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a cross for them; to redeem them by his own blood ? The Apostle speaks of God's giving his people above all they can ask or think. We may suppose he does not mean that one who has received Christ, may not ask any other needful blessing he can think of. After Christ, no blessing can be above the believer's asking, but because it is above his thought. But there is a singularity in that first blessing itself. Christ's incarnation and sacrifice, sinners could not have asked it; nay it is scarce possible they could have thought of it. Even among men, no criminal ever seriously desired the judge to bear the sentence himself; especially a sentence for crimes committed against the judge himself; and yet among men how small is the distance between judge and criminal, either as to station or guilt. Here the distance is infinite. When we praise God therefore for his mercy, we praise him for what we could not have prayed for, yea for what we could not have thought. It is the chief thing God prepared for his people, which eye had not seen, nor ear heard, nor could enter into the heart of man, por (may we add), into the thought of any creature, or any mind below infinite wisdom. The Scripture expressions about angels looking into these things, seem to denote surprise. None can pretend that the principalities and powers of heaven ever knew so much before of God's love, or of God who is love. Before this was revealed, they knew and felt God's goodness to be infinite; but it is no reflection on them that their knowledge is finite, and that they knew not before how much God could love, especially such unlovely objects; how far his pity, and how low his condescension could go.
In the last place, as to the application of this doctrine, it is plain we ought to apply it in our meditations to every other doctrine of Christianity; for it is the centre of, and serves to give light to them all. But the bounds of this discourse will allow but the mentioning of a few inferences from it. 1. It shews, that for any of us to pretend to faith in
Christ, without good works; to pretend to have an impression of God's chief mercy, without loving and obeying him ; and of the chief manifestation of the evil of sin, without warring against it, is to be really monsters of ingratitude and stupidity.
2. On the other hand, as to such as neglect this gift of righteousness, and place their own good works in its room, the doctrine insisted on concerning that gift, that pearl of price, may shew them, they had need to be good works indeed that are preferred to it, and that must atone for rejecting it.
3. But in a particular manner, we should carefully apply the doctrine, with dependence on God's grace, to the holy exercise of divine worship relating to the work of redemption, which is our proper work at this sacrament. The doctrine insisted on shews that ex. ercise is the noblest and highest we are capable of. We may raise our minds to some impression of this by comparing them with any of our other works.
Man is a creature endowed with various faculties, all useful, but some higher and some lower than others. As the soul is of a nature superior to that of the body, so also are its faculties and exercises. These are the highest exercises of the soul that relate to the highest and most excellent objects. That, therefore, by which the mind is employed about an infinitely excellent object, is the highest of all, that is divine worship. But in the various exercises of it, we may justly make a difference. It was observed that God's works and manifestations are not all equal. We are taught that his mercies are over all his other works. Worshipping him therefore should be above all our other works. Christ is above all other mercies ; and therefore worshipping God for Christ should be absolutely above all other worship. It is not only of the highest kind of spiritual exercises, but the highest of the kind we are capable of, or that we can conceive any even the most exalted creature capable of. The Scripture represents the angels transported with it, Rev. V.; they have incomparab e better skill of it, but surely we are more concerned in and more obliged to it. They glorify and praise God for that work; but as the apostle distinguishes between glorifying God and being thankful to him, Rom. i 21. we should glorify God for all his works even towards others. Thank. fulness is the debt we owe for his favours to ourselves. How vast a sum is due here. But instead of grudging at it as a burden, we should triumph in it as an inestimable privilege. To be obliged to a high degree of thankfulness and love, is to be obliged to a high degree of happiness and joy. If we cannot venture to give thanks for an actual interest in that chief gift, we are obliged at least (here as well as in all other cases) to give thanks for the offer of it. And the doctrine insisted on shews, that always, till we have a sure interest in it, our chief ground of thankfulness and joy is the offer of it, that the chief gift of God is offered to the chief of sinners.
