are they? Why he answers, “This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive” (John 7:37–39).

Yes, the prophets and servants of God in the Old Testament, did take this water of life for the Spirit of grace that should in the latter days be poured out into the church. Hence, Isaiah calls water God’s Spirit and blessing, and Zechariah, the Spirit of grace. “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” (Isa 44:3). And Zechariah saith, “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication,—and they shall mourn,” &c. (Zech 12:10). Behold, in all these places the Spirit of grace is intended, and for our better understanding it is compared to water, to a well of water, to springs of water, and to floods of water.

SECOND. It is also called the Spirit of life, [either] more closely, [or] more openly.

More closely, where it is called “living water,” “that living water,” and “water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:10, 11, 14, 7:38).

Then more openly or expressly it is called “the Spirit of life.” “And after three days and an half, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet” (Rev 11:11).

From hence, therefore, I conclude, that by these terms, water of life, is meant the Spirit of grace, or the Spirit and grace of the gospel. And the terms are such as are most apt to set forth the Spirit and grace of the gospel by: for,

[First. The term WATER.]

1. By this term, WATER, an opposition to sin is presented unto us. Sin is compared to water, to deadly waters, and man is said to drink it, as one that drinketh waters. “How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?” (Job 15:16). So, then, that grace and the Spirit of grace is compared to water, it is to show what an antidote grace is against sin; it is, as I may call it, counter poison to it. It is that ONLY thing by the virtue of which sin can be forgiven, vanquished, and overcome.

2. By this term WATER, you have an opposition also to the curse, that is due to sin, presented unto you. The curse, is compared to water; the remedy is compared to water. Let the curse come into the bowels of the damned, saith the psalmist, like water (Psa 109:18). The grace of God also, as you see, is compared to water. The curse is burning; water is cooling: the curse doth burn with hell-fire; cooling is by the grace of the holy gospel: but they that overstand the day of grace, shall not obtain to cool their tongues so much of this water as will hang on the tip of one’s finger (Luke 16:24, 25).

3. Water is also of a spreading nature, and so is sin; wherefore sin may for this also be compared to water. It overspreads the whole man, and infects every member; it covereth all as doth water. Grace for this cause may be also compared to water; for that it is of a spreading nature, and can, if God will, cover the face of the whole earth; of body and soul.

4. Sin is of a fouling, defiling nature; and grace is of a washing, cleansing nature; therefore grace, and the Spirit of grace, is compared to water. “I will,” saith God, “sprinkle clean water upon you, [my Spirit, v 27] and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you” (Eze 36:25).

5. Water; the element of water naturally descends to and abides in low places, in valleys and places which are undermost; and the grace of God and the Spirit of grace is of that nature also; the hills and lofty mountains have not the rivers running over the tops of them; no, though they may run “among them.” But they run among the valleys: and “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble,” “to the lowly” (John 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; Prov 3:34).

6. The grace of God is compared to water, for that it is it which causeth fruitfulness; water causeth fruitfulness, want of water is the cause of barrenness; and this is the reason why the whole world is so empty of fruit to Godward, even because so few of the children of men have the Spirit of grace in their hearts. But,

[Second. The term LIFE.]

As there is a great special signification in this term WATER, so there is in this term LIFE, water of life. “He showed me the water of life.” In that, therefore, there is added to this word water, that of life, it is, in the general, to show what excellent virtue and operation there is in this water. It is aquae vitae, water of life, or water that hath a health and life in it. And this term shows us,

1. That the world of graceless men are dead; dead in trespasses and sins (John 5:21, 25; Eph 2:1; Col 2:13). Dead, that is, without life and motion Godward, in the way of the testament of his Son.

2. It also shows us that there is not any thing in the world, or in the doctrine of the world, the law, that can make them live. Life is only in this water, death is in all other things. The law, I say, which is that that would, if anything in the whole world, give life unto the world, but that yet killeth, condemneth, and was added that the offence might abound; wherefore there is no life either in the world or in the doctrine of the world. It is only in this water, in this grace of God, which is here called the after of life, or God’s aquae vitae.

3. It is also called the water of life to show that by the grace of God men may live, how dead soever their sins have made them. When God will say to a sinner, “live,” though he be dead in his sins, “he shall live.” “When thou wast in thy blood, I said unto thee, Live; yea, when thou wast in thy blood, I said, Live” (Eze 16:6). And again, “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25). That is, when he speaks words of grace, and mixeth those words with the Spirit and grace of the gospel, then men shall live; for such words so attended, and such words only, are spirit and life. “The words that I speak unto you,” saith Christ, “they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

4. In that this grace of God is here presented unto us under the terms of water of life, it is to show that some are sick of that disease that nothing can cure but that. There are many diseases in the world, and there are also remedies for those diseases; but there is a disease that nothing will, can, or shall cure, but a dram of this bottle, a draught of this aquae vitae, this water of life. This is intimated by the invitation, “let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). And again, “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev 21:6). This is spoken to the sick, to them that are sick of the disease that only Christ, as a physician, with his water of life, can cure (Mark 2:17). But few are sick of this disease, but few know what it is to be made sick of this disease. There is nothing can make sick of this disease but the law and sin, and nothing can cure but the grace of God by the gospel, called here the water of life.

[the greatness and abundance of the water of life]

[SECOND.] We come now to discourse of the second thing with which we are presented by the text, and that is, the quantity that there is of this water of life. It is a RIVER—“He showed me a river of water of life.” Waters that are cordial, and that have in them a faculty to give life to them that want it, and to maintain life where it is, are rare and scarce, and to be found only in close places and little quantities; but here you see there is abundance, a great deal, a RIVER, a river of water of life. In my handling of this point I will show you,

FIRST. What a river of water of life this is. SECOND. And then draw some inferences therefrom.

FIRST. What a river this is, this river of water of life.

First. It is a deep river. It is a river that is not shallow, but deep, with an “O the depth!” (Rom 11:33). “I will make their waters deep, saith God” (Eze 32:14). And again, they “have drunk of the deep waters” (Eze 34:18). A river of water of life is much, but a deep river is more. Why, soul-sick sinner, sin-sick sinner, thou that art sick of that disease that nothing can cure but a potion of this river of the water of life, here is a river for thee, a deep river for thee. Those that at first are coming to God by Christ for life, are of nothing so inquisitive as of whether there is grace enough in him to save them. But, for their comfort, here is abundance, abundance of grace, a river, a deep river of the water of life, for them to drink of.

Second. As this river is deep, so it is wide and broad (Eph 3:18; Job 11:9). Wherefore, as thou art to know the depth, that is, that it is deep, so thou art to know its breadth, that is, that it is broad; it is broader than the sea, a river that cannot be passed over (Eze 47:5). Never did man yet go from one side of this river to the other when the waters indeed were risen; and now they are risen, even now they proceed out of the throne of God and of the Lamb too. Hence this grace is called “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8). Sinner, sick sinner, what sayest thou to this? Wouldst thou wade? wouldst thou swim? here thou mayest swim, it is deep, yet fordable at first entrance. And when thou thinkest that thou hast gone through and through it, yet turn again and try once more, and thou shalt find it deeper than hell, and a river that cannot be passed over. If thou canst swim, here thou mayest roll up and down as the fishes do in the sea. Nor needest thou fear drowning in this river, it will bear thee up, and carry thee over the highest hills, as Noah’s waters did carry the ark. But,

Third. As this river of water of life is deep and large, so it is a river that is full of waters. A river may be deep and not full. A river may be broad and not deep. Aye, but here is a river deep and broad, and full too. “Thou waterest it; thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water” (Psa 65:9). Full of grace and truth. Fill the water-pots, saith Christ, up to the brim. The waters of a full cup the wicked shall have; and a river full of the water of life is provided for those who indeed have a desire thereto.

Fourth. As this river is deep, broad, and full, so it still aboundeth with water. The waters, says the prophet, “were risen” (Eze 47:4). Hence, the Holy Ghost saith, God causeth the waters to flow (Psa 147:18). And again, “And it shall come to pass in that day [the day of the gospel] that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim” (Joel 3:18). When a river overflows it has more water than its banks can bound: it has water. “Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed” (Psa 78:20). This river of water of life, which is also signified by these waters, is a river that abounds and that overflows its banks in an infinite and unspeakable manner. Thus much for the river, to wit, what a river of water of life it is. It is a river deep, broad, full, and abounding with this water, with this Spirit and grace of the gospel.

[Inferences to be drawn from this term RIVER]

SECOND. Now I shall come to draw some inference from it, that is, from this term, a river. A river of water of life.

First. Then, a river is water that is common, common in the streams, though otherwise in the head. This river proceeds out of the throne, and so, as to its rise, it is special; it is also called the water of life, and as it is such, it is special; but as it is a river it is common, and of common use, and for common good. Hence the grace of God is called the common salvation (Jude 3), for that by the word there is no restraint, no denial to or forbidding of any that will, from receiving thereof.

And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Rev 22:17). What can more fully declare the commonness of a thing? Yea, this river is called, at the very head of it, an “open fountain,” a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Zech 13:1). And by David or Judah and Jerusalem is comprehended every soul that would drink of the water of life or living water. And hence it is that this river is said to “go down into the desert and go into the sea,” where all kinds of fishes are (Eze 47:8). By sea is meant the world, and by fish the people, and thither shall run this river of water of life. But,

Second. Though a river, in the streams of it, is common, yet a river, as it passes through a country or province, will choose its own way, it will run in the valleys, in the plains, not over steeples and hills. It will also fetch its compasses and circuits; it will go about and reach hither and thither, and according to its courses it will miss by its turnings what places and people it lists, yet it is common, for that it lies open, yet it is common for all the beasts of the field. There is, therefore, a difference to be put betwixt the commonness of a thing and its presence. A thing may be common, yet far enough off of thee. Epsom, Tunbridge waters, and the Bath, may be common, but yet a great way off of some that have need thereof. The same may be said of this river, it is common in the streams, but it runs its own circuit, and keeps its own water-courses. “He sendeth the springs into the valleys which run among the hills” (Psa 104:10). Indeed, he openeth his river in high places, in his throne, and of the Lamb, but still they run in the midst of the valleys to water the humble and the lowly. Wherefore, they that thirst and would drink are bid to come down to the waters—” Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy,” &c. (Isa 55:1). And again, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink” (John 7:37). The waters are common, but you must come to them, to them where they are, or you will be nothing the better for them. “Come ye to the waters.”

Third. This water of life is called a river, to intimate to you by what store of the same it is supplied. All rivers have the sea for their original: “All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again” (Eccl 1:7). And so this river of water of life is said to proceed out of the throne, as out of a place where it breaketh out, but the original is the sea, the ocean of grace, which is an infinite Deity. “Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea, into the depth of the sea of thy grace” (Micah 7:19). Rivers, when they are broken up, do with their gliding streams carry away a great deal of the filth, which from all parts of the countries through which they run, is conveyed into them; and they carry it away into the sea, where it is everlastingly swallowed up. And, O! the filth that is cast into this river of God! and, O! how many dirty sinners are washed white therein, for by its continual gliding away, it carrieth that filth into the midst of the sea.

A river will take away the very stink of a dead dog: nor doth all the soil and draught that is cast into the rivers, cause that those that can should be afraid to make use thereof: all that have need do betake themselves to this river notwithstanding. But how much more virtue is there in this sweet river of grace that is designed, yea, opened on purpose, to wash away sin and uncleanness in, to carry away all our filth, and to remain as virtuous still!

Fourth. It is called a river, to show that it yields a continual supply, as I may call it, of new and fresh grace. Rivers yield continually fresh and new water. For though the channel or watercourse in which the water runs is the same, yet the waters themselves are always new. That water that but one minute since stood in this place or that of the river, is now gone, and new and fresh is come in its place. And thus it is with the river of God, which is full of water; it yieldeth continually fresh supplies, fresh and new supplies of grace to those that have business in those waters. And this is the reason that when sin is pardoned, it seems as if it were carried away. Those waters have, with their continual streams, carried away the filth of the sinner form before his face. It is not so with ponds, pools, and cisterns; they will be foul and stink, if they be not often emptied, and filled again with fresh water. We must then put a difference between the grace that dwelleth in us, and this river of water of life. We are but as ponds, pools, and cisterns, that can hold but little, and shall also soon stink, notwithstanding the grace of God is in us, if we be not often emptied from vessel to vessel, and filled with fresh grace from this river (Jer 48:11). But the river is always sweet, nor can all the filth that is washed out of the world make it stink, or infect it: its water runs with a continual gliding stream, and so carries away all annoyance, as was said, into the depth of the sea.

Fifth. The grace of God is called a river, to show that it is only suited to those who are capable of living therein. Water, though it is that which every creature desireth, yet it is not an element in which every creature can live. Who is it that would not have the benefit of grace, of a throne of grace? But who is it that can live by grace? Even none, but those whose temper and constitution is suited to grace. Hence, as the grace of God is compared to a RIVER, so those that live by grace are compared to FISH: for that as water is that element in which the fish liveth, so grace is that which is the life of the saint. “And there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither; for they shall be healed, and everything shall live whither the river cometh” (Eze 47:9). Art thou a fish, O man, art thou a fish? Canst thou live in the water; canst thou live always, and nowhere else, but in the water? Is grace thy proper element? The fish dieth if she be taken out of the water, unless she be timely put in again; the saint dieth if he be not in this river. Take him from this river, and nothing can make him live; let him have water, water of life enough, and nothing can make him die.

I know that there are some things besides fish, that can make a shift to live in the water; but the water is not their proper, their only proper element. The frog can live in the water, but not in the water only; the otter can live in the water, but not in the water only. Give some men grace and the world, grace and sin; admit them to make use of their lusts for pleasure, and of grace to remove their guilt, and they will make a pretty good shift, as we say; they will finally scrabble on in a profession; but hold them to grace only, confine their life to grace, put them into the river, and let them have nothing but river, and they die; the word, and way, and nature of grace, is to them as light bread, and their soul can do no other but loath it, for they are not suited and tempered for that element. They are fish, not frogs, that can live in the river, as in their only proper element. Wherefore, the grace of God, and Spirit of grace, is compared to a river, to show that none but those can live thereby whose souls and spirits are suited and fitted thereto.

Sixth. The grace, and Spirit of grace of God, is called or compared to a river, to answer those unsatiable desires, and to wash away those mountainous doubts that attend those that indeed do thirst for that drink. The man that thirsteth with spiritual thirst, fears nothing more than that there is not enough to quench his thirst. All the promises and sayings of God’s ministers to such a man seem but as thimbles instead of bowls (Psa 63:1, 143:6). I mean so long as his thirst and doubts walk hand in hand together. There is not enough in this promise; I find not enough in that promise to quench the drought of my thirsting soul. He that thirsteth aright, nothing but God can quench his thirst. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God” (Psa 42:2, 63:1, 143:6). Well, what shall be done for this man? Will his God humour him, and answer his desires? Mark what follows: “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none,” (and they can find none, when all the promises seem to be dry, and like clouds that return after the rain), “and their tongue faileth for thirst, I, the Lord, will hear them.” Aye, but Lord, what wilt thou do to quench their thirst? “I will open rivers,” saith he, “in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water” (Isa 41:17, 18). Behold! here are rivers and fountains, a pool, and springs, and all to quench the thirst of them that thirst for God.

Wherefore, as I said, such provision for the thirsty intimates their fears of want and the craving appetite of their souls after God. Right spiritual thirst is not to be satisfied without abundance of grace. And “they shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house, and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures” (Psa 36:8).

Seventh. The grace of God is compared to a river, to show the greatness of the family of God. He has a family, a great family, and, therefore, it is not a little that must be provided for them. When Israel went out of Egypt, and thirsted by the way, God provided for them a river; he made it gush out of the rock; for, alas! what less than a river could quench the thirst of more than six hundred thousand men, besides women and children? (Psa 78:20).

I say, what less than a river could do it? When the people lusted for flesh, Moses said, “Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them to suffice them?” (Num 11:22). Even so could not less than a river sustain and suffice that great people. Now his people in gospel days are not to be diminished, but increased; and if then they had need of a river, surely now of a sea; but the river is deep and broad, full, and abounds, or rises with water, so it will suffice.

Eighth. The grace of God is compared to a river, perhaps to show of what a low esteem it is with the rich and the full. The destitute indeed embrace the rock instead of a shelter, and the poor and needy, they seek water: but they that can drink wine in bowls, that can solace themselves with, as they think, better things, they come not to this river to drink; they never say they shall die if they drink not of this water. It is, therefore, for the poor and needy, God will lead THEM to his “living fountains of waters,” and will “wipe away all tears from THEIR eyes” (Rev 7:17). And thus I pass the second and come to the third particular, and that is, to show the head and spring from whence this river proceeds, or springs.

[the head or well-spring of the water of life]

[THIRD.] Rivers have their heads from whence they rise, out of which they spring, and so, accordingly, we read this river has; wherefore he saith, “He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

[GOD.] God is here to be taken for the whole Godhead, Father, Son, and Spirit, for that grace proceeds from them all; the grace of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the grace of the Spirit is here included. Hence, as the Father is called “the God of grace” (1 Peter 5:10): so the Son is said to be full of grace, grace to be communicated (John 1:14–16), and the Holy Ghost is called “the Spirit of grace” (Heb 10:29). So then by this we perceive whence grace comes. Were all the world gracious, if God were not gracious, what was man the better? If the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Ghost, are gracious, if they were not all gracious, what would it profit? But now God is gracious, the three persons in the Godhead are gracious, and so long they that seek grace are provided for; for that, there proceeds from them a river, or grace like a flowing stream; indeed the original of grace to sinners is the good will of God; none can imagine how loving God is to sinful man. A little of it is seen, but they that see most, see but a little.

[THE LAMB.] But there is added, “and of the Lamb.” The Lamb is, Jesus as sacrificed, Jesus as man, and suffering. Hence you have the Lamb, at the first vision of the throne, set forth unto us, that is, as slain. “And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain” (Rev 5:6). Wherefore, by this word Lamb, we are to understand who, or by what means, grace doth now run from the throne of God, like a river, to the world. It is because of, or through the Lamb. We are “justified freely by the grace of God through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood” (Rom 3:24). And again, “We have redemption through his blood,” even “the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of God’s grace” (Eph 1:7).

Nor doth the Lamb of God, by becoming a means, through death, of the conveyance of grace to us, at all darken the nature or glory of grace, but rather doth set it off the more. For wherein can grace or love more appear than in his laying down his life for us? I speak now of the grace of the Son. And wherein could the nature and glory of grace of the Father more appear than in giving his Son to death for us, that grace might, in a way of justice as well as mercy, be bestowed upon the world? Wherefore, as he saith here, that the river of water of life proceedeth from God, so he adds that the Lamb, because he would have us while we are entangled and overcome with this river of God’s pleasure, not forget what it cost the Lamb of God that this grace might come unto us.

For the riches of grace and of wisdom are, that grace comes to us not only in a way of mercy and compassion, but in a way of justice and equity; but that could be by no other means but by redeeming blood. Which redeeming blood came not from us, nor yet through our contrivance or advice; wherefore, whatever it is to the Lamb, still all is of grace to us. Yea, the higher, the greater, the richer is grace, by how much the more it cost the Father and the Lamb, that we might enjoy it. When a man shall not only design me a purse of gold, but shall venture his life to bring it to me, this is grace indeed. But, alas! what are a thousand such short comparisons to the unsearchable love of Christ.

The Lamb, then, is he from whom, by, or through whom the grace of God doth come to us. It proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb. And it proceeds from him now as a donator: from him, not only as a means of conveyance, but as one that has power to give grace; power, as he is the Son of Man. For as the Son of Man he is the Lamb, and as he is the Lamb it cometh from him. “The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins” (Matt 9:6). And that before he had actually paid to God the price of our redemption. But how much more now? Wherefore Paul, in his prayer for grace and peace for saints, supplicates both God and the Lamb—“Grace be to you, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:2; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3).

“Proceeding out of the throne.” Formerly this river of water is said to come from under the threshold of the house of the Lord (Eze 47:1). And it is, said again, they “shall go out from Jerusalem,” that is, the church or house of God still (Zech 14:8). In that they are said to come out from under the threshold, it may be to intimate that they ran but low formerly, if compared to what they do now. Which might also be signified by this, that they “issued out,” that that issues out ordinarily comes forth but slowly. Also the prophet saith, the first time he went through the waters, they were but up to the ankles (Eze 47:3, 4). But what is ankle-deep to that which followeth after? It is said also to come out from Jerusalem, where, I perceive, were no great rivers, to intimate, that as long as the first priesthood, first temple, and type, were in their splendor, only the shadow of heavenly things were in use, and that then grace ran but slowly, nor would run much faster, because Jesus was not yet glorified. For the Spirit and abundance of grace was to be given not before but after his ascension.

Wherefore, now Jesus is ascended, now he is glorified, now grace proceeds from the throne, not from the threshold of the house. “He shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.”

THE THRONE. That of which the mercy-seat was a type, that which is called the throne of grace (Exo 25:17; Heb 4:16). And it is called the throne of grace, even, therefore, because it is that from or out of which proceeds this river of water of life, this overflowing grace of God. Now, it may be asked what is the throne of grace? and I shall answer it is the humanity of Christ. He is the throne, he is the Jacob in which God sitteth (Isa 22:22, 23). And he shall be for a glorious throne to his Father’s house (Rev 3:7). The fulness of the Godhead dwells in him bodily; and God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, nor can grace come to men but by Christ, nor can God rest as to our salvation but in him. But because I have spoken of this thing more particularly upon that text, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,” &c., I shall, therefore, here say no more.

Only, methinks, it is a glorious title that the Holy Ghost has given to the humanity of Christ, in that he calls it the throne of God; and methinks he gives it the highest preference in that he saith, out thence proceeds a pure river of water of life: we will a little, therefore, speak something to this word—the throne, the throne of God.

First. A throne is the seat of majesty and greatness; it is not for things of an inferior quality to ascend or assume a throne. Now, then, since this river of water of life proceeds from the throne, it intimates, that in grace and mercy there is great majesty; for grace, as it proceeds, has a voice from the throne. And, indeed, there is nothing in heaven or earth that can so AWE the heart as the grace of God (Hosea 3:5). It is that which makes a man fear, it is that which makes a man tremble, it is that which makes a man bow and bend, and break to pieces (Jer 32:9). Nothing has that majesty and commanding greatness in and upon the hearts of the sons of men as has the grace of God. So that, I say, when he saith that this river of grace proceeds out of the throne of God, it is to show us what a majesty, what a commanding greatness, there is in grace. The love of Christ constraineth us.

When Moses went up to the mount the first time to receive the law, he did exceedingly fear and quake. Why? because of the fire and smoke, thick darkness and thunder, &c. But when he went up the second time thither, “he made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.” But why? because it was before proclaimed that “the Lord was merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin,” &c. (Exo 34:6–9).

There is nothing overmastereth the heart like grace, and so obligeth to sincere and unfeigned obedience as that. “Examine me, O Lord,” said David, “and prove me; try my reins and my heart. For thy loving kindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth” (Psa 26:2, 3). Therefore, he saith again, O Lord our God, “how excellent is thy loving kindness” in all the earth! and that loving kindness is marvellous; for it has that majesty and that excellent glory in it as to command the heart and subdue sin. And, therefore, grace has given to it the title of sovereignty, or of one that reigns. The throne is called “the throne of grace” (Heb 4:16), that on which it sits and reigns, as well as that from whence it proceeds: “Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 5:21).

Second. As a throne is a seat of majesty and greatness, and so can awe, so it is the seat of authority and legislative power, and so will awe; this is confirmed from what was said but now, “grace reigns.” Wherefore it is expected that they that hear the word of God’s grace should submit thereto, and that at their peril. “He that believes not shall be damned,” is a word of power, of law, and of authority, and the contemner shall find it so. Grace proceeds from the throne, from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Wherefore, sinner, here is laid a necessity upon thee, one of the two must be thy lot; either thou must accept of God’s grace, and be content to be saved freely thereby, notwithstanding all thy undeservings and unworthiness, or else thou must be damned for thy rebellion and for thy rejecting of this grace. Wherefore, consider with thyself and think what is best to be done. Is it better that thou submit to the grace and mercy of God, and that thou acceptest of grace to reign for thee, in thee, and over thee, than that thou shouldst run the hazard of eternal damnation because thou wouldst not be saved by grace? Consider of this, I say, for grace is now in authority, it reigns and proceeds from the THRONE. Now, you know, it is dangerous opposing, rejecting, despising, or disowning of them in authority; better speak against twenty than against one that is in authority. If “the wrath of a king is as messengers of death” (Prov 16:14), if the wrath of the king “is as the roaring of a lion,” what is the wrath of God? (Prov 19:12). And you know, to despise grace, to refuse pardon, to be unwilling to be saved from the guilt and punishment due to treasons, the king’s way, since that also is the best way, how will that provoke? how hot will that make wrath? But to accept of grace, especially when it is free grace, grace that reigns, grace from the throne, how sweet is it? “His favor is as dew upon the grass.”

This, therefore, calls for thy most grave and sedate thoughts. Thou art in a strait, wilt thou fly before Moses, or with David fall into the hands of the Lord? wilt thou go to hell for sin, or to life by grace? One of the two, as was said before, must be thy lot: for grace is king, is upon the throne, and will admit of no other way to glory. In and by it thou must stand, if thou hast any hope, or canst at all “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:2).

Third. As the throne is the seat of majesty and authority, so it is the highest seat of authority. There is none above the throne, there is no appeal from the throne. There are inferior courts of judicature, there are under-governors, and they may sometimes, perhaps, be faulty; wherefore in some cases an appeal from such may be lawful or permitted; but from the throne none can appeal. Now grace is upon the throne, reigns upon the throne, proceeds from the throne. A man may appeal from the law to the throne, from Moses to Christ, from him that spake on earth to him that speaks from heaven; but from heaven to earth, from Christ to Moses, none can appeal, Moses himself has forbid it. For “Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, of your brethren like, unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:22, 23).

See here, this NEW prophet judges in the highest court; he is master of grace, the throne by which grace reigns; and even Moses admits that from himself an appeal may be made to this prophet; yea, he allows that men may flee from himself to this prophet for refuge; but there must be no appeal from him. Thou must hear him or die. How shall we escape, “if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven?” (Heb 12:25).

