Sect. I. of knowing Jesus, as carrying on the great work of our salvation in his birth.
What looking comprehends, you have heard before: and that we may have an inward experimental look on him, whom our souls pant after, let us practise all these particulars. As—
1. Let us know Jesus, carrying on the great work of our salvation in his first coming or incarnation. Come, let us learn what he did for us, when he came amongst us. There is not one passage in his first appearing, but it is of mighty concernment unto us; is it possible that the great God of heaven and earth should so infinitely condescend, (as we have heard) but on some great design. And what design could there be, but only his glory and the creature’s good? O my soul! if thou hast any interest in Christ, all this concerns thee: the Lord Jesus in all these very transactions had an eye to thee: he was incarnate for thee; he was conceived, and born for thee: look not on these things as notionals or generals: look not on the bare history of things, for that is but unprofitable: the main duty is in eyeing the end, the meaning and intent of Christ; and especially as it relates to thee, not to others, but to thyself. Alas! what comfort were it to a poor prisoner, if he should hear, that the king or prince, of his mere grace and love, visited all the prisoners in this and that dungeon, and that he made a gaol-delivery, and set all free; but he never came near the place where he, poor wretch, lies bound in fetters and cold irons? Or, suppose he gives a visit to that very man, and offers him the tenders of grace and freedom, if he will but accept of it; and, (because of his waywardness) persuades, entreats, commands him to come out, and take his liberty, and yet he will not regard or apply it to himself; what comfort can he have? What fruit, what benefit shall he receive? Dear soul, this is thy case, if thou art not in Christ, if thou hast not heard the offer, and embraced and closed with it, then what is Christ’s incarnation, conception, nativity unto thee? Come, learn, not merely as a scholar, to gain some notional knowledge: but as a Christian, as one that feels virtue coming out of Christ in every of these respects study close this great transaction in reference to thyself. I know not ‘how it happens, whether out of the generality of some preachers, handling this subject, or whether out of the superstition of the time, wherein it usually hath been handled, it either savors not with some Christians, or it is seldom thought of by the most: O God, forbid we should throw out of the doors such a blessed necessary truth! if rightly applied, it is a Christian’s joy, “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, that shall be to all people, for unto you is born in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord,” Luke 2:10,11. Sure the birth of Christ is of mighty concernment unto thee, ” Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,” Isa. 9: 6. There is not any piece of this transaction but it is of special use, and worth thy pains. How many break their brains, and waste their spirits in studying arts and sciences, things in comparison of no value; whereas Paul otherwise “determined not to know any thing among you but Jesus Christ?” 1 Cor. 2:2. To know Jesus Christ in every piece and point, whether in birth, or life, or death, it is saving knowledge: O stand not upon cost, whether pains or study, tears or prayers, peace or wealth, goods of name, life or liberty, sell all for this pearl: Christ is of that worth and use, that thou canst never over-buy him, though thou gavest thyself and all the world for him; the study of Christ is the study of studies; the knowledge of Christ is the knowledge of every thing that is necessary either for this world, or for the world to come. O study Christ in every of the aforesaid respects.
Sect. II. Of considering Jesus in that respect.
Let us consider Jesus carrying on this great work of our salvation at his first coming or incarnation. It is not enough to study, and know these great mysteries, but, according to the measure of knowledge we have, we must muse, and meditate, and ponder, and consider of them. Now this consideration brings Christ nearer and closer to the soul; consideration gathers up all the long-fore passed acts and monuments of Christ, and finds a deal of sweetness and power to come flowing from them; consideration fastens Christ more strongly to the soul, and as it were rivets the soul to Jesus Christ, and fastens him in the heart; a soul that truly considers and meditates of Christ, thinks and talks of nothing else but Christ; it takes hold and will not let him go. “I will keep thee, (saith the soul in meditation) for thou art my life,” Prov. 4: 13. Why thus, O my soul, consider thou of Christ, and of what he did for thee when he was incarnate? And that thou mayest not confound thyself in thy meditations, consider apart of these particulars. As,
1. Consider Jesus in his forerunner, and the blessed tidings of his coming in the flesh: now the long looked for time drew near, a glorious angel is sent from heaven, and he comes with an olive branch of peace. First, He presents himself to Zachary, and then to Mary; to her imparts the message, on which God sent him into this nether world, “Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus,” Luke 1:31. Till now human nature was less than that of angels, but by the incarnation of the Word, it was to be exalted above the cherubim. What sweet news? What blessed tidings was this message? The decree of old must now be accomplished, and an angel proclaim it upon earth: hear, O ye sons of Adam, this concerns you as much as the virgin; were you not all undone in the loins of your first father? Was not my soul and your soul in danger of hell fire? Was not this our case and condition, that after a little life upon earth, we should have been thrown into eternal torments, where had been nothing, but weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth? and now that God and Christ should hid an angel tell the news, “Ye shall not die; lo, here a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and he shall be your Jesus; he shall save you from this hell, and death, and sin: he shall deliver your souls, he shall save you to the utmost; his name is Jesus, and he shall not bear his name for nought, believe in him, and ye shall live with him in glory.” O blessed news! men may talk what they will of this and that news, every one gapes after it, but there is no news so welcome to one even now ready to perish, as to hear of a Saviour. Tell a man in sickness of one that will make him well again; tell a man in captivity of one that will rescue him, and set him free again; tell a man in prison condemned to die, of one with a pardon that will save his life; and every one of these will say, This is the best news that ever was heard. O then if it be good tidings to hear of a Saviour, where is only a matter of loss of life, or of this earth; how much more, when it comes to the loss of heaven, to the danger of hell, when our souls are at stake, and like to be damned for evermore? What glad tidings would that be to hear of one that could save our souls from that destroyer? Is not such a Saviour worth hearkening after? Were not the birth of such an one good news? O my Soul, ponder on these words, as if an angel seeing thee stand on the brim of hell, should speak to thee, even to thy soul.
2. Consider Jesus in his conception; no sooner is the news heard, but Christ is conceived by the Holy Ghost in the virgin’s womb; this conception is worthy our consideration; what, that the great God of heaven should condescend so far as to take our nature upon him, and to take it in the same way, and after the same manner that we do? The womb of the virgin was surely no such place, but he might well have abhorred it; true, but he meant by this to sanctify our very conceptions; and to that purpose, he is conceived in an holy manner, even by the Holy Ghost; we must not be too curious to inquire after the manner of the Holy Ghost’s operation, who therefore overshadowed the virgin: this is work for our hearts and not merely for our heads; humble faith, and not curious inquisition, shall find the sweetness of this mystery. It was David’s complaint, ” Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me,” Psal.51:5. O my soul, this was thy case, in thy very first being or beginning, and hadst thou died in that condition, the word is express, that, “nothing defiled nor unclean shall enter into the city of glory.” But here is the remedy, thy sinful conception is sanctified by Christ’s holy conception; the holiness of thy Jesus serves as a cover to hide thy original pollutions from the eyes of God. O consider of this! Jesus Christ was not conceived in vain, he was not idle, while he was in his mother’s womb; he that from all eternity began, he was then carrying on the great work of our salvation for us: O consider this conception thus, till thou bringest it near and close to thy soul, till thou feelest some sweetness and power coming and flowing from Jesus in the womb.
3. Consider the duplicity of natures in Jesus Christ: “The Word was made flesh,” John 1:14. No sooner was he conceived, but he was Godman, man-God; he was perfectly framed, and instantly united to the eternal Word: “God sent his Son,” there is the nature divine; “made of a woman,” Gal. 4:4. there is the human nature. Certainly great is this mystery, that the Word is made flesh; that the Son of God is made of a woman; that the star gives light to the sun: that a branch doth bear the vine; that a creature gives being to the Creator: that the mother was younger than what she bare, and a great deal less than what she contained. Admire, O my soul at this! but withal consider, that all this was for us, and our salvation; he was man, that he might die for us; and he was God, that his death might be sufficient to save us; had he been man alone, not God, he might have suffered, but he could never have satisfied for sin, he could not have been Jesus a Saviour of souls; and had he been God alone, not man, he had not been of kin to our nature offending, and so he could not have satisfied the justice of God in the same nature wherein it was offended; neither could he as God alone have died for sin; and the decree was out, that our Redeemer must die for sin, “For without shedding of blood there is no remission,” Heb. 9:22. And no shedding of blood, no passion could possibly befall the Godhead of Jesus Christ. I shall not dispute the power of God, whether he was able to lay down another kind of way of man’s redemption than by the incarnation of the Son of God: without controversy this was the will of God, and he appointed no other way, because he could not. O my soul, consider of this in relation to thyself: he is God-man, that he might suffer and satisfy for thy sins; he is God-man that he might be able, and fit most fully to finish the work of thy salvation; as God, he is able, and as man, he is fit to discharge the office of Mediator; as God he is able to hear the punishment of sin, and as man he is fit to suffer for sin; O the wisdom of God in this very way! Man’s nature can suffer death, but not overcome it; the divine nature can overcome death and all things, but cannot suffer it; and hence there is a duplicity of natures in Jesus Christ: O muse on this, it is a matter worthy of thy serious consideration.
4. Consider the real distinction of these two natures in Christ. As the unapproachable light of the Godhead was put into the dim and dark lantern of human flesh; so these two natures remained entire without any conversion, commixion or confusion; they were not as wine and water that become one by mixing, there is no such blending the divine and human nature, they were not as snow and water, that become one by the dissolving of the snow into the water; there is no such changing of the human nature into the divine, or of the divine nature into the human: some say indeed, That the Godhead was more plentifully communicated with the manhood after his resurrection, than now at his conception; but howsoever, it did not then swallow up the truth of his manhood, as a whole sea would swallow up one drop of oil; look, as at first moment of his conception, he was God and man, so these two natures continued still distinct in substance, properties and actions. Why, consider this, O my soul, in reference to thyself: O there is comfort in this! by this means thou hast now free access unto the throne of grace, that thou mayest find help in thy necessities; and as thou hast free access, so thou mayest boldly draw near; his Deity indeed confounds, but his humanity comforts faint and feeble souls; his divine nature amazeth, but his human nature encourngeth us to come unto him; even after his resurrection, he was pleased to send this comfortable message to the sons of men, “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God,” John 20:17. Now, as long as he is not ashamed to call us brethren, “God is not ashamed to be called our God,” Heb. 11:16. O the sweet fruit that we may gather off this tree, “The real distinction of two natures in Christ.” As long as Christ is man as well as God, we have a motive strong enough to appease his Father, and to turn his favorable countenance towards us; here is our happiness, That “there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” 1 Tim. 2:5.