This directs us to apply the doctrine to another exercise suitable to this occasion ; for praise and thankfulness is not all our work. Praise is the work common to us with angels, praise and thanksgiving are com. mon to us with the saints made perfect. It is all we know of their work. But it is not all our own work ; . we have that incumbent on us and something besides ; not only praise but prayer, not only thanksgiving but supplication, seeking what they have obtained, and desiring what they enjoy. The angels are admiring spectators looking into these things; but there is a difference between mere looking into these things and receiving them. It is not desirable to be a mere spectator at the communion; but to be a mere onlooker and spectator at that which is represented in it, is in a sinner, who continues such, the worst work he is capable of. For a forlorn destitute wretch to see such danger without desiring relief, to see such relief without embracing it, to see such a pearl, such a gift of infinite value, to see it offered to him without grasping at it, is the greatest affront to God, and cruelty to himself, he is capable of.
The doctrine insisted on, shews that we should use, through divine grace, transcendent earnestness, so to speak, like Jacob's holy and humble wrestling in the prayer of faith, and taking the kingdom of heaven, or that pearl of price in whose value it is contained, with a spiritual reverential violence. For it is then we shew the greatest reverence and fear of God when we are most earnest to be delivered from his just dis. pleasure, and from those sins that procure it. The doctrine shews how justly faith is called precious faith, since it is a receiving of that pearl of price, after which the believer will be but receiving a part of its worth in the kingdom of heaven to all eternity.
This should excite us to cheerfulness in renewing our consent to the covenant, and in receiving the seal of it, to rejoice in the tenor of it, since the promise of it contains all things; and what is required of us, in order to a title to all things, is to receive what is more than all things.
In the next place, we should apply the doctrine in eating our passover with the bitter herbs of repentance and sorrow for sin ; since that transcendency of mercy that has been insisted on proves a transcendency of guilt in our ingratitude for it, which is at the same time our greatest sin, and the greatest aggravation of our other sins. And as all of us are less or more chargeable with it, so the believer's guilt this way has a peculiar aggravation in it, being not only against the offer but the actual application of this mercy. It is no wonder then, that of all men in the world, the most eminent saints are the men who have the greatest sorrow for sin, as well as the greatest delight in duty, and the former, one of the chief means of the latter.
The evil of the sin against the Holy Ghost is no objection against this assertion, that ingratitude for Christ is the chief sin, but rather a confirmation of it, because that sin is but a particular kind of this ingratitude, and shews the evil of all such ingratitude, since the worst act of it is unpardonable. That sin
against the Spirit of Christ is a peculiar indignity to that gift of Christ, which applies all his other gifts, and shews the danger of abusing any of them. Without inquiring here particularly into the nature of it, it is sufficient unto our present purpose to observe in general, that it is called a trampling under foot the Son of God and crucifying him afresh, Heb. vi. 6. which shews that it is the greatest abuse of God's greatest gift, and since that can never be forgiven or repented of, it should excite us chiefly to repent of every abuse of that gift while it may be forgiven.
We should reflect, that despising redemption has a peculiar guilt in it beyond other sins which make us need a redemption ; and that the folly which poisoned our souls and brought our persons under the sentence of death, is wisdom when compared to the folly of refusing the antidote and rejecting the remission, especially when the antidote or cure is prepared with such kindness that it is the physician's own heart's-blood, or rather the blood of his soul who offers it; when it is offered so freely, that the best blessings that can be desired are ours if we sincerely desire them; and not only so freely, but with such tenderness, that the Sovereign, by his inspired ambassadors, beseeches the criminal, (2 Cor. v. 20.) and the remission is joined with the offer of an endless inheritance, and the gift that purchased both, of infinite value. As it is this that shews how far divine mercy could go, so the sin of rejecting it shews how far human wickedness can go; and the greatness of this gift of God, compared with men's treatment of it, may be said to shew his condescension, and our ingratitude at its uttermost. Nor need we wonder that other guilt compared to this is reckoned as innocency.
If I had not come, says Christ, they had had no sin; and that is the sin that will make at last the case of a very Capernaum more intolerable than that of Sodom, since it is the sin that has no parallelon earth, nor, we may add, even in hell, since it is sin the devils know only by speculation, by seeing it in us, having no experience of it themselves. When