This, therefore, is to be duly weighed and deeply considered by us. It is not a saint, nor a minister, nor a prophet, nor an angel that speaks, for all these are but servants, but inferiors; no, it is a voice from the throne, from authority, from the highest authority; it is the Lord from heaven. This grace proceeds from the throne, and, therefore, men must stand and fall by what shall come from hence. He that comes not hither to drink shall die for thirst. He that refuses this water now, shall not have so much as will hang upon the tip of his finger, if it would save his soul, hereafter. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Heb 2:3).

Apostates will, therefore, from hence find gripping pangs and burning coals, for they have turned themselves away from this throne, and from the grace that proceeds therefrom; nor is it to any purpose whatever they plead for themselves. They are fallen from grace, and what can help them? Christ is become of none effect unto such, whosoever is, that is, seeks to be, justified by the law; they “are fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4).

Fourth. The throne is the seat of glory, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him; then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory” (Matt 25:31). And if the throne of judgment is the seat of glory, much more the throne of grace. We will venture then to say that the throne of grace is the throne of God’s glory, as the throne of judgment will be the throne of Christ’s glory, and that grace proceedeth from his throne, that both it and he might have glory; glory in a way of mercy.

1. That it might have glory; therefore has he designed that grace shall be effectual in, and to the salvation of some, even “to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in his Beloved” (Eph 1:6). He has designed, not the glory of man’s works, but the glory of his own grace; and, therefore, has put man’s works, as to justification before God, under his feet, and counts them as filthy rags; but has set his grace up above, has made it a king, given it authority to reign, has provided for it a throne, and called that throne the throne of grace, from whence it also proceeds to its own praise and glory, in and by the effectual salvation of those that receive it, and receive it not in vain.

2. As grace is exalted, and made to proceed out of the throne, to its own praise, to its own glory; so is it also thus exalted and made flow to us like a river, that we should be the praise of the glory of him that hath exalted it. We that receive it, and submit unto the throne whence it proceeds, have thereby “obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:11, 12). So that this throne is a throne of glory. “A glorious high throne, from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary” (Jer 17:12). Now what follows from this, but that they that accept of this grace give glory to God, to his grace, and to the word of his grace; such, I say, “glorify God for his mercy” (Rom 15:9). “They glorify God for your professed subjection to the gospel of Christ” (2 Cor 9:13), which is the gospel or good tidings “of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). They, with Abraham, believe, and give glory to God (Rom 4:20). And with the Gentiles they glorify the word of the Lord (Acts 13:48).

But to slight grace, to do despite to the Spirit of grace, to prefer our own works to the derogating from grace, what is it but to contemn God? to contemn him when he is on the throne, when he is on the throne of his glory? I say, it is to spit in his face, even then when he commands thee to bow before him, to subject unto him, and to glorify the grace of his glory, that proceeds from the throne of his glory. If men in old time were damned because they glorified him not as God, shall not they be more than damned, if more than damned can be, who glorify him not for his grace? And, to be sure, none glorify him for his grace but those that close in therewith, and submit themselves thereto. Talkers of grace are but mockers of God, but flatterers of God. Those that only talk highly of grace, and submit not themselves unto it, are but like to those that praise a look, or flatter him in his own conceits. Grace God has exalted, has set it upon the throne, and so made it a king, and given it authority to reign; and thou goest by, and hearest thereof, but wilt not submit thyself thereto, neither thy soul nor thy life; why, what is this more than to flatter God with thy lips, and than to lie unto him with thy tongue? what is this but to count him less wise than thyself? while he seeks glory by that by which thou wilt not glorify him; while he displays his grace before thee in the world from the throne, and as thou goest by, with a nod thou callest it a fine thing, but followest that which leadeth therefrom? Tremble, tremble, ye sinners, that have despised the richness of his goodness; the day is coming when ye shall behold, and wonder, and perish, if grace prevaileth not with you to be content to be saved by it to the praise of its glory, and to the glory of him who hath set it upon the throne (Acts 13:38–41).

Fifth. The throne is the seat of wisdom. Hence, he is called “the Ancient of Days,” that sits on this throne, the throne of God (Dan 7:9). Infinite in wisdom, whose garments were white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool. By Ancient of Days, and in that it is said the hair of his head is like the pure wool, his wisdom is set forth unto us. Wherefore, when we read that out of the throne proceeds a river of grace; when we read this proceedeth out of the throne of God, it is as much as to say the wise God, who most perfectly knoweth all ways, counteth, in his wisdom, that to save men by grace is the best, most safe, and sure way: “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed” (Rom 4:16). And, again, forgiveness is according to the riches of his grace, wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence (Eph 1:7, 8).—Wherefore, to set grace upon the throne, to let grace proceed out of the throne as a river, is by the wise God, the only wise God, counted the best way, the safest way, the way that doth best suit the condition of a sinful man, and that tends most to the utter disappointment of the devil, and death, and hell. Grace can justify freely, when it will, who it will, from what it will. Grace can continue to pardon, favor, and save from falls, in falls, out of falls. Grace can comfort, relieve, and help those that have hurt themselves. And grace can bring the unworthy to glory. This the law cannot do, this man cannot do, this angels cannot do, this God cannot do, but only by the riches of his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Wherefore, seeing God has set grace on the throne, and ordered that it should proceed from this throne to the world; yea, seeing he has made it king, and granted to it, to it only, the authority and sovereignty of saving souls, he has magnified not only his love, but his wisdom and his prudence before the sons of men. This, then, is his great device, the master-piece of all his witty inventions; and, therefore, it is said, as was hinted before, in this thing he hath proceeded towards us in ALL wisdom and prudence (2 Sam 14:14; Prov 8:11, 12).

So then, he that comes to, and drinks of this water, glorifies God for his wisdom, praises God for his wisdom. Such an one saith that God is only wise, and, bowing his head, saith again, “to God only wise, be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” But he that shall contemn this grace, confronts the highest wisdom, even wisdom upon the throne; he saith to himself, I am wiser than Daniel, than the judgment of God. I could have found out a more safe way to heaven myself; and had I been of God’s council, I would have told him so. All this, so horrible blasphemy, naturally proceeds from him that liketh not that grace should be king on the throne, and should proceed out of the throne to the world; but “shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him?” He that reproveth God, let him answer it (Job 40:2).

The text says, that this very doctrine to the Greeks, to the wise, is foolishness, and the preaching of it a foolish thing to them; but it will appear even then, when the conclusion of all things is come, and when these wise ones, by their wisdom, have fooled themselves to hell, that this “foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:21–25).

Christ Jesus, because he was low in the world, is trampled upon by some, but he is a glorious throne to his Father’s house: for since his humility was the lowest of all, now he is exalted to be the throne of God, yea, is made the fountain whence grace continually flows, like the rivers, and comes down to us like a mighty stream. Wherefore, I will conclude this with both comfort and caution: with comfort, and that because of the security that they are under that indeed have submitted themselves to grace; “sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” And let it be a caution to those that despise. Take heed, it is dangerous affronting of the wisdom of God. Now here is the wisdom of God, even wisdom upon the throne. It pleased God, for the glory of his wisdom, to make this the way: to wit, to set up grace to reign. I have often thought, and sometimes said, if God will be pleased with any way, surely he will be pleased with his own. Now this is the way of his own devising, the fruit and effect of his own wisdom; wherefore, sinner, please him, please him in that wherein he is well pleased. Come to the waters, cast thyself into them, and fear not drowning; let God alone to cause them to carry thee into his paradise, that thou mayest see his throne.

Sixth. The throne is the seat of faithfulness, the place of performing of engagements and promises. “When I shall receive the congregation,” saith Christ, “I will judge uprightly,” that is faithfully (Psa 75:2). And now he has received it, and is made head over all things to it (Eph 1:22, 23). And for this cause is he upon the throne, yea, is the throne, from whence proceeds all this grace, that like a river doth flow, and glide from heaven into the world. This river, then, is nothing else but the fulfilling of promises; the faithful fulfilling of promises. “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7). “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh,” &c. (Acts 2:16–18). Now this river is the Spirit, the Spirit and grace of God, which was promised by the Father and the Son, and now it comes running from the throne of God and of the Lamb. For “being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

Behold, then, how mindful, how careful, how faithful our Father and the Lamb of God is! It is not exaltation, nor glory, nor a crown, nor a kingdom, nor a throne, that shall make him neglect his poor ones on earth. Yea, therefore, even because he is exalted and on the throne, therefore it is that such a river, with its golden streams, proceeds from the throne to come unto us. And it shall proceed to be far higher than ever was the swellings of Jordan. True, it runs not so high now as in former days, because of the curse of God upon Antichrist, by whose means the land of God’s people is full of briers and thorns (Isa 32:13–17). But when the tide is at the lowest, then it is nearest the rising; and this river will rise, and in little time be no more so low as but ankle-deep; it will be up to the knees, to the loins, and be a broad river to swim in (Eze 47). For “there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams” (Isa 33:21). “And there shall be no more curse” in the church, “but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him” without molestation (Rev 22:3–6).

“These sayings are faithful and true,” and in faithfulness shall they, from the throne of God and of the Lamb, be performed to the church. Faithfulness in him that rules, is that which makes Sion rejoice; because thereby the promises yield milk and honey. For now the faithful God, that keepeth covenant, performs to his church that which he told her he would. Wherefore, our rivers shall run, and our brooks yield honey and butter (Job 20:17). Let this teach all God’s people to expect, to look, and wait for good things from the throne. But, O! methinks this throne, out of which good comes like a river! who would not be a subject to it? who would not but worship before it? But,

Seventh. A throne is “the seat of justice.” “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne” (Psa 89:14). And it is also from justice that this river of grace flows to us: justice to Christ, and justice to those that are found in him (Rom 3:24). God declares that he can justly justify, and justly forgive (1 John 1:9). Now, if he can justly justify and justly forgive, then can he give grace, and cause that it should proceed to, yea, flow after us as a river (1 Cor 10:4). The river that gushed out of the rock in the wilderness ran after the people there, wherefore they wandered therein. They drank of the rock that followed them; the rock was not removed out of his place, but the flood followed them whither they went. “He opened the rock and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river” (Psa 105:41). This rock, saith he, was Christ, that is, figuratively: and this throne is Christ really: and the water gushing out of the rock, and following of them in the wilderness, was to show how, when Christ became a throne, grace and goodness should follow us in the wilderness from thence so long as here we abide. Wherefore David, considering this, said, “Surely goodness and mercy shall FOLLOW me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psa 23:6).

But whence must this come? The text says from the throne; from the throne, the seat of justice; for from thence, by reason of what HE hath found in Christ for us, he, in a way of righteousness and justice, lets out to us rivers of his pleasures; whose original is that great and wide sea of mercy that flows in his infinite heart beyond thought.

All is paid for both US and grace (John 7:39). We are bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20). He has obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb 9:12). Yea, and as we are made his, and heaven made ours thus, so this river of grace has been also obtained by him for us (John 7:38). Wherefore, all comes to us in a way of justice and righteousness. Hence we are said to obtain “faith through the righteousness of God” (2 Peter 1:1), that is, through the justice of God, and of Jesus our Lord. Mark, here is the justice of God, and the justice of Jesus our Lord; and we have our faith from the justice of God, because of the righteousness of Jesus our Lord; that is, Jesus answered with works of justice the demands of justice; and therefore, in a way of justice, grace reigns, and comes to us like a river, as is signified, for that it is said to come to us out of the throne.

Again, grace is said “to reign through righteousness unto eternal life” (Rom 5:21). Through what righteousness? the righteousness or justice of God by Jesus Christ our Lord. By Jesus Christ, or for his sake. For for his sake, as I said, we are forgiven; and for his sake have all things pertaining to life and godliness. Which all things come to us, through, or down, the stream of this river in a way of justice; and, therefore, it is said to come from the throne.

Eighth. This throne is the seat of grace and mercy; and, therefore, it is called the mercy-seat and throne of grace. This throne turns all into grace, all into mercy. This throne makes all things work together for good. It is said of Saul’s sons, they were not buried after they were hanged, until water dropped upon them out of heaven (2 Sam 21:10, 14). And it may be said of us there is nothing suffered to come near us, until it is washed in that water that proceeds from the throne of grace. Hence afflictions flow from grace (Psa 119:67), persecutions flow from grace; poverty, sickness, yea, death itself is now made ours by the grace of God through Christ (1 Cor 3:22; Rev 3:19; Heb 12:5–7). O grace, O happy church of God! all things that happen to thee are, for Christ’s sake, turned into grace. They talk of the philosopher’s stone, and how, if one had it, it would turn all things into gold. O! but can it turn all things into grace? can it make all things work together for good? No, no, this quality, virtue, excellency, what shall I call it, nothing has in it, but the grace that reigns on the throne of grace, the river that proceeds from the throne of God. This, this turns majesty, authority, the highest authority, glory, wisdom, faithfulness, justice, and all into grace. Here is a throne! God let us see it. John had the honor to see it, and to see the streams proceeding from it. O sweet sight! O heart-ravishing sight! “He showed me a pure river of water of life proceeding out of the throne of God.”

Indeed, as was hinted before, in the days of the reign of Antichrist there are not those visions of this throne, nor of the river that proceedeth therefrom. Now he holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth a cloud upon it; but the preserving, saving benefits thereof we have, as also have all the saints, in the most cloudy and dark day. And since we can see so little, we must believe the more; and by believing, give glory to God. We must also labor for more clear Scripture knowledge of this throne; for the holy Word of God is the perspective glass by which we may, and the magnifying glass that will cause us to behold, “with open face, the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).

But, methinks, I have yet said nothing of this throne, which is indeed none other but the spotless and glorified humanity of the Son of God. This throne is the Lord Jesus, this grace comes from the Divine Majesty, as dwelling bodily in the Lord Jesus. Wherefore let us fall down before the throne, and cast our crowns at the foot of the throne, and give thanks to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever. O how should Jesus be esteemed of! The throne of the king is a royal seat: it is said of Solomon’s, “there was not the like made in any kingdom” (1 Kings 10:20). But of this it may be said there is not its like in heaven and earth. At the setting up of this throne, the angels flocked round about it, and the beasts and the elders gathered together to see it (Rev 4). When this throne was set in heaven, there was silence, all the heavenly host had no leisure to talk; they were surprised with sight and wonder. When this throne was set in heaven, what talk there was! it was as the music of the trumpet.

“And behold,” says John, “a door was opened in heaven; and the first voice which I heard was, as it were, of a trumpet talking with me, which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the Spirit, and behold a THRONE WAS SET IN HEAVEN, and one sat upon the throne.”

This throne was Jesus Christ exalted, SET, that is, lifted up, not as upon the cross to the contempt and scorn of his person, but, as I said, to the wonderment of the four beasts, and the elders, and all the angels in heaven. “A throne was set in heaven, and one sat upon the throne”; that is, God. And this intimates his desirable rest for ever: for to sit is to rest, and Christ is his rest for ever. Was it not, therefore, well worth the seeing? Yea, if John had taken the pains to go up thither upon his hands and knees, I say, to see the Lord Jesus as a throne set in heaven, and the glory of God resting and abiding upon him, and giving out by him all things, not only his Word, but all his dispensations and providences, to the end of the world; and this blessed thing among the rest, even “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal,” [how richly would he have been rewarded for his pains].

[the nature and quality of this water]

[FOURTH.] But I leave this, and proceed to the fourth and last thing, namely, to the nature and quality of this water. It is said to be pure and clear; pure and clear as crystal. “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal.” I know that there is a two-fold quality in a thing, one with respect to its nature, and the other with respect to its operation. The first of these is inherent, and remaineth in the subject being as such, and so for the most part useless. The other is put forth then when it meeteth with fit matter on which it may freely work. As to instance aquae vitae, the very metaphor here made use of, hath a quality inherent in it, but keep it stopped up in a bottle, and then who will may faint notwithstanding; but apply it, apply it fitly, and to such as have need thereof, and then you may see its quality by the operation. This water, or river of grace, is called, I say, the water of life, and so, consequently, has a most blessed inherent quality; but its operation is seen by its working, the which it doth only then when it is administered and received for those ends for which it is administered. For then it revives where life is, and gives life where it is not. And thus far, in the general, have we spoken to it already. We will, therefore, in this place more particularly, though briefly, speak a few words unto it.

[The operative quality of this water]

FIRST. Then this water of life is the very groundwork of life in us, though not the groundwork of life for us. The groundwork of life for us is the passion and merits of Christ, this is that for the sake of which grace is given unto us, as it is intimated by the text; it proceeds from the throne of God, who is Christ. Christ then having obtained grace for us, must needs be precedent, as to his merit, to that grace he hath so obtained. Besides, it is clear that the Spirit and grace come from God through him; therefore, as to the communications of grace to us, it is the fruit of his merit and purchase. But, I say, in us grace is the groundwork of life; for though we may be said before to live virtually in the person of Christ before God, yet we are dead in ourselves, and so must be until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high; for the Spirit is life, and its graces are life, and when that is infused by God from the throne, then we live, and not till then. And hence it is called, as before, living water, the water of life springing up in us to everlasting life. The Spirit, then, and graces of the Spirit, which is the river here spoken of, is that, and that only, which can cause us to live; that being life to the soul, as the soul is life to the body. All men, therefore, as was said before, though elect, though purchased by the blood of Christ, are dead, and must be dead, until the Spirit of life from God and his throne shall enter into them; until they shall drink it in by vehement thirst, as the parched ground drinks in the rain.

Now when this living water is received, it takes up its seat in the heart, whence it spreads itself to the awakening of all the powers of the soul. For, as in the first creation, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, in order to putting of that creature into that excellent fashion and harmony which now we behold with our eyes; even so the new creation, to wit, the making of us new to God, is done by the overspreading of the same Spirit also. For the Spirit, as I may so say, sitteth and broodeth upon the powers of the soul, as the hen doth on cold eggs, till they wax warm and receive life. The Spirit, then, warmeth us, and bringeth the dead and benumbed soul—for so it is before conversion—to a godly sense and understanding of states, of states both natural and spiritual; and this is the beginning of the work of the Spirit, by which the soul is made capable of understanding what God and himself is.

And this drinking in of the Spirit is rather as the ground drinks in rain, than as a rational soul does through sense of the want thereof.

The Spirit also garnisheth the soul with such things as are proper for it, to the making of it live that life that by the Word of God is called for.

It implanteth light, repentance, faith, fear, love, desires after God, hope, sincerity, and what else is necessary for the making the man a saint; these things, I say, are the fruits and effects of this Spirit which, as a river of water of life, proceedeth forth of the throne of God and of the Lamb. Hence the Spirit is called the Spirit of faith, the Spirit of love, and the Spirit of a sound mind; for that the Spirit is the root and original of all these things, by his operations in, and upon, the face of the soul (2 Cor 4:13; Gal 5:22; 2 Tim 1:7).

But, again, as this living water, this Spirit and the grace thereof, doth thus, so it also maintains these things once planted in the soul, by its continual waterings of them in the soul. Hence he saith, “I will water it every moment”; water IT—his vineyard, the soul of the church, the graces of the church; and so the soul and graces of every godly man (Isa 27:3).

And because it so happeneth sometimes, that some of those things wherewith the Holy Ghost has beautified the soul may languish to a being, if not quite dead, yet “ready to die” (Rev 3:2), therefore he doth not only refresh and water our souls, but renews the face thereof, by either quickening to life that which remains, or by supplying of us with that which is new, to our godly perseverance and everlasting life. Thus “thou visitest the earth, and waterest it; thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God” (Psa 65:9).

For this must be remembered, that as the herb that is planted, or seed sown, needs watering with continual showers of the mountains, so our graces, implanted in us by the Spirit of grace, must also be watered by the rain of heaven. “Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makes it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof” (Psa 65:10). Hence he says that our graces shall grow. But how? “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5–7). Or, as he saith in another place, “The Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (Isa 58:11).

There is, besides this, another blessing that comes to us by this living water, and that is, the blessing of communion. All the warmth that we have in our communion, it is the warmth of the Spirit: when a company of saints are gathered together in the name of Christ, to perform any spiritual exercise, and their souls be edified, warmed, and made glad therein, it is because this water, this river of water of life, has, in some of the streams thereof, run into that assembly (Jer 31:12, 13). Then are Christians like those that drink wine in bowls, merry and glad; for that they have drank into the Spirit, and had their souls refreshed with the sweet gales and strong wine thereof. This is the feast that Isaiah speaks of, when he saith, “In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined” (Isa 25:6). This is called in another place, “the communion of the Holy Ghost” (2 Cor 13:14). Now he warmeth spirits, uniteth spirits, enlighteneth spirits; revives, cherisheth, quickeneth, strengtheneth graces; renews assurances, brings old comforts to mind, weakens lusts, emboldeneth and raiseth a spirit of faith, of love, of hope, of prayer, and makes the Word a blessing, conference a blessing, meditation a blessing, and duty very delightful to the soul. Without this water of life, communion is weak, flat, cold, dead, fruitless, lifeless; there is nothing seen, felt, heard, or understood in a spiritual and heart-quickening way. Now ordinances are burdensome, sins strong, faith weak, hearts hard, and the faces of our souls dry, like the dry and parched ground.

This drink also revives us when tempted, when sick, when persecuted, when in the dark, and when we faint for thirst. The life of religion is this water of life: where that runs, where that is received, and where things are done in this spirit, there all things are well; the church thrifty, the soul thrifty, graces thrifty, and all is well. And this hint I thought convenient to be given of this precious water of life, that is, with reference to the operative quality of it.

[The other qualities of this water]

SECOND. I shall come, in the next place, to speak of it, as to the other descriptions which John doth give us of it. He says it is, First, pure; Second, clear; Third, clear to a comparison: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal.”

[First. The purity of this water.]

1. You read here that this water of life is PURE, that is, alone without mixture, for so sometimes that word PURE is to be understood. As where it saith, pure, “pure olive oil” (Exo 27:20). “Pure frankincense” (Exo 30:34). “Pure gold” (Exo 25:11, 17). “Pure blood of the grape” (Deut 32:14), and the like. So then, when he saith, “he showed me a pure river of water of life,” it is as if he had said he showed me a river of water that was all living, all life, and had nothing in it but life. There was no death, or deadness, or flatness in it; or, as he saith a little after, “and there shall be no more curse.” A pure river. There is not so much as a grudge, or a piece of an upbraiding speech found therein. There is in it nothing but heart, nothing but love, nothing but grace, nothing but life. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom 11:29).

2. PURE is sometimes set in opposition to show or appearance; as where he says, “the stars are not pure” (Job 25:5). That is, not so without mixture of darkness, as they seem to be: so again, “If thou wert pure and upright” (Job 8:6): that is, as thou seemest to be, or as thou wouldst have us believe thou art.

Now, take pure in this sense here, and then the meaning is, it is grace without deceit, without guile; its show and its substance are the same; it has nothing but substance in it; it is indeed what it seems to be in bulk; it is a river in show and a river indeed. It comes from God and from his throne in appearance, and really it comes from his very heart.

The great fear of the tempted is, that there is not so much grace in God, and that he is not so free of it as some scriptures seem to import. But this word PURE is levelled against such objections and objectors, for the destroying of their doubts, and the relieving of their souls. There is no fraud, nor guile, nor fable in the business; for though God is pleased to present us with his grace under the notion of a river, it is not to delude our fancies thereby; but to give us some small illustration of the exceeding riches of his grace, which as far, for quantity, outstrips the biggest rivers, as the most mighty mountain doth the least ant’s egg or atom in the world.

3. But, again, this word PURE is set in opposition to that which is hurtful and destructive: “I am pure from the blood of all men,” that is, I have hurt nobody (Acts 20:26). “The wisdom that is from above is first pure,” it is not hurtful (James 3:17). Do you count them pure with the wicked balances? how can that be, since they are hurtful? (Micah 6:11).

Now take PURE in this sense here, and then it intimates, that the grace of God, and the doctrine of grace, is not a hurtful thing. It is not as wine of an intoxicating nature. If a man be filled with it, it will do him no harm (Eph 5:18). The best of the things that are of this world are some way hurtful. Honey is hurtful (Prov 25:16, 27). Wine is hurtful (Prov 20:1). Silver and gold are hurtful, but grace is not hurtful (1 Tim 6:10). Never did man yet catch harm by the enjoyment and fulness of the grace of God. There is no fear of excess or of surfeiting here. Grace makes no man proud, no man wanton, no man haughty, no man careless or negligent as to his duty that is incumbent upon him, either from God or man: no, grace keeps a man low in his own eyes, humble, self-denying, penitent, watchful, savory in good things, charitable, and makes him kindly affectionated to the brethren, pitiful and courteous to all men.

True, there are men in the world that abuse the grace of God, as some are said to turn it into wantonness and into lasciviousness (Jude 4). But this is, not because grace has any such tendency, or for that it worketh any such effect; but because such men are themselves empty of grace, and have only done as death and hell hath done with wisdom, “heard the fame thereof with their ears” (Job 28:22). It is a dangerous thing for a man to have the notions of grace, while his heart is void of the spirit and holy principles of grace; for such a man can do no other than abuse the grace of God. Alas, what can be expected of him that has nothing in him to teach him to manage that knowledge of grace which he has, but his flesh, his lusts, and lustful passions? Can these teach him to manage his knowledge well? Will they not rather put him upon all tricks, evasions, irreligious consequences and conclusions, such as will serve to cherish sin? What Judas did with Christ, that a graceless man will do with grace, even make it a stalking horse to his fleshly and vile designs; and rather than fail betray both it, and the profession of it, to the greatest enemies it has in the world.

And here I may say, though grace is pure, and not hurtful at all, yet one altogether carnal, sinful, and graceless, having to do with the doctrine of it, by the force of his lusts which tamper with it, he will unavoidably bring himself into the highest ruin thereby. An unwary man may destroy himself by the best of things, not because there is in such things an aptness to destroy, but because of the abuse and misuse of them. Some know the way of life, the water of life, by knowledge that is naked and speculative only; and it had been better for such if they had not known, than to know and turn from what they know; than to know, and make the knowledge subservient to their lusts (2 Peter 2:20–22). Some receive the rain of God, and the droppings of his clouds, because they continually sit under the means of his grace. But, alas! they receive it as stones receive showers, or as dunghills receive the rain; they either abide as hard stones still, or else return nothing to heaven for his mercy, but as the dunghills do, a company of stinking fumes. These are they that drink in the rain that comes often upon them, and that instead of bringing forth herbs meet for the dresser, bring forth briers and thorns; and these are they who are nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned (Heb 6:7, 8).