5. Consider the union of the two natures of Christ in one and the same person: as he was the branch of the Lord, and the fruit of the earth, so these two natures were tied with such a gordian knot, as sin, hell, and the grave were never able to untie. Yea, though in the death of Christ, there was a separation of the soul from the body, yet in that separation, the hypostatical union remained firm, unshaken and indissoluble: in this mediation, thou hast great cause, O my soul, to admire and adore, wonderful things are spoken of thee, O Christ! he is God in person of a Godhead, so as neither the Father, nor the Holy Ghost were made flesh; and he is man in the nature of man, not properly the person; the human nature of Christ never having any personal subsistence out of the Godhead; this is a mystery that no angel, much less man, is able to comprehend: we have not another example of such an union, (as you have heard) only the nearest similitude or resemblance we can find, is that of the branch and tree into which it is engrafted; we see one tree may be set into another, and it groweth in the stock thereof, and becometh one and the same tree, though there be two natures or kinds of fruit still remaining therein; so in the Son of God made man, though there be two natures, yet both being united into one person, there is but one Son of God, and one Jesus Christ. If thou wilt consider this great mystery of godliness any further, review what hath been said in the object propounded, where this union is set forth more largely and particularly; but especially consider the blessed effects of this union in reference to thyself; as our nature in the person of Christ is united to the Godhead, so our persons in and by this union of Christ are brought nigh to God. Hence it is, that God doth set his sanctuary and tabernacle among us’; and that he dwells with us, and which is more, that he makes us houses and habitations, wherein he himself is pleased to dwell by his Holy Spirit. “Ye are the temple of the living God, as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people,” 2 Cor. 6:16. Was not this Christ’s prayer in our behalf? “I pray not for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word, That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, That the world may believe that thou hast sent me: I in them, and thou in me, That they may be perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me,” John 17:20,21,22,23. By reason of this hypostatical union of Christ, the Spirit of Christ is given to us in the very moment of our regeneration, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father,” Gal. 4:6. “and hereby we know, that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit,” 1 John 4:13. As the members of the body, however distinct among themselves, and all differing from the head; yet by reason of one soul informing both the head and members, they all make but one compositum, or man: so all believers in Christ, however distinct persons among themselves, and all distinct from the person of Christ, and especially from the Godhead, which is incommunicable, yet by one and the same Spirit abiding in Christ and all his members, they become one, “There is one body and one Spirit,” Eph. 4:4. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” 1 Cor. 6:17. O my soul, consider of this, and in considering, believe thy part in this, and the rather, because the means of this union, on thy part is a sure and lively faith; faith is the first effect and instrument of the Spirit of Christ, disposing and enabling thy soul to cleave unto Christ, and ” for this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith,” Eph. 3:14.17.
6. Consider the birth of Christ, this man-God, God-man who in his divine generation was the Son of God, in his human generation was born in a stable, for the saving of the children of men who were as the ox and mule having no understanding. It were a fruitful meditation to consider over and over that sweet resemblance of Christ being a vine; methinks I hear the voice of my beloved, “Rise up, my love,—the fig tree putteth forth the green figs, and the vine with the tender grapes gives a good smell: arise, my love, my fair one, and come away,” Sol. Song 2:10.13. If Christ knocks at the door, who will not awake, and arise? If Christ comes in view, who will not look unto Jesus? If Christ the vine calls us to come see the vine with the tender grape, who will not taste the goodness, smell the sweetness? And after a little taste of that goodness, and sweetness that is in him, who would not long after more, till we come from the first fruits, to the last fruits of the Spirit, even to those visions and fruitions of Christ in glory? Consider, O my soul, of this vine till thou hast brought Christ near and close unto thyself! suppose thy heart the garden, wherein this vine was planted, wherein it budded, blossomed, and bare fruit; suppose the Holy Ghost to come upon thee, and to form and fashion in thee Jesus Christ; (thus Paul bespeaks the Galatians, “My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed In you.)” Would not this affect? Would not the whole soul be taken up with this? Come, receive Christ into thy soul, or if that work be done, if Christ be formed in thee, O cherish him! (I speak of the spiritual birth) O keep him in thy heart! let him there bud, and blossom, and bear fruit; let him fill thy soul with his divine graces; O that thou couldst say it feelingly, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” Gal. 2:20. O that this were the issue of thy meditation on Christ’s birth! even while thou art going with the shepherds to Bethlehem, and there findest thy Saviour lying on a cratch, that thou wouldst bring him thence, and make thy heart to be his cradle! I would not give a farthing for a meditation merely on the history of Christ’s birth; either draw virtue from him, by feeling him within, or thy meditation will be fruitless.
7. Consider those few consequents after Christ’s birth; every action of Christ is our instruction; here are many particulars, but none in vain, Christ is considered under much variety of notion, but he is still sweet under all. Is it possible, O my soul, that thou shouldst tire thyself in the contemplation of Jesus Christ? If one flower yield thee not pleasure, or delight, go to a second, a third; observe how the bees gather honey, after a while that they have sucked one flower, they go to another; so for a while observe the circumcision of Jesus Christ, and suck there, and gather some honey out of that flower: Christ had never been circumcised, but that the same might be done to our souls, that was done to his body; O that the same Christ would do that in us that was done to him for us. Again, observe Christ’s presentation in the temple; this was the law of those that first opened the womb; now Christ was the first-born of Mary, and indeed “the first-born of all creatures;” and he was consecrated unto God, that by him we might be consecrated and made holy, and that by him we might be accepted, when we were offered unto the Lord. Again, observe Christ’s flight into Egypt; though the infancy is usually most quiet, and devoid of trouble, yet here life and toil began together: and see how speedily this comes after dedication unto God: alas! alas! we are no sooner born again, than we are persecuted; if the church travail, and bring forth a male, she is in danger of the dragon’s streams. Again, observe Christ’s return into Judea; he “was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” Matth. 15:24. With them alone he was personally to converse in his ministry, in which respect he was called, “a minister of circumcision,” Rom. 15:8. And where should he be trained, and show himself, but amongst them to whom God had sent him? The gospel first began there, and as a preparation to it, Christ now in his childhood returns thither. Again, observe Christ disputing with the doctors in the temple; in his very non-age, Christ gives a taste of his future proof; see how early his divine graces put forth themselves, “In him were hid (saith the apostle) all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col. 2:3. All the treasures were hid in him, and yet some of these treasures appeared very early betimes: his wisdom in his very infancy is admired at, nor is it withoutour profit; “For of God he is made wisdom unto us,” 1 Cor. 1:30. Again, observe how he spent the remainder of his youth, in all his examples he meant our instructions, “He went down with his parents, and was subject to them;” he was not idly bred, but serves his generation in the poor way of a carpenter: “It is every way good for a man to bear God’s yoke even from his infancy,” Lam. 3:27. Christ is inured betimes to the hardship of life, and to the strict observation of the laws both of God and nature.
See, O my soul, what a world of matter is before thee to consider off here is Jesus under many a notion, here is the annunciation of Jesus, the conception of Jesus, the duplicity of natures in Jesus, the real distinction, the wonderful union, the nativity of Jesus, together with some comments’ after it. Go over these with often and frequent thoughts, give not over till thou feelest thy heart begin to warm: true meditation is as the bellows of the soul, that doth kindle and inflame holy affections, and by renewed, and more forcible thoughts, as by renewed and stronger blasts, it doth renew and increase the flame.
Sect. III. Of desiring after Jesus in that respect.
3. Let Us desire after Jesus, carrying on the great work of our salvation at his first coming, or incarnation. It is not enough to know, and consider, but we must desire. “Now, what is desire, but a certain notion of the appetite, by which the soul darts itself towards the absent good, purposely to draw near, and unite itself thereunto?” The incarnation of Christ according to the latter, was the desire of all nations; so the prophet, “I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come,” Hag. 2:7. O how they that lived before Christ, desired after this coming! Abraham desired to see my day, two thousand years and more before it came, it was the expectation of all the patriarchs, “O when will that day come?” And surely the incarnation of Christ in the fruit, or efficacy, or application, is, or should be the desire of all Christians. There is merit and virtue in Jesus Christ, in every passage of Christ, in his conception, incarnation, in his birth, and in those consequents after his birth; now to make these ours, that we may have our share, and part, and interest in them, we must here begin; O my soul, do thou desire, do thou seek to possess thyself of Christ, set thy desire (as the needle point) aright, and all the rest will follow! never will union he with the absent good, but the soul by desire must dart itself towards it: true it is, and pity it is, millions of souls stand at a distance from Jesus Christ; and why? They have no desire towards him: but, O that my soul, and thy soul (whosoever thou art that readest) would desire! O that we could desire, and long after him until we languish, and be compelled to cry out, with the spouse, “Stay me with flagons, and comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love,” Sol. Song 2:5.
Is there not good reason for it? What is there in Christ that is not desirable? View over all those excellencies of his conception; of his two natures, really distinguished, and yet wonderfully united; of his birth, of those few consequents after his birth; hut above all, see the fruit of all; he was conceived that our conceptions might be sanctified; he was the Son of man, that he might suffer for us, and the Son of God, that he might satisfy divine justice: he was God and man in one person, that we might be one with him, “Members of his body, and of his flesh, and of his bones,” Ephes. 5:30. He was born of the virgin, that there might be a spiritual conception and birth of Christ in our virgin-hearts; or he was conceived and born, that we might conceive the grace of Christ in our hearts, and bring it forth in our lives! what! are not these desirable things? Never tell me of thy present enjoyments, for never was Christ so enjoyed in this life, but thou hast cause to desire yet more of Christ: it is worth thy observation, That “spiritual desires after Christ, do neither load nor cloy the heart, but rather open, and enlarge it for more and more.” Who was better acquainted with God than Moses” And yet, who was more importunate to know him better? “I beseech thee, show me thy glory,” Ex. 83:18. And who was more acquainted with Christ than Paul? And yet who was more importunate to be with him nearer? “I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ,” Phil. 1:23. Further, and further union with Christ, and communion with Christ are most desirable things, and are not these the fruits of his incarnation? The effects of his hypostatical personal union? More and more peace, and love, and reconciliation betwixt God and us, are desirable things and are not these the fruits of Christ’s birth, the effects of his budding out of the earth? Was it not then, “That righteousness looked down from heaven? That mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other?” A higher degree of holiness, sanctification, likeness to God and Christ are desirable things: and are not these the fruits of his circumcision, and presentation to the Lord? The effects of all those consequents that follow after his birth? Come, soul, and stir up thy desires, true desires are not wavering and dull, but resolute and full of quickness; observe how the nature of true desires in scripture is set forth by the most pathetical and strong similitudes of hunger, and thirst, and those not common neither, but by “the panting of a tired hart after the rivers of waters, and by the gaping of dry ground after some seasonable showers.” O then how is it that the passages of thy desires are so narrow, and almost shut up: nay, how is it that thy vessels are so full of contrary qualities, that there is scarce any room in thy soul for Christ, and sell his train? Will not the desires of the patriarchs witness against thee? How cried they after Christ’s coming in the flesh, “Bow the heavens, O Lord, and come down,” Psalm 144:5. “Oh that thou wouldst rend the heavens, that thou wouldst come down,” Isa. 64:1. “Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness, let the earth open and bring forth salvation,” Isa. 45:8. Is it possible that their desires should be more vehement after Christ than ours? They lived on the dark side of the cloud, but we on the bright side; the veil was upon their hearts, which veil is done away in Christ; they saw Christ afar off, and their sight was very dim and dark; “But we all, with open face, as in a glass, behold the glory of the Lord,” 2 Cor. 3:18. One would think the less any thing is known, the less it should be desired; O my soul, either thou art more ignorant of Christ than the patriarchs of old, or thy heart is more out of frame than theirs; suspect the latter, and blame thy heart; may be thy turpid and sluggish nature hath laid thy desires asleep: if an hungry man will sleep, his hunger will sleep with him; but O stir up, and awake thy desires! present before them that glorious object, “the incarnation of Jesus Christ;” it is an object which the very angels desire to look into, and art not thou more concerned in it than the angels? Is not the fruit of the incarnation thine, more especially thine? Come then, stir up those motions of thy appetite, by which the soul darts itself towards the absent good, draw nearer, and nearer, till thou comest to union and enjoyment; cry after Christ, ” Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of his chariots?” Judges 5:28.
Sect. IV. of hoping in Jesus in that respect.
4. Let Us hope in Jesus carrying on the great work of our salvation at his first coming, or incarnation: only here remember, I speak not of every hope, but only of such an hope, as is grounded on some certainty and knowledge: this is the main question, whether Christ’s incarnation belongs unto me? The prophet tells, That “unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given,” Isa. 9:6. But how may I hope that this child is born to me? And that this son is given to me! What ground for that? Out of these words of the prophet, I shall draw a double evidence, which may be instead of all: our first evidence from the former words, ” Unto us a child is born;” Our second evidence from the latter words, ” Unto us a son is given.” 1. From the former words, I lay down this proposition, “Unto us a child is born,” if we are new born. The surest way to know our interest in the birth of Christ, is to know Christ born in us, or formed in us, as the apostle speaks, Gal. 4:19. The new birth is the effect of Christ’s birth, and a sure sign that Christ is born to us. Say then, O my soul, art thou born anew? Is there in you a new nature, a new principle? Is the image of God and of Christ in my soul? So the apostle styles it, “the bearing of the image of the heavenly,” 1 Cor. 15:49. Why then was Christ incarnate for thee, if thy new hirth be not clear enough? Thou mayest try it further by these following rules.