By this word PURE I understand sometimes the chiefest good, the highest good. There are many things that may be called good, but none of them are good as grace is good. All things indeed are pure, that is, all creatures in themselves are good and serviceable to man, but they are not so good as grace (Rom 14:20; Gen 1:31). “There is a generation that are pure,” that are good in their own eyes (Prov 30:12). There are good men, good consciences, good works, good days, good angels, &c., but none so good as grace, for it is grace that has made them so. Grace, this water of life, therefore is good, superlatively good, good in the highest degree, for that it makes all things good, and preserveth them good. And whatever it be that this water of life washeth not, it is soil, and given to the curse, as the prophet intimates where he saith, “But the miry places thereof, and the marshes thereof, shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt” (Eze 47:1).

But who understands this, who believes it? Its goodness is kept close from the fowls of the air. Men, most men, are ignorant of the goodness of it, nor do they care to inquire after the enjoyment of this pure, this good water of life. The reason is, because though it is good in itself, good in the highest degree, and that which makes all things good, yet it is not such a good as is suited to a carnal appetite. There is good; and there is suitable good. Now suitable good is of two sorts: either such as is spiritual, or such as is temporal. That which is spiritual, is desired only of them that are spiritual; for temporal good will satisfy a carnal mind. Now grace is a spiritual good; this river of grace is the goodness of spiritual good. It is the original life of all the grace in our souls. No marvel, then, if it be so little set by of those that are carnally minded. They will serve a horse, and mire will serve a sow; so things of this life suit best with the men of this world; for their appetite is gross and carnal, and they savor not the things that be of the Spirit of God. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” the things that be of this river of God; “for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). This is the river of OIL which the prophet speaks of, the river of SPIRIT. Were it a river of gold and silver, there would be old fishing on the banks thereof. But it is a river that runs “like oil, saith the Lord God” (Eze 32:14). This rock pours us out “rivers of oil” (Job 29:6)—“fresh oil” (Psa 92:10)—“soft oil” (Psa 55:21)—“the oil of joy” (Isa 61:3)—“the oil of gladness” (Psa 45:7)—oil to anoint the head withal (Eccl 9:8)—oil to make the face to shine (Psa 104:15)—oil by which thou wilt be made able to honor both God and man in some good measure as becomes thee (Judg 9:9).

I might have enlarged upon this head, and have showed you many more particulars wherein this term of pure might serve for the better setting forth of the excellency of this water of life, but I shall proceed no further upon this, but will come to that which remains.

[Second. The clearness of this water of life.]

As this river of water of life is said to be pure, so it is said to be CLEAR. “He shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear.” This term has also its particular signification, and, therefore, ought to be heeded.

1. CLEAR is set in opposition to dark; therefore some are said to be “clear as the sun” (Cant 6:10). And again, “the light shall not be clear nor dark” (Zech 14:6). In both these places, clear is to be taken for light, daylight, sunlight; for, indeed, it is never day nor sunshine with the soul, until the streams of this river of water of life come gliding to our doors, into our houses, into our hearts. Hence the beginning of conversion is called illumination (Heb 10:32). Yea, the coming of this river of water of life unto us is called the day-spring from on high, through the tender mercy of our God (Luke 1:78). It is also called the dawning of the day (2 Peter 1:19). And hence, again, these men unto whom this river of water of life comes not, are said to be dark, darkness. “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8). Wherefore, this water is like Jonathan’s honey; it hath a faculty to open the eyes, to make them that sit in darkness see a great light (1 Sam 14:27; Matt 4:16). The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the faith of Jesus Christ; “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light”; the Spirit that enlighteneth and giveth the light, “of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). This river casteth beams where it goes, like the beams of the sun; it shines, it casts out rays of glory unto those that drink thereof. The streams of this grace were they that overtook Saul when he was going to Damascus; they were the waters of this flood that compassed him round about. And if you will believe him, he saith this light from heaven was a great light, a light above the brightness of the sun, a light that did by the glory of it make dark to him all the things in the world (Acts 9:3, 22:6, 26:13).

2. CLEAR is set in opposition to that which is not pleasing. For to be clear is to be pleasant. Hence it is said, “truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun” (Eccl 11:7). I read of rivers that looked red as blood, that stank like the blood of a dead man, but this is no such river (Exo 7:19, 20; 2 Kings 3:22, 23). I read of rivers whose streams are like streams of brimstone, fiery streams, streams of burning pitch, but this is none of them (Isa 30:27–33; David 7:9–11; Isa 34:9). “There is a river” besides all these, clear and pleasant, “the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God” (Psa 46:4).

There are the waters that the doves love to sit by, because by the clearness of these streams they can see their pretty selves, as in a glass (Cant 5:12).

These are the streams where the doves wash their eyes, and by which they solace themselves, and take great content. These streams are instead, as I said, of a looking-glass; their clearness presents us with an opportunity of seeing our own features. As in fair waters a man may see the body of the sun, and of the moon, and of the stars, and the very body of heaven; so he that stands upon the bank of this river, and that washeth his eyes with this water, may see the Son of God, the stars of God, the glory of God, and the habitation that God has prepared for his people. And are not these pleasant sights? is not this excellent water? has not this river pleasant streams?

3. CLEAR is set in opposition to dirty water and muddiness. I read of some waters that are fouled with the feet of beasts, and with the feet of men, yea, and deep waters too. Yea, saith God to some, ye “have drunk of the deep waters,” and have fouled “the residue with your feet”; and again, “As for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet, and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet” (Eze 34:18, 19). These waters are doctrines contained in the text, muddied and dirtied by the false glosses and sluttish opinions of erroneous judgments, of which the poor sheep have been made to drink. And, verily, this is apparent enough by the very color and hue of those poor souls; for though the truth of God was in them, yet the very stain of tradition and superstition might be also seen in their scales. For as the fish of the river receive, by being there, the changeable colors of the waters, so professors, what doctrine they hear and drink, do look like that. If their doctrines are muddy, their notions are muddy; if their doctrines are bloody, their notions and tempers are bloody: but if their doctrines are clear, so are their notions, for their doctrine has given them a clear understanding of things.

Now, here we have a river of water of life that is clear—clear without dirt and mud—clear without the human inventions and muddy conceptions of unsanctified and uninstructed judgments; yea, here you have a river the streams whereof lie open to all in the church, so that they need not those instruments of conveyance that are foul, and that use to make water stink, if they receive it to bring it to them that have need.

4. By clear we sometimes understand purgation; or that a thing has purged itself, or is purged from those soils and imputations of evil wherewith sometimes they have been charged. “Then thou shalt be clear from this my oath”; or, “How shall we clear ourselves?” (Gen 24:8–14, 44:16). Something of this sense may be in the text; for if men are not afraid to charge God with folly, which is intimated by “that thou mightest be clear when thou judgest” (Psa 51:4), will they, think you, be afraid to impute evil to his Word, and grace, and Spirit? No, verily; they are bold enough at this work. Nay, more than this, even from the foundation of the world, men have cast slanders upon, and imputed based things into the blessed grace of the gospel. But not to look so far back. Paul was one of the pipes through which God conveyed this grace to the world; and what was he counted for his so doing, but “a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition—throughout the world” (Acts 24:5, 6). But, behold, no imputation can stick on the grace of God—not stick long; for that, like honey, will purge itself of what filth is put upon it, and of all bad imputations of evil men’s springs, and rivers are of a self-purging quality. Now, here we have to do with a river—a river of water of life; but a river more slandered than ever did Naaman the Syrian slander the waters of Israel in preferring those of Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, beyond them (2 Kings 5:10–12). But behold now, at last, when all the world have done what they can, and cast what reproaches and slanders upon it they are able, it is a river pure and clear. It has purged itself before kings—it has purged itself before princes and judges, and all the Naamans in the world; it is still a river—a river of water of life—a river of water of life CLEAR.

5. By clear we sometimes understand purity manifest, or innocency and goodness made known. “In all things ye have approved yourselves to be CLEAR in this matter” (2 Cor 7:11). That is, you have made it appear, and stand upon your justification, and are willing to be searched and sounded to the bottom by those that have a desire to undertake that work. So this river of water of life in the fountain, and in the streams thereof, offer themselves to the consideration and conscience of all men. To this end how often doth God, the head of this river, and he out of whose throne it proceeds, call upon men to challenge him, if they can, with any evil or misdoing towards them, either by presence or doctrine; hence he says, “Put me in remembrance; let us plead together; declare thou,” if thou canst, “that thou mayest be justified,” and I condemned (Isa 43:26). So again: “What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?” (Jer 2:5). So Christ: “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46). And “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil” (John 18:23). So Paul: We “have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor 4:2). All these sentences are chiefly to be applied to doctrine, and so are, as it were, an offer to any, if they can, to find a speck, or a spot, or a wrinkle, or any such thing in this river of water of life.

Some men fly from it as from a bear; and some are afraid to drink of it, for fear it should be poison unto them. Some, again, dare not take it because it is not mixed, and as they, poor souls, imagine, qualified and made toothsome by a little of that which is called the wisdom of this world. Thus one shucks, another shrinks, and another will none of God. Meanwhile, whoso shall please to look into this river shall find it harmless and clear; yea, offering itself to the consciences of all men to make trial if it be not the only chief good, the only necessary waters, the only profitable, for the health of the soul, of all the things that are in the world, and as clear of mischief as is the sun of spots.

[Third.—this river is clear to the most perfect comparison.]

As John saw this river pure and clear, so he saw it clear to a comparison. Clear to the best of comparisons, clear as crystal. Crystal is a very clear stone, as clear as the clearest glass, if not clearer; one may see far into it, yea, through it; it is without those spots, and streaks, and smirches that are in other precious stones. Wherefore, when he saith that this river is clear as crystal, it is as if God should say, Look, sinners, look to the bottom of these my crystal streams. I have heard of some seas that are so pure and clear, that a man may see to the bottom though they may be forty feet deep. I know this river of water of life is a deep river; but though it is said to be deep, it is not said we can see no bottom. Indeed, as to the wideness of it, it is said to be such as that it cannot be passed over; but I say, it is nowhere said that we cannot see to the bottom; nay, the comparison implies that a man with good eyes may see to the bottom. It is clear, as clear as crystal. So, then, we will a little look down to the bottom, and see, through these crystal streams, what is at the bottom of all.

1. Then the bottom of all is, “That we might be saved” (John 5:34). “These things I say,” saith Christ, “that ye might be saved”; and, again, “I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). This is the bottom of this great river of water of life, and of its proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb: it is that we might be saved; it is that we might live. What a good bottom is here! what a sound bottom is here! But few deep rivers have a good bottom. Mud is at the bottom of most waters in the world; even the sea itself, when it worketh, casts up mire and dirt, and so do the hearts of sinners; but the bottom of this grace of God, and of the Spirit and Word thereof, is that we might be saved, consequently a very good bottom.

2. As the bottom of all is, “that we may be saved,” so that we may be saved by grace, and this is a bottom sounder and sounder. Our salvation might have been laid upon a more difficult bottom than this. It might have been laid on our works. God might have laid it there, and have been just, or he might have left us to have laid it where we would; and then, to be sure, we had laid it there, and so had made but a muddy bottom to have gone upon to life. But now, this river of water of life, it has a better bottom; the water of life is as clear as crystal, look down to the bottom and see, we are “justified freely by his grace” (Rom 3:24). “By grace ye are saved,” there is the bottom (Eph 2:5, 8).

Now, grace, as I have showed you, is a firm bottom to stand on; it is of grace that life might be sure (Rom 4:16). Surely David was not here, or surely this was not the river that he spake of when he said, “I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink” (Psa 69:2, 14). I say, to be sure this could not be the river. No, David was now straggled out of the way, was tumbled into some pit, or into some muddy and dirty hole; for as for this river it has a good bottom, a bottom of salvation by grace, and a man needs not cry out when he is here that he sinks, or that he is in danger of being drowned in mud or mire.

3. The bottom of all is, as I said, that we might be saved, saved by grace, and I will add, “through the redemption that is in Christ.” This is still better and better. We read that, when Israel came over Jordan, the feet of the priests that did bear the ark stood on firm ground in the bottom, and that they set up great stones for a memorial thereof (Josh 3:17, 4:1–3). But had Jordan so good a bottom as has this most blessed river of water of life, or were the stones that Israel took out thence like this “tried stone,” this “sure foundation?” (Isa 28:16). O the throne! this river comes out of the throne, and we are saved by grace through the redemption that is in him. We read that there is a city that has foundations; grace is one, Christ another, and the truth of all the prophets and apostles, as to their true doctrine, another, &c. (Heb 11:10). And again, all these are the very bottom of this goodly river of the water of life (Eph 2:19, 20).

4. There is another thing to be seen at the bottom of this holy river, and that is, the glory of God; we are saved, saved by grace, saved by grace through the redemption that is in Christ to the praise and glory of God. And what a good bottom is here. Grace will not fail, Christ has been sufficiently tried, and God will not lose his glory. Therefore they that drink of this river shall doubtless be saved; to wit, they that drink of it of a spiritual appetite to it. And thus much for the explication of the text.

[the application of the whole]

I now come to make some use of the whole

You know our discourse has been at this time of the water of life, of its quantity, head-spring, and quality; and I have showed you that its nature is excellent, its quantity abundant, its head-spring glorious, and its quality singularly good.
FIRST. Let this, then, in the first place, be a provocation to us to be more free in making use of this water. There are many, now-a-days, that are for inventing of waters, to drink for the health of the body; and to allure those that are ill to buy, they will praise their waters beyond their worth. Yea, and if they be helpful to one person in a hundred, they make as if they could cure every one. Well, here you have the great Physician himself, with his water, and he calls it the water of life, water of life for the soul: this water is probatum est.17 It has been proved times without number; it never fails but where it is not taken (Acts 26:18; Isa 5:4, 5). No disease comes amiss to it; it cures blindness, deadness, deafness, dumbness. It makes “the lips of those that are asleep to speak” (Cant 7:9). This is the right HOLY WATER,18 all other is counterfeit: it will drive away devils and spirits; it will cure enchantments and witchcrafts; it will heal the mad and lunatic (Gal 3:1–3; Mark 16:17, 18). It will cure the most desperate melancholy; it will dissolve doubts and mistrusts, though they are grown as hard as stone in the heart (Eze 36:26). It will make you speak well (Col 4:6). It will make you have a white soul, and that is better than to have a white skin (Eze 36:25, 26). It will make you taste well; it will make you disrelish all hurtful meats (Isa 30:22). It will beget in you a good appetite to that which is good; it will remove obstructions in the stomach and liver. It will cause that what you receive of God’s bread shall turn to good nourishment, and make good blood. In a word, it preserveth life (John 4:14). They that take this water shall live longer than did old Methuselah, and yet he lived a great while (Gen 5:27).
Wherefore, let me continue my exhortation to you. Be more free in making use of this water; it is the wholesomest water in the world; you may take it at the third, sixth, ninth, or eleventh hour, but to take it in the morning of your age is best (Matt 20:3–6). For then diseases have not got so great a head as when they are of long continuance, consequently they will be removed with far more ease; besides, those
Bunyan, J. (2006). The Water of Life (Vol. 3, pp. 557–558). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

John Bunyan's Last Sermon

John Bunyan's Last Sermon

‘Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’—John 1:13

The words have a dependence on what goes before, and therefore I must direct you to them for the right understanding of it. You have it thus: ‘He came unto his own, and his own received him not; but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh—but of God.’

In the words before, you have two things. First, Some of his own rejecting him, when he offered himself to them. Second, Others of his own receiving him, and making him welcome; those that reject him, he also passes by; but those that receive him, he gives them power to become the sons of God.
Now, lest any one should look upon it as good luck or fortune, says he, they ‘were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ They that did not receive him, they were only born of flesh and blood; but those that receive him, they have God to their Father; they receive the doctrine of Christ with a vehement desire.

[TO EXPLAIN THE TEXT]

FIRST, I will show you what he means by blood. They that believe are born to it, as an heir is to an inheritance—they are born of God, not of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; not of blood, that is, not by generation, not born to the kingdom of heaven by the flesh, not because I am the son of a godly man or woman—that is meant by blood (Acts 17:26); He ‘hath made of one blood all nations.’ But when he says here, ‘not of blood,’ he rejects all carnal privileges they did boast of: they boasted they were Abraham’s seed; no, no says he, it is not of blood; think not to say you have Abraham to your father; you must be born of God, if you go to the kingdom of heaven.

SECOND, ‘Nor of the will of the flesh.’ What must we understand by that?

It is taken for those vehement inclinations that are in man, to all manner of looseness, fulfilling the desires of the flesh: that must not be understood here; men are not made the children of God by fulfilling their lustful desires. It must be understood here in the best sense: there is not only in carnal men a will to be vile, but there is in them a will to be saved also; a will to go to heaven also. But this it will not do; it will not privilege a man in the things of the kingdom of God: natural desires after the things of another world, they are not an argument to prove a man shall go to heaven whenever he dies. I am not a free-willer, I do abhor it; yet there is not the wickedest man but he desires, some time or other, to be saved; he will read some time or other, or, it may be, pray, but this will not do: ‘It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.’ There is willing and running, and yet to no purpose (Rom 9:16). Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, have not obtained it (v 30). Here, I do not understand, as if the apostle had denied a virtuous course of life to be the way to heaven; but that a man without grace, though he have natural gifts, yet he shall not obtain privilege to go to heaven, and be the son of God. Though a man without grace may have a will to be saved, yet he cannot have that will God’s way. Nature, it cannot know any thing but the things of nature—the things of God knows no man but by the Spirit of God; unless the Spirit of God be in you, it will leave you on this side the gates of heaven. ‘Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ It may be, some may have a will, a desire that Ishmael may be saved; know this, it will not save thy child. If it was our will, I would have you all go to heaven. How many are there in the world that pray for their children, and cry for them, and are ready to die [for them]? and this will not do. God’s will is the rule of all; it is only through Jesus Christ: ‘which were born, not of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’

Now I come to the doctrine.

Men that believe in Jesus Christ, to the effectual receiving of Jesus Christ, they are born to it. He does not say they shall be born to it, but they are born to it—born of God unto God and the things of God, before he receives God to eternal salvation. ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Now, unless he be born of God, he cannot see it: suppose the kingdom of God be what it will, he cannot see it before he be begotten of God. Suppose it be the gospel, he cannot see it before he be brought into a state of regeneration. Believing is the consequence of the new birth; ‘not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God.’

First, I will give you a clear description of it under one similitude or two. A child, before it be born into the world, is in the dark dungeon of its mother’s womb: so a child of God, before he be born again, is in the dark dungeon of sin, sees nothing of the kingdom of God; therefore it is called a new birth: the same soul has love one way in its carnal condition, another way when it is born again.

Second, As it is compared to a birth, resembling a child in his mother’s womb, so it is compared to a man being raised out of the grave; and to be born again, is to be raised out of the grave of sin; ‘Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.’ To be raised from the grave of sin is to be begotten and born (Rev 1:5); there is a famous instance of Christ; He is ‘the first begotten of the dead’; he is the first-born from the dead, unto which our regeneration alludeth; that is, if you be born again by seeking those things that are above, then there is a similitude betwixt Christ’s resurrection and the new birth; which was born, which was restored out of this dark world, and translated out of the kingdom of this dark world, into the kingdom of his dear Son, and made us live a new life—this is to be born again: and he that is delivered from the mother’s womb, it is the help of the mother; so he that is born of God, it is by the Spirit of God. I must give you a few consequences of a new birth.

(1.) First of all, A child, you know, is incident to cry as soon as it comes into the world; for if there be no noise, they say it is dead. You that are born of God, and Christians, if you be not criers, there is no spiritual life in you—if you be born of God, you are crying ones; as soon as he has raised you out of the dark dungeon of sin, you cannot but cry to God, What must I do to be saved? As soon as ever God had touched the jailer, he cries out, ‘Men and brethren, what must I do to be saved?’ Oh! how many prayerless professors is there in London that never pray! Coffee-houses will not let you pray, trades will not let you pray, looking-glasses will not let you pray; but if you was born of God, you would.

(2.) It is not only natural for a child to cry, but it must crave the breast; it cannot live without the breast—therefore Peter makes it the true trial of a new-born babe: the new-born babe desires the sincere milk of the Word, that he may grow thereby: if you be born of God, make it manifest by desiring the breast of God. Do you long for the milk of the promises? A man lives one way when he is in the world, another way when he is brought unto Jesus Christ (Isa 66). They shall suck and be satisfied; if you be born again, there is no satisfaction till you get the milk of God’s Word into your souls (Isa 66:11). To ‘suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolation.’ Oh! what is a promise to a carnal man? A whore-house, it may be, is more sweet to him; but if you be born again, you cannot live without the milk of God’s Word. What is a woman’s breast to a horse? But what is it to a child? there is its comfort night and day, there is its succor night and day. O how loath are they it should be taken from them: minding heavenly things, says a carnal man, is but vanity; but to a child of God, there is his comfort.

(3.) A child that is newly born, if it have not other comforts to keep it warm than it had in its mother’s womb, it dies; it must have something got for its succor: so Christ had swaddling clothes prepared for him; so those that are born again, they must have some promise of Christ to keep them alive; those that are in a carnal state, they warm themselves with other things; but those that are born again, they cannot live without some promise of Christ to keep them alive; as he did to the poor infant in Ezekiel 16:8: I covered thee with embroidered gold: and when women are with child, what fine things will they prepare for their child! Oh, but what fine things has Christ prepared to wrap all in that are born again! Oh what wrappings of gold has Christ prepared for all that are born again! Women will dress their children, that every one may see them how fine they are; so he in Ezekiel 16:11: ‘I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thine hands, and a chain on thy neck; and I put a jewel on thy forehead, and ear-rings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.’ And, says he in verse 13, ‘Thou didst prosper into a kingdom.’ This is to set out nothing in the world but the righteousness of Christ and the graces of the Spirit, without which a new-born babe cannot live, unless they have the golden righteousness of Christ.

(4.) A child, when it is in its mother’s lap, the mother takes great delight to have that which will be for its comfort; so it is with God’s children, they shall be kept on his knee (Isa 66:11): ‘They shall suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations’; verse 13: ‘As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.’ There is a similitude in these things that nobody knows of, but those that are born again.

(5.) There is usually some similitude betwixt the father and the child. It may be the child looks like its father; so those that are born again, they have a new similitude—they have the image of Jesus Christ (Gal 4). Every one that is born of God has something of the features of heaven upon him. Men love those children that are likest them most usually; so does God his children, therefore they are called the children of God; but others do not look like him, therefore they are called Sodomites. Christ describes children of the devil by their features—the children of the devil, his works they will do; all works of unrighteousness, they are the devil’s works: if you are earthly, you have borne the image of the earthly; if heavenly, you have borne the image of the heavenly.

(6.) When a man has a child, he trains him up to his own liking—they have learned the custom of their father’s house; so are those that are born of God—they have learned the custom of the true church of God; there they learn to cry ‘My Father’ and ‘My God’; they are brought up in God’s house, they learn the method and form of God’s house, for regulating their lives in this world.

(7.) Children, it is natural for them to depend upon their father for what they want; if they want a pair of shoes, they go and tell him; if they want bread, they go and tell him; so should the children of God do. Do you want spiritual bread? go tell God of it. Do you want strength of grace? ask it of God. Do you want strength against Satan’s temptations? go and tell God of it. When the devil tempts you, run home and tell your heavenly Father—go, pour out your complaints to God; this is natural to children; if any wrong them, they go and tell their father; so do those that are born of God, when they meet with temptations, go and tell God of them.

[THE APPLICATION]

The first use is this, To make a strict inquiry whether you be born of God or not; examine by those things I laid down before, of a child of nature and a child of grace. Are you brought out of the dark dungeon of this world into Christ? Have you learned to cry, ‘My Father?’ (Jer 3:4). ‘And I said, Thou shalt call me, My Father.’ All God’s children are criers—cannot you be quiet without you have a bellyful of the milk of God’s Word? cannot you be satisfied without you have peace with God? Pray you, consider it, and be serious with yourselves; if you have not these marks, you will fall short of the kingdom of God—you shall never have an interest there; ‘there’ is no intruding. They will say, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us; and he will say, I know you not.’ No child of God, no heavenly inheritance. We sometimes give something to those that are not our children, but [we do] not [give them] our lands. O do not flatter yourselves with a portion among the sons, unless you live like sons. When we see a king’s son play with a beggar, this is unbecoming; so if you be the king’s children, live like the king’s children; if you be risen with Christ, set your affections on things above, and not on things below; when you come together, talk of what your Father promised you; you should all love your Father’s will, and be content and pleased with the exercises you meet with in the world. If you are the children of God, live together lovingly; if the world quarrel with you, it is no matter; but it is sad if you quarrel together; if this be amongst you, it is a sign of ill-breeding; it is not according to the rules you have in the Word of God. Dost thou see a soul that has the image of God in him? Love him, love him; say, This man and I must go to heaven one day; serve one another, do good for one another; and if any wrong you, pray to God to right you, and love the brotherhood.

Lastly, If you be the children of God, learn that lesson—Gird up the loins of your mind, as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to your former conversation; but be ye holy in all manner of conversation. Consider that the holy God is your Father, and let this oblige you to live like the children of God, that you may look your Father in the face, with comfort, another day.

Bunyan, J. (2006). Bunyan’s Last Sermon (Vol. 2, pp. 755–758). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

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Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 20

Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 20

Christ Would Have Comers Not Once Think That He Will Cast Them Out

OBSERVATION THIRD.—I come now to the next observation, and shall speak a little to that; to wit, That Jesus Christ would not have them, that in truth are coming to him, once think that he will cast them out.

The text is full of this: for he saith, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”  Now, if he saith, I will not, he would not have us think he will.  This is yet further manifest by these considerations.

First, Christ Jesus did forbid even them that as yet were not coming to him, once to think him such an one.  “Do not think,” said he, “that I will accuse you to the Father” (John 5:45).

These, as I said, were such, that as yet were not coming to him.  For he saith of them a little before, “And ye will not come to me;” for the respect they had to the honour of men kept them back.  Yet, I say, Jesus Christ gives them to understand, that though he might justly reject them, yet he would not, but bids them not once to think that he would accuse them to the Father.  Now, not to accuse, with Christ, is to plead for:  for Christ in these things stands not neuter between the Father and sinners.  So then, if Jesus Christ would not have them think, that yet will not come to him, that he will accuse them; then he would not that they should think so, that in truth are coming to him.  “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Second, When the woman taken in adultery, even in the very act, was brought before Jesus Christ, he so carried it both by words and actions, that he evidently enough made it manifest, that condemning and casting out were such things, for the doing of which he came not into the world.  Wherefore, when they had set her before him, and had laid to her charge her heinous fact, he stooped down, and with his finger wrote upon the ground, as though he heard them not.  Now what did he do by this his carriage, but testify plainly that he was not for receiving accusations against poor sinners, whoever accused by?  And observe, though they continue asking, thinking at last to force him to condemn her; yet then he so answered, so that he drove all condemning persons from her.  And then he adds, for her encouragement to come to him; “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more” (John 8:1–11).

Not but that he indeed abhorred the fact, but he would not condemn the woman for the sin, because that was not his office.  He was not sent “into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).  Now if Christ, though urged to it, would not condemn the guilty woman, though she was far at present from coming to him, he would not that they should once think that he will cast them out, that in truth are coming to him.  “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Third, Christ plainly bids the turning sinner come; and forbids him to entertain any such thought as that he will cast him out.  “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa 4:6).  The Lord, by bidding the unrighteous forsake his thoughts, doth in special forbid, as I have said, viz., those thoughts that hinder the coming man in his progress to Jesus Christ, his unbelieving thoughts.

Therefore he bids him not only forsake his ways, but his thoughts.  “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.”  It is not enough to forsake one if thou wilt come to Jesus Christ; because the other will keep thee from him.  Suppose a man forsakes his wicked ways, his debauched and filthy life; yet if these thoughts, that Jesus Christ will not receive him, be entertained and nourished in his heart; these thoughts will keep him from coming to Jesus Christ.

Sinner, coming sinner, art thou for coming to Jesus Christ?  Yes, says the sinner.  Forsake thy wicked ways then.  So I do, says the sinner.

Why comest thou then so slowly?  Because I am hindered.  What hinders?  Has God forbidden thee?  No.  Art thou not willing to come faster?  Yes, yet I cannot.  Well, prithee be plain with me, and tell me the reason and ground of thy discouragement.  Why, says the sinner, though God forbids me not, and though I am willing to come faster, yet there naturally ariseth this, and that, and the other thought in my heart, that hinders my speed to Jesus Christ.  Sometimes I think I am not chosen; sometimes I think I am not called; sometimes I think I am come too late; and sometimes I think I know not what it is to come.  Also one while I think I have no grace; and then again, that I cannot pray; and then again, I think that I am a very hypocrite.  And these things keep me from coming to Jesus Christ.

Look ye now, did not I tell you so?  There are thoughts yet remaining in the heart, even of those who have forsaken their wicked ways; and with those thoughts they are more plagued than with anything else; because they hinder their coming to Jesus Christ; for the sin of unbelief, which is the original of all these thoughts, is that which besets a coming sinner more easily, than doth his ways (Heb 12:1–4).  But now, since Jesus Christ commands thee to forsake these thoughts, forsake them, coming sinner; and if thou forsake them not, thou transgressest the commands of Christ, and abidest thine own tormentor, and keepest thyself from establishment in grace.  “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established” (Isa 7:9).  Thus you see how Jesus Christ setteth himself against such thoughts, that any way discourage the coming sinner; and thereby truly vindicates the doctrine we have in hand; to wit, that Jesus Christ would not have them, that in truth are coming to him, once think that he will cast them out.  “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Reasons of Observation Third

I come now to the reasons of the observation.

1.  If Jesus Christ should allow thee once to think that he will cast thee out, he must allow thee to think that he will falsify his word; for he hath said, “I will in no wise cast out.”  But Christ would not that thou shouldst count him as one that will falsify his word; for he saith of himself, “I am the truth;” therefore he would not that any that in truth are coming to him, should once think that he will cast them out.

2.  If Jesus Christ should allow the sinner that in truth is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out, then he must allow, and so countenance the first appearance of unbelief; the which he counteth his greatest enemy, and against which he hast bent even his holy gospel.  Therefore Jesus Christ would not that they that in truth are coming to him, should once think that he will cast them out.  See Matthew 14:31; 21:21, Mark 11:23; Luke 24:25.

3.  If Jesus Christ should allow the coming sinner once to think that he will cast him out; then he must allow him to make a question,

Whether he is willing to receive his Father’s gift; for the coming sinner is his Father’s gift; as also says the text; but he testifieth, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”  Therefore Jesus Christ would not have him, that in truth is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out.

4.  If Jesus Christ should allow them once to think, that indeed are coming to him, that he will cast them out, he must allow them to think that he will despise and reject the drawing of his Father.  For no man can come to him but whom the Father draweth.  But it would be high blasphemy, and damnable wickedness once to imagine thus.  Therefore, Jesus Christ would not have him that cometh once think that he will cast him out.

5.  If Jesus Christ should allow those that indeed are coming to him, once to think that he will cast them out, he must allow them to think that he will be unfaithful to the trust and charge that his Father hath committed to him; which is to save, and not to lose anything of that which he hath given unto him to save (John 6:39).  But the Father hath given him a charge to save the coming sinner; therefore it cannot be, that he should allow, that such an one should once think that he will cast him out.

6.  If Jesus Christ should allow that they should once think that are coming to him, that he will cast them out, then he must allow them to think that he will be unfaithful to his office of priesthood; for, as by the first part of it, he paid price for, and ransomed souls, so by the second part thereof, he continually maketh intercession to God for them that come (Heb 7:25).  But he cannot allow us to question his faithful execution of his priesthood.  Therefore he cannot allow us once to think that the coming sinner shall be cast out.

7.  If Jesus Christ should allow us once to think that the coming sinner shall be cast out, then he must allow us to question his will, or power, or merit to save.  But he cannot allow us once to question any of these; therefore not once to think, that the coming sinner shall be cast out.  (1.) He cannot allow them to question his will; for he saith in the text, “I WILL in no wise cast out.”  (2.) He cannot allow us to question his power; for the Holy Ghost saith HE IS ABLE to save to the uttermost them that come.  (3.) He cannot allow them to question the efficacy of his merit; for the blood of Christ cleanseth the comer from all sin, (1 John 1:7), therefore he cannot allow that he that is coming to him should once think that he will cast them out.

8.  If Jesus Christ should allow the coming sinner once to think that he will cast him out, he must allow him to give the lie to the manifest testimony of the Father, Son, and Spirit; yea, to the whole gospel contained in Moses, the prophets, the book of Psalms, and that commonly called the New Testament.  But he cannot allow of this; therefore, not that the coming sinner should once think that he will cast him out.

9.  Lastly, If Jesus Christ should allow him that is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out, he must allow him to question his Father’s oath, which he in truth and righteousness hath taken, that they might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to Jesus Christ.  But he cannot allow this; therefore he cannot allow that the coming sinner should once think that he will cast him out (Heb 6).

USE AND APPLICATION

I come now to make some GENERAL USE AND APPLICATION OF THE WHOLE, and so to draw towards a conclusion.

USE FIRST.—the First Use—A USE OF INFORMATION; And,

First, It informeth us that men by nature are far off from Christ.  Let me a little improve this use, by speaking to these three questions.  1.  Where is he that is coming [but has not come], to Jesus Christ?  2.  What is he that is not coming to Jesus Christ?  3.  Whither is he to go that cometh not to Jesus Christ?

1.  Where is he?

[Answer.] (1.) He is far from God, he is without him, even alienate from him both in his understanding, will, affections, judgment, and conscience (Eph 2:12; 4:18).  (2.) He is far from Jesus Christ, who is the only deliverer of men from hell fire (Psa 73:27).  (3.) He is far from the work of the Holy Ghost, the work of regeneration, and a second creation, without which no man shall see the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3).  (4.) He is far more righteous, from that righteousness that should make him acceptable in God’s sight (Isa 46:12, 13).  (5.) He is under the power and dominion of sin; sin reigneth in and over him; it dwelleth in every faculty of his soul, and member of his body; so that from head to foot there is no place clean (Isa 1:6; Rom 3:9–18).  (6.) He is in the pest-house with Uzziah and excluded the camp of Israel with the lepers (2 Chron 26:21; Num 5:2; Job 36:14).  (7.) His “life is among the unclean.”  He is “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:28).  (8.) He is “in sin,” “in the flesh,” “in death,” “in the snare of the devil,” and is “taken captive by him at his will” (1 Cor 15:17; Rom 8:8; 1 John 3:14; 2 Tim 2:26).  (9.) He is under the curse of the law, and the devil dwells in him, and hath the mastery of him (Gal 3:13; Eph 2:2, 3; Acts 26:18).  (10.) He is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knows not whither he goes; for darkness has blinded his eyes.  (11.) He is in the broad way that leadeth to destruction; and holding on, he will assuredly go in at the broad gate, and so down the stairs to hell.

2.  What is he that cometh not to Jesus Christ?

[Answer.] (1.) He is counted one of God’s enemies (Luke 19:14; Rom 8:7).  (2.) He is a child of the devil, and of hell; for the devil begat him, as to his sinful nature, and hell must swallow him at last, because he cometh not to Jesus Christ (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8; Matt 23:15; Psa 9:17).  (3.) He is a child of wrath, an heir of it; it is his portion, and God will repay it him to his face (Eph 2:1–3; Job 21:29–31).  (4.) He is a self-murderer; he wrongeth his own soul, and is one that loveth death (Prov 1:18; 8:36).  (5.) He is a companion for devils and damned men (Prov 21:16; Matt 25:41).

3.  Whither is he like to go that cometh not to Jesus Christ?

[Answer.] (1.) He that cometh not to him, is like to go further from him; so every sin is a step further from Jesus Christ (Hosea 11).  (2.) As he is in darkness, so he is like to go on in it; for Christ is the light of the world, and he that comes not to him, walketh in darkness (John 8:12).  (3.) He is like to be removed at last as far from God, and Christ, and heaven, and all felicity, as an infinite God can remove him (Matt 12:41).  But,

Second, This doctrine of coming to Christ informeth us where poor destitute sinners may find life for their souls, and that is in Christ.  This life is in his Son; he that hath the Son, hath life.  And again, “Whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord” (Prov 8:35).  Now, for further enlargement, I will also here propound three more questions: 1.  What life is in Christ?  2.  Who may have it?  3.  Upon what terms?

1.  What life is in Jesus Christ?

[Answer.] (1.) There is justifying life in Christ.  Man by sin is dead in law; and Christ only can deliver him by his righteousness and blood from this death into a state of life.  “For God sent his Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).  That is, through the righteousness which he should accomplish, and the death that he should die.  (2.) There is eternal life in Christ; life that is endless; life for ever and ever.  “He hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11).  Now, justification and eternal salvation being both in Christ, and nowhere else to be had for men, who would not come to Jesus Christ?

2.  Who may have this life?

I answer, Poor, helpless, miserable sinners.  Particularly, (1.) Such as are willing to have it.  “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life” (Rev 22:17).  (2.) He that thirsteth for it.  “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life” (Rev 21:6).  (3.) He that is weary of his sins.  “This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing” (Isa 28:12).  (4.) He that is poor and needy.  “He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy” (Psa 72:13).  (5.) He that followeth after him, crieth for life.  “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

3.  Upon what terms may he have this life?

[Answer.] Freely.  Sinner, dost thou hear.  Thou mayest have it freely.  Let him take the water of life freely.  I will give him of the fountain of the water of life freely.  “And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both” (Luke 7:42).  Freely, without money, or without price.  “Ho!  every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa 55:1).  Sinner, art thou thirsty?  art thou weary?  art thou willing?  Come, then, and regard not your stuff; for all the good that is in Christ is offered to the coming sinner, without money and without price.  He has life to give away to such as want it, and that hath not a penny to purchase it; and he will give it freely.  Oh what a blessed condition is the coming sinner in!  But,

Third, This doctrine of coming to Jesus Christ for life, informeth us, that it is to be had nowhere else.  Might it be had anywhere else, the text, and him that spoke it, would be but little set by; for what greater matter is there in “I will in no wise cast out,” if another stood by that could receive them?  But here appears the glory of Christ, that none but he can save.  And here appears his love, that though none can save but he, yet he is not coy in saving.  “But him that comes to me,” says he, “I will in no wise cast out.”

That none can save but Jesus Christ, is evident from Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other;” and “he hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11).  If life could have been had anywhere else, it should have been in the law.  But it is not in the law; for by the deeds of the law, no man living shall be justified; and if not justified, then no life.  Therefore life is nowhere to be had but in Jesus Christ (Gal 3).

[Question.] But why would God so order it, that life should be had nowhere else but in Jesus Christ?

[Answer.] There is reason for it, and that both with respect to God and us.

1.  With respect to God.

(1.) That it might be in a way of justice as well as mercy.  And in a way of justice it could not have been, if it had not been by Christ; because he, and he only, was able to answer the demand of the law, and give for sin what the justice thereof required.  All angels had been crushed down to hell for ever, had that curse been laid upon them for our sins, which was laid upon Jesus Christ; but it was laid upon him, and he bare it; and answered the penalty, and redeemed his people from under it, with that satisfaction to Divine justice that God himself doth now proclaim, That he is faithful and just to forgive us, if by faith we shall venture to Jesus, and trust to what he has done for life (Rom 3:24–26; John 1:4).  (2.) Life must be by Jesus Christ, that God might be adored and magnified, for finding out this way.  This is the Lord’s doings, that in all things he might be glorified through Jesus Christ our Lord.  (3.) It must be by Jesus Christ, that life might be at God’s dispose, who hath great pity for the poor, the lowly, the meek, the broken in heart, and for them that others care not for (Psa 34:6; 138:6; 25; 51:17; 147:3).  (4.) Life must be in Christ, to cut off boasting from the lips of men.  This also is the apostle’s reason in Romans 3:19, 27 (Eph 2:8–10).

2.  Life must be in Jesus Christ with respect to us.

(1.) That we might have it upon the easiest terms, to wit, freely: as a gift, not as wages.  Was it in Moses’ hand, we should come hardly at it.  Was it in the pope’s hand, we should pay soundly for it.  But thanks be to God, it is in Christ, laid up in him, and by him to be communicated to sinners upon easy terms, even for receiving, accepting, and embracing with thanksgiving; as the Scriptures plainly declare (John 1:11, 12; 2 Cor 11:4; Heb 11:13; Col 3:13–15).  (2.) Life is in Christ FOR US, that it might not be upon so brittle a foundation, as indeed it would had it been anywhere else.  The law itself is weak because of us, as to this.  But Christ is a tried stone, a sure foundation, one that will not fail to bear thy burden, and to receive thy soul, coming sinner.  (3.) Life is in Christ, that it might be sure to all the seed.  Alas!  the best of us, was life left in our hand, to be sure we should forfeit it, over, and over, and over; or, was it in any other hand, we should, by our often backslidings, so offend him, that at last he would shut up his bowels in everlasting displeasure against us.  But now it is in Christ, it is with one that can pity, pray for, pardon, yea, multiply pardons; it is with one that can have compassion upon us, when we are out of the way; with one that hath an heart to fetch us again, when we are gone astray; with one that can pardon without upbraiding.  Blessed be God, that life is in Christ!  For now it is sure to all the seed.  But,

Fourth, This doctrine of coming to Jesus Christ for life informs us of the evil of unbelief; that wicked thing that is the only or chief hindrance to the coming sinner.  Doth the text say, “Come?” Doth it say, “and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out?” Then what an evil is that that keepeth sinners from coming to Jesus Christ!  And that evil is unbelief: for by faith we come; by unbelief we keep away.  Therefore it is said to be that by which a soul is said to depart from God; because it was that which at first caused the world to go off from him, and that also that keeps them from him to this day.  And it doth it the more easily, because it doth it with a wile.

[Of the Sin of Unbelief.]—This sin may be called the white devil, for it oftentimes, in its mischievous doings in the soul, shows as if it was an angel of light: yea, it acteth like a counselor of heaven.  Therefore a little to discourse of this evil disease.

1.  It is that sin, above all others, that hath some show of reason in its attempts.  For it keeps the soul from Christ by pretending its present unfitness and unpreparedness; as want of more sense of sin, want of more repentance, want of more humility, want of a more broken heart.

2.  It is the sin that most suiteth with the conscience: the conscience of the coming sinner tells him that he hath nothing good; that he stands inditeable for ten thousand talents; that he is a very ignorant, blind, and hard-hearted sinner, unworthy to be once taken notice of by Jesus Christ.  And will you, says Unbelief, in such a case as you now are, presume to come to Jesus Christ?

3.  It is the sin that most suiteth with our sense of feeling.  The coming sinner feels the workings of sin, of all manner of sin and wretchedness in his flesh; he also feels the wrath and judgment of God due to sin, and ofttimes staggers under it.  Now, says Unbelief, you may see you have no grace; for that which works in you is corruption.  You may also perceive that God doth not love you, because the sense of his wrath abides upon you.  Therefore, how can you bear the face to come to Jesus Christ?

4.  It is that sin, above all others, that most suiteth with the wisdom of our flesh.  The wisdom of our flesh thinks it prudent to question awhile, to stand back awhile, to hearken to both sides awhile; and not to be rash, sudden, or unadvised, in too bold a presuming upon Jesus Christ.  And this wisdom unbelief falls in with.

5.  It is that sin, above all other, that continually is whispering the soul in the ear with mistrusts of the faithfulness of God, in keeping promise to them that come to Jesus Christ for life.  It also suggests mistrust about Christ’s willingness to receive it, and save it.  And no sin can do this so artificially as unbelief.

6.  It is also that sin which is always at hand to enter an objection against this or that promise that by the Spirit of God is brought to our heart to comfort us; and if the poor coming sinner is not aware of it, it will, by some evasion, slight, trick, or cavil, quickly wrest from him the promise again, and he shall have but little benefit of it.

7.  It is that, above all other sins, that weakness our prayers, our faith, our love, our diligence, our hope, and expectations: it even taketh the heart away from God in duty.

8.  Lastly, This sin, as I have said even now, it appeareth in the soul with so many sweet pretences to safety and security, that it is, as it were, counsel sent from heaven; bidding the soul be wise, wary, considerate, well-advised, and to take heed of too rash a venture upon believing.  Be sure, first, that God loves you; take hold of no promise until you are forced by God unto it; neither be you sure of your salvation; doubt it still, though the testimony of the Lord has been often confirmed in you.  Live not by faith, but by sense; and when you can neither see nor feel, then fear and mistrust, then doubt and question all.  This is the devilish counsel of unbelief, which is so covered over with specious pretences, that the wisest Christian can hardly shake off these reasonings.

[Qualities of unbelief as opposed to faith.]—But to be brief.  Let me here give thee, Christian reader, a more particular description of the qualities of unbelief, by opposing faith unto it, in these twenty-five particulars:—

1.  Faith believeth the Word of God; but unbelief questioneth the certainty of the same (Psa 106:24).

2.  Faith believeth the Word, because it is true; but unbelief doubteth thereof, because it is true (1 Tim 4:3; John 8:45).

3.  Faith sees more in a promise of God to help, than in all other things to hinder; but unbelief, notwithstanding God’s promise, saith, How can these things be?  (Rom 4:19–21; 2 Kings 7:2; John 3:11, 12).

4.  Faith will make thee see love in the heart of Christ, when with his mouth he giveth reproofs; but unbelief will imagine wrath in his heart, when with his mouth and Word he saith he loves us (Matt 15:22, 28; Num 13; 2 Chron 14:3).

5.  Faith will help the soul to wait, though God defers to give; but unbelief will take huff and throw up all, if God makes any tarrying (Psa 25:5; Isa 8:17; 2 Kings 6:33; Psa 106:13, 14).

6.  Faith will give comfort in the midst of fears; but unbelief causeth fears in the midst of comfort (2 Chron 20:20, 21; Matt 8:26; Luke 24:26; 27).

7.  Faith will suck sweetness out of God’s rod; but unbelief can find no comfort in his greatest mercies (Psa 23:4; Num 21).

8.  Faith maketh great burdens light; but unbelief maketh light ones intolerably heavy (2 Cor 4:1; 14–18; Mal 1:12, 13).

9.  Faith helpeth us when we are down; but unbelief throws us down when we are up (Micah 7:8–10; Heb 4:11).

10.  Faith bringeth us near to God when we are far from him; but unbelief puts us far from God when we are near to him (Heb 10:22; 3:12, 13).

11.  Where faith reigns, it declareth men to be the friends of God; but where unbelief reigns, it declareth them to be his enemies (John 3:23; Heb 3:18; Rev 21:8).

12.  Faith putteth a man under grace; but unbelief holdeth him under wrath (Rom 3:24–26; 14:6; Eph 2:8; John 3:36; 1 John 5:10; Heb 3:17; Mark 16:16).

13.  Faith purifieth the heart; but unbelief keepeth it polluted and impure (Acts 15:9; Titus 1:15, 16).

14.  By faith, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; but by unbelief, we are shut up under the law to perish (Rom 4:23, 24; 11:32; Gal 3:23).

15.  Faith maketh our work acceptable to God through Christ; but whatsoever is of unbelief is sin.  For without faith it is impossible to please him (Heb 11:4; Rom 14:23; Heb 6:6).

16.  Faith giveth us peace and comfort in our souls; but unbelief worketh trouble and tossings, like the restless waves of the sea (Rom 5:1; James 1:6).

17.  Faith maketh us to see preciousness in Christ; but unbelief sees no form, beauty, or comeliness in him (1 Peter 2:7; Isa 53:2, 3).

18.  By faith we have our life in Christ’s fullness; but by unbelief we starve and pine away (Gal 2:20).

19.  Faith gives us the victory over the law, sin, death, the devil, and all evils; but unbelief layeth us obnoxious to them all (1 John 5:4, 5; Luke 12:46).

20.  Faith will show us more excellency in things not seen, than in them that are; but unbelief sees more in things that are seen, than in things that will be hereafter;.  (2 Cor 4:18; Heb 11:24–27; 1 Cor 15:32).

21.  Faith makes the ways of God pleasant and admirable; but unbelief makes them heavy and hard (Gal 5:6; 1 Cor 12:10, 11; John 6:60; Psa 2:3).

22.  By faith Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob possessed the land of promise; but because of unbelief, neither Aaron, nor Moses, nor Miriam could get thither (Heb 11:9; 3:19).

23.  By faith the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea; but by unbelief the generality of them perished in the wilderness (Heb 11:29; Jude 5).

24.  By faith Gideon did more with three hundred men, and a few empty pitchers, than all the twelve tribes could do, because they believed not God (Judg 7:16–22; Num 14:11, 14).

25.  By faith Peter walked on the water; but by unbelief he began to sink (Matt 14:28–30).

Thus might many more be added, which, for brevity’s sake, I omit; beseeching every one that thinketh he hath a soul to save, or be damned, to take heed of unbelief; lest, seeing there is a promise left us of entering into his rest, any of us by unbelief should indeed come short of it.

USE SECOND.  The Second Use—A USE OF EXAMINATION

We come now to a use of examination.  Sinner, thou hast heard of the necessity of coming to Christ; also of the willingness of Christ to receive the coming soul; together with the benefit that they by him shall have that indeed come to him.  Put thyself now upon this serious inquiry, Am I indeed come to Jesus Christ?

Motives plenty I might here urge, to prevail with thee to a conscientious performance of this duty.  As, 1.  Thou art in sin, in the flesh, in death, in the snare of the devil, and under the curse of the law, if you are not coming to Jesus Christ.  2.  There is no way to be delivered from these, but by coming to Jesus Christ.  3.  If thou comest, Jesus Christ will receive thee, and will in no wise cast thee out.  4.  Thou wilt not repent it in the day of judgment, if now thou comest to Jesus Christ.  5.  But thou wilt surely mourn at last, if now thou shalt refuse to come.  6.  And lastly, Now thou hast been invited to come; now will thy judgment be greater, and thy damnation more fearful, if thou shalt yet refuse, than if thou hadst never heard of coming to Christ.

Object.  But we hope we are come to Jesus Christ.

Answer.  It is well if it proves so.  But lest thou shouldst speak without ground, and so fall unawares into hell-fire, let us examine a little.

First, Art thou indeed come to Jesus Christ?  What hast thou left behind thee?  What didst thou come away from, in thy coming to Jesus Christ?

When Lot came out of Sodom, he left the Sodomites behind him (Gen 19).  When Abraham came out of Chaldea, he left his country and kindred behind him (Gen 12; Acts 7).  When Ruth came to put her trust under the wings of the Lord God of Israel, she left her father and mother, her gods, and the land of her nativity, behind her (Ruth 1:15–17; 2:11, 12).  When Peter came to Christ, he left his nets behind him (Matt 4:20).  When Zaccheus came to Christ, he left the receipt of custom behind him (Luke 19).  When Paul came to Christ, he left his own righteousness behind him (Phil 3:7, 8).  When those that used curious arts came to Jesus Christ, they took their curious books and burned them; though, in another man’s eye, they were counted worth fifty thousand pieces of silver (Acts 19:18–20).

What sayest thou, man?  Hast thou left thy darling sins, thy Sodomitish pleasures, thy acquaintance and vain companions, thy unlawful gain, thy idol-gods, thy righteousness, and thy unlawful curious arts, behind thee?  If any of these be with thee, and thou with them, in thy heart and life, thou art not yet come to Jesus Christ.

Second, Art thou come to Jesus Christ?  Prithee tell me what moved thee to come to Jesus Christ?

Men do not usually come or go to this or that place, before they have a moving cause, or rather a cause moving them thereto.  No more do they come to Jesus Christ—I do not say, before they have a cause, but—before that cause moveth them to come.  What sayest thou?  Hast thou a cause moving thee to come?  To be at present in a state of condemnation, is cause sufficient for men to come to Jesus Christ for life.  But that will not do, except the cause move them; the which it will never do, until their eyes be opened to see themselves in that condition.  For it is not a man’s being under wrath, but his seeing it, that moveth him to come to Jesus Christ.  Alas!  all men by sin are under wrath; yet but few of that all come to Jesus Christ.  And the reason is, because they do not see their condition.  “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt 3:7).  Until men are warned, and also receive the warning, they will not come to Jesus Christ.

Take three or four instances for this.  Adam and Eve came not to Jesus Christ until they received the alarm, the conviction of their undone state by sin.  (Gen 3) The children of Israel cried not out for a mediator before they saw themselves in danger of death by the law (Exo 20:18, 19).  Before the publican came, he saw himself lost and undone (Luke 18:13).  The prodigal came not, until he saw death at the door, ready to devour him (Luke 15:17, 18).  The three thousand came not, until they knew not what to do to be saved (Acts 2:37–39).  Paul came not, until he saw himself lost and undone (Acts 9:3–8, 11).  Lastly, Before the jailer came, he saw himself undone (Acts 16:29–31).  And I tell thee, it is an easier thing to persuade a well man to go to the physician for cure, or a man without hurt to seek for a plaster to cure him, than it is to persuade a man that sees not his soul-disease, to come to Jesus Christ.  The whole have no need of the physician; then why should they go to him?  The full pitcher can hold no more; then why should it go to the fountain?  And if thou comest full, thou comest not aright; and be sure Christ will send thee empty away.  “But he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Mark 2:17; Psa 147:3; Luke 1:53).