1. Where this new birth is, there is new desires, new comforts, new contentments. Sometimes with the prodigal thou wast content with husks; yet now nothing will satisfy thee but thy Father’s mansion, and thy Father’s feast; sometimes thou minded only earthly things, but now the favor of God, the light of his countenance, society with him, and enjoying of him, are thy chief desires; this is a good sign, David’s heart and flesh, and all breathed after God: “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord, My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” Psal 84:2. Men truly regenerate do not judge it so happy to be wealthy, great and honored in the world, as to have the light of God’s favor shine upon them. O my soul, dost thou see the glory of the world, and thou fallest down to worship it? Dost thou say in the increase of worldly comfort, it is good to be here? Then fear thyself; but if these things compared with Christ, are vain, and light, and of poor, and of mean esteem, then hope well, and be assured that thou art born again, and that Christ is formed in thee.
2. Where this new birth is, there are new words, new works, new affections, a new conversation, “Old things are passed away,behold,all things are become new,” 2 Cor. 5:17. Paul once a persecutor, but ” behold now he prayeth,” Acts 9:11. And “such were some of you, but now ye are washed, now ye are sanctified, now ye are justified; in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God,” 1 Cor. 6:11. As every man is, so he is affected, so he speaks, and so he lives; if thy life be supernatural, so are thy affections, so are thy words, so is thy conversation; Paul lived a life once of a bloody persecutor, he breathed out threatenings against all the professors of the Lord Jesus; but now it is otherwise, “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20. O my soul, hast thou the old conversation, the old affections, the old discourse, the old passions thou usedst to have? What! is thy heart a den of lusts, a cage of unclean imaginations? Then fear thyself, there cannot from a sweet fountain come forth bitter streams; there cannot from a refined spirit, as refined, come forth corrupted actions or imaginations; “A thorn cannot send forth grapes,” saith Christ; so neither can a vine send forth thorns, say we. I know there is in the best something of flesh, as well as of the Spirit; but if thou art new born, then thou canst not but strive against it, and will endeavor to conquer it.
3. Where this new birth is, there is a new nature, a new principle, Peter calls it, “The hidden man of the heart, The divine nature,” 1 Pet. 3:4. 2 Pet. 1:4. Paul calls it “the inward man, the new creature,” Rom. 7:22. It is compared to a root, to a fountain, to a foundation, 2 Cor. 5:17. And for want of this foundation, we see now in these sad times, so much inconstancy, and unsettledness in some professors themselves, many have got new and strange notions, but they have not new natures, new principles of grace: if grace were but rooted in their hearts, though the winds did blow, and storms arise, they would continue firm and stable, as being founded upon a rock. Never tell me of profession, show, outward action, outward conversation, outward duties of religion; all this may be, and yet no new creature: you have some bruises that can act many things like men, but because they have not a human nature, they are still brutish; so many things may be done in way of holiness, which yet come not from this inward principle of renovation; and therefore it is but copper and not gold: mistake not, O my soul, in this, which is thy best and surest evidence; though I call the new birth, a new creature, my meaning is not, as if a new faculty were infused into him that is new born: a man when he is regenerate, hath no more faculties in his soul than he had before his regeneration, only in the work of regeneration, those abilities which the man had before, are now improved and made spiritual; and so they work now spiritually which before wrought naturally. As in the resurrection from the dead, our bodies shall have no more, nor other parts and members than they had before, only those parts and members, which now are natural, shall then by the power of God be made spiritual. “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body, there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body,” 1 Cor. 15:44. So the same faculties, and the same abilities, which before regeneration were but natural, are now spiritual, and work spiritually; they are all brought under the government of the Spirit of Christ. A lively resemblance of this change in the faculties of the soul, we may discern in those natural and sensitive faculties, which we have common with beasts, as, to live, to move, to desire, to feel; the beasts, having no higher principle than sense, use them sensually; but a man enjoying the same faculties under the command of a reasonable soul, he useth them rationally: so is it in a regenerate man, his understanding, will, and affections, when they had no other command but reason, he only used them rationally, but now being under the guiding of the Spirit of Christ, they work spiritually, and he useth them spiritually; and hence it is, that a regenerate man, is every where in scripture said to “walk after the Spirit,” Rom. 8:1. “To be led by the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit,” Gal. 5:18. 25. The Spirit, by way of infusing or shedding, gives power, and ability, a seed, a principle of spiritual life which the soul had not before; and from this principle of spiritual life planted in the soul, flows or springs those spiritual motions, and operations, (as the Spirit leads them out) according to the habit or principle of the new creature, the divine nature, the spiritual life infused. Come then, look to it, O my soul, what is thy pinciple within? Consider not so much the outward actions, the outward duties of religion, as that root from whence they grow, that principle from whence they come: are they fixed ones, settled ones by way of life in thee? Clocks have their motions, but they are not motions of life, because they have no principles of life within. Is there life within; then art thou born again, yea even unto thee a child is born. This is one evidence.
4. From the latter words, I lay down this position; “Unto us a son is given,” if we are God’s sons. The best way to know our interest in the Son of God, is to know ourselves to be God’s sons by grace, as Christ was God’s Son by nature; Christians, to whom Christ is given, are co-heirs with Christ, only Christ is the first-horn, and hath the pre-eminence in all things; our sonship is an effect of Christ’s sonship, and a sure sign, that “unto us a son is given.” Say then, O my soul, art thou a son of God, dost thou resemble God, (according to thy capacity) being holy, even as he is holy? Why then, Christ was incarnate for thee, he was given to thee, if thy sonship bo not clear enough, thou mayest try it further by these following rules.
1. The sons of God, fear God. “If I be a father, where is my honor? (saith God) If I be a master, where is my fear?” Mal. 1:6. If I be a son of God, there will be an holy fear and trembling upon me in all my approaches unto God. I know there is a servile mercenary fear, and that is unworthy and unbeseeming the son of God; but there is a filial fear, and that is an excellent check and bridle to all our wantonness. What son will not fear the frowns and anger of his loving father? “I dare not do this, (will he say) my father will be offended, and I, whither shall I go?” Agreeably to this is the apostle’s advice, “If ye call on the Father, pass your sojourning here with fear,” 1 Pet. 1:17.
2. The sons of God love God, and obey God out of a principle of love. Suppose there were no heaven of glory to bestow upon a regenerate person, yet would he obey God out of a principle of love; not that it is unlawful for the child of God to have an eye unto the recompense of reward; Moses’ reason of “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, was, for that he had respect unto the recompense of reward,” he had respect in the original, “He had it fixed intent eye,” Heb. 11:26. There was in him a love of reward, and yet withal a love of God, and therefore his love of reward was not mercenary; but this I say, Though there were no reward at all, a child of God hath such a principle of love within him, that for lover’s sake he would obey his God: he is led by the Spirit, and therefore he obeys; now the spirit that leads him is a spirit of love, and “as many as are lead by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God,” Rom. 8:14.
3. The sons of God imitate God in his love and goodness to all men. Our Saviour amplifies this excellent property of God, “He causeth his Sun to shine upon good and bad,”‘ and thence he concludeth, “Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Matth. 5:48. Goodness to bad men is the highest degree of grace, and as it were the perfection of all: O my soul, canst thou imitate God in this? Consider how thy Father bears it, though the wicked provoke him day by day, yet for all that he doth not quickly revenge; vengeance indeed is only his, and he may in justice do what he will that way; and it is the opinion of some, that if the most patient man in the world should but sit in God’s throne one day, and see and observe the doings and miscarriages of the sons of men, he would quickly set all the world on fire; yet God seeth all, and for all that he doth not make the earth presently to gape and devour us; he puts not out the glorious light of the sun, he does not dissolve the work of the creation, he doth not for man’s sin presently blast every thing into dust: what an excellent pattern is this for thee to write after? Canst thou but forgive thy enemies? Do well to them that do evil to thee? O this is a sure sign of grace and sonship! It is storied of some Heathens, who beating a Christian almost to death, asked him, “What great matter Christ did ever for him?” “Even this, (said the Christian) That I can forgive you, though you use me thus cruelly.” Here was a child of God indeed: it is a sweet resemblance of our Father, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ ” to love our enemies, to bless them that curse us, to do good unto them that hate us, to pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us,” Matth, 5:44. O my soul, look on this, consult this ground of hope; if this law be written in thy heart, write it down amongst thy evidences, that thou art God’s son, yea, that even unto thee a Son is given.
To review the grounds; what, is a child born to me, and a son given to me? What, am I indeed new born? Am I indeed God’s son or daughter? Do I upon the search find in my soul new desires, new comforts, new contentments? What, are my words, and works, and affections, and conversation new? Is there in me a new nature, a new principle? Hath the Spirit, by way of infusing or shedding, given me a new power, a new ability, a seed of spiritual life which I had not before? Do I upon the search, find, that I fear God, and love God, and imitate God, in some good measure in his love and goodness towards all men? Can I indeed and really forgive an enemy, and according to opportunity and my ability, do good unto them that do evil unto me? Why should I not then confidently and comfortably hope, that I have my share and interest in the birth of Christ, in the blessed incarnation and conception of Jesus Christ? Away, away, all despairs, and dejections, and despondencies of spirit! if these be my grounds of hope, it is time to hold up head, and heart, and hands, and with all cheerfulness and confidence, and to say with the spouse, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”
Sect. V. of believing in Jesua in that respect.
5. Let us believe in Jesus carrying on the great work of our salvation, at his first coming or incarnation. I know many staggerings are oft in Christians, “What, is it likely that Christ should be incarnate for me? That such a God, should do such a thing for such a sinful, woful, abominable wretch as I am?” Ah! my soul, put thy propriety in Christ’s incarnation out of dispute, that thou mayest be able to say, ” As God was manifest in the flesh, and I may not doubt it; so God is manifest in me, and I dare not deny it.”
But, to help the soul in this choice duty, I shall first propose the hindrances of faith. 2. The helps of faith in this respect. 3. The manner how to act our faith. 4. The encouragements to bring on the soul to believe its part in this blessed incarnation of Jesus Christ.
For the first, there are but three things that can hinder faith; As—
1. The exceeding unworthiness of the soul; and to this purpose are those complaints, “What! Christ incarnate for me! for such a dead dog as I am! What king would dethrone himself, and become a toad to save toads? And am not I at a greater distance from God, than a toad is from me? Hath not sin made my soul more ugly in God’s eye, than any loathsome toad can be in my eye? O! I am less than the least of all God’s mercies, I am fitter for hell and devils, than for union and communion with God and Christ, I dare not, I cannot believe.
2. The infinite exactness of divine justice which must be satisfied; a soul deeply and seriously considering of this, startles thereat, and cries, O what will become of my soul? one of the least sins that I stand guilty of deserves death, and eternal wrath, the wages of sin is death; and I cannot satisfy; though I have trespassed to many millions of talents, I have not one mite of mine own to pay; O then how should I believe? What thoughts can I entertain of God’s mercy and love tome-ward? God’s law condemns me, my own conscience accuse me, and justice will have its due.
3. The want of a Mediator, or some suitable person, which may stand between the sinner and God. If on my part there be unworthiness, and on God’s part exact, and strict, and severe justice; and withal I see no mediator, which I may go unto, and first close withal before I deal with the infinite glory of God himself, how should I but despair, and cry out, “O wretched man that I am! O that I had never been; or if I must needs have a being, Oh that I had been a toad, or serpent, or any venomous creature, rather than a man; for when they die, they perish, and there is an end of them, but the end of a reprobate sinner, is tormented without end: O wo and alas! I cannot believe, there is no room for faith in this case!” These are the hinderances.