Third, Art thou coming to Jesus Christ?  Prithee tell me, What seest thou in him to allure thee to forsake all the world, to come to him?

I say, What hast thou seen in him?  Men must see something in Jesus Christ, else they will not come to him.  1.  What comeliness hast thou seen in his person?  thou comest not, if thou seest no form nor comeliness in him (Isa 53:1–3).  2.  Until those mentioned in the Song were convinced that there was more beauty, comeliness, and desirableness in Christ, than in ten thousand, they did not so much as ask where he was, nor incline to turn aside after him (Song 5, 6).

There be many things on this side heaven that can and do carry away the heart; and so will do, so long as thou livest, if thou shalt be kept blind, and not be admitted to see the beauty of the Lord Jesus.

Fourth, Art thou come to the Lord Jesus?  What hast thou found in him, since thou camest to him?

Peter found with him the word of eternal life (John 6:68).  They that Peter makes mention of, found him a living stone, even such a living stone as communicated life to them (1 Peter 2:4, 5).  He saith himself, they that come to him, &c., shall find rest unto their souls; hast thou found rest in him for thy soul?  (Matt 11:28).

Let Us Go Back to the Times of the Old Testament

1.  Abraham found THAT in him, that made him leave his country for him, and become for his sake a pilgrim and stranger in the earth (Gen 12; Heb 11).

2.  Moses found THAT in him, that made him forsake a crown, and a kingdom for him too.

3.  David found so much in him, that he counted to be in his house one day was better than a thousand; yea, to be a door-keeper therein was better, in his esteem, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psa 84:10).

4.  What did Daniel and the three children find in him, to make them run the hazards of the fiery furnace, and the den of lions, for his sake?  (Dan 3, 6).

Let Us Come Down to Martyrs

1.  Stephen found that in him that made him joyful, and quietly yield up his life for his name (Acts 7).

2.  Ignatius found that in Christ that made him choose to go through the torments of the devil, and hell itself, rather than not to have him.—Fox’s Acts and Monuments, vol.  1, p.  52, Anno.  111.  Edit.  1632.

3.  What saw Romanus in Christ, when he said to the raging Emperor, who threatened him with fearful torments, Thy sentence, O Emperor, I joyfully embrace, and refuse not to be sacrificed by as cruel torments as thou canst invent?—Fox, vol.  1, p.  116.

4.  What saw Menas, the Egyptian, in Christ, when he said, under most cruel torments, There is nothing in my mind that can be compared to the kingdom of heaven; neither is all the world, if it was weighed in a balance, to be preferred with the price of one soul?  Who is able to separate us from the love of Jesus Christ our Lord?  And I have learned of my Lord and King not to fear them that kill the body, &c.  P.  117.

5.  What did Eulalia see in Christ, when she said, as they were pulling her one joint from another, Behold, O Lord, I will not forget thee.  What a pleasure it is for them, O Christ!  that remember thy triumphant victory?  P.  121.

6.  What think you did Agnes see in Christ, when rejoicingly she went to meet the soldier that was appointed to be her executioner.  I will willingly, said she, receive into my paps the length of this sword, and into my breast will draw the force thereof, even to the hilts; that thus I, being married to Christ my spouse, may surmount and escape all the darkness of this world?  P.  122.

7.  What do you think did Julitta see in Christ, when, at the Emperor’s telling of her, that except she would worship the gods, she should never have protection, laws, judgments, nor life, she replied, Farewell life, welcome death; farewell riches, welcome poverty: all that I have, if it were a thousand times more, would I rather lose, than to speak one wicked and blasphemous word against my Creator?  P.  123.

8.  What did Marcus Arethusius see in Christ, when after his enemies had cut his flesh, anointed it with honey, and hanged him up in a basket for flies and bees to feed on, he would not give, to uphold idolatry, one halfpenny to save his life?  P.  128.

9.  What did Constantine see in Christ, when he used to kiss the wounds of them that suffered for him?  P.  135.

10.  But what need I give thus particular instances of words and smaller actions, when by their lives, their blood, their enduring hunger, sword, fire, pulling asunder, and all torments that the devil and hell could devise, for the love they bare to Christ, after they were come to him?

What Hast THOU Found in Him, Sinner?

What!  come to Christ, and find nothing in him!—when all things that are worth looking after are in him!—or if anything, yet not enough to wean thee from thy sinful delights, and fleshly lusts!  Away, away, thou art not coming to Jesus Christ.

He that has come to Jesus Christ, hath found in him, that, as I said, that is not to be found anywhere else.  As,

1.  He that is come to Christ hath found God in him reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.  And so God is not to be found in heaven and earth besides (2 Cor 5:19, 20).

2.  He that is come to Jesus Christ hath found in him a fountain of grace, sufficient, not only to pardon sin, but to sanctify the soul, and to preserve it from falling, in this evil world.

3.  He that is come to Jesus Christ hath found virtue in him; THAT virtue, that if he does but touch thee with his Word, or thou him by faith, life is forthwith conveyed into thy soul.  It makes thee wake as one that is waked out of his sleep; it awakes all the powers of the soul (Psa 30:11, 12; Song 6:12).

4.  Art thou come to Jesus Christ?  Thou hast found glory in him, glory that surmounts and goes beyond.  “Thou art more glorious-than the mountains of prey” (Psa 76:4).

5.  What shall I say?  Thou hast found righteousness in him; thou hast found rest, peace, delight, heaven, glory, and eternal life.

Sinner, be advised; ask thy heart again, saying, Am I come to Jesus Christ?  For upon this one question, Am I come, or, am I not?  hangs heaven and hell as to thee.  If thou canst say, I am come, and God shall approve that saying, happy, happy, happy man art thou!  But if thou art not come, what can make thee happy?  yea, what can make that man happy that, for his not coming to Jesus Christ for life, must be damned in hell?

USE THIRD.—the Third Use—A USE OF ENCOURAGEMENT

Coming sinner, I have now a word for thee; be of good comfort, “He will in no wise cast out.”  Of all men, thou art the blessed of the Lord; the Father hath prepared his Son to be a sacrifice for thee, and Jesus Christ, thy Lord, is gone to prepare a place for thee (John 1:29; Heb 10).  What shall I say to thee?

[First,] Thou comest to a FULL Christ; thou canst not want anything for soul or body, for this world or that to come, but it is to be had in or by Jesus Christ.  As it is said of the land that the Danites went to possess, so, and with much more truth, it may be said of Christ; he is such an one with whom there is no want of any good thing that is in heaven or earth.  A full Christ is thy Christ.

1.  He is full of grace.  Grace is sometimes taken for love; never any loved like Jesus Christ.  Jonathan’s love went beyond the love of women; but the love of Christ passes knowledge.  It is beyond the love of all the earth, of all creatures, even of men and angels.  His love prevailed with him to lay aside his glory, to leave the heavenly place, to clothe himself with flesh, to be born in a stable, to be laid in a manger, to live a poor life in the world, to take upon him our sicknesses, infirmities, sins, curse, death, and the wrath that was due to man.  And all this he did for a base, undeserving, unthankful people; yea, for a people that was at enmity with him.  “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom 5:6–10).

2.  He is full of truth.  Full of grace and truth.  Truth, that is, faithfulness in keeping promise, even this of the text, with all other, “I will in no wise cast out” (John 14:6).  Hence it is said, that his words be true, and that he is the faithful God, that keepeth covenant.  And hence it is also that his promises are called truth: “Thou wilt fulfil thy truth unto Jacob, and thy mercy unto Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.”  Therefore it is said again, that both himself and words are truth: “I am the truth, the Scripture of truth” (Dan 10:21).  “Thy word is truth,” (John 17:17; 2 Sam 7:28); “thy law is truth,” (Psa 119:142); and “my mouth,” saith he, “shall speak truth,” (Prov 8:7); see also Ecclesiastes 12:10; Isaiah 25:1; Malachi 2:6; Acts 26:25, 2 Timothy 2:12, 13.  Now, I say, his word is truth, and he is full of truth to fulfil his truth, even to a thousand generations.  Coming sinner, he will not deceive thee; come boldly to Jesus Christ.

3.  He is full of wisdom.  He is made unto us of God wisdom; wisdom to manage the affairs of his church in general, and the affairs of every coming sinner in particular.  And upon this account he is said to be “head over all things,” (1 Cor 1; Eph 1), because he manages all things that are in the world by his wisdom, for the good of his church; all men’s actions, all Satan’s temptations, all God’s providences, all crosses, and disappointments; all things whatever are under the hand of Christ—who is the wisdom of God—and he ordereth them all for good to his church.  And can Christ help it—and be sure he can—nothing shall happen or fall out in the world, but it shall, in despite of all opposition, have a good tendency to his church and people.

4.  He is full of the Spirit, to communicate it to the coming sinner; he hath therefore received it without measure, that he may communicate it to every member of his body, according as every man’s measure thereof is allotted him by the Father.  Wherefore he saith, that he that comes to him, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 3:34; Titus 3:5, 6; Acts 2; John 7:33–39).

5.  He is indeed a storehouse full of all the graces of the Spirit.  “Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16).  Here is more faith, more love, more sincerity, more humility, more of every grace; and of this, even more of this, he giveth to every lowly, humble, penitent coming sinner.  Wherefore, coming soul, thou comest not to a barren wilderness when thou comest to Jesus Christ.

6.  He is full of bowels and compassion: and they shall feel and find it so that come to him for life.  He can bear with thy weaknesses, he can pity thy ignorance, he can be touched with the feeling of thy infirmities, he can affectionately forgive they transgressions, he can heal thy backslidings, and love thee freely.  His compassions fail not; “and he will not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; he can pity them that no eye pities, and be afflicted in all thy afflictions” (Matt 26:41; Heb 5:2; 2:18; Matt 9:2; Hosea 14:4; Eze 16:5, 6; Isa 63:9; Psa 78:38; 86:15; 111:4; 112:4; Lam 3:22; Isa 42:3).

7.  Coming soul, the Jesus that thou art coming to, is full of might and terribleness for thy advantage; he can suppress all thine enemies; he is the Prince of the kings of the earth; he can bow all men’s designs for thy help; he can break all snares laid for thee in the way; he can lift thee out of all difficulties wherewith thou mayest be surrounded; he is wise in heart, and mighty in power.  Every life under heaven is in his hand; yea, the fallen angels tremble before him.  And he will save thy life, coming sinner (1 Cor 1:24; Rom 8:28; Matt 28:18; Rev 4; Psa 19:3; 27:5, 6; Job 9:4; John 17:2; Matt 8:29; Luke 8:28; James 2:19).

8.  Coming sinner, the Jesus to whom thou art coming is lowly in heart, he despiseth not any.  It is not thy outward meanness, nor thy inward weakness; it is not because thou art poor, or base, or deformed, or a fool, that he will despise thee: he hath chosen the foolish, the base, and despised things of this world, to confound the wise and mighty.  He will bow his ear to thy stammering prayers he will pick out the meaning of thy inexpressible groans; he will respect thy weakest offering, if there be in it but thy heart (Matt 11:20; Luke 14:21; Prov 9:4–6; Isa 38:14, 15; Song 5:15; John 4:27; Mark 12:33, 34; James 5:11).  Now, is not this a blessed Christ, coming sinner?  Art thou not like to fare well, when thou hast embraced him, coming sinner?  But,

Second.  Thou hast yet another advantage by Jesus Christ, thou art coming to him, for he is not only full, BUT FREE.  He is not sparing of what he has; he is open-hearted and open-handed.  Let me in a few particulars show thee this:

1.  This is evident, because he calls thee; he calls upon thee to come unto him; the which he would not do, was he not free to give; yea, he bids thee, when come, ask, seek, knock.  And for thy encouragement, adds to every command a promise, “Seek, and ye shall find; ask, and ye shall have; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”  If the rich man should say thus to the poor, would not he be reckoned a free-hearted man?  I say, should he say to the poor, Come to my door, ask at my door, knock at my door, and you shall find and have; would he not be counted liberal?  Why, thus doth Jesus Christ.  Mind it, coming sinner (Isa 55:3; Psa 50:15; Matt 7:7–9).

2.  He doth not only bid thee come, but tells thee, he will heartily do thee good; yea, he will do it with rejoicing; “I will rejoice over them, to do them good-with my whole heart, and with my whole soul” (Jer 32:41).

3.  It appeareth that he is free, because he giveth without twitting.  “He giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1, 5).  There are some that will not deny to do the poor a pleasure, but they will mix their mercies with so many twits, that the persons on whom they bestow their charity shall find but little sweetness in it.  But Christ doth not do so, coming sinner; he casteth all thine iniquities behind his back (Isa 38:17).  Thy sins and iniquities he will remember no more (Heb 8:12).

4.  That Christ is free, is manifest by the complaints that he makes against them that will not come to him for mercy.  I say, he complains, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!  how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt 23:37).  I say, he speaks it by way of complaint.  He saith also in another place, “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob” (Isa 43:22).  Coming sinner, see here the willingness of Christ to save; see here how free he is to communicate life, and all good things, to such as thou art.  He complains, if thou comest not; he is displeased, if thou callest not upon him.  Hark, coming sinner, once again; when Jerusalem would not come to him for safeguard, “he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:41, 42).

5.  Lastly, He is open and free-hearted to do thee good, as is seen by the joy and rejoicing that he manifesteth at the coming home of poor prodigals.  He receives the lost sheep with rejoicing; the lost goat with rejoicing; yea, when the prodigal came home, what joy and mirth, what music and dancing, was in his father’s house!  (Luke 15).

Third.  Coming sinner, I will add another encouragement for thy help.

1.  God hath prepared a mercy-seat, a throne of grace to sit on; that thou mayest come thither to him, and that he may from thence hear thee, and receive thee.  “I will commune with thee,” saith he, “from above the mercy-seat” (Exo 25:22).  As who shall say, sinner, When thou comest to me, thou shalt find me upon the mercy-seat, where also I am always found of the undone coming sinner.  Thither I bring my pardons; there I hear and receive their petitions, and accept them to my favour.

2.  God hath also prepared a golden altar for thee to offer thy prayers and tears upon.  A golden altar!  It is called a “golden altar,” to show what worth it is of in God’s account: for this golden altar is Jesus Christ; this altar sanctifies thy gift, and makes thy sacrifice acceptable.  This altar, then, makes thy groans golden groans; thy tears golden tears; and thy prayers golden prayers, in the eye of that God thou comest to, coming sinner (Rev 8; Matt 23:19; Heb 10:10; 1 Peter 2:5).

3.  God hath strewed all the way, from the gate of hell, where thou wast, to the gate of heaven, whither thou art going, with flowers out of his own garden.  Behold how the promises, invitations, calls, and encouragements, like lilies, lie round about thee!  take heed that thou dost not tread them under foot, sinner.  With promises, did I say?  Yea, he hath mixed all those with his own name, his Son’s name; also, with the name of mercy, goodness, compassion, love, pity, grace, forgiveness, pardon, and what not, that may encourage the coming sinner.

4.  He hath also for thy encouragement laid up the names, and set forth the sins, of those that have been saved.  In this book they are fairly written, that thou, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, mightest have hope.  (1.) In this book is recorded Noah’s maim and sin; and how God had mercy upon him.  (2.) In this record is fairly written the name of Lot, and the nature of his sin; and how the Lord had mercy upon him.  (3.) In this record thou hast also fairly written the names of Moses, Aaron, Gideon, Samson, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul, with the nature of their sins; and how God had mercy upon them; and all to encourage thee, coming sinner.

Fourth.  I will add yet another encouragement for the man that is coming to Jesus Christ.  Art thou coming?  Art thou coming, indeed?  Why,

1.  Then this thy coming is by virtue of God’s call.  Thou art called.  Calling goes before coming.  Coming is not of works, but of him that calleth.  “He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would; and they came unto him” (Mark 3:13).

2.  Art thou coming?  This is also by virtue of illumination.  God has made thee see; and, therefore, thou art coming.  So long as thou wast darkness, thou lovedst darkness, and couldst not abide to come, because thy deeds were evil; but being now illuminated and made to see what and where thou art, and also what and where thy Saviour is, now thou art coming to Jesus Christ; “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,” saith Christ, “but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 16:17).

3.  Art thou coming?  This is because God hath inclined thine heart to come.  God hath called thee, illuminated thee, and inclined thy heart to come; and, therefore, thou comest to Jesus Christ.  It is God that worketh in thee to will, and to come to Jesus Christ.  Coming sinner, bless God for that he hath given thee a will to come to Jesus Christ.  It is a sign that thou belongest to Jesus Christ, because God has made thee willing to come to him (Psa 110:3).  Bless God for slaying the enmity of thy mind; had he not done it, thou wouldst as yet have hated thine own salvation.

4.  Art thou coming to Jesus Christ?  It is God that giveth thee power: power to pursue thy will in the matters of thy salvation, is the gift of God.  “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do” (Phil 2:13).  Not that God worketh will to come, where he gives no power; but thou shouldest take notice, that power is an additional mercy.  The church saw that will and power were two things, when she cried, “Draw me, we will run after thee” (Song 1:4).  And so did David too, when he said, “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (Psa 119:32).  Will to come, and power to pursue thy will, is double mercy, coming sinner.

5.  All thy strange, passionate, sudden rushings forward after Jesus Christ, coming sinners know what I mean, they also are thy helps from God.  Perhaps thou feelest at some times more than at others, strong stirrings up of heart to fly to Jesus Christ; now thou hast at this time a sweet and stiff gale of the Spirit of God, filling thy sails with the fresh gales of his good Spirit; and thou ridest at those times as upon the wings of the wind, being carried out beyond thyself, beyond the most of thy prayers, and also above all thy fear and temptations.

6.  Coming sinner, hast thou not now and then a kiss of the sweet lips of Jesus Christ, I mean some blessed word dropping like a honey-comb upon thy soul to revive thee, when thou art in the midst of thy dumps?

7.  Does not Jesus Christ sometimes give thee a glimpse of himself, though perhaps thou seest him not so long a time as while one may tell twenty.

8.  Hast thou not sometimes as it were the very warmth of his wings overshadowing the face of thy soul, that gives thee as it were a gload upon thy spirit, as the bright beams of the sun do upon thy body, when it suddenly breaks out of a cloud, though presently all is gone away?  Well, all these things are the good hand of thy God upon thee, and they are upon thee to constrain, to provoke, and to make thee willing and able to come, coming sinner, that thou mightest in the end be saved.

Bunyan, J. (2006).  Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol. 1, pp. 271–273).  Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.  (Public Domain)

 

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Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 19

Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 19

Comers Ofttimes Afraid That Christ Will Not Receive Them

OBSERVATION SECOND.—I come now to the second observation propounded to be spoken to, to wit, That they that are coming to Jesus Christ, are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them.

I told you that this observation is implied in the text; and I gather it,

First, From the largeness and openness of the promise: “I will in no wise cast out.”  For had there not been a proneness in us to “fear casting out,”  Christ needed not to have, as it were, waylaid our fear, as he doth by this great and strange expression, “In no wise;”  “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”  There needed not, as I may say, such a promise to be invented by the wisdom of heaven, and worded at such a rate, as it were on purpose to dash in pieces at one blow all the objections of coming sinners, if they were not prone to admit of such objections, to the discouraging of their own souls.  For this word, “in no wise,” cutteth the throat of all objections; and it was dropped by the Lord Jesus for that very end; and to help the faith that is mixed with unbelief.  And it is, as it were, the sum of all promises; neither can any objection be made upon the unworthiness that thou findest in thee, that this promise will not assoil.

    But I am a great sinner, sayest thou.

    “I will in no wise cast out,”  says Christ.

    But I am an old sinner, sayest thou.

    “I will in no wise cast out,”  says Christ.

    But I am a hard-hearted sinner, sayest thou.

    “I will in no wise cast out,”  says Christ.

    But I am a backsliding sinner, sayest thou.

    “I will in no wise cast out,”  says Christ.

    But I have served Satan all my days, sayest thou.

    “I will in no wise cast out,”  says Christ.

    But I have sinned against light, sayest thou.

    “I will in no wise cast out,”  says Christ.

    But I have sinned against mercy, sayest thou.

    “I will in no wise cast out,”  says Christ.

    But I have no good thing to bring with me, sayest thou.

    “I will in no wise cast out,”  says Christ.

Thus I might go on to the end of things, and show you, that still this promise was provided to answer all objections, and doth answer them.  But I say, what need it be, if they that are coming to Jesus Christ are not sometimes, yea, oftentimes, heartily afraid, “that Jesus Christ will cast them out?”

Second, I will give you now two instances that seem to imply the truth of this observation.

In the ninth of Matthew, at the second verse, you read of a man that was sick of the palsy; and he was coming to Jesus Christ, being borne upon a bed by his friends: he also was coming himself, and that upon another account than any of his friends were aware of; even for the pardon of sins, and the salvation of his soul.  Now, so soon as ever he was come into the presence of Christ, Christ bids him “be of good cheer.”  It seems then, his heart was fainting; but what was the cause of his fainting?  Not his bodily infirmity, for the cure of which his friends did bring him to Christ; but the guilt and burden of his sins, for the pardon of which himself did come to him; therefore he proceeds, “Be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.”  I say, Christ saw him sinking in his mind, about how it would go with his most noble part; and therefore, first, he applies himself to him upon that account.  For though his friends had faith enough as to the cure of the body, yet he himself had little enough as to the cure of his soul: therefore Christ takes him up as a man falling down, saying, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.”

That about the Prodigal seems pertinent also to this matter: “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.”  Heartily spoken; but how did he perform his promise?  I think not so well as he promised to do; and my ground for my thoughts is, because his father, so soon as he was come to him, fell upon his neck and kissed him; implying, methinks, as if the prodigal by this time was dejected in his mind; and therefore his father gives him the most sudden and familiar token of reconciliation.  And kisses were of old time often used to remove doubts and fears.  Thus Laban and Esau kiss Jacob.  Thus Joseph kissed his brethren; and thus also David kissed Absalom (Gen 31:55; 33:1–4; 48:9, 10; 2 Sam 14:33).  It is true, as I said, at first setting out, he spake heartily, as sometimes sinners also do in their beginning to come to Jesus Christ; but might not he, yea, in all probability he had, between the first step he took, and the last, by which he accomplished that journey, many a thought, both this way and that; as whether his father would receive him or no?  As thus: I said, “I would go to my Father.”  But how, if when I come at him he should ask me, Where I have all this while been?  What must I say then?  Also, if he ask me, What is become of the portion of goods that he gave me?  What shall I say then?  If he asks me, Who have been my companions?  What shall I say then?  If he also shall ask me, What hath been my preferment in all the time of my absence from him?  What shall I say then?  Yea, and if he ask me, Why I came home no sooner?  What shall I say then?  Thus, I say, might he reason with himself, and being conscious to himself, that he could give but a bad answer to any of these interrogatories, no marvel if he stood in need first of all of a kiss from his father’s lips.  For had he answered the first in truth, he must say, I have been a haunter of taverns and ale-houses; and as for my portion, I spent it in riotous living; my companions were whores and drabs; as for my preferment, the highest was, that I became a hog-herd; and as for my not coming home till now, could I have made shift to have staid abroad any longer, I had not lain at thy feet for mercy now.

I say, these things considered, and considering, again, how prone poor man is to give way, when truly awakened, to despondings and heart misgivings, no marvel if he did sink in his mind, between the time of his first setting out, and that of his coming to his Father.

Third, But, thirdly, methinks I have for the confirmation of this truth the consent of all the saints that are under heaven, to wit, That they that are coming to Jesus Christ, are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them.

Question.  But what should be the reason?  I will answer to this question thus:

1.  It is not for want of the revealed will of God, that manifesteth grounds for the contrary, for of that there is a sufficiency; yea, the text itself hath laid a sufficient foundation for encouragement, for them that are coming to Jesus Christ.  “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

2.  It is not for want of any invitation to come, for that is full and plain.  “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”  (Matt 11:28).

3.  Neither is it for want of a manifestation of Christ’s willingness to receive, as those texts above named, with that which follows, declareth, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink”  (John 7:37).

4.  It is not for want of exceeding great and precious promises to receive them that come.  “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty”  (2 Cor 6:17, 18).

5.  It is not for want of solemn oath and engagement to save them that come.  “For-because he could swear by no greater, he swear by himself-that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us”  (Heb 6:13–18).

6.  Neither is it for want of great examples of God’s mercy, that have come to Jesus Christ, of which we read most plentifully in the Word.  Therefore, it must be concluded, it is for want of that which follows.

What it is that prevents the Coming to Christ

First, It is for want of the knowledge of Christ.  Thou knowest but little of the grace and kindness that is in the heart of Christ; thou knowest but little of the virtue and merit of his blood; thou knowest but little of the willingness that is in his heart to save thee; and this is the reason of the fear that ariseth in thy heart, and that causeth thee to doubt that Christ will not receive thee.  Unbelief is the daughter of Ignorance.  Therefore Christ saith, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe”  (Luke 24:25).

Slowness of heart to believe, flows from thy foolishness in the things of Christ; this is evident to all that are acquainted with themselves, and are seeking after Jesus Christ.  The more ignorance, the more unbelief.  The more knowledge of Christ, the more faith.  “They that know thy name will put their trust in thee”  (Psa 9:10).  He, therefore, that began to come to Christ but the other day, and hath yet but little knowledge of him, he fears that Christ will not receive him.  But he that hath been longer acquainted with him, he “is strong, and hath overcome the wicked one”  (1 John 2:13).  When Joseph’s brethren came into Egypt to buy corn, it is said, “Joseph knew his brethren, but his brethren knew not him.”  What follows?  Why, great mistrust of heart about their speeding well; especially, if Joseph did but answer them roughly, calling them spies, and questioning their truth and the like.  And observe it, so long as their ignorance about their brother remained with them, whatsoever Joseph did, still they put the worse sense upon it.  For instance, Joseph upon a time bids the steward of his house bring them home, to dine with him, to dine even in Joseph’s house.  And how is this resented by them?  Why, they are afraid.  “And the men were afraid, because they were brought unto”  their brother “Joseph’s house.”  And they said, He seeketh occasion against us, and will fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses (Gen 42, 43).  What!  afraid to go to Joseph’s house?  He was their brother; he intended to feast them; to feast them, and to feast with them.  Ah!  but they were ignorant that he was their brother.  And so long as their ignorance lasted, so long their fear terrified them.  Just thus it is with the sinner that but of late is coming to Jesus Christ.  He is ignorant of the love and pity that is in Christ to coming sinners.  Therefore he doubts, therefore he fears, therefore his heart misgives him.