2. The helps of faith in this sad condition are these:
1. A consideration that God is pleased to pass by, and to overlook the unworthiness of his poor creatures: this we see plain in the very act of his incarnation; himself disdains not to be as his poor creatures, to wear their own flesh, to take upon him human nature, and in all things to become like unto man, sin only excepted.
2. A consideration that God satisfies justice, by setting up Christ, who is justice itself; now was it that “mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other;” now was it that free grace and merit, that fulness and nothingness were made one; now was it that all things became nothing, and nothing all things: our nature which lay in rags, was enriched with the unsearchable treasures of glory; now was it that God was made flesh; and so that flesh which was so weak, as notable to save its own life, was now enabled to save millions of souls, and to bring forth the greatest designs of God; now was it that truth ran to mercy and embraced her,’and righteousness to peace, and kissed her; in Christ they meet, yea, in him was the infinite exactness of God’s justice satisfied.
3. A consideration that God hath set up Christ as a mediator, That he was incarnate in order to reconciliation, and salvation of souls: but for the accomplishment of this design Christ had never been incarnate; the very end of his uniting flesh unto him, was in order to the reconciliation of us poor souls! alas, we had sinned, and by sin deserved everlasting damnation, but to save us, and to satisfy himself, God takes our nature, and joins it to his Son, and calls that Christ a Saviour: this is the gospel notion of Christ: for what is Christ, but God “himself in our nature, transacting our peace?” In this Christ is that fulness, and righteousness, and love, and bowels to receive the first acts of our faith; and to have immediate union and communion with us; indeed we pitch not our faith first or immediately on God himself; yet at last we come to him, and our faith lives in God (as one saith sweetly) before it is aware, through the sweet intervention of that person which is God himself, only called by another name, “The Lord Jesus Christ,” and these are the helps of faith, in reference to our unworthiness, God’s justice, and the want of a Mediator betwixt God and us.
3. The manner how to act our faith on Christ incarnate is this.
1. Faith must directly go to Christ: we indeed find in the Bible some particular promises of this and that grace; and in proper speaking the way to live by faith; it is to live upon the promises in the want of the thing, or to apprehend the thing itself contained in the promise: but the promises are not given to the elect immediately without Christ. No, no, first Christ and then all other things; “incline your ears,” and come unto me. 1. Come unto Christ, and then “I will make an everlasting covenant; (which contains all the promises) even the sure mercies of David,” Isa. 55:3. As in marriage, the woman first consents to have the man, and then all the benefits that necessarily follow: so the soul by faith, first
pitcheth upon Christ himself, and then on the privileges that flow from Christ. Say, soul, dost thou want any temporal blessing? Suppose it be the payment of debts, thy daily bread, health, &c. Why, look now through the scripture for promises of these things, and let thy faith act thus, “If God hath given me Christ, the greatest blessing, then certainly he will give me all these things, so far as they may be for my good.” In the twenty-third Psalm we find a bundle of promises, but he begins thus, “The Lord is my shepherd,” saith David, Psal. 23:1. And what then? “Therefore I shall not want;” the believing patriarchs ” through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,” Heb. 11:33. Did wonders in the world; but what did they chiefly look to in this their faith? Surely to the promise to come, and to that better thing, Christ himself, verse 39,40. And therefore the apostle concludes, “Having such a cloud of witnesses,” that thus lived and died by faith, “Let us look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” Heb. 12:2.
2. Faith must directly go to Christ as God in our flesh: some think it a carnal apprehension of Jesus Christ, to know him as in flesh; I confess to know him only so, and absolutely so, to consider Jesus no other way, but as having flesh, and going up and down in weakness; it is no better than a carnal apprehension; but to consider Christ as God in flesh, and to consider that flesh as acted by God, and filled with God, it is not a carnal, but a true and spiritual apprehension of Jesus Christ, and hither is faith to be directed immediately, and in the first place; suppose a case of danger by some enemies, and I find a promise of protection from my enemies, I look on that; but in the first place, thus I argue, if the Lord hath given me Christ (God in the flesh) to save me from hell, then much more will he save me from these fleshly enemies. Thus Judah had a promise, that Syria should not prevail against Judah. They doubted of this; but how doth the Lord seek to assure them? Why, thus, ” A virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and his name shall be Emmanuel,” Isa. 7:14. This seems a strange reason to flesh and blood: I knew one turn infidel, and deny Jesus Christ upon this very argument; ah, (thought he) “What a grand imposture is this, that Christ’s conception, and Christ’s birth many years after should be a present sign of the ruin of Rezin king of Aram, and of the preservation of Ahaz king of Judah?” Alas, poor soul, he was not acquainted with this art of living by faith; he might have seen the very same reason elsewhere, “The yoke of their burden, and the staff of their shoulder, and the rod of their oppressor should be broken,—For unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given,” Isa. 9:4.6. If their faith had not first respected Christ incarnate, they could never have expected any temporal deliverance by that promise of deliverance first laid down; but in this way they might, and so may we.—You will say, What is this to us? They looked for Christ to come in the flesh, but now he is come, and that time and design is gone and past many a year since; I an swer, no; the time is gone, but the design is not; Christ remains God ‘in the flesh to this very day; he came not as once to manifest himself in the flesh, to satisfy God’s justice in the flesh for sin, and so to lay it down again; that flesh remains, and shall remain; nor is it without use; for all the spirit and life which the saints now have, or which the saints shall have unto the end of the world, it is to be conveyed through that flesh; yea, the Spirit itself dwells in it, and is conveyed through it; and therefore if they had so much gospel-spirit in the time of the Old Testament (which indeed was rare) how much more should we go to Christ, as God in the flesh, and look upon it as a standing ordinance, and believe per
fectly on it?
3. Faith must go and lie at the feet of Christ; faith must fix and fasten itself on this God in our flesh: some go to Christ, and look on Jesus with loose and transient glances, they bring in but fleshly, secondary, ordinary actings of faith, they have but coarse and common apprehensions of Jesus Christ. Oh! but we should come to Christ with solemn serious spirits; we should look on Jesus piercingly, till we see him as God is in him, and as such a person thus and thus qualified from heaven; we should labor to apprehend what is the riches of this glorious mystery of Christ’s incarnation; we should dive into the depths of his glorious actings; we should study this mystery above all other studies. Nothing is so pleasant, and nothing is more deep: than one person should be God and man, that God should be man in our nature, and yet not assume the person of a man; that blessedness should be made a curse, that heaven should be letdown into hell, that the God of the world would shut himself up, as it were, in a body; that the invisible God should be made visible to sense; that all things should become nothing, and make itself of no reputation; that God should make our nature, which had sinned against him, to be the great ordinance of reconciling us unto himself; that God should take our flesh, and dwell in it with all the fulness, and make that flesh more glorious than the angels, and advance that flesh into oneness with himself, and through that flesh open all his counsels, and rich discoveries of love and free grace unto the sons of men; that this man-God, Godman should be our Saviour, Redeemer, Reconciler, Father, Friend; Oh what mysteries are these! No wonder if when Christ was born, the apostle cries, “We saw his glory, as of the only begotten Son of God,” John 1:14. Noting out, that at first sight of him, so much glory sparkled from him as could appear from none but a God walking up and down the world. O my soul, let not such a treasury be unlooked intoi set faith on work with a redoubled strength; surely we live not like men under this great design, if our eye of faith be not firmly and steadfastly set on this. O that we were but insighted into these glories! that we were but acquainted with these lively discoveries! how blessedly might we ” live by the faith oftheSonof God, who loved us, and gave himself for us Gal. 2:20.
4. Faith must look principally to the end and meaning of Christ, as God coming in the flesh. Now what was the design and meaning of Christ in this? The apostle answers, Rom. 8:3. “God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin in the flesh,” t. e. God the Father sent into the world his eternal and only begotten Son, whom in his eternal council, he had designed to the office of a Mediator, to takeaway or abolish, in the first place, original sin. Mark these two words, “he condemned sin in the flesh,” the first word condemned, is by a metonomy put for that which follows condemnation, namely for tho abolishing of sin; as condemned persons used to be cut off, and to be taken out of the world, that they may be no more; so Christ hath condemned or abolished this sin. For the second word, ” in the flesh,” is meant that human nature which Christ assumed: he abolished sin altogether in his own nature: and that flesh of his, being perfectly holy, and the holiness of it being imputed unto us, it takes away our guilt in respect of the impurenessof our nature also. Some may object, If this were so, lhen were we without original sin? I answer, the flesh, or the nature which Christ took upon him, was altogether without sin, and by imputation of it, we are in proportion freed from sin; Christ had not the least spot of original sin: and if we are Christ’s, then is this sin in some rpeasure aholished,and taken out of our hearts. But howsoever the filth of this sin may remain in part, yet the guilt is removed: in this respect the purity of Christ’s human nature is no less reckoned to us for the curing of our defiled nature, than the sufferings of Christ are reckoned to us, for the remission of our actual sins. O my soul, look to this end of Christ, as God in the flesh; if thou consider him as made flesh and blood, and laid in a manger, think withal, that his meaning was to condemn sin in our flesh; there flows from the holiness of Christ’s nature, such a power, as countermands the power of our original sin, and acquits and discharges from the condemnation of the same sin: not only the death and life, but also the conception and birth of Christ hath its influence into our justification. Oh! the sweet that a lively faith may draw from this head!
4. The encouragements to bring on souls to believe on Christ incarnate we may draw,
1. From the excellency of this object. This very incarnation of Christ”‘ is the foundation of all other actings of God for us; it is the very hinge, or pole on which all turn; it is the cabinet wherein all the designs of God do lie; election, redemption, justification, adoption, glorification, are all wrapt
up in it; it is the highest pitch of the declaration of God’s Wisdom, goodness, power, and glory; Oh what a sweet object of faith is this! I know there are some other things in Christ which are most proper for some acts of faith, as Christ dying is most proper for the pardon of actual sin, and Christ rising from the dead is most proper for the evidencing of our justi . fication; but the strongest, purest acts of faith are those which take in Christ as such a person, laid out in all his glory. Christ’s incarnation is more general than Christ’s passion, or Christ’s resurrection, and (as some would have it) includes all; Christ’s incarnation holds forth in some sort Christ in his fulness, and so it is the full and complete subject of our faith; or if it be only more comprehensive, why, then it requires more comprehensive acts of faith, and by consequence we have more enjoyments of Christ this way than any other way; come, poor soul, I feel, I feel thy eyes are running to and fro in the world, to find comfort and happiness on earth, O come! cast thy eyes back, and see heaven and earth in one object! Look fixedly on Christ incarnate, there is more in this than all the variety of this world, or of that world to come. Here is an object of faith, and love, and joy, and delight; here is a compendium of all glories; here is one for a heart to be taken with to all eternity. O lay thy mouth to this fountain, “Suck and be satisfied with the breasts of his consolation, milk out and be delighted with the brightness of his glory,” Isa. 66:11.
2. From the suitahleness of this object. Christ incarnate is most suitahle for our faith to act upon. We are indeed to believe on God, but God essentially is the utmost object of faith; We cannot come to God but in and through Christ. Alas, God is offended, and therefore we cannot find ground immediately to go to God; hence you heard that ” faith must di- . rectly go to Christ, as God in our flesh.” O the infinite condescensions of Go:l in Christ! God takes up our nature, and joins it to himself as one person, and lays out that before our faith; so that here is God, and God suited to the particular state and condition of the sinner. Oh, now with what boldness may our souls draw nigh to God? Why art thou strange, poor soul? Why standest thou afar off, as if it were death todraw nigh? Of whom art thou afraid? Is God come down amongst men, and canst thou not see him, lest thou die and perish? Oh, look once more, and be not discouraged. See, God is not come down in fire, God is not descended in the armor of
‘Justice and ererlastlng burning. No, no, he is clothed with the garments
Bf flesh, he sweetly desires to converse with thee after thine own form; he is come down to beseech thee, to see with thine own eyes thy eternal happiness, q. d. “Come, poor soul, come, put in thy hands, and feel my heart now it beats in love towards thee.” O the wonder of heaven! It is the cry of some poor souls, “Oh that I might see God!” Lo, here God is come down in the likeness of man, he walks in our own shape amongst us; it is the cry of others, “Oh that I might have my heart united to God;” Why he is come down on this very purpose, and hath united our nature unto himself. Surely God hath left all the world without excuse: Oh, that ever there should be an heart of unbelief, after these sensible demonstrations of divine glory and love. Why, soul, wilt thou yet stand off? Tell me, what wouldst thou have God do more? Can he manifest himself in a more taking, alluring, suitable way to thy condition? Is there any thing below flesh wherein the great God can humble himself for thy good? Come, think of another and better way, or else for ever believe. Methinks, it is sad to see believers shy in their approaches to God, or doubtful of their acceptance with God, when God himself stoops first, and is so in love with our acquaintance, that he will be of the same nature that we are. O let not such a iocs of strength be alighted, but every day entertain sweet and precious thoughts of Christ being incarnate; inure thy heart to a way of believing on this Jesus, as he carries on the great work of our salvation at his first coming or incarnation.
3. From the gospel-tenders and offers of this blessed object to our souls. As Christ is come in our nature to satisfy; so he comes in the gospel freely and fully to offer theo terms of love: therein are set out the most rich and alluring expressions that possibly can be; therein is set out that this incarnation of Christ, was God’s own acting, out of his own love, and grace, and glory; therein is set out the birth, and life, and death of Christ, and this he could not do but he must be incarnate: God takes our flesh, and useth that as an organ or instrument whereby to act; he was flesh to suffer, as he was Spirit to-satisfy for our sins. Methinks I might challenge unbelief, and hid it come forth, let it appear, if it dare before this consideration: what, is not God incarnate enough to satisfy thy conscience? Come nigh, poor soul, hear the voice of Christ inviting, ” Come unto me all ye that are weary, and heavy laden with sin,” Matth. 11:28. And O let these rich and glorious openings of the heart of Christ overcome thy heart. Suppose the case thus, What if God should have done no more than this? Had he only looked down from heaven, and hearing sinners cry out, “O wo, wo, unto us for ever! we have broken God’s law, incurred the penalty, damned our own souls: O who shall deliver us? Who will save us from the wrath to come? Who will keep us out of hell, our deserved dungeon, where the fury of the great Judge burns in a fiery brimstone, and his revenue boils in a fiery torrent, limitless and unquenchable?” In this, if God hearing sinners thus crying out, had he, I say, only looked down and told them in a sweet language, “Poor souls, I will pardon your sins by mine own prerogative? I made the law, and I will dispense with it; fear not, I have the keys of life and death, and upon my word you shall not perish.” What soul would not have been raised up even from the bottom of hell at this very voice? I know a poor soul would have scrupled at this, and have said, What then shall become of infinite Justice? Shall that be dishonored to save my soul? This would have been scruple indeed, especially considering that great controversy, as we have heard of mercy and truth, and righteousness and peace: but to remove all controversies, God hath not only spoken from heaven by himself, but he himself is come down from heaven to earth to speak unto us: O see this miracle of mercy? God is come down in flesh, he is come as a price; he himself will pay himself, according to all the demands of his justice and righteousness before our eyes; and all this done, now he offers and tenders himself unto thy soul. Oh! my soul, why shouldst thou fear to cast thyself upon thy God? I know thy objection of vileness: notwithstanding all thy vileness, God himself offers himself to lead thee by the hand: and to remove all doubts, God himself hath put a price sufficient in the hands of Justice to stop her mouth: or if yet thou fearest to come to God, why come then to thy own flesh; go to Christ as having thy own nature, it is he that calls thee; how? Goto flesh, go to thy own nature; what can be said more to draw on thy trembling heart? If God himself, and God so fitted and qualified, (as I may say) will not allure; must not men die and perish in unbelief? What, O my soul, (give me leave to chide thee) is God come down so low to thee, and dost thou now stand questioning, whether thou shouldst go or come to him? What is this but to say, All that God is, or does, or says, is too little to persuade me into faith? I cannot tell, but one would think, that unbelief should be strangled, quite slain upon this consideration; all this, O my soul, thou nearest in the gospel; there is Christ incarnate set forth to the • life; there is Christ suing thy loves, and offering himself as thy beloved in thy own nature: there it is written, That God is come down in the flesh, with an olive branch of eternal peace in his hand, and bids you all be witness, he is not come to destroy but to save. Oh that this encouragement might be of force to improve Christ’s glorious designs, to the supplying of all thy wants, and to the making up of all thy losses! Believe, Oh helieve thy part in Christ incarnate.
Sect. vr. of loving Jesus in that respect.
6. Let us.love Jesus as carrying on the great work of our salvation at his first coming or incarnation. Now, what is love, but an “expansion or egress of the heart, and spirits to the object loved, or to the object whereby it is drawn or attracted?” Mark, O my soul/whatsoever hath an attractive power, it is in that respect an object, or general cause of love. And canst thou possibly light on any object more attractive than the incarnation of Jesus Christ? If love be the loadstone of love, what an attractive is this before thee? Methinks the very sight of Christ incarnate • is enough to ravish thee with the apprehension of his infinite goodness: see how he calls out, or, (as it were) draws out the soul to union, vision and participation of his glory! O come, and yield up thyself unto him; give him thyself, and conform all thy affections and actions to his will: O love him, not with a divided, but with all thy heart.
But to excite this love, I shall only propound the object, which will be argument enough. Love causeth love; now as God’s first love to man was in making man like himself; so his second great love was in making himself like to man: stay then a while upon this love, for (I take it) this is the greater love of the two: nay, if I must speak freely, I believe this was the fullest visible demonstration of God’s love that ever was; the evangelist expresseth it thus, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,” John 3:16. He gave him to be incarnate, to be made flesh, and to suffer death; but the extension of his love lies in that expression, ” he so loved.” So, how? Why so fully, so fatherly, so freely, as no tongue can tell, no heart can think: in this love God did not only let out a mercy, give out a bare grace in itself, but he took our nature upon him. It is usually said, That it is a greater love of God to save a soul, than to make a world; and I think it was a greater love of God to take our nature than simply to save our souls; for a king to dispense with the law, and by his own prerogative to save a murderer from the gallows, is not such an act of love and mercy, as to take the murderer’s clothes, and to wear them as his richest livery; why, God in taking our nature hath done thus, and more than thus; he would not save by his mere prerogative; but he takes our clothes, our flesh, and in that flesh he personates us, and in that flesh he will die for us, that we might not die, but live through him for evermore. Surely this was love, that God will be no more God, as it were simply; but he will take up another nature, rather than the brightness of his glory shall undo our souls.
It will not be amiss, (whilst I am endeavoring to draw a line of God’s love in Christ, from first to last in saving souls,) that here we look back a little, and summarily contract the passages of love from that eternity before all worlds unto this present. 1. God had an eternal design to discover his infinite love to some besides himself; O the wonder of this! was there any need or necessity of such a discovery? Deus unus, licet solus, non solitarius: “Though God was one, and in that respect alone, (as we may imagine) yet God was not solitary.” In that eternity within his own proper essence or substance, there were three divine persons, and betwixt them there was a blessed communication of love; Christ on earth could say, “I am not alone, because the Father is with me,” John 16:32. And then before the earth was, might the Father say, “I am not alone, for the Son is with me;” and the Son might say, “I am not alone, for the Father is with me,” and the Holy Ghost-might say, “I am not alone, for both the Father and the Son are with me.” Though in that eternity there was no creature to whom these three Persons should communicate their love; yet there was a glorious communication, and breaking out of love from one to another; before there was a world, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost did infinitely glorify themselves, John 17:5. Surely they loved one another, and they rejoiced in the fruition of one another, Prov. 8:30. What need then was there of the discovery of God’s love to any one besides himself? O my soul, I know no necessity for it, only this was the pleasure of God; “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Such was the love of God, that it would not contain itself within that infinite ocean of himself; but it would needs have rivers and channels into which it might run and overflow.
2. God, in prosecution of his design, creates a world of creatures, some rational, and only capable of love, others irrational, and serviceable to that one creature, which he makes the top of the whole creation; then it was that he set up one man Adam, as a common person to represent the rest; to him he gives abundance of glorious qualifications, and him he sets over all the works of his hands, as if he were the darling of love; if we should view the excellency of this creature, either in the outward or the inner man, who would not wonder? His body had its excellency, which made the Psalmist say, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and curiously wrought in the lowest part of the earth,” Psal. 139: 14,15. It is a speech borrowed from those who work arras-work; the body of a man isa piece of curious tapestry or arras-work, consisting of skin, bones, muscles, sinews, and the like; what a goodly thing the body of man was before the fall, may be guessed by the excellent gifts found in the bodies of some men since the fall; as the complexion of David, 1 Sam. 16:12. The swiftness of Asahel, 2 Sam. 2:18. The beauty of Absalom, 2 Sam. 14:29. If all these were but joined in one, as certainly they were in Adam; what a rare hody would such an one be? But what was this body in comparison of that soul? The soul was it that was especially made after the image of God; the soul was it that was tempered in the same mortar with the heavenly spirits; the soul was God’s sparkle; a beam of his divine glory, a ray or emanation of God himself; as man was the principal part of the creation, so the soul was the principal part of man: here was it that God’s love and glory were centered for a time; here was it that God’s love set and fixed itself in a special manner, whence flowed that communion of God with Adam, and that familiarity of Adam with God.
3. Within a while, this man, the object of God’s love, fell away from God, and, as he fell, so all that were in him, even the whole world, fell together with him; and hereupon God’s face was hid: not a sight of him, but in flaming fire ready to seize on the sons of men. And yet God’s love would not thus leave the object; he had yet a further reach of love, and out of this dark cloud he lets fall some glimpses of another discovery: these glimpses were sweet; but, alas! they were so dark, that very few could spell them, or make any sense or comfortable application of them: hut by degrees God hints it out more, he points out with the finger, by types and shadows, he makes some models of it in outward ceremonies; and yet so hid and dark, that in four thousand years, men were but guess. ing and hoping through promises for a manifestation of God’s love. This is the meaning of the apostle, who tells us of ” the mystery that was hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints,” Col. 1:26. This love of God was hid in the breast of God from the sons of men for many an age; so that they knew not what to make of this great design: I speak of the generality of men, for in respect of some particulars, as to Adam and Abraham, and Moses, and David, and the patriarchs, you have heard the Lord made his loves clear to them, in a covenant way; and still the nearer to Christ, the clearer and clearer was the cove- nant of grace.