Coming sinner, Christ inviteth thee to dine and sup with him.  He inviteth thee to a banquet of wine, yea, to come into his wine-cellar, and his banner over thee shall be love (Rev 3:20; Song 2:5).  But I doubt it, says the sinner: but, it is answered, he calls thee, invites thee to his banquet, flagons, apples; to his wine, and to the juice of his pomegranate.  “O, I fear, I doubt, I mistrust, I tremble in expectation of the contrary!”  Come out of the man, thou dastardly ignorance!  Be not afraid, sinner, only believe; “He that cometh to Christ he will in no wise cast out.”

Let the coming sinner, therefore, seek after more of the good knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Press after it, seek it as silver, and dig for it as for hid treasure.  This will embolden thee; this will make thee wax stronger and stronger.  “I know whom I have believed,”  I know him, said Paul; and what follows?  Why, “and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him, against that day”  (2 Tim 1:12).  What had Paul committed to Jesus Christ?  The answer is, He had committed to him his soul.  But why did he commit his soul to him?  Why, because he knew him.  He knew him to be faithful, to be kind.  He knew he would not fail him, nor forsake him; and therefore he laid his soul down at his feet, and committed it to him, to keep against that day.  But,

Second, Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may be also a consequent of thy earnest and strong desires after thy salvation by him.  For this I observe, that strong desires to have, are attended with strong fears of missing.  What man most sets his heart upon, and what his desires are most after, he ofttimes most fears he shall not obtain.  So the man, the ruler of the synagogue, had a great desire that his daughter should live; and that desire was attended with fear, that she should not.  Wherefore, Christ saith unto him, “Be not afraid”  (Mark 5:36).

Suppose a young man should have his heart much set upon a virgin to have her to wife, if ever he fears he shall not obtain her, it is when he begins to love; now, thinks he, somebody will step in betwixt my love and the object of it; either they will find fault with my person, my estate, my conditions, or something!  Now thoughts begin to work; she doth not like me, or something.  And thus it is with the soul at first coming to Jesus Christ, thou lovest him, and thy love produceth jealousy, and that jealousy ofttimes begets fears.

Now thou fearest the sins of thy youth, the sins of thine old age, the sins of thy calling, the sins of thy Christian duties, the sins of thine heart, or something; thou thinkest something or other will alienate the heart and affections of Jesus Christ from thee; thou thinkest he sees something in thee, for the sake of which he will refuse thy soul.  But be content, a little more knowledge of him will make thee take better heart; thy earnest desires shall not be attended with such burning fears; thou shalt hereafter say, “This is my infirmity”  (Psa 77:10).

Thou art sick of love, a very sweet disease, and yet every disease has some weakness attending of it: yet I wish this distemper, if it be lawful to call it so, was more epidemical.  Die of this disease I would gladly do; it is better than life itself, though it be attended with fears.  But thou criest, I cannot obtain: well, be not too hasty in making conclusions.  If Jesus Christ had not put his finger in at the hole of the lock, thy bowels would not have been troubled for him (Song 5:4).  Mark how the prophet hath it, “They shall walk after the Lord; he shall roar like a lion; when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west, they shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria”  (Hosea 11:10, 11).  When God roars (as ofttimes the coming soul hears him roar), what man that is coming can do otherwise than tremble?  (Amos 3:8).  But trembling he comes: “He sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas”  (Acts 16:29).

Should you ask him that we mentioned but now, How long is it since you began to fear you should miss of this damsel you love so?  The answer will be, Ever since I began to love her.  But did you not fear it before?  No, nor should I fear it now, but that I vehemently love her.  Come, sinner, let us apply it: How long is it since thou began to fear that Jesus Christ will not receive thee?  Thy answer is, Ever since I began to desire that he would save my soul.  I began to fear, when I began to come; and the more my heart burns in desires after him, the more I feel my heart fear I shall not be saved by him.  See now, did not I tell thee that thy fears were but the consequence of strong desires?  Well, fear not, coming sinner, thousands of coming souls are in thy condition, and yet they will get safe into Christ’s bosom: “Say,”  says Christ, “to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; your God will come and save you”  (Isa 35:4; 63:1).

Third, Thy fear that Christ will not receive thee may arise from a sense of thine own unworthiness.  Thou seest what a poor, sorry, wretched, worthless creature thou art; and seeing this, thou fearest Christ will not receive thee.  Alas, sayest thou, I am the vilest of all men; a town-sinner, a ringleading sinner!  I am not only a sinner myself, but have made others twofold worse the children of hell also.  Besides, now I am under some awakenings and stirrings of mind after salvation, even now I find my heart rebellious, carnal, hard, treacherous, desperate, prone to unbelief, to despair: it forgetteth the Word; it wandereth; it runneth to the ends of the earth.  There is not, I am persuaded, one in all the world that hath such a desperate wicked heart as mine is; my soul is careless to do good, but none more earnest to do that which is evil.

Can such a one as I am, live in glory?  Can a holy, a just, and a righteous God, once think (with honour to his name) of saving such a vile creature as I am?  I fear it.  Will he show wonders to such a dead dog as I am?  I doubt it.  I am cast out to the loathing of my person, yea, I loath myself; I stink in mine own nostrils.  How can I then be accepted by a holy and sin-abhorring God?  (Psa 38:5–7; Eze 11; 20:42, 44).  Saved I would be; and who is there that would not, were they in my condition?  Indeed, I wonder at the madness and folly of others, when I see them leap and skip so carelessly about the mouth of hell!  Bold sinner, how darest thou tempt God, by laughing at the breach of his holy law?  But alas!  they are not so bad one way, but I am worse another: I wish myself were anybody but myself; and yet here again, I know not what to wish.  When I see such as I believe are coming to Jesus Christ, O I bless them!  But I am confounded in myself, to see how unlike, as I think, I am to every good man in the world.  They can read, hear, pray, remember, repent, be humble, do everything better than so vile a wretch as I.  I, vile wretch, am good for nothing but to burn in hell-fire, and when I think of that, I am confounded too!

Thus the sense of unworthiness creates and heightens fears in the hearts of them that are coming to Jesus Christ; but indeed it should not; for who needs the physician but the sick?  or who did Christ come into the world to save, but the chief of sinners?  (Mark 2:17; 1 Tim 1:15).  Wherefore, the more thou seest thy sins, the faster fly thou to Jesus Christ.  And let the sense of thine own unworthiness prevail with thee yet to go faster.  As it is with the man that carrieth his broken arm in a sling to the bone-setter, still as he thinks of his broken arm, and as he feels the pain and anguish, he hastens his pace to the man.  And if Satan meets thee, and asketh, Whither goest thou?  tell him thou art maimed, and art going to the Lord Jesus.  If he objects thine own unworthiness, tell him, That even as the sick seeketh the physician; as he that hath broken bones seeks him that can set them; so thou art going to Jesus Christ for cure and healing for thy sin sick soul.  But it ofttimes happeneth to him that flies for his life, he despairs of escaping, and therefore delivers himself up into the hand of the pursuer.  But up, up, sinner; be of good cheer, Christ came to save the unworthy ones: be not faithless, but believe.  Come away, man, the Lord Jesus calls thee, saying, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Fourth.  Thy fear that Christ will not receive thee, may arise from a sense of the exceeding mercy of being saved; sometimes salvation is in the eyes of him that desires so great, so huge, so wonderful a thing, that the very thoughts of the excellency of it, engenders unbelief about obtaining it, in the heart of those that unfeignedly desire it.  “Seemeth it to you,”  saith David, “a light thing to be a king’s son-in-law?”  (1 Sam 18:23).  So the thoughts of the greatness and glory of the thing propounded, as heaven, eternal life, eternal glory, to be with God, and Christ, and angels; these are great things, things too good, saith the soul that is little in his own eyes; things too rich, saith the soul that is truly poor in spirit, for me.

Besides, the Holy Ghost hath a way to greaten heavenly things to the understanding of the coming sinner; yea, and at the same time to greaten, too, the sin and unworthiness of that sinner.  Now the soul staggeringly wonders, saying, What!  to be made like angels, like Christ, to live in eternal bliss, joy, and felicity!  This is for angels, and for them that can walk like angels!  If a prince, a duke, an earl, should send (by the hand of his servant) for some poor, sorry, beggarly scrub, to take her for his master to wife, and the servant should come and say, My lord and master, such an one hath sent me to thee, to take thee to him to wife; he is rich, beautiful, and of excellent qualities; he is loving, meek, humble, well-spoken, &c.  What now would this poor, sorry, beggarly creature think?  What would she say?  or how would she frame an answer?  When king David sent to Abigail upon this account, and though she was a rich woman, yet she said, “Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord”  (1 Sam 25:40, 41).  She was confounded, she could not well tell what to say, the offer was so great, beyond what could in reason be expected.

But suppose this great person should second his suit, and send to this sorry creature again, what would she say now?  Would she not say, You mock me?  But what if he affirms that he is in good earnest, and that his lord must have her to wife; yea, suppose he should prevail upon her to credit his message, and to address herself for her journey; yet, behold every thought of her pedigree confounds her; also her sense of want of beauty makes her ashamed; and if she doth but think of being embraced, the unbelief that is mixed with that thought whirls her into tremblings; and now she calls herself fool, for believing the messenger, and thinks not to go; if she thinks of being bold, she blushes; and the least thought that she shall be rejected, when she comes at him, makes her look as if she would give up the ghost.

And is it a wonder, then, to see a soul that is drowned in the sense of glory and a sense of its own nothingness, to be confounded in itself, and to fear that the glory apprehended is too great, too good, and too rich, for such an one?  That thing, heaven and eternal glory, is so great, and I that would have it, so small, so sorry a creature, that the thoughts of obtaining it confounds me.

Thus, I say, doth the greatness of the things desired, quite dash and overthrow the mind of the desirer.  O, it is too big!  it is too big!  it is too great a mercy!  But, coming sinner, let me reason with thee.  Thou sayest, it is too big, too great.  Well, will things that are less satisfy thy soul?  Will a less thing than heaven, than glory and eternal life, answer thy desires?  No, nothing less; and yet I fear they are too big, and too good for me, ever to obtain.  Well, as big and as good as they are, God giveth them to such as thou; they are not too big for God to give; no, not too big to give freely.  Be content; let God give like himself; he is that eternal God, and giveth like himself.  When kings give, they do not use to give as poor men do.  Hence it is said, that Nabal made a feast in his house like the feast of a king; and again, “All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto David”  (1 Sam 25:36; 2 Sam 24:23).  Now, God is a great king, let him give like a king; nay, let him give like himself, and do thou receive like thyself.  He hath all, and thou hast nothing.  God told his people of old, that he would save them in truth and in righteousness, and that they should return to, and enjoy the land, which before, for their sins, had spewed them out; and then adds, under a supposition of their counting the mercy too good, or too big, “If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes?  saith the Lord of hosts”  (Zech 8:6).

As who should say, they are now in captivity, and little in their own eyes; therefore they think the mercy of returning to Canaan is a mercy too marvellously big for them to enjoy; but if it be so in their eyes, it is not so in mine; I will do for them like God, if they will but receive my bounty like sinners.  Coming sinner, God can give his heavenly Canaan, and the glory of it, unto thee; yea, none ever had them but as a gift, a free gift.  He hath given us his Son, “How shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”  (Rom 8:32).

It was not the worthiness of Abraham, or Moses, or David or Peter, or Paul, but the mercy of God, that made them inheritors of heaven.  If God thinks thee worthy, judge not thyself unworthy; but take it, and be thankful.  And it is a good sign he intends to give thee, if he hath drawn out thy heart to ask.  “Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble; thou wilt prepare their heart; thou wilt cause thine ear to hear”  (Psa 10:17).

When God is said to incline his ear, it implies an intention to bestow the mercy desired.  Take it therefore; thy wisdom will be to receive, not sticking at thy own unworthiness.  It is said, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory.”  Again, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people”  (1 Sam 2:8; Psa 113:7, 8).  You see also when God made a wedding for his Son, he called not the great, nor the rich, nor the mighty; but the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind (Matt 12; Luke 14).

Fifth.  Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may arise from the hideous roaring of the devil, who pursues thee.  He that hears him roar, must be a mighty Christian, if he can at that time deliver himself from fear.  He is called a roaring lion; and then to allude to that in Isaiah, “If one look”  into them, they have “darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof”  (1 Peter 5:8; Isa 5:3).

[Two of the devil’s objections.]—There are two things among many that Satan useth to roar out after them that are coming to Jesus Christ.  1.  That they are not elected.  Or, 2.  That they have sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost.  To both these I answer briefly—

1.  [Election.]—Touching election, out of which thou fearest thou art excluded.  Why, coming sinner, even the text itself affordeth thee help against this doubt, and that by a double argument.

(1.) That coming to Christ is by virtue of the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father; but thou art a-coming; therefore God hath given thee, promised thee, and is drawing thee to Jesus Christ.  Coming sinner, hold to this; and when Satan beginneth to roar again, answer, But I feel my heart moving after Jesus Christ; but that would not be, if it were not given by promise, and drawing to Christ by the power of the Father.

(2.) Jesus Christ hath promised, “That him that cometh to him he will in no wise cast out.”  And if he hath said it, will he not make it good, I mean even thy salvation?  For, as I have said already, not to cast out, is to receive and admit to the benefit of salvation.  If then the Father hath given thee, as is manifest by thy coming; and if Christ will receive thee, thou coming soul, as it is plain he will, because he hath said, “He will in no wise cast out;”  then be confident, and let those conclusions, that as naturally flow from the text as light from the sun, or water from the fountain, stay thee.

If Satan therefore objecteth, But thou art not elected; answer, But I am coming, Satan, I am coming; and that I could not be, but that the Father draws me; and I am coming to such a Lord Jesus, as will in no wise cast me out.  Further, Satan, were I not elect, the Father would not draw me, nor would the Son so graciously open his bosom to me.  I am persuaded, that not one of the nonelect shall ever be able to say, no, not in the day of judgment, I did sincerely come to Jesus Christ.  Come they may, feignedly, as Judas and Simon Magus did; but that is not our question.  Therefore, O thou honest-hearted coming sinner, be not afraid, but come.

2.  [Of the sin against the Holy Ghost.]—As to the second part of the objection, about sinning the sin against the Holy Ghost, the same argument overthrows that also.  But I will argue thus:

(1.) Coming to Christ is by virtue of a special gift of the Father; but the Father giveth no such gift to them that have sinned that sin; therefore thou that art coming hast not committed that sin.  That the Father giveth no such gift to them that have sinned that sin is evident—(a.) Because such have sinned themselves out of God’s favour; “They shall never have forgiveness”  (Matt 12:32).  But it is a special favour of God to give unto a man, to come to Jesus Christ; because thereby he obtaineth forgiveness.  Therefore he that cometh hath not sinned that sin.  (b.) They that have sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, have sinned themselves out of an interest in the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood; “There remaineth [for such] no more sacrifice for sins”  (Heb 10:26).  But God giveth not grace to any of them to come to Christ, that have no share in the sacrifice of his body and blood.  Therefore, thou that art coming to him, hast not sinned that sin.

(2.) Coming to Christ is by the special drawing of the Father; “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him”  (John 6:44).  But the Father draweth not him to Christ, for whom he hath not allotted forgiveness by his blood; therefore they that are coming to Jesus Christ have not committed that sin, because he hath allotted them forgiveness by his blood.  That the Father cannot draw them to Jesus Christ, for whom he hath not allotted forgiveness of sins, is manifest to sense: for that would be a plain mockery, a flam, neither becoming his wisdom, justice, holiness, nor goodness.

(3.) Coming to Jesus Christ lays a man under the promise of forgiveness and salvation.  But it is impossible that he that hath sinned that sin should ever be put under a promise of these.  Therefore, he that hath sinned that sin can never have heart to come to Jesus Christ.

(4.) Coming to Jesus Christ lays a man under his intercession.  “For he ever liveth to make intercession for them that come”  (Heb 7:25).  Therefore, he that is coming to Jesus Christ cannot have sinned that sin.  Christ has forbidden his people to pray for them that have sinned that sin; and, therefore, will not pray for them himself, but he prays for them that come.

(5.) He that hath sinned that sin, Christ is to him of no more worth than is a man that is dead; “For he hath crucified to himself the Son of God;”  yea, and hath also counted his precious blood as the blood of an unholy thing.  (Heb 6; 10) Now, he that hath this low esteem of Christ will never come to him for life; but the coming man has an high esteem of his person, blood, and merits.  Therefore, he that is coming has not committed that sin.

(6.) If he that has sinned this sin might yet come to Jesus Christ, then must the truth of God be overthrown; which saith in one place, “He hath never forgiveness;”  and in another, “I will in no wise cast him out.”  Therefore, that he may never have forgiveness, he shall never have heart to come to Jesus Christ.  It is impossible that such an one should be renewed, either to or by repentance (Heb 6).  Wherefore, never trouble thy head nor heart about this matter; he that cometh to Jesus Christ cannot have sinned against the Holy Ghost.

Sixth, Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may arise from thine own folly, in inventing, yea, in thy chalking out to God, a way to bring thee home to Jesus Christ.  Some souls that are coming to Jesus Christ are great tormentors of themselves upon this account; they conclude, that if their coming to Jesus Christ is right, they must needs be brought home thus and thus.

As to instance: 1.  Says one, If God be bringing of me to Jesus Christ, then will he load me with the guilt of sin till he makes me roar again.  2.  If God be indeed a-bringing me home to Jesus Christ, then must I be assaulted with dreadful temptations of the devil.  3.  If God be indeed a-bringing me to Jesus Christ, then, even when I come at him, I shall have wonderful revelations of him.

This is the way that some sinners appoint for God; but, perhaps, he will not walk therein; yet will he bring them to Jesus Christ.  But now, because they come not the way of their own chalking out, therefore they are at a loss.  They look for heavy load and burden; but, perhaps, God gives them a sight of their lost condition, and addeth not that heavy weight and burden.  They look for fearful temptations of Satan; but God sees that yet they are not fit for them, nor is the time come that he should be honoured by them in such a condition.  They look for great and glorious revelations of Christ, grace, and mercy; but, perhaps, God only takes the yoke from off their jaws, and lays meat before them.  And now again they are at a loss, yet a-coming to Jesus Christ; “I drew them,”  saith God, “with cords of a man, with bands of love—I took the yoke from off their jaws, and laid meat unto them”  (Hosea 11:4).

Now, I say, If God brings thee to Christ, and not by the way that thou hast appointed, then thou art at a loss; and for thy being at a loss, thou mayest thank thyself.  God hath more ways than thou knowest of to bring a sinner to Jesus Christ; but he will not give thee beforehand an account by which of them he will bring thee to Christ (Isa 40:13; Job 33:13).  Sometimes he hath his ways in the whirlwind; but sometimes the Lord is not there (Nahum 1:3; 1 Kings 19:11).  If God will deal more gently with thee than with others of his children, grudge not at it; refuse not the waters that go softly, lest he bring upon thee the waters of the rivers, strong and many, even these two smoking firebrand, the devil and guilt of sin (Isa 8:6, 7).  He saith to Peter, “Follow me.”  And what thunder did Zaccheus hear or see?  Zaccheus, “Come down,”  said Christ; “and he came down,”  says Luke, “and received him joyfully.”

But had Peter or Zaccheus made the objection that thou hast made, and directed the Spirit of the Lord as thou hast done, they might have looked long enough before they had found themselves coming to Jesus Christ.  Besides, I will tell thee, that the greatness of sense of sin, the hideous roaring of the devil, yea, and abundance of revelations, will not prove that God is bringing thy soul to Jesus Christ; as Balaam, Cain, Judas, and others, can witness.

Further, consider that what thou hast not of these things here, thou mayest have another time, and that to thy distraction.  Wherefore, instead of being discontent, because thou art not in the fire, because thou hearest not the sound of the trumpet and alarm of war, “Pray that thou enter not into temptation;”  yea, come boldly to the throne of grace, and obtain mercy, and find grace to help in that time of need (Psa 88:15; Matt 26:41; Heb 4:16).

Poor creature!  thou criest, if I were tempted, I could come faster and with more confidence to Christ.  Thou sayest thou knowest not what.  What says Job?  “Withdraw thine hand far from me: and let not thy dread make me afraid.  Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me”  (Job 13:21, 22).  It is not the overheavy load of sin, but the discovery of mercy; not the roaring of the devil, but the drawing of the Father, that makes a man come to Jesus Christ; I myself know all these things.

True, sometimes, yea, most an end, they that come to Jesus Christ come the way that thou desirest; the loading, tempted way; but the Lord also leads some by the waters of comfort.  If I was to choose when to go a long journey, to wit, whether I would go it in the dead of winter or in the pleasant spring, though, if it was a very profitable journey, as that of coming to Christ is, I would choose to go it through fire and water before I would choose lose the benefit.  But, I say, if I might choose the time, I would choose to go it in the pleasant spring, because the way would be more delightsome, the days longer and warmer, the nights shorter and not so cold.  And it is observable, that that very argument that thou usest to weaken thy strength in the way, that very argument Christ Jesus useth to encourage his beloved to come to him: “Rise up,”  saith he, “my love, my fair one, and come away.”  Why?  “For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.  Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away”  (Song 2:10–13).

Trouble not thyself, coming sinner.  If thou seest thy lost condition by original and actual sin; if thou seest thy need of the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ; if thou art willing to be found in him, and to take up thy cross and follow him; then pray for a fair wind and good weather, and come away.  Stick no longer in a muse and doubt about things, but come away to Jesus Christ.  Do it, I say, lest thou tempt God to lay the sorrows of a travailing woman upon thee.  Thy folly in this thing may make him do it.  Mind what follows: “The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him.”  Why?  “He is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children”  (Hosea 13:13).

Seventh, Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may arise from those decays that thou findest in thy soul, even while thou art coming to him.  Some, even as they are coming to Jesus Christ, do find themselves grow worse and worse; and this is indeed a sore trial to the poor coming sinner.

Fears that we do not run fast enough

To explain myself.  There is such an one a coming to Jesus Christ who, when at first he began to look out after him, was sensible, affectionate, and broken in spirit; but now is grown dark, senseless, hard-hearted, and inclining to neglect spiritual duties, &c.  Besides, he now finds in himself inclinations to unbelief, atheism, blasphemy, and the like; now he finds he cannot tremble at God’s Word, his judgment, nor at the apprehension of hell fire; neither can he, as he thinketh, be sorry for these things.  Now, this is a sad dispensation.  The man under the sixth head complaineth for want of temptations, but thou hast enough of them; art thou glad of them, tempted, coming sinner?  They that never were exercised with them may think it a fine thing to be within the range, but he that is there is ready to sweat blood for sorrow of heart, and to howl for vexation of spirit!  This man is in the wilderness among wild beasts.  Here he sees a bear, there a lion, yonder a leopard, a wolf, a dragon; devils of all sorts, doubts of all sorts, fears of all sorts, haunt and molest his soul.  Here he sees smoke, yea, feels fire and brimstone, scattered upon his secret places.  He hears the sound of an horrible tempest.  O!  my friends, even the Lord Jesus, that knew all things, even he saw no pleasure in temptations, nor did he desire to be with them; wherefore, one text saith, “he was led,”  and another, “he was driven,”  of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil (Matt 4:1; Mark 1:12).

But to return.  Thus it happeneth sometimes to them that are coming to Jesus Christ.  A sad hap indeed!  One would think that he that is flying from wrath to come has little need of such clogs as these.  And yet so it is, and woeful experience proves it.  The church of old complained that her enemies overtook her between the straits; just between hope and fear, heaven and hell (Lam 1).

This man feeleth the infirmity of his flesh, he findeth a proneness in himself to be desperate.  Now, he chides with God, flings and tumbles like a wild bull in a net, and still the guilt of all returns upon himself, to the crushing of him to pieces.  Yet he feeleth his heart so hard, that he can find, as he thinks, no kind falling under any of his miscarriages.  Now, he is a lump of confusion in his own eyes, whose spirit and actions are without order.

Temptations serve the Christian as the shepherd’s dog serveth the silly sheep; that is, coming behind the flock, he runs upon it, pulls it down, worries it, wounds it, and grievously bedabbleth it with dirt and wet, in the lowest places of the furrows of the field, and not leaving it until it is half dead, nor then neither, except God rebuke.

Here is now room for fears of being cast away.  Now I see I am lost, says the sinner.  This is not coming to Jesus Christ, says the sinner; such a desperate, hard, and wretched heart as mine is, cannot be a gracious one, saith the sinner.  And bid such an one be better, he says, I cannot; no, I cannot.

Why temptations assail God’s people

Question.  But what will you say to a soul in this condition?

Answer.  I will say, That temptations have attended the best of God’s people.  I will say, That temptations come to do us good; and I will say also, That there is a difference betwixt growing worse and worse, and thy seeing more clearly how bad thou art.

There is a man of an ill-favored countenance, who hath too high a conceit of his beauty; and, wanting the benefit of a glass, he still stands in his own conceit; at last a limner is sent unto him, who draweth his ill-favored face to the life; now looking thereon, he begins to be convinced that he is not half so handsome as he thought he was.  Coming sinner, thy temptations are these painters; they have drawn out thy ill-favored heart to the life, and have set it before thine eyes, and now thou seest how ill-favoured thou art.  Hezekiah was a good man, yet when he lay sick, for aught I know, he had somewhat too good an opinion of his heart; and for aught I know also, the Lord might, upon his recovery, leave him to a temptation, that he might better know all that was in his heart.  Compare Isaiah 38:1–3, with 2 Chronicles 32:31.

Alas!  we are sinful out of measure, but see it not to be the full, until an hour of temptation comes.  But when it comes, it doth as the painter doth, draweth out our heart to the life: yet the sight of what we are should not keep us from coming to Jesus Christ.  There are two ways by which God lets a man into a sight of the naughtiness of his heart; one is, by the light of the Word and Spirit of God; and the other is, by the temptations of the devil.  But, by the first, we see our naughtiness one way; and, by the second, another.  By the light of the Word and Spirit of God, thou hast a sight of thy naughtiness; and by the light of the sun, thou hast a sight of the spots and defilements that are in thy house or raiment.  Which light gives thee to see a necessity of cleansing, but maketh not the blemishes to spread more abominably.  But when Satan comes, when he tempts, he puts life and rage into our sins, and turns them, as it were, into so many devils within us.  Now, like prisoners, they attempt to break through the prison of our body; they will attempt to get out at our eyes, mouth, ears, any ways, to the scandal of the gospel, and reproach of religion, to the darkening of our evidences, and damning of our souls.