4. At last, God fully opens himself in the fulness of time; God takes the flesh of those poor sinners, which he had so loved, and joins it to himself, and he calls it Christ, a Saviour; O now it was that God descended, and lay in the womb of a virgin; now was it that he is horn as we are born; now was it that he joined our flesh so nigh to himself, as that there is a communication of properties betwixt them both, that being attributed to God, which is proper to flesh, as to be born, to suffer; and that being attributed to flesh, which is proper to God, as tocieate, to redeem; who can
I choose but wonder when he thinks of this phrase, That a piece of flesh should be called God, and that God should be made of flesh, and dwell amongst us?. That flesh should infinitely provoke God, and yet God in the same flesh should be infinitely pleased? That God should veil himself and darken his glory with our flesh, and yet unveil at the same time the deepest and darkest of his designs in a comfortable way to our souls? O my soul, how shouldest thou contain thyself within thyself? How shouldst thou but leap out of thyself, (if I may so speak) as one that is lost in the admiration of this love? Surely God never manifested himself in such a strain of love as this before; herein was love manifested and commended indeed, that God would come down in our nature to us. One observes sweetly, That “God did so love the very nature of his elect, that, though for the present he had them not all with him in heaven, yet he must have their picture in his Son to see them in, and love them in.” In this respect I may call Christ incarnate, a statue and monument of God’s
own infinite love unto his elect for everWell, hitherto we have followed the passages of his love; and now we see it in the spring, or at full sea: if anything will beget our love to God, surely Christ incarnate will do it: come then, O my soul, I cannot but call on thee to love thy Jesus; and to provoke thy love, O fix thy eye on this lovely object; come put thy candle to this flame; what, doth not thy heart yet burn within thee? Dost thou not at least begin to warm? Why, draw yet a little nearer, consider what an heart of love is in this design. God is in thy own nature, to take upon him all the miseries of thy nature. Mark it well, this is none other than God’s heart leaping out of itself into our bosoms, q. d. “Poor souls, I cannot keep from you, I love your very nature: I will be nothing, so you may be something; my glory shall not hinder me, but I will veil it rather than it shall hurt you; so I may but show myself kind and tender to you, and so I may but have communion with yob, and you with me; I care not if I become one with you, and live with yorr in your very flesh.” Oh, my heart, art thou yet cold in thy loves to Jesus Christ? Canst thou love him but a little who hath loved thee so much? How should I then but complain of thee to Christ? And for thy sake beg hard of God. “O thou sweet Jesus, that clothest thyself with the clouds as with a garment, and as now clothest thyself with the nature of a man, O that thou wouldst inflame my spirit with a love of thee, that nothing but thyself might be dear unto me, because it so pleased thee to vilify thyself, thine own self for my sake.”
Sect. Vii. of joying in Jesus in that respect.
7. Let Us joy in Jesus, as carrying on the great work of our salvation for us at his first coming or incarnation. If it be so, that by our desire, and hope, and faith, and love, we have indeed, and in truth reached the object which our souls pant after, how then should we but joy and delight therein? The end of our motion is to attain quiet and rest. Now, what is joy, but ” a sweet and delightful tranquillity of mind, testing in the fruition and possession of some good?” What, hast thou in some measure attained the presence and fruition of Christ, (as God incarnate) in thy soul? It is then time to joy in Jesus; it is then time to keep a sabbath of thy thoughts, and to be quiet and calm in thy spirit: but you will say, How should this be before we come to heaven? I answer, There is not indeed any perfection of joy while we are here, because there is no perfection of union on this side heaven; but so far as union is, our joy must be; examine the grounds of thy hope, and the actings of thy faith, and if thou art but satisfied in them, why, then lead up thy joy, and bring it up to this blessed object; here is matter for it to work upon, if thou canst possibly rejoice in any thing at all, O rejoice in the Lord, and again, I say, rejoice.
Is there not cause, read and spell what is the meaning of the gospel of Christ? What is^ospel? but good spell, or good tidings. And wherein lies the good tidings according to its eminency? Is it not in the glorious incarnation of the Son of God? “Behold I bring you a gospel,” so it is in the original; or, “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people: for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord,” Luke 2:10,11. The birth of Christ to them that have but touched hearts, is the comfort of comforts, and the sweetest balm and confection that ever was. O my soul, what ails thee? Why art thou cast down and disquieted within me? Is it because thou art a sinner] Why, ‘* unto thee is horn a Saviour,” his name is Saviour, and therefore Saviour, because, he will save his people from their sins. Come then, and bring out thy sins, and weigh them to the utmost aggravation of them, and take in every circumstance both of law and gospel, and set but this in the other scale, that, ” unto thee is born a Saviour.” Surely all thy iniquities will seem lighter than vanity, yea, they will be as nothing in comparison thereof. “Sly soul doth magnify the Lord, (saith Mary) and my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,” Luke 1:46,47. Her soul and her spirit within her rejoiced at this birth of Christ; there is cause that every soul and every spirit should rejoice that hath an interest in this birth of Christ. O my soul! how shouldst thou but rejoice if thou wilt consider these particulars. 1. God himself is come down into the world; because it was impossible for thee to come to him, he is come to thee; this consideration made the prophet cry out, ” Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout O daughter of Jerusalem: behold thy King cometh unto thee,” Tech. 9:9. He is called a King, and therefore he is able, and he is thy King, and therefore he is willing: but in that thy King cometh unto thee, here is the marvellous love and mercy of God in Christ: kings do not usually come to visit and to wait upon their subjects, it is well if poor subjects may come to them, and be admitted into their presence to wait on them; O but see the great King of Heaven and earth, the King of kings, and Lord of lords stooping, and bowing the heavens to come down to thee; surely this is good tidings of great joy, and therefore ” rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion.” A little joy is too scant and narrow for this news; hearts should be enlarged, the doors and gates should be set wide open for this King of glory to come in; as Balaam said of Israel, “God is with him, and the shout of a king is amongst them;” so now may we say, God is with us, and the shout of a king is amongst us, ” Rejoice, Zion, shout, O daughter of Jerusalem,” Numb. 23:21.
2. God is come down in the flesh, he hath laid aside, as it were, his own glory, while he converseth with thee; when God manifested himself as on mount Sinai, he came down fn thunder and lightning, and if now he had appeared in thunder and lightning, if now he had been guarded with an innumerable company of angels, all having their swords of vengeance and justice drawn, well might poor souls have trembled, and run into corners, for who could ever be able to endure his coming in this way? But lo, poor soul! God is come down in the flesh, he hath made his appearance as a man, as one of us, and there is not in this regard tho least distance betwixt him and us. Surely this is fuel for joy to feed upon; O why should God come down so suitably, so lowly as in our nature, if he would have thy poor soul to be afraid of him? Doth not this very design intend consolation to thy soul? O gather up thy spirit, anoint thy heart with the oil of gladness; see God himself is come down in flesh to live amongst us, he professeth he will have no other life but amongst the sons of men; see what a sweet way of familiarity and intercourse is made betwixt God and us, now he is come down in human frailty.
3. God hath taken on him our nature, as a vast pipe to his Godhead, that it may flow out in all manner of sweetness upon our hearts; if God had come down in flesh only to have been seen of us, it had been a wonderful condescension, and a great mercy: “If I have found favor in thy eyes, (said Moses) shew me thy way that I may know thee,” Exod. 33:13. But to come down, and to come down in flesh, not only to be seen but to dispatch the great business of our souls’ salvation, here is comfort indeed: with what joy should we draw water out of this well of salvation? Surely the great reason of the shallowness of our comforts, the shortness of our
hopes, the faintness of our spirits, the lowness of our graces, is from the not knowing or the not heeding of this particular; Christ in flesh stands not for a cypher, but it is an organ of life and grace unto us, it is a fountain of comfort that can never run dry. In this flesh there is laid in one purpose, such a fulness of the Godhead, that of his fulness we might receive in our measure, grace for grace. O my soul! thou art daily busy in eyeing this and that, but, above all, know that all the fulness of God lies in Christ incarnate to be emptied upon thee: this was the meaning of Christ taking on him flesh, that through his flesh he might convey to thee whatsoever is in himself as God. As for instance, God in himself is good, and gracious, and powerful, and all-sufficient and merciful; and what not? Now by his being in flesh he suits all this, and conveys all this to thee: Observe this for thy eternal comfort, God in and through the flesh makes all his attributes and glory serviceable to thy soul.
4. God in our nature, hath laid out the model and draught of’what he will do unto all his saints for ever; human nature was never so advanced before. What to be glorified above the angels? to be united in a personal union with the second Person of the Godhead? Surely, hence may be expected great matters, here is a fair step for the bringing of our persons up to the enjoyment of God; f God be come down in the likeness of man, why then he will bring us up into the likeness of God; look what was done to our nature in Christ, the very same (as far as we are capable) shall be done to our persons in heaven. Think of it, O my soul, why hath God made flesh so glorious, but to show that he will by that make thee glorious also? Christ is the great epitome of all the designs of God, so that in him thou mayest see what thou art designed unto, and how high, and rich thou shalt be in the other world. “Beloved now are we the sans of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know when he shall appear, we shall be like him,” 1 John 3:2. He is now like us, but then (saith the apostle) we shall be like unto him, “he shall change oar vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body,” Phil. 3:21. Oh! consider what a frame of eternal comfort may we raise up from this ground of Christ incarnate; God in the flesh.
5. God in the flesh is the first opening of his eternal plot to do us good; the seed of the woman was the first word of comfort that ever was heard in the world after man was fallen; the plot was of old, but the execution was not till after the creation, and then was a dim discovery of it, even in the beginning of time, though no clearer manifestation till the fulness of time. Well, take it as you please, whether in the beginning of time, or in the fulness of time; whether in the promise or in the performance; this discovering of Christ incarnate is the first opening of all God’s heart and glory unto the sons of men: and from this we may raise a world of comfort, for if God in the execution of his decrees begins so gloriously, how will he end? If God be so full of love as to come down in flesh now in this world, Oh, what matter of hope is laid up before us, of what God will be to us in that world to come? If the glory of God be let out to our souls so fully at first, what glorious openings of all the glory of God will be let out to our souls at last? Christians, what do you think will God do with us, or bring us unto when we shall be with him in heaven? You see now he is manifested in the flesh, and he hath laid out a world of glory in that: but the apostle tells us of another manifestation, for we shall see him as he is; he shall at last be manifest in himself, “Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face, now we know in part, but then shall we know even as also we are known,” 1 Cor. 13:12. To what an height of knowledge or manifestation this doth arise, I am now to seek, and so I must be whilst I am on this side heaven, but this I believe, the manifestation of God and Christ is more in heaven, than is, or ever hath been, or ever shall he upon earth; “Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty, or in his glory,” saith Isaiah, 33:17. There is a great deal of difference betwixt seeing the king in his ordinary, and seeing him in his robes, and upon his throne, with his crown on his head, and his sceptre in his hand, and his nobles about him in all his glory; the first openings of Christ are glorious, but O what will it be to see him in his greatest glory, that ever he will manifest himself in? We usually say, That workmen do their meanest work at first, and if the glorious incarnation of Christ be but the beginning of God’s works in reference to our souls’ salvation, what are those last works?
O my soul, weigh all these passages, and make an application of them to thyself, and then tell me, if yet thou hast not matter enough to raise up thy heart, and to “fill it with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” When the wise men saw but ” the star of Christ, they rejoiced with an exceeding great joy,” Matth. 2:10. How much more when they saw Christ himself? “Your father Abraham (said Christ to the Jews) rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad,” John 8:56. He saw it indeed, but afar off with the eyes of faith: they afore Christ had the promise, but we see the performance; how then should we rejoice? How glad shouldst thou be, O my soul, at the sight and the effect of Christ’s incarnation1. If John the Baptist could leap for joy in his mother’s belly, when Christ was but yet in the womb, how should thy heart leap for joy, who can say with the prophet, “Unto me a child is born, and unto me a son is given?” If Simeon, waiting “for the consolation of Israel, took him up in his arms for joy, and blessed God,” Luke 2:28. How shouldst thou with joy embrace him with both arms, who knowest his coming in the flesh, and who hast heard him come in the gospel, in the richest and most alluring expressions of his love? If the angels could sing for joy at his birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will towards men?” Luke 2:14. “Awake, awake, O my soul, awake, awake, utter a song!” tell over these passages, That God is come down into the world, that God is comedown in the flesh, that God is come down in flesh in order to thy reconciliation; that God is come down in the likeness of man, that he may bring thee up into the likeness of God, and that all these are but the first openings of the grace, and goodness, and glory of God in Christ to thy soul: and oh what work will these make in thy soul, if the Spirit come in who is the Comforter!
Sect. Viii. Of calling on Jesus, in that respect. 8. Let Us call on Jesus, or on God the Father in and through Jesus. Now this calling on Jesus contains prayer, and praise. 1. We must pray, That all these transactions of Jesus at his first coming or incarnation may be ours; and is not here encouragement for our prayers? If we observe it, this very point of Christ’s incarnation opens a door of rich entrance into the presence of God; we may call it, a blessed portal into heaven, not of iron, or brass, but of our own flesh; this is that “new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh,” Heb. 10:20. With what boldness and freeness may we now enter l.ito the holiest, and draw near unto the throne of grace? Why, Christ is incarnate, God is come down in the flesh; though his Deity may confound us (if we should immediately and solely apply ourselves unto it) yet his
humanity comforts our faint and feeble souls; God in his humility animates our souls to come unto him, and to seek of him whatsoever is needful for us. Go then to Christ; away, away, O my soul, to Jesus, or to God the Father, in and through Jesus; and O desire that the effect, the fruit, the benefit of his conception, birth, and of the wonderful union of the two natures of Christ may be all thine. What, dost thou hope in Jesus, and believe thy part in this incarnation of Christ? Why then, pray in hope, and pray in faith: what is prayer, but the stream and river of faith, and issue of the desire of that which I joyfully believe? “Thou, O Lord God of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an- house, therefore hath thy servant found iu his heart to pray this prayer unto thee,” 2 Sam. 7:27.
2. We must praise. This was the special duty practised by all saints and angels at Christ’s birth, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, (said Mary) and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour, Luke 1: 46. And blessed be the Lord God of Israel, (saith Zachary) for he hath visited and redeemed his people, verse 68. And glory to God in the highest,” said the heavenly host: only an angel had before brought the news, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord,” Luke 2:11. But immediately after there were many to sing praises: not only six cherubim, as Isaiah saw; not only four and twenty elders, as John saw, but a multitude of heavenly angels like armies, that by their heavenly hallelujahs gave glory to God. O my soul, do thou endeavor to keep consort with those many angels. “O sing praises, sing praises unto God, sing praises.” Never was like case since the creation: never was the wisdom, truth, justice, mercy and goodness of God so manifested before: I shall never forget that last speech of a dying saint upon the stage, ” Blessed be God for Jesus Christ.” O my soul, living and dying let this be thought on. What, Christ incarnate! and incarnate for me! Why, “bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”
Sect. Ix. of conforming to Jesus in that respect.
0. Let us conform to Jesus in reference to this great transaction of his incarnation. Looking to Jesus contains this, and is the cause of this; the sight of God will make us like to God; and the sight of Christ will make us like to Christ; for as a looking-glass cannot be exposed to the sun, but it will shine like the same; so God receives none to contemplate his face, but he transforms them into his own likeness by the irradiation of his own light; and Christ hath none that dive into these depths of his glorious and blessed incarnation, but they carry along with them sweet impressions of an abiding and transforming nature. Come, then, let us once more look to Jesus m his incarnation, that we may conform and be like to Jesus in that respect.
But wherein lies this conformity or likeness? I answer, in these and the like particulars.
1. Christ was conceived in Mary by the Holy Ghost, so must Christ be conceived in us by the same Holy Ghost. To this purpose is the seed of the word cast in, and principles of grace are by the Holy Ghost infused; “he hath begotten us by the word,” saith the apostle, James 1:18. How mean, contemptible or impotent men may esteem it; yet God hath appointed no other means to convey supernatural life but after this manner: “Where no vision is, the people perish:” where no preaching is, there ia a worse judgment than that of Egypt, when there was one dead in every family. By the word and Spirit the seeds of all grace are sown in the heart at once, and the heart closing with it, immediately Christ is conceived in the heart.
Concerning this spiritual conception or reception of Christ in us there is a great question, whether it be possible for any man to discern how it is wrought? But for the negative are these texts, “Our life is hid with Christ in God,’: Col. 3:3. And “the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou nearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth,” John 3:8. It is a wonderful secret and hidden conception. The Holy Ghost sets out that state of unregeneracy, in which Christ finds us, by the name of death, Eph. 2:1. So it must needs be as impossible for us to discover how it is wrought, as it is impossible for one to know how he receives his own life. Some say the first act of infusing or receiving Christ, or grace, (they are all one) is wrought in an instant, and not by degrees, and therefore it is impossible to discern the manner: And yet we grant, That we may discern both the prepaiations to grace, and the first operations of grace. 1. The preparations to grace are discernible; such are those terrors, and spiritual agonies, which are often before the work of regeneration: they may be resembled to the heating of metals before they melt, and are cast into the mould to be fashioned: now by the help of natural reason one may discern these. 2. Much more may the first motions and operations of grace be discerned by one truly regenerate, because that in them his spirit works together with the Spirit of Christ; such are sorrow for sin, as sin, and seeking rightly for comfort, an hungering desire after Christ and his merits; neither do I think it impossible for a regenerate man to feel the first illapse of the Spirit into the soul, for it may bring that sense with itself, as to be easily discerned; although it did not always see, nor perhaps’usually see; it is true that tho giving of spiritual life, and the giving of the sense of it, are two distinct acts of the Spirit; yet who can deny but that both these acts may go together, though always they do not go together? Howsoever it is, yet even in such persons, as in the instant of regeneration may feel themselves in a regenerate estate, this conclusion stands firm, viz. “They may know what is wrought in them, but how it is wrought they cannot know nor understand.” We feel the wind, and perceive it in the motions and operations thereof, but the originals of it we are not able, exactly to describe; some think the beginnings of winds is from the flux of the air, others from the exhalations of the earth, but there is no certainty; so it is in the manner of this conception, or passive reception of Christ, and grace into our hearts; we know not how it is wrought, but it nearly concerns us to know that it is wrought; look we to this conformity, that as Christ was conceived in Marv by the Holy Ghost, so that Christ be conceived in us, in a spiritual sense by the same Holy Ghost.
2. Chiist was sanctified in the virgin’s womb, so must we be sanctified in ourselves, following the commandment of God, ” Be ye holy, as I am holy:” souls regenerate must be sanctified, “Every man (saith the apostle) that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as he is pure,” 1 John 3:3. I know our hearts are (as it were) seasofcoiruptions, yet we must daily cleanse ourselves of them by little and little: Christ could not have been a fit Saviour for us, unless first he had been sanctified, neither can we be fit members unto him, unless we be in some measure purged from our sins, and sanctified by his Spirit. To this purpose is that of the apostle, “I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a nvtng sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,” Rom. 12:1. In the Old Testament, they did after a corporal manner, slav and kill beasts, presenting them, and offering them unto the Lord: but now we are in a spiritual manner to crucify and mortify the flesh, with the affections and lusts, all our inordinate passions, and our evil affections of anger, love, joy, hatred, are to be crucified: and all that is ours must be given up unto God; there must be no love in us but of God, and in reference to God; no joy in us but in God, and in reference to God; no fear in us, but of God, and in reference to God; and thus of all other the like passions. O that we would look to Jesus, and be like unto Jesus in this thing! If there be any honor, any happiness, any excellency, it is in this, even in this, we are not fit for any holy duty, or any religious approach unto God without sanctification, “this is the will of God, (saith the apostle) even your sanctification,” I Thess. 4:3. All the commands of God tend to this, and for the comfort of us Christians, we have under the gospel promises of sanctification to be in a larger measure made out unto us, “In that day there shall be upon the bells of the horses, holiness unto the Lord—Yea, every pot in Jerusalem, and in Judah, shall be holiness unto the Lord,” Zech. 14:20,21. Every vessel under Christ and the gospel must have written upon it, holiness to the Lord; thus our spiritual services figured by the ancient ceremonial services are set out by a larger measure of holiness than was in old times: it is a sweet resemblance of Christ to be holy, for he is still the holy child Jesus, Acts 4:27. He was sanctified from the womb, and sanctified in the womb, for our imitation: “For their sakes, I sanctify myself, (saith Christ) that they also might be sanctified,” John 17:19.
3. Christ the Son of man is by nature the Son of God; so we poor sons of men must by grace become the sons of God, even of the same God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. “For this very end, God sent his own Son made of a woman, that we might receive the adoption of sons—Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ,” Gal. 4:4,5.7. This intimates, that what relation Christ hath u;ito the Father by nature, we should have the same by grace; by nature, ” He is the only begotten Son of the Father,and as many as received him, (saith John 1:12,14.) to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” It is true, Christ reserves to himself the pre-eminence: he is in a peculiar manner, “the first born among many brethren,” Rom. 8:29. Yet in him, and for him all the rest of the brethren are accounted as first born: so God hids Moses say unto Pharaoh, “Israel is my son, even my first born: and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me, and if thou refuse to let him go, behold I will slay thy son, even thy first born,” Exod. 4:22,23. And the whole church of God consisting of Jew and Gentile, is in the same sort described by the apostle to be, “The general assembly and church of the first-born enrolled in heaven,” Heb. 12:23. By the same reason that we are s0ns, we are first-borns; “If we are children, then are we heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ,” Rom. 8:17. O who would not endeavor after this privilege? Who would not conform to Christ in this respect?
4. Christ the Son of God was yet the Son of man; there was in him a duplicity of natures really distinguished, and in this respect, the greatest majesty, and the greatest humility that ever was, are found in Christ; so we, though sons of God, must remember ourselves to be but sons of men, our privileges are not so high but our poor conditions, frailties, mfirmities, sins, may make us low: Who was higher than the Son of God? And who was lower than the Son of man? As he is God, he is in tfra bosom of his Father; as he is man, he is in the womb of his mother; as he is God, his throne is in heaven, and he fills all things by his immensity; as he is man, he is circumscribed in a cradle, I mean a manger, a most uneasy cradle sure; as he is God, he is clothed in a robe of glory; as he is man, he is wrapped in a few coarse swaddling bands; as he is God, he is encircled with millions of bright angels; as he is man, he is in company with Joseph, and Mary, and the beasts; as he is God, he is the eternal Word of the Father, All-sufficient, and without need; as he is man, he submits himself to a condition imperfect, inglorious, indigent and necessitous; well, ” Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God, but he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man he humbled himself,” Phil. 2:5,6,7,8. He that thought it no robbery to be equal with God, humbled himself to become man: we should have found it no robbery to be equal with devils, and are we too proud to learn of God? What an intolerable disproportion is this, to behold an humbled God, and a proud man? Who can endure to see a prince on foot, and his vassal mounted? Shall the Son of God be thus humble for us, and shall not we be humble for ourselves? I say, for ourselves that deserve to be cast down amongst the lowest worms, the damnedest creatures? What are we in our best condition here upon earth? Had we the best natures, purest conversations, happiest endowments that accompany the saints, pride overthrows all; it thrust proud Nebuchadnezzar out of Babylon, proud Haman out of the court, proud Saul out of his kingdom, proud Lucifer out of heaven. Poor man! how ill it becomes thee to be proud, when God himself is become thus humble! “O learn of me (saith Christ) for I am meek, and humble, and lowly in Spirit, and you shall find rest unto your souls,” Matth. 11:29.