But I shall say, as I said before, this hath ofttimes been the lot of God’s people.  And, “There hath no temptation overtaken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able”  (1 Cor 10:13).  See the Book of Job, the Book of Psalms, and that of the Lamentations.  And remember further, that Christ himself was tempted to blaspheme, to worship the devil, and to murder himself, (Matt 4; Luke 4); temptations worse than which thou canst hardly be overtaken with.  But he was sinless, that is true.  And he is thy Saviour, and that is as true!  Yea, it is as true also, that by his being tempted, he became the conqueror of the tempter, and a succourer of those that are tempted (Col 2:14, 15; Heb 2:15; 4:15, 16).

Question.  But what should be the reason that some that are coming to Christ should be so lamentably cast down and buffeted with temptations?

Answer.  It may be for several causes.

1.  Some that are coming to Christ cannot be persuaded, until the temptation comes, that they are so vile as the Scripture saith they are.  True, they see so much of their wretchedness as to drive them to Christ.  But there is an over and above of wickedness which they see not.  Peter little thought that he had had cursing, and swearing, and lying, and an inclination in his heart to deny his Master, before the temptation came; but when that indeed came upon him, then he found it there to his sorrow (John 13:36–38; Mark 14:36–40; 68–72).

2.  Some that are coming to Jesus Christ are too much affected with their own graces, and too little taken with Christ’s person; wherefore God, to take them off from doting upon their own jewels, and that they might look more to the person, undertaking, and merits of his Son, plunges them into the ditch by temptations.  And this I take to be the meaning of Job, “If I wash myself,”  said he, “with snow-water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me”  (Job 9:30).  Job had been a little too much tampering with his own graces, and setting his excellencies a little too high; as these texts make manifest: Job 33:8–13; 34:5–10, 35:2, 3, 38:1, 2; 40:10–15, 42:3–6.  But by that the temptations were ended, you find him better taught.

Yea, God doth ofttimes, even for this thing, as it were, take our graces from us, and so leave us almost quite to ourselves and to the tempter, that we may learn not to love the picture more than the person of his Son.  See how he dealt with them in the 16th of Ezekiel, and the second of Hosea.

3.  Perhaps thou hast been given too much to judge thy brother, to condemn thy brother, because a poor tempted man.  And God, to bring down the pride of thy heart, letteth the tempter loose upon thee, that thou also mayst feel thyself weak.  For “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall”  (Prov 16:18).

4.  It may be thou hast dealt a little too roughly with those that God hath this way wounded, not considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.  And therefore God hath suffered it to come unto thee (Gal 6:1).

5.  It may be thou wast given to slumber and sleep, and therefore these temptations were sent to awake thee.  You know that Peter’s temptation came upon him after his sleeping; then, instead of watching and praying, then he denied, and denied, and denied his Master (Matt 26).

6.  It may be thou hast presumed too far, and stood too much in thine own strength, and therefore is a time of temptation come upon thee.  This was also one cause why it came upon Peter—Though all men forsake thee, yet will not I.  Ah!  that is the way to be tempted indeed (John 13:36–38).

7.  It may be God intends to make thee wise, to speak a word in season to others that are afflicted; and therefore he suffereth thee to be tempted.  Christ was tempted that he might be able to succour them that are tempted (Heb 2:18).

8.  It may be Satan hath dared God to suffer him to tempt thee; promising himself, that if he will but let him do it, thou wilt curse him to his face.  Thus he obtained leave against Job; wherefore take heed, tempted soul, lest thou provest the devil’s sayings true (Job 1:11).

9.  It may be thy graces must be tried in the fire, that that rust that cleaveth to them may be taken away, and themselves proved, both before angels and devils, to be far better than of gold that perisheth; it may be also, that thy graces are to receive special praises, and honour, and glory, at the coming of the Lord Jesus to judgment, for all the exploits that thou hast acted by them against hell, and its infernal crew, in the day of thy temptation (1 Peter 1:6, 7).

10.  It may be God would have others learn by thy sighs, groans, and complaints, under temptation, to beware of those sins for the sake of which thou art at present delivered to the tormentors.

But to conclude this, put the worst to the worst—and then things will be bad enough—suppose that thou art to this day without the grace of God, yet thou art but a miserable creature, a sinner, that hath need of a blessed Saviour; and the text presents thee with one as good and kind as heart can wish; who also for thy encouragement saith, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Application of Observation Second

To come, therefore, to a word of application.  Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them?  Then this teacheth us these things—

1.  That faith and doubting may at the same time have their residence in the same soul.  “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”  (Matt 14:31).  He saith not, O thou of no faith!  but, O thou of little faith!  because he had a little faith in the midst of his many doubts.  The same is true even of many that are coming to Jesus Christ.  They come, and fear they come not, and doubt they come not.  When they look upon the promise, or a word of encouragement by faith, then they come; but when they look upon themselves, or the difficulties that lie before them, then they doubt.  “Bid me come,”  said Peter; “Come,”  said Christ.  So he went down out of the ship to go to Jesus, but his hap was to go to him upon the water; there was the trial.  So it is with the poor desiring soul.  Bid me come, says the sinner; Come, says Christ, and I will in no wise cast thee out.  So he comes, but his hap is to come upon the water, upon drowning difficulties; if, therefore, the wind of temptations blow, the waves of doubts and fears will presently arise, and this coming sinner will begin to sink, if he has but little faith.  But you shall find here in Peter’s little faith, a twofold act; to wit, coming and crying.  Little faith cannot come all the way without crying.  So long as its holy boldness lasts, so long it can come with peace; but when it is so, it can come no further, it will go the rest of the way with crying.  Peter went as far as his little faith would carry him: he also cried as far as his little faith would help, “Lord, save me, I perish!”  And so with coming and crying he was kept from sinking, though he had but a little faith.  “Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

2.  Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them?  Then this shows us a reason of that dejection, and those castings down, that very often we perceive to be in them that are coming to Jesus Christ.  Why, it is because they are afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them.  The poor world they mock us, because we are a dejected people; I mean, because we are sometimes so: but they do not know the cause of our dejection.  Could we be persuaded, even then, when we are dejected, that Jesus Christ would indeed receive us, it would make us fly over their heads, and would put more gladness into our hearts than in the time in which their corn, wine, and oil increases (Psa 4:6, 7).  But,

3.  It is so, That they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them.  Then this shows that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are an awakened, sensible, considering people.  For fear cometh from sense, and consideration of things.  They are sensible of sin, sensible of the curse due thereto; they are also sensible of the glorious majesty of God, and of what a blessed, blessed thing it is to be received of Jesus Christ.  The glory of heaven, and the evil of sin, these things they consider, and are sensible of.  “When I remember, I am afraid.”  “When I consider, I am afraid”  (Job 21:6; 23:15).

These things dash their spirits, being awake and sensible.  Were they dead, like other men, they would not be afflicted with fear as they are.  For dead men fear not, feel not, care not, but the living and sensible man, he it is that is ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive him.  I say, the dead and senseless are not distressed.  They presume; they are groundlessly confident.  Who so bold as blind Bayard?  These indeed should fear and be afraid, because they are not coming to Jesus Christ.  O!  the hell, the fire, the pit, the wrath of God, and torment of hell, that are prepared for poor neglecting sinners!  “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”  (Heb 3:3).  But they want sense of things, and so cannot fear.

4.  Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them?  Then this should teach old Christians to pity and pray for young comers.  You know the heart of a stranger; for you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt.  You know the fears, and doubts, and terrors, that take hold of them; for that they sometimes took hold of you.  Wherefore pity them, pray for them, encourage them; they need all this: guilt hath overtaken them, fears of the wrath of God hath overtaken them.  Perhaps they are within the sight of hell-fire; and the fear of going thither is burning hot within their hearts.  You may know, how strangely Satan is suggesting his devilish doubts unto them, if possible he may sink and drown them with the multitude and weight of them.  Old Christians, mend up the path for them, take the stumblingblocks out of the way; lest that which is feeble and weak be turned aside, but let it rather be healed (Heb 12).

Bunyan, J.   (2006).    Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol.   1, pp.   271–273).    Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.    (Public Domain)

 

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Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 18

Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 18

Second, The Text Treated by Way of Observation

Thus have I in brief passed through this text by way of explications.  My next work is to speak to it by way of observation.  But I shall be also as brief in that as the nature of the thing will admit.  “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

And now I come to some observations, and a little briefly to speak to them, and then conclude the whole.  The words thus explained afford us many, some of which are these.  1.  That God the Father, and Christ his Son, are two distinct persons in the Godhead.  2.  That by them, not excluding the Holy Ghost, is contrived and determined the salvation of fallen mankind.  3.  That this contrivance resolved itself into a covenant between these persons in the Godhead, which standeth in giving on the Father’s part, and receiving on the Son’s.  “All that the Father giveth me,” &c.  4.  That every one that the Father hath given to Christ, according to the mind of God in the text, shall certainly come to him.  5.  That coming to Jesus Christ is therefore not by the will, wisdom, or power of man; but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father.  “All that the Father giveth me shall come.” 6.  That Jesus Christ will be careful to receive, and will not in any wise reject those that come, or are coming to him.  “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” There are, besides these, some other truths implied in the words.  As, 7.  They that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them.  8.  Jesus Christ would not have them that in truth are coming to him once think that he will cast them out.

These observations lie all of them in the words, and are plentifully confirmed by the Scriptures of truth; but I shall not at this time speak to them all, but shall pass by the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth, partly because I design brevity, and partly because they are touched upon in the explicatory part of the text.  I shall therefore begin with the fifth observation, and so make that the first in order, in the following discourse.

COMING TO CHRIST NOT BY THE POWER OF MAN, BUT BY THE DRAWING OF THE FATHER

OBSERVATION FIRST.  First, then, coming to Christ is not by the will, wisdom, or power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father.  This observation standeth of two parts.  First, The coming to Christ is not by the will, wisdom, or power of man; Second, But by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father.

That the text carrieth this truth in its bosom, you will find if you look into the explication of the first part thereof before.  I shall, therefore, here follow the method propounded, viz: show,

First, That coming to Christ is not by the will, wisdom, or power of man.  This is true, because the Word doth positively say it is not.

1.  It denieth it wholly to be by the will of man.  “Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man” (John 1:13).  And again, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth” (Rom 9:16).

2.  It denieth it to be of the wisdom of man, as is manifest from these considerations:

(1.) In the wisdom of God it pleased him, that the world by wisdom should not know him.  Now, if by their wisdom they cannot know him, it follows, by that wisdom, they cannot come unto him; for coming to him is not before, but after some knowledge of him (1 Cor 1:21; Acts 13:27; Psa 9:10).

(2.) The wisdom of man, in God’s account, as to the knowledge of Christ, is reckoned foolishness.  “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor 1:20).  And again, The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (2:14).  If God hath made foolish the wisdom of this world; and again, if the wisdom of this world is foolishness with him, then verily it is not likely, that by that a sinner should become so prudent as to come to Jesus Christ, especially if you consider,

(3.) That the doctrine of a crucified Christ, and so of salvation by him, is the very thing that is counted foolishness to the wisdom of the world.  Now, if the very doctrine of a crucified Christ be counted foolishness by the wisdom of this world, it cannot be that, by that wisdom, a man should be drawn out in his soul to come to him (1 Cor 3:19; 1:18, 23).

(4.) God counted the wisdom of this world one of his greatest enemies; therefore, by that wisdom no man can come to Jesus Christ.  For it is not likely that one of God’s greatest enemies should draw a man to that which best of all pleaseth God, as coming to Christ doth.  Now, that God counteth the wisdom of this world one of his greatest enemies, is evident, (a.) For that it casteth the greatest contempt upon his Son’s undertakings, as afore is proved, in that it counts his crucifixion foolishness; though that be one of the highest demonstrations of Divine wisdom (Eph 1:7, 8).  (b.) Because God hath threatened to destroy it, and bring it to nought, and cause it to perish; which surely he would not do, was it not an enemy, would it direct men to, and cause them to close with Jesus Christ (Isa 29:14; 1 Cor 1:19).  (c.) He hath rejected it from helping in the ministry of his Word, as a fruitless business, and a thing that comes to nought (1 Cor 2:4, 6, 12, 13).  (d.) Because it causeth to perish, those that seek it, and pursue it (1 Cor 1:18, 19).  (e.) And God has proclaimed, that if any man will be wise in this world, he must be a fool in the wisdom of this world, and that is the way to be wise in the wisdom of God.  “If any man seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Cor 3:18–20).

3.  Coming to Christ is not by the power of man.  This is evident partly,

(1.) From that which goeth before.  For man’s power in the putting forth of it, in this matter, is either stirred up by love, or sense of necessity; but the wisdom of this world neither gives man love to, or sense of a need of, Jesus Christ; therefore, his power lieth still, as from that.

(2.) What power has he that is dead, as every natural man spiritually is, even dead in trespasses and sins? Dead, even as dead to God’s New Testament things as he that is in his grave is dead to the things of this world.  What power hath he, then, whereby to come to Jesus Christ? (John 5:25; Eph 2:1; Col 2:13).

(3.) God forbids the mighty man’s glorying in his strength; and says positively, “By strength shall no man prevail;” and again, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord” (Jer 9:23, 24; 1 Sam 2:9; Zech 4:6; 1 Cor 1:27–31).

(4.) Paul acknowledgeth that man, nay, converted man, of himself, hath not a sufficiency of power in himself to think a good thought; if not to do that which is least, for to think is less than to come; then no man, by his own power, can come to Jesus Christ (2 Cor 2:5).

(5.) Hence we are said to be made willing to come, by the power of God; to be raised from a state of sin to a state of grace, by the power of God; and to believe, that is to come, through the exceeding working of his mighty power (Psa 110:3; Col 2:12; Eph 1:18, 20; Job 23:14).  But this needed not, if either man had power or will to come; or so much as graciously to think of being willing to come, of themselves, to Jesus Christ.

Second, I should now come to the proof of the second part of the observation [namely, the coming to Christ is by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father], but that is occasionally done already, in the explicatory part of the text, to which I refer the reader; for I shall here only give thee a text or two more to the same purpose, and so come to the use and application.

1.  It is expressly said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44).  By this text, there is not only insinuated that in man is want of power, but also of will, to come to Jesus Christ: they must be drawn; they come not if they be not drawn.  And observe, it is not man, no, nor all the angels in heaven, that can draw one sinner to Jesus Christ.  No man cometh to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.

2.  Again, “No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65).  It is an heavenly gift that maketh man come to Jesus Christ.

3.  Again, “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” (John 6:45).

I shall not enlarge, but shall make some use and application, and so come to the next observation.

Use and Application of Observation First

Use First.  Is it so? Is coming to Jesus Christ not by the will, wisdom, or power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then they are to blame that cry up the will, wisdom, and power of man, as things sufficient to bring men to Christ.

There are some men who think they may not be contradicted, when they plead for the will, wisdom, and power of man in reference to the things that are of the kingdom of Christ; but I will say to such a man, he never yet came to understand, that himself is what the Scripture teacheth concerning him; neither did he ever know what coming to Christ is, by the teaching, gift, and drawing of the Father.  He is such a one that hath set up God’s enemy in opposition to him, and that continueth in such acts of defiance; and what his end, without a new birth, will be, the Scripture teacheth also; but we will pass this.

Use Second.  Is it so? Is coming to Jesus Christ by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then let saints here learn to ascribe their coming to Christ to the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father.  Christian man, bless God, who hath given thee to Jesus Christ by promise; and again, bless God for that he hath drawn thee to him.  And why is it thee? Why not another? O that the glory of electing love should rest upon thy head, and that the glory of the exceeding grace of God should take hold of thy heart, and bring thee to Jesus Christ!

Use Third.  Is it so, that coming to Jesus Christ is by the Father, as aforesaid? Then this should teach us to set a high esteem upon them that indeed are coming to Jesus Christ; I say, an high esteem on them, for the sake of him by virtue of whose grace they are made to come to Jesus Christ.

We see that when men, by the help of human abilities, do arrive at the knowledge of, and bring to pass that which, when done, is a wonder to the world, how he that did it, is esteemed and commended; yea, how are his wits, parts, industry, and unweariedness in all admired, and yet the man, as to this, is but of the world, and his work the effect of natural ability; the things also attained by him end in vanity and vexation of spirit.  Further, perhaps in the pursuit of these his achievements, he sins against God, wastes his time vainly, and at long-run loses his soul by neglecting of better things; yet he is admired! But I say, if this man’s parts, labor, diligence, and the like, will bring him to such applause and esteem in the world, what esteem should we have of such an one that is by the gift, promise, and power of God, coming to Jesus Christ?

1.  This is a man with whom God is, in whom God works and walks; a man whose motion is governed and steered by the mighty hand of God, and the effectual working of his power.  Here is a man!

2.  This man, by the power of God’s might, which worketh in him, is able to cast a whole world behind him, with all the lusts and pleasures of it, and to charge through all the difficulties that men and devils can set against him.  Here is a man.

3.  This man is travelling to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, and to an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, to God the Judge of all, and to Jesus.  Here is a man!

4.  This man can look upon death with comfort, can laugh at destruction when it cometh, and longs to hear the sound of the last trump, and to see his Judge coming in the clouds of heaven.  Here is a man indeed!

Let Christians, then, esteem each other as such.  I know you do it; but do it more and more.  And that you may, consider these two or three things.  (1.) These are the Objections of Christ’s esteem (Matt 12:48, 49; 15:22–28; Luke 7:9).  (2.) These are the Objections of the esteem of angels (Dan 9:12; 11:21, 22; 12:3, 4; Heb 2:14).  (3.) These have been the Objections of the esteem of heathens, when but convinced about them (Dan 5:10, 11; Acts 5:15; 1 Cor 14:24, 25).  “Let each [of you, then,] esteem [each] other better than themselves” (Phil 2:2).

Use Fourth.  Again, Is it so, that no man comes to Jesus Christ by the will, wisdom, and power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then this shows us how horribly ignorant of this such are, who make the man that is coming to Christ the Objection of their contempt and rage.  These are also unreasonable and wicked men; men in whom is no faith (2 Thess 3:2).  Sinners, did you but know what a blessed thing it is to come to Jesus Christ, and that by the help and drawing of the Father, they do indeed come to him; you would hang and burn in hell a thousand years, before you would turn your spirits as you do, against him that God is drawing to Jesus Christ, and also against the God that draws him.

But, faithless sinner, let us a little expostulate the matter.  What hath this man done against thee, that is coming to Jesus Christ? Why dost thou make him the Objection of thy scorn? doth his coming to Jesus Christ offend thee? doth his pursuing of his own salvation offend thee? doth his forsaking of his sins and pleasures offend thee?

Poor coming man! “Shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?” (Exo 8:26).

But, I say, why offended at this? Is he ever the worse for coming to Jesus Christ, or for his loving and serving of Jesus Christ? Or is he ever the more a fool, for flying from that which will drown thee in hell-fire, and for seeking eternal life? Besides, pray, Sirs, consider it; this he doth, not of himself, but by the drawing of the Father.  Come, let me tell thee in thine ear, thou that wilt not come to him thyself, and him that would, thou hinderest—

1.  Thou shalt be judged for one that hath hated, maligned, and reproached Jesus Christ, to whom this poor sinner is coming.

2.  Thou shalt be judged, too, for one that hath hated the Father, by whose powerful drawing this sinner doth come.

3.  Thou shalt be taken and judged for one that has done despite to the Spirit of grace in him that is, by its help, coming to Jesus Christ.  What sayest thou now? Wilt thou stand by thy doings? Wilt thou continue to contemn and reproach the living God?  Thinkest thou that thou shalt weather it out well enough at the day of judgment? “Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee,” saith the Lord? (Eze 22:14, John 15:18–25; Jude 15; 1 Thess 4:8).

Use Fifth.  Is it so, that no man comes to Jesus Christ by the will, wisdom, and power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then this showeth us how it comes to pass, that weak means are so powerful as to bring men out of their sins to a hearty pursuit after Jesus Christ.  When God bid Moses speak to the people, he said, “I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee” (Exo 18:19).  When God speaks, when God works, who can let it?  None, none; then the work goes on! Elias threw his mantle upon the shoulders of Elisha; and what a wonderful work followed! When Jesus fell in with the crowing of a cock, what work was there!  O when God is in the means, then shall that means—be it never so weak and contemptible in itself—work wonders (1 Kings 19:19; Matt 26:74, 75; Mark 14:71, 72; Luke 22:60–62).  The world understood not, nor believed, that the walls of Jericho should fall at the sound of rams’ horns; but when God will work, the means must be effectual.  A word weakly spoken, spoken with difficulty, in temptation, and in the midst of great contempt and scorn, works wonders, if the Lord thy God will say so too.

Use Sixth.  Is it so? Doth no man come to Jesus Christ by the will, wisdom, and power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father?  Then here is room for Christians to stand and wonder at the effectual working of God’s providences, that he hath made use of, as means to bring them to Jesus Christ.

For although men are drawn to Christ by the power of the Father, yet that power putteth forth itself in the use of means: and these means are divers, sometimes this, sometimes that; for God is at liberty to work by which, and when, and how he will; but let the means be what they will, and as contemptible as may be, yet God that commanded the light to shine out of darkness, and that out of weakness can make strong, can, nay, doth oftentimes make use of very unlikely means to bring about the conversion and salvation of his people.  Therefore, you that are come to Christ—and that by unlikely means—stay yourselves, and wonder, and, wondering, magnify almighty power, by the work of which the means hath been made effectual to bring you to Jesus Christ.

What was the providence that God made use of as a means, either more remote or more near, to bring thee to Jesus Christ? Was it the removing of thy habitation, the change of thy condition, the loss of relations, estate, or the like? Was it thy casting of thine eye upon some good book, thy hearing of thy neighbours talk of heavenly things, the beholding of God’s judgments as executed upon others, or thine own deliverance from them, or thy being strangely cast under the ministry of some godly man? O take notice of such providence or providences! They were sent and managed by mighty power to do thee good.  God himself, I say, hath joined himself unto this chariot: yea, and so blessed it, that it failed not to accomplish the thing for which he sent it.

God blesseth not to every one his providences in this manner.  How many thousands are there in this world, that pass every day under the same providences! but God is not in them, to do that work by them as he hath done for thy poor soul, by his effectually working with them.  O that Jesus Christ should meet thee in this providence, that dispensation, or the other ordinance! This is grace indeed! At this, therefore, it will be thy wisdom to admire, and for this to bless God.

Give me leave to give you a taste of some of those providences that have been effectual, through the management of God, to bring salvation to the souls of his people.

(1.) The first shall be that of the woman of Samaria.  It must happen, that she must needs go out of the city to draw water, not before nor after, but just when Jesus Christ her Savior was come from far, and set to rest him, being weary, upon the well.  What a blessed providence was this! Even a providence managed by the almighty wisdom, and almighty power, to the conversion and salvation of this poor creature.  For by this providence was this poor creature and her Savior brought together, that that blessed work might be fulfilled upon the woman, according to the purpose before determined by the Father (John 4).

(2.) What providence was it that there should be a tree in the way for Zaccheus to climb, thereby to give Jesus opportunity to call that chief of the publicans home to himself, even before he came down therefrom (Luke 19).

(3.) Was it not also wonderful that the thief, which you read of in the gospel, should, by the providence of God, be cast into prison, to be condemned even at that session that Christ himself was to die; nay, and that it should happen, too, that they must be hanged together, that the thief might be in hearing and observing of Jesus in his last words, that he might be converted by him before his death! (Luke 23).

(4.) What a strange providence was it, and as strangely managed by God, that Onesimus, when he was run away from his master, should be taken, and, as I think, cast into that very prison where Paul lay bound for the Word of the gospel; that he might there be by him converted, and then sent home again to his master Philemon!  Behold “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).

Nay, I have myself known some that have been made to go to hear the Word preached against their wills; others have gone not to hear, but to see and to be seen; nay, to jeer and flout others, as also to catch and carp at things.  Some also to feed their adulterous eyes with the sight of beautiful Objections; and yet God hath made use even of these things, and even of the wicked and sinful proposals of sinners, to bring them under the grace that might save their souls.

Use Seventh.  Doth no man come to Jesus Christ but by the drawing, &c., of the Father? Then let me here caution those poor sinners, that are spectators of the change that God hath wrought in them that are coming to Jesus Christ, not to attribute this work and change to other things and causes.

There are some poor sinners in the world that plainly see a change, a mighty change, in their neighbours and relations that are coming to Jesus Christ.  But, as I said, they being ignorant, and not knowing whence it comes and whither it goes, for “so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” (John 3:8), therefore they attribute this change to others causes: as melancholy; to sitting alone; to overmuch reading; to their going to too many sermons; to too much studying and musing on what they hear.

Also they conclude, on the other side, that it is for want of merry company; for want of physic; and therefore they advise them to leave off reading, going to sermons, the company of sober people; and to be merry, to go a gossiping, to busy themselves in the things of this world, not to sit musing alone, &c.  But come, poor ignorant sinner, let me deal with thee.  It seems thou art turned counsellor for Satan: I tell thee thou knowest not what thou dost.  Take heed of spending thy judgment after this manner; thou judgest foolishly, and sayest in this, to every one that passeth by, thou art a fool.  What! count convictions for sin, mornings for sin, and repentance for sin, melancholy? This is like those that on the other side said, “These men are [drunk with] full of new wine,” &c.  Or as he that said Paul was mad (Acts 2:13, 26:24).  Poor ignorant sinner! canst thou judge no better? What! is sitting alone, pensive under God’s hand, reading the Scriptures, and hearing of sermons, &c., the way to be undone? The Lord open thine eyes, and make thee to see thine error! Thou hast set thyself against God, thou hast despised the operation of his hands, thou attemptest to murder souls.  What! canst thou give no better counsel touching those whom God hath wounded, than to send them to the ordinances of hell for help? Thou biddest them be merry and lightsome; but dost thou not know that “the heart of fools is in the house of mirth?” (Eccl 7:4).

Thou biddest them shun the hearing of thundering preachers; but is it not “better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools?” (Eccl 7:5).  Thou biddest them busy themselves in the things of this world; but dost thou not know that the Lord bids, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness?” (Matt 6:33).  Poor ignorant sinner! hear the counsel of God to such, and learn thyself to be wiser.  “Is any afflicted? let him pray.  Is any merry? let him sing psalms” (James 5:13).  “Blessed is the man that heareth me” (Prov 8:32).  And hear for time to come, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40).  “Search the Scriptures” (John 5:39).  “Give attendance to reading” (1 Tim 4:13).  “It is better to go to the house of mourning” (Eccl 7:2, 3).

And wilt thou judge him that doth thus? Art thou almost like Elymas the sorcerer, that sought to turn the deputy from the faith? Thou seekest to pervert the right ways of the Lord.  Take heed lest some heavy judgment overtake thee (Acts 13:8–13).  What! teach men to quench convictions; take men off from a serious consideration of the evil of sin, of the terrors of the world to come, and how they shall escape the same? What! teach men to put God and his Word out of their minds, by running to merry company, by running to the world, by gossiping? &c.  This is as much as to bid them to say to God, “Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways;” or, “What is the Almighty that we should serve him? or what profit have we if we keep his ways?” Here is a devil in grain! What! bid man walk “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph 2:2).

Two Objections Answered

Objection.  1.  But we do not know that such are coming to Jesus Christ; truly we wonder at them, and think they are fools.

Answer.  Do you not know that they are coming to Jesus Christ? then they may be coming to him, for aught you know; and why will ye be worse than the brute, to speak evil of the things you know not? What! are ye made to be taken and destroyed? must ye utterly perish in your own corruptions? (2 Peter 2:12).  Do you not know them? Let them alone then.  If you cannot speak good of them, speak not bad.  “Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5:38, 39).  But why do you wonder at a work of conviction and conversion? Know you not that this is the judgment of God upon you, “ye despisers, to behold, and wonder, and perish?” (Acts 13:40, 41).  But why wonder, and think they are fools? Is the way of the just an abomination to you? See that passage, and be ashamed, “He that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked” (Prov 29:27).  Your wondering at them argues that you are strangers to yourselves, to conviction for sin, and to hearty desires to be saved; as also to coming to Jesus Christ.

Objection.  2.  But how shall we know that such men are coming to Jesus Christ?

Answer.  Who can make them see that Christ has made blind? (John 2:8, 9).  Nevertheless, because I endeavor thy conviction, conversion, and salvation, consider: Do they cry out of sin, being burthened with it, as of an exceeding bitter thing? Do they fly from it, as from the face of a deadly serpent? Do they cry out of the insufficiency of their own righteousness, as to justification in the sight of God? Do they cry out after the Lord Jesus, to save them? Do they see more worth and merit in one drop of Christ’s blood to save them, than in all the sins of the world to damn them? Are they tender of sinning against Jesus Christ? Is his name, person, and undertakings, more precious to them, than is the glory of the world? Is this word more dear unto them? Is faith in Christ (of which they are convinced by God’s Spirit of the want of, and that without it they can never close with Christ) precious to them? Do they savour Christ in his Word, and do they leave all the world for his sake? And are they willing, God helping them, to run hazards for his name, for the love they bear to him? Are his saints precious to them? If these things be so, whether thou seest them or no, these men are coming to Jesus Christ (Rom 7:9–14; Psa 38:3–8; Heb 6:18–20; Isa 64:6; Phil 3:7, 8; Psa 54:1; 109:26; Acts 16:30; Psa 51:7, 8; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; Rom 7:24; 2 Cor 5:2; Acts 5:41; James 2:7; Song 5:10–16; Psa 119; John 13:35; 1 John 4:7; 3:14; John 16:9; Rom 14:23; Heb 11:6; Psa 19:10, 11; Jer 15:16; Heb 11:24–27; Acts 20:22–24; 21:13; Titus 3:15; 2 John 1; Eph 4:16; Phile 7; 1 Cor 16:24).

Bunyan, J.  (2006).   Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol.  1, pp.  271–273).   Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.   (Public Domain)

 

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Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 17

Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 17

The Power of Christ to Save, Or to Cast Out

SECOND.  And now we come to the second thing that is to be inquired into, namely, How it appears that Christ hath power to save, or to cast out.  For by these words, “I will in no wise cast out,” he declareth that he hath power to do both.  Now this inquiry admits us to search into the things:  First, How it appears that he hath power to save; Second, How it appears that he hath power to cast out.

First, That he hath power to save, appears by that which follows:—

1.  To speak only of him as he is mediator:  he was authorized to this blessed work by his Father, before the world began.  Hence the apostle saith, “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4).  With all those things that effectually will produce our salvation.  Read the same chapter, with 2 Timothy 1:9.

2.  He was promised to our first parents, that he should, in the fullness of time, bruise the serpent’s head; and, as Paul expounds it, redeem them that were under the law.  Hence, since that time, he hath been reckoned as slain for our sins.  By which means all the fathers under the first testament were secured from the wrath to come; hence he is called, “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8; Gen 3:15; Gal 4:4, 5).

3.  Moses gave testimony of him by the types and shadows, and bloody sacrifices, that he commanded from the mouth of God to be in use for the support of his people’s faith, until the time of reformation; which was the time of this Jesus his death (Heb 9, 10).

4.  At the time of his birth it was testified of him by the angel, “That he should save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).

5. It is testified of him in the days of his flesh, that he had power on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:5–12).

6.  It is testified also of him by the apostle Peter, that “God hath exalted him with his own right hand, to be a prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).

7.  In a word, this is everywhere testified of him, both in the Old Testament and the New. And good reason that he should be acknowledged and trusted in, as a Savior.

(1.)  He came down from heaven to be a Savior (John 6:38–40).

(2.)  He was anointed when on earth to be a Savior (Luke 3:22).

(3.)  He did the works of a Savior.  As, (a.)  He fulfilled the law, and became the end of it for righteousness, for them that believe in him (Rom 10:3, 4).  (b.)  He laid down his life as a Savior; he gave his life as “a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Tim 2:6).  (c.)  He hath abolished death, destroyed the devil, put away sin, got the keys of hell and death, is ascended into heaven; is there accepted of God, and bid sit at the right hand as a Savior; and that because his sacrifice for sins pleased God (2 Tim 1:10; Heb 2:14, 15; 10:12, 13; Eph 4:7, 8; John 16:10, 11; Acts 5:30, 31).

(4.)  God hath sent out and proclaimed him as a Savior, and tells the world that we have redemption through his blood, that he will justify us, if we believe in his blood, and that he can faithfully and justly do it.  Yea, God doth beseech us to be reconciled to him by his Son; which could not be, if he were not anointed by him to this very end, and also if his works and undertakings were not accepted of him considered as a Savior (Rom 3:24, 25; 2 Cor 5:18–21).

(5.)  God hath received already millions of souls into his paradise, because they have received this Jesus for a Savior; and is resolved to cut them off, and to cast them out of his presence, that will not take him for a Savior (Heb 12:22–26).

I intend brevity here; therefore a word to the second, and so conclude.

Second, How it appears that he hath power to cast out.  This appears also by what follows:—

1.  The Father, for the service that he hath done him as Savior, hath made him Lord of all, even Lord of quick and dead.  “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Rom 14:9).

2.  The Father hath left it with him to quicken whom he will, to wit, with saving grace, and to cast out whom he will, for their rebellion against him (John 5:21).

3.  The Father hath made him judge of quick and dead, hath committed all judgment unto the Son, and appointed that all should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father (John 5:22, 23).

4.  God will judge the world by this man: the day is appointed for judgment, and he is appointed for judge.  “He hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man” (Acts 17:31).  Therefore we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive for the things done in the body, according to what they have done.  If they have closed with him, heaven and salvation; if they have not, hell and damnation!  And for these reasons he must be judge:—

(1.)  Because of his humiliation, because of his Father’s word he humbled himself, and he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  This hath respect to his being judge, and his sitting in judgment upon angels and men (Phil 2:7–11; Rom 14:10, 11).

(2.)  That all men might honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.  “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father” (John 5:22, 23).

(3.)  Because of his righteous judgment, this work is fit for no creature; it is only fit for the Son of God.  For he will reward every man according to his ways (Rev 22:12).

(4.)  Because he is the Son of man.  He “hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man” (John 5:27).

Bunyan, J. (2006).  Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol. 1, pp. 271–273).  Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.  (Public Domain)

 

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Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 16

Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 16

What It Is To Cast Out

FIRST. For the first of these, What it is to cast out. To this I will speak, First, Generally. Second, More particularly.

First, Generally

1.  To cast out, is to slight and despise, and contemn; as it is said of Saul’s shield, “it was vilely cast away,” (2 Sam 1:21), that is, slighted and contemned.  Thus it is with the sinners that come not to Jesus Christ. He slights, despises, and contemns them; that is, “casts them away.”

2.  Things cast away are reputed as menstruous cloths, and as the dirt of the street (Isa 3:24; Psa 18:42; Matt 5:13; 15:17).  And thus it shall be with the men that come not to Jesus Christ, they shall be counted as menstruous, and as the dirt in the streets.

3.  To be cast out, or off, it is to be abhorred, not to be pitied; but to be put to perpetual shame (Psa 44:9; 89:38; Amos 1:11). But,

Second, More particularly, to come to the text. The casting out here mentioned is not limited to this or the other evil: therefore it must be extended to the most extreme and utmost misery.  Or thus: He that cometh to Christ shall not want anything that may make him gospelly-happy in this world, or that which is to come; nor shall he want anything that cometh not, that may make him spiritually and eternally miserable.  But further, As it is to be generally taken [as respecteth the things that are now], so it respecteth things that shall be hereafter.

I.  For the things that are now, they are either, 1. More general: Or, 2. More particular.

1.  More general, thus:

(1.)  It is “to be cast out” of the presence and favor of God. Thus was Cain cast out: “Thou has driven,” or cast “me out this day; from thy face,” that is, from thy favor “shall I be hid.”  A dreadful complaint! But the effect of a more dreadful judgment! (Gen 4:14; Jer 23:39; 1 Chron 28:9).

(2.)  “To be cast out,” is to be cast out of God’s sight.  God will look after them no more, care for them no more; nor will he watch over them any more for good (2 Kings 17:20; Jer 7:15).  Now they that are so, are left like blind men, to wander and fall into the pit of hell.  This, therefore, is also a sad judgment! therefore here is the mercy of him that cometh to Christ.  He shall not be left to wander at uncertainties. The Lord Jesus Christ will keep him, as a shepherd doth his sheep (Psa 23).  “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

(3.)  “To be cast out,” is to be denied a place in God’s house, and to be left as fugitives and vagabonds, to pass a little time away in this miserable life, and after that to go down to the dead (Gal 4:30; Gen 4:13, 14; 21:10).  Therefore here is the benefit of him that cometh to Christ, he shall not be denied a place in God’s house.  They shall not be left like vagabonds in the world.  “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”  See Proverbs 14:26, Isaiah 56:3–5, Ephesians 1:19–22, 1 Corinthians 3:21–23.

(4.)  In a word, “To be cast out,” is to be rejected as are the fallen angels.  For their eternal damnation began at their being cast down from heaven to hell.  So then, not to be cast out, is to have a place, a house, and habitation there; and to have a share in the privileges of elect angels.

These words, therefore, “I will not cast out,” will prove great words one day to them that come to Jesus Christ (2 Peter 2:4; John 20:31; Luke 20:35).

2.  Second, and more particularly,

(1.)  Christ hath everlasting life for him that cometh to him, and he shall never perish; “For he will in no wise cast him out;” but for the rest, they are rejected, “cast out,” and must be damned (John 10:27, 28).

(2.)  Christ hath everlasting righteousness to clothe them with that come to him, and they shall be covered with it as with a garment, but the rest shall be found in the filthy rags of their own stinking pollutions, and shall be wrapt up in them, as in a winding-sheet, and so bear their shame before the Lord, and also before the angels (Dan 9:27; Isa 57:20; Rev 3:4–18, 15, 16).

(3.)  Christ hath precious blood, that, like an open fountain, stands free for him to wash in, that comes to him for life; “And he will in no wise cast him out;” but they that come not to him are rejected from a share therein, and are left to ireful vengeance for their sins (Zech 13:1; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; John 13:8; 3:16).

(4.)  Christ hath precious promises, and they shall have a share in them that come to him for life; for “he will in no wise cast them out.”  But they that come not can have no share in them, because they are true only in him; for in him, and only in him, all the promises are yea and amen.  Wherefore they that come not to him, are no whit the better for them (Psa 50:16; 2 Cor 1:20, 21).

(5.)  Christ hath also fullness of grace in himself for them that come to him for life: “And he will in no wise cast them out.”  But those that come not unto him are left in their graceless state; and as Christ leaves them, death, hell, and judgment finds them.  “Whoso findeth me,” saith Christ, “findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord.  But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death” (Prov 8:35, 36).

(6.)  Christ is an Intercessor, and ever liveth to make intercession for them that come to God by him: “But their sorrows shall be multiplied, that hasten after another,” or other gods, their sins and lusts. “Their drink-offerings will I not offer, nor take up their names into his lips” (Psa 16:4; Heb 7:25).

(7.)  Christ hath wonderful love, bowels, and compassions, for those that come to him; for “he will in no wise cast them out.”  But the rest will find him a lion rampant; he will one day tear them all to pieces.  “Now consider this,” saith he, “ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver” (Psa 50:22).

(8.)  Christ is one by and for whose sake those that come to him have their persons and performances accepted of the Father:  “And he will in no wise cast them out;” but the rest must fly to the rocks and mountains for shelter, but all in vain, to hide them from his face and wrath (Rev 6:15–17).

II.  But again, These words, CAST OUT, have a special look to what will be hereafter, even at the day of judgment.  For then, and not till then, will be the great anathema and casting out made manifest, even manifest by execution.  Therefore here to speak to this, and that under these two heads. As, First, Of the casting out itself. Second,  Of the place into which they shall be cast, that shall then be cast out.

First, The casting out itself standeth in two things.  1. In a preparatory work.  2.  In the manner of executing the act.

1.  The preparatory work standeth in these three things.

(1.)  It standeth in their separation that have not come to him, from them that have, at that day. Or thus: At the day of the great casting out, those that have not NOW come to him, shall be separated from them that have; for them that have “he will not cast out.”  “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matt 25:31, 32).  This dreadful separation, therefore, shall then be made betwixt them that NOW come to Christ, and them that come not.  And good reason; for since they would not with us come to him now they have time, why should they stand with us when judgment is come?

(2.)  They shall be placed before him according to their condition: they that have come to him, in great dignity, even at his right hand; “For he will in no wise cast them out”: but the rest shall be set at his left hand, the place of disgrace and shame; for they did not come to him for life.  Distinguished also shall they be by fit terms: these that come to him he calleth the sheep, but the rest are frowish goats, “and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats;” and the sheep will be set on the right hand—next heaven gate, for they came to him—but the goats on his left, to go from him into hell, because they are not of his sheep.

(3.)  Then will Christ proceed to conviction of those that came not to him, and will say, “I was a stranger, and ye took me not in,” or did not come unto me.  Their excuse of themselves he will slight as dirt, and proceed to their final judgment.

2.  Now when these wretched rejecters of Christ shall thus be set before him in their sins, and convicted, this is the preparatory work upon which follows the manner of executing the act which will be done.

(1.)  In the presence of all the holy angels.

(2.)  In the presence of all them that in their lifetime came to him, by saying unto them, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”: with the reason annexed to it. For you were cruel to me and mine, particularly discovered in these words, “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not” (Matt 25:41–43).

Second, Now it remains that we speak of the place into which these shall be cast, which, in the general, you have heard already, to wit, the first prepared for the devil and his angels. But, in particular, it is thus described:—

1.  It is called Tophet: “For Tophet is ordained of old, yea, for the king,” the Lucifer, “it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it” (Isa 30:32).

2.  It is called hell. “It is better for thee to enter halt” or lame “into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell” (Mark 9:45).

3.  It is called the wine-press of the wrath of God.  “And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth,” that is, them that did not come to Christ, “and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God” (Rev 14:19).

4.  It is called a lake of fire.  “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15).

5.  It is called a pit.  “Thou hast said in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.  Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isa 14:13–15).

6.  It is called a bottomless pit, out of which the smoke and the locust came, and into which the great dragon was cast; and it is called bottomless, to show the endlessness of the fall that they will have into it, that come not, in the acceptable time, to Jesus Christ (Rev 9:1, 2; 20:3).

7.  It is called outer darkness.  “Bind him hand and foot—and cast him into outer darkness,” “and cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness,” “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 22:13; 25:30).

8.  It is called a furnace of fire.  “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.  The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  And again, “So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 13:40–51).

9.  Lastly, It may not be amiss, if, in the conclusion of this, I show in few words to what the things that torment them in this state are compared. Indeed, some of them have been occasionally mentioned already; as that they are compared,

(1.)  To wood that burneth.

(2.)  To fire.

(3.)  To fire and brimstone: But,

(4.)  It is compared to a worm, a gnawing worm, a never-dying gnawing worm; They are cast into hell, “where their worm dieth not” (Mark 9:44).

(5.)  It is called unquenchable fire; “He will gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt 3:12; Luke 3:17).

(6.)  It is called everlasting destruction; “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thess 1:7–9).

(7.)  It is called wrath without mixture, and is given them in the cup of his indignation.  “If any man worship the beast, and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture, into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb” (Rev 14:9, 10).

(8.)  It is called the second death.  “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power” (Rev 20:6, 14).

(9.)  It is called eternal damnation.  “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”  Oh! these three words! Everlasting punishment! Eternal damnation!  And For ever and ever!  How will they gnaw and eat up all the expectation of the end of the misery of the cast-away sinners.  “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night,” &c., (Rev 14:11).

Their behavior in hell is set forth by four things as I know of;—(a.)  By calling for help and relief in vain; (b.)  By weeping; (c.)  By wailing; (d.)  By gnashing of teeth.

Bunyan, J. (2006).  Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol. 1, pp. 271–273).  Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.  (Public Domain)

 

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Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 15

Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 15

Import of the Words In No Wise

“And him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.”  IN NO WISE: by these words there is [First,] Something expressed; and [Second,] Something implied.

First, That which is expressed is Christ Jesus, his unchangeable resolution to save the coming sinner; I will in no wise reject him, or deny him the benefit of my death and righteousness.  This word, therefore, is like that which he speaks of the everlasting damnation of the sinner in hell-fire; “He shall by no means depart thence;” that is, never, never come out again, no, not to all eternity (Matt 5:26; 25:46).  So that as he that is condemned into hell-fire hath no ground of hope for his deliverance thence; so him that cometh to Christ, hath no ground to fear he shall ever be cast in thither.

“Thus saith the Lord, If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel, for all that they have done, saith the Lord” (Jer 31:37).  “Thus saith the Lord, If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, then will I cast away the seed of Jacob” (Jer 33:25, 26).  But heaven cannot be measured, nor the foundations of the earth searched out beneath; his covenant is also with day and night, and he hath appointed the ordinances of heaven; therefore he will not cast away the seed of Jacob, who are the coming ones, but will certainly save them from the dreadful wrath to come (Jer 50:4, 5).  By this, therefore, it is manifest, that it was not the greatness of sin, nor the long continuance in it, no, nor yet the backsliding, nor the pollution of thy nature, that can put a bar in against, or be an hindrance of, the salvation of the coming sinner.  For, if indeed this could be, then would this solemn and absolute determination of the Lord Jesus, of itself, fall to the ground, and be made of none effect.  But his “counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure;” that is, his pleasure in this; for his promise, as to this irreversible conclusion, ariseth of his pleasure; he will stand to it, and will fulfil it, because it is his pleasure (Isa 46:10, 11).

Suppose that one man had the sins, or as many sins as an hundred, and another should have an hundred times as many as he; yet, if they come, this word, “I will in no wise cast out,” secures them both alike.

Suppose a man hath a desire to be saved, and for that purpose is coming in truth to Jesus Christ; but he, by his debauched life, has damned many in hell; why, the door of hope is by these words set as open for him, as it is for him that hath not the thousandth part of his transgressions.  “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Suppose a man is coming to Christ to be saved, and hath nothing but sin, and an ill-spent life, to bring with him; why, let him come, and welcome to Jesus Christ, “And he will in no wise cast him out” (Luke 7:42).  Is not this love that passeth knowledge? Is not this love the wonderment of angels?  And is not this love worthy of all acceptation at the hands and hearts of all coming sinners?

[Hindrances in Coming to Christ]

Second, That which is implied in the words is, 1.  The coming souls have those that continually lie at Jesus Christ to cast them off.  2.  The coming souls are afraid that those will prevail with Christ to cast them off.  For these words are spoken to satisfy us, and to stay up our spirits against these two dangers: “I will in no wise cast out.”

1.  For the first, Coming souls have those that continually lie at Jesus Christ to cast them off . And there are three things that thus bend themselves against the coming sinner.

(1.)  There is the devil, that accuser of the brethren, that accuses them before God, day and night (Rev 12:10).  This prince of darkness is unwearied in this work; he doth it, as you see, day and night; that is, without ceasing. He continually puts in his caveats against thee, if so be he may prevail.  How did he ply it against that good man Job, if possibly he might have obtained his destruction in hell-fire?  He objected against him, that he served not God for nought, and tempted God to put forth his hand against him, urging, that if he did it, he would curse him to his face; and all this, as God witnesseth, “he did without a cause” (Job 1:9–11; 2:4, 5).  How did he ply it with Christ against Joshua the high-priest?  “And he showed me Joshua,” said the prophet, “the high-priest, standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him” (Zech 3:1).

To resist him; that is, to prevail with the Lord Jesus Christ to resist him; objecting the uncleanness and unlawful marriage of his sons with the Gentiles; for that was the crime that Satan laid against them (Ezra 10:18).  Yea, and for aught I know, Joshua was also guilty of the fact; but if not of that, of crimes no whit inferior; for he was clothed with filthy garments, as he stood before the angel.  Neither had he one word to say in vindication of himself, against all that this wicked one had to say against him.  But notwithstanding that, he came off well; but he might for it thank a good Lord Jesus, because he did not resist him, but contrariwise, took up his cause, pleaded against the devil, excusing his infirmity, and put justifying robes upon him before his adversary’s face.

“And the Lord said unto Satan, 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?  And he answered and spoke to those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him; and unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment” (Zech 3:2–4).

Again, how did Satan ply it against Peter, when he desired to have him, that he might sift him as wheat?  that is, if possible, sever all grace from his heart, and leave him nothing but flesh and filth, to the end that he might make the Lord Jesus loathe and abhor him.  “Simon, Simon,” said Christ, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.”  But did he prevail against him?  No:  “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”  As who should say, Simon, Satan hath desired me that I would give thee up to him, and not only thee, but all the rest of thy brethren—for that the word you imports—but I will not leave thee in his hand: I have prayed for thee, thy faith shall not fail; I will secure thee to the heavenly inheritance (Luke 22:30–32).

(2.)  As Satan, so every sin of the coming sinner, comes in with a voice against him, if perhaps they may prevail with Christ to cast off the soul.  When Israel was coming out of Egypt to Canaan, how many times had their sins thrown them out of the mercy of God, had not Moses, as a type of Christ, stood in the breach to turn away his wrath from them! (Psa 106:23).  Our iniquities testify against us, and would certainly prevail against us, to our utter rejection and damnation, had we not an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1, 2).

The sins of the old world cried them down to hell; the sins of Sodom fetched upon them fire from heaven, which devoured them; the sins of the Egyptians cried them down to hell, because they came not to Jesus Christ for life.  Coming sinner, thy sins are no whit less than any; nay, perhaps, they are as big as all theirs.  Why is it then, that thou livest when they are dead, and that thou hast a promise of pardon when they had not?  “Why, thou art coming to Jesus Christ;”  and therefore sin shall not be thy ruin.

(3.) As Satan and sin, so the law of Moses, as it is a perfect holy law, hath a voice against you before the face of God.  “There is one that accuseth you, even Moses,” his law (John 5:45).  Yea, it accuseth all men of transgression that have sinned against it; for as long as sin is sin, there will be a law to accuse for sin.  But this accusation shall not prevail against the coming sinner; because it is Christ that died, and that ever lives, to make intercession for them that “come to God by him” (Rom 8; Heb 7:25).

These things, I say, do accuse us before Christ Jesus; yea, and also to our own faces, if perhaps they might prevail against us.  But these words, “I will in no wise cast out,” secureth the coming sinner from them all.

The coming sinner is not saved, because there is none that comes in against him; but because the Lord Jesus will not hear their accusations, will not cast out the coming sinner.  When Shimei came down to meet king David, and to ask for pardon for his rebellion, up starts Abishai, and puts in his caveat, saying, Shall not Shimei die for this?  This is the case of him that comes to Christ.  He hath this Abishai, and that Abishai, that presently steps in against him, saying, Shall not this rebel’s sins destroy him in hell?  Read further.  But David answered, “What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should this day be adversaries unto me?  Shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel, for do not I know, that I am king this day over Israel?”  (2 Sam 19:16–22).  That is Christ’s answer by the text, to all that accuse the coming Shimeis.  What have I to do with you, that accuse the coming sinners to me? I count you adversaries, that are against my showing mercy to them.  Do not I know that I am exalted this day to be king of righteousness, and king of peace?  “I will in no wise cast them out.”

2. But again, these words do closely imply, that the coming souls are afraid that these accusers will prevail against them, as is evident, because the text is spoken for their relief and succor.  For that need not be, if they that are coming were not subject to fear and despond upon this account. Alas, there is guilt, and the curse lies upon the conscience of the coming sinner!

Besides, he is conscious to himself what a villain, what a wretch he hath been against God and Christ. Also he now knows, by woeful experience, how he hath been at Satan’s beck, and at the motion of every lust. He hath now also new thoughts of the holiness and justice of God.  Also he feels, that he cannot forbear sinning against him.  For the motions of sins, which are by the law, doth still work in his members, to bring forth fruit unto death (Rom 7:5).  But none of this needs be [a discouragement] since we have so good, so tender-hearted, and so faithful a Jesus to come to, who will rather overthrow heaven and earth, than suffer a tittle of this text to fail.  “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Import of the Words TO CAST OUT

Now, we have yet to inquire into two things that lie in the words, to which there hath yet been nothing said.  As, FIRST, What it is to cast out. SECOND, How it appears that Christ hath power to save or cast out?

Bunyan, J. (2006).  Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol. 1, pp. 269–271).  Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.  (Public Domain)


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