5. The two natures of Christ, though really distinguished, yet were they inseparably joined and made not two, but one person; so must our natures and persons, though at greatest distance from God, be inseparably joined and united to Christ, and thereby also to God. “I pray (saith Christ) that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us,” John 17:21. That union of Christ’s two natures we call a personal, hypdstatical union; and this union of Christ with us, we call a mystical and spiritual union; yet though it be mystical and spiritual, this hinders not but that it is a true, real, essential, substantial union, whereby the person of the believer is indissolubly united to the glorious person of the Son of God. For our better understanding we may consider (if you please) of a threefold unity, either of persons in one nature, or of natures in one person, or of natures and persons in one Spirit; in the first is one God; in the second is one Christ; in the third is one church with Christ; our union unto Christ is the last of these, whereby he and we are all spiritually united to the making of one mystical body: O what a privilege is this! a poor believer, be he never so mean, or miserable in the eye of the world, yet he is one with Christ, as Christ is one with the Father; “Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,” 1 John 1:3. Every saint is Christ’s fellow; there is a kind of analogical proportion between Christ and his saints in every thing: if we take a view of all Christ, what he is in his person, in his glory, in his Spirit, in his graces, in his Father’s love, and the accessi he bath to the Father, in all these we are in a sort fellows with Christ;
only with this difference That Christ hath the pre-errrtnence ht all things; all comes from the Father to Christ, and all we have is by marriage with Jesus Christ: Christ by his union hath all good things without measure, but we by our union have them only in measure, as it pleaseth him to distribute. But herein if we resemble Christ, whether in his union with the Father, or in his union of the two natures in one person of a Mediator: if by looking on Christ, we come to this likeness, to be one with Jesus Christ: O what a privilege is this! had we not good warrant for so high a challenge,, it could be no less than a blasphemous arrogance to lay claim to the royal blood of heaven: but the Lord is pleased so to dignify a poor worm, that every believer may truly say, ” I am one with Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is one with me.”
To sweeten this union to our thoughts, I shall acquaint you with the privileges flowing from it, and let the same stir you up to conform.
Hence it is that Christ lives in us, and that Christ both gives life, and is our life. “When Christ which is our life shall appear; Christ is to me to live: and I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” Col. 3:4. Phil. 1: 21. Gal. 2:20. There is a spiritual and a natural life: for the natural life what is it but a bubble, a vapor, a shadow, a dream, a nothing? But this spiritual life is an excellent life, it is wrought in us by the Spirit of Christ, there is a world of difference betwixt the natural and the spiritual life, and that makes the difference betwixt what I do as a man, and what I do as a Christian: as a man I have eyes, ears, motions, affections, understanding, naturally as my own: but as a Christian I have all these from him with whom I am spiritually one, the Lord Jesus Christ; as a man I have bodily eyes, and I behold bodily and material things, but as a Christian I have spiritual eyes, and see invisible and eternal things, as it is said of Moses, That “he endured as seeing him who is invisible,” Heb. 11:27.
a man I have outward ears, and I hear outwardly sounds of all sorts, whether articulate or inarticulate: but as a Christian I have inward ears, and so I hear the voice of Christ, and of God’s Spirit, speaking to my soul: as a man I have bodily feet, and by them I move in my own secular ways, but as a Christian I have spiritual feet, and on them I walk with God in all the ways of his commandments; as a man I have natural affections, and so I love beauty, and fear pain, and hate an enemy, and I rejoice in outward prosperity or the like; but as a Christian I have renewed affections, and so I love goodness, and hate nothing but sin, and I fear above all the displeasure of my God, and I rejoice in God’s favor, which is better than life. Surely this is a blessed life; and as soon as ever I am united to Christ, why then, I “live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” first, Christ is conceived, and then Christ is formed, and then Christ is born, and then Christ grows in me to a blessed fulness: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you,” Gal. 4:19. Formation follows conception, and travail implies birth; then after this we are “babes in Christ,” 1 Cor. 3:1. Or Christ is as a babe in us, from thence we grow up to strength of youth, ” I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong,” 1 John 2:14. And at last we come to gospel perfection, even towards the ” measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,” Eph. 4:13. Is this all? Nay, if my union be firm, and Christ live in me, Why then I go on, and in this condition ” I am dead with Christ; and I am buried with Christ: and I am alive again unto God through Christ; and am risen with Christ: and I am glorified with Christ,” Rom. 6:8. and 6: ft.il. Col. 3:1. Rom. 8:17. Nay, yet more, my sufferings are Christ’s, Col. 1:24. And Christ’s sufferings are “mine; I am in Curist an heir of glory, Rom. 8:17. And Christ is In me the hope of glory, CbL 1:27. O my Christ, my life, what am I, or what is my father’s house, that thou shouldst come down into me, that thou shouldst be conceived in the womb of my poor sinful heart, that thou shouldst give my soul a new and spiritual life, a life begun in grace, and ending in eternal glory? I shall not reckon up any more privileges of this union, methinks I hould not need; if I tell you of grace and glory, what can I more? Glory is the highest pitch, and Christ tells you concerning it,” The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one,” John 17:22. Ah, my brethren! to be so like Christ as to be one with Christ, it is near indeed; O let us conform to Christ in this; he is one with our nature in an hypostatical, personal union; let us be one with him in a spiritual, holy and mystical union; if God be not in our persons as truly, though not as fully, as in our nature, we have no particular comfort from this design of his personal, hypostatical and wonderful union.
6. Christ was born, so must we be new-born; to this I have spoken when I laid it down as an evidence, That ” unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given,” only one word more; we must be new-born; as once born by nature, so new-born by grace; there must be some resemblance in us of Christ born amongst us. As, 1. Christ born had a Father in heaven, and a mother on earth; so in our new birth, we must look on God as our Father in heaven, and on the church as our mother on earth; it was usually said, “Out of the church no salvation,” and to this the apostle alludes, “Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all,” Gal. 4:26. Indeed out of the church there is no means of salvation, no word to teach, no sacraments to confirm, nothing at all to hold forth Christ to a soul, and without Christ how should there be the salva. tion of souls? so that we must look on the church as our mother, and on God as our Father: not that we deny some to be as spiritual fathers unto others, Paul tells the Corinthians, that he was their father, ” Though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel,” 1 Cor. 4:15. But alas! such fathers are but ministerial fathers, and therefore Paul seems to correct himself, ” Who is Paul? And who is Apollos? but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” 1 Cor. 8:5. It is God only is our Father principally, originally, supremely: God only puts grace and virtue into the womb of the soul: it is not possible that any creature should be a creator of the new creature. O then, let us look up unto heaven and say, “O Lord, new-make me, new-create me, O be thou my Father.”
2.. When Christ was born, all Jerusalem was troubled; so when this new birth is, we must look for it, that’ much commotion, and much division of heart will be; the devil could not be cast out of the possessed person, but he would exceedingly tear and torment the possessed person: the truth is we cannot expect that Christ should expel Satan from those holds and dominions he hath over us, but he will be sure to put us to great fear and terror in heart. Besides, not only the evil Spirit, but God’s Spirit is for a while a Spirit of bondage, to make every thing as a mighty burden unto us: there are many pretenders.to the grace of God in Christ, but they cannot abide to hear of any pains or pangs in this new birth; O this is legal! but I pray thee tell me, dost thou ever know any woman bring forth in her sleep or in a dream, without feeling any pain? And how then should the heart of man be thus new changed and new moulded without several pangi? Look, an it is in the natural birth, there are many pangs and troubles, “In Borrow shalt thou bring forth children:” so it is, and must be in our spiritual birth, there is usually (I will not say always, to such or such a degree) many pangs and troubles, there is many a throb, and many a heart ache ere Christ can be formed in us.
3. When Christ was born, there was discovery of many of the glorious attributes of God; then, “Mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other;” then especially was a discovery of the goodness, and power, and wisdom, and holiness of God. So when this new birth is, we must look upon it as a glorious discovery of those lovely attributes. As, 1. Of his mercy, goodness, love; how often is this called , his grace, and the riches of his grace? Christian! you that know what the new birth means, do notyeu say, The goodness of God appears in this? Surely it was God’s goodness to make a world, but this is the riches of his goodness to create a new heart in you, when man by sin was fallen, he might have been thrown away as refuse, fit fuel for everlasting flames; it might have been with mankind as it was with devils, in their deluge God did not provide an ark to save so many as eight persons, not one angel that fell was the object of God’s grace; and that God should pass by all those angels, and many thousands of the sons of men, and yet that he should look upon you in your blood, and bid you live, O the goodness of Godl
2. As of the goodness, so in this new birth there is a discovery of God’s power; and hence it is called, “A new creature,” Gal. 6:15. The very same power that framed the world, is the framer of this new creature; the work of conversion is set forth by the work of creation; God only creates man, and God only converts man; in the creation God said, ” Let there be light, and therejvas light;” in our conversion, God saith, “Let there be light,” and presently the same God shines in our hearts: nay, this power of conversion, in some sense far passeth the creation, “To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed,” Isa. 53:1. The Lord puts to his arm, his power, his strength indeed in conversion of souls: when he made the world, he met with nothing to resist him; he only spake the word, and it was done; but, in the conversion of a sinner, God meets with the whole frame of all creatures opposing and resisting him, the devil and the world without, and sin and corruption within; here then must needs be a power against all power.
S. As of the power and goodness of God, so in this new birth there is a discovery of the wisdom of God, I might instance in many particulars; as, 1. In that the regenerate are mostly of the meanest and most contemptible persons, “Not many wise, not many noble,” &c. 1 Cor. 1:26. 2. In that many times God takes the worst weeds and makes the sweetest flowers, thus Paul, Zaccheus, the publicans and harlots. 3. In that the. regnerate are of the fewest, and least number, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” 4. In that God chooseth such a time to be his time of love, wherein he usually discovers many concurrences of strange love meeting together, read Ezek. 16:4,5,6.8,9. In all these particulars is his wisdom wonderful.
4. As of the goodness, power, and wisdom of God, so in this new birth, there is a discovery of the holiness of God. If a clod of earth, or piece of muck should be made a glorious star in heaven, it is not more wonderful than for a sinner to be made like an angel, doing the will of God: it argues the holiness of God, and his love of holiness, to make man holy; he tells us, That ” without holiness none shall see God;” and therefore first he will make us holy, and then he will bring us to himself. O here is a bleased conformity! aa Christ was born let us be new-born.
7. Christ, after his birth, did«nd suffered many things in his childhood, (I should be too large to speak to every particular) so should we learn to “bear God’s yoke even in our youth,” Lam. 3:29. It is good to imitate Christ even betimes, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them,” Eccl. 12*.I.. Do we not see by experience, what a blessed thing a gracious and an holy education is? “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” Prov. 22:6. O ye parents, that ye would do your duties, and in that respect imitate Joseph and Mary, in their care and nurture of the holy child Jesus; and O ye children, that ye would do your duties, and imitate Jesus the blessedest pattern that ever was, that as you grow in stature, you also might “grow in favor with God and man,” Luke 2:52. Observe him in the temple, when he was but twelve years old, see him in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions; children while little (if but capable of instruction) should with their parents wait on God in the midst of our assemblies; Moses told Pharaoh, they must have their young ones with them to the solemn worship, Exod. 10:9. And when Joshua read the law of God to the children of Israel, they had their little ones with them in that solemn assembly, Josh. 8:35. Observe Christ also in Nazareth, where, during his minority, he was ever subject to his parents; so, ” Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right,” Eph. 6:1,2. Not only the law of God, but the gospel of Christ makes mention of this, “Honor thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise;” I know the subjection of Christ extends to his particular calling, and this also is for your imitation; in obedience to his supposed father, the holy child would have a particular ’employment; something must be done for the support of that holy family wherein Jesus lived, and to that purpose he puts to his own hands, and works in the trade of a carpenter; such as will live idle, and without a calling, that serve for no other use but to devour God’s creatures, and to make a dearth, O how unlike are they to Christ Jesus? It is noted for a grievous sin, and a chief part of the corruption ofournatuie, to be unprofitable to the generation with whom we live; ” They are altogether become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good,” Rom. 3:12. Religion and grace wherever it prevaileth, makes men profitable, and, in this respect the poorest servant and drudge may have more comfort in his estate, than the greatest gentleman that hath nothing to do but to eat, and drink, and play.
Thus far we have looked on Jesus as our Jesus in his incarnation, or his first coming in the flesh. Our next work is to look on Jesus carrying on the’great work of man’s salvation, during his life, from John’s baptism, until his suffering and dying on the cross.