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ficulties, and consider whether in the strength of Christ thou wast capable of performing it? and after many disputes with thyself and anxious fears, thou didst strike the bargain. It is recorded of Augustus Cæsar, that "when he made a great muster in Mars' field, a multitude of people being there, an eagle often fluttered about him, and then went upon a neighbouring temple built by Agrippa, and sat upon the first letter of his name, which being observed, he commanded his colleague Tiberius to make those vows that were wont to be made for the next period of five years ensuing, for though all things were ready for the solemnities of those vows, yet he refused to make vows, which he should not live to perform."* This was commendable in this poor heathen, that he would make no vows but what he had a probable prospect of a capacity to perform; and didst not thou consider all circumstances, and yet by the grace of God didst proceed in thy proposed design; and that which discouraged this great man, animated thee; namely, fear of approaching death? and didst thou not undertake it as in the presence of the all-seeing God, inquiring if thou hadst any by-ends, renouncing self, and suspecting thy hypocrisy? and thou didst then think thou wast sincere, otherwise thou durst not have done it; and shall one dash of the devil's malicious pen expunge all that thou didst transact with so much care and scrupulousness? Wilt thou gratify that envious one, who could not hinder thy covenanting, but now seeks to spoil thy comfort? When a man hath made a purchase, and his title is clear according to the judgment of persons learned in the law, his writings confirmed according to law and custom, will he regard every trivial objection foisted in by an impertinent caviller? It is a fond, foolish thing • Suet. in Octavio, Cap. 97.
to run after every dog that barks at you, your best course is not to regard them, but hold on your way, as Job expresses himself and tells Satan; * and as Nehemiah said to Samballat, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down, why should the work cease, whilst I leave it and come down to you?"+ So do you, mind heart-work and hand-work, be intent on the work and worship of God; hold on in prayer, reading, hearing, mortifying sensual appetites, walking with God, with a solemn reliance and recumbency upon God, and this will sooner clear thy sincerity and relation to God than a thousand disputes; and when thou canst spy a fit season to examine those objections that are material, do it thoroughly by scripture proof, that you may effectually quell them, and have something to answer them if ever they return upon you. One lively exercise of grace or improving of a scripture promise will more satisfy your souls than many disputes.
(4.) Once more, those who have engaged in a covenant transaction, are too apt to forget Jesus Christ the mediator of the covenant, and this both in our first entering into the covenant, and afterwards; both in point of assistance to take him along with us, and in point of acceptance, when we feel defects or are chargeable with deficiency. Alas sirs, I fear Jesus Christ is little regarded as he should be; to sincere covenanters I hope Christ is not a "stumbling-stone or rock of offence," but I fear he is not so precious or an honour as they ought to account him. Alas, how can you bear up without this foundation? how can you hold together with the building without this corner stone? how can you come to God but by him? how can you be accepted but in the Beloved? || If you lay too much
1 Peter ii. 5—8.
• Job xvii. 9.
+ Neh. vi. 3.
stress on covenanting or keeping it, you invalidate all you have done; you submit not to the righteouness of God, if you go about to establish your own righteousness.* Thou hast been praying, thy heart was enlarged, thou hast received O what quickenings! thou hast covenanted, and been helped to perform thy vows, dost thou not secretly applaud thyself in all this? and think, now surely God will own me, for my heart was much carried out? but where is Christ? is he set by as a cipher? O take heed of this deceit, there is a snake in the grass; you will say, but Christ is understood and implied, and why not expressed? Is it acting with propriety, for a servant to bring a present to a person of quality, and not name his master, in whose name he comes? should not the principal verb be put in? what good sense can you make without it? None but Christ, none but Christ, said the martyr Lambert in the flames, lifting up his burning fingers. Augustine abated his delight in Cicero's Hortensius, when he fonnd not the name of Christ in it; your duty and covenant engagement signify nothing, if not done in the name and strength of Christ. The house was destroyed if the door posts were not sprinkled with the blood of the paschal lamb; if thou couldest wear out thy tongue in prayer, and make thy knees as hard as a camel's hoofs with kneeling; if thou wouldest expend all thy moisture with weeping for sin, and fast till skin and bones cleave together as an anatomy; couldst thou keep all thy vows, reform thy heart and life, and be as holy as an angel, and bear the torments of hell with the devils, all this would not make God amends for the least sin, nor quench one spark of God's flaming wrath; no, Christ alone must bring you off with the holy and righteous God; "He is the propitiation
* Rom. x. 3.
for our sins; by his stripes we are healed; by his blood we are reconciled; through his intercession we are admitted into the holy of holies."*
If you rest upon grace inherent, and think to climb to heaven that way, you set up Acesius's ladder, and if you could mount so high upon that, you might then say, this is heaven which I have built, this is the glory which my grace hath purchased; thus the God of heaven must, as one saith, become tenant to his creature in heaven. Then you might say as that proud person did, whose language was, "I will not have heaven at free cost" I will pay for my mansion or I will never come there; and such a one shall never come thither. Indeed, "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, and that through Jesus Christ our Lord." God hath now cast the order of our salvation into another mold and method, a method of grace, not of grace in us, or by us, but of grace to us, and for us. Inherent grace hath its place and office, that is to ac⚫company salvation, not to procure it; || Christ only is the author of salvation; the whole stress must be laid on him or you fall. God gives a strict charge that men bring all their sacrifices to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation; if any neglect this, the text saith, "blood shall be imputed to that man, and he shall be cut off from among his people." Christ is the door, and as none can go to heaven but through him, who is the way, truth, and life, so God will accept no sacrifices but through Christ;** if any presume to bring them upon their own account, he shall be esteemed to be as a murderer, both by God and
* 1 John ii. 2. 1 Pet. ii. 24. Col. i. 20. Heb. x. 19, 22.
Rom. vi. 23.
§ Heb. v. 9.
|| Heb. vi. 9. ** John x.
man, for he is as if he killed a man, that comes not in God's instituted way. O sirs, be sure you look to this, that your persons and performances be presented through Christ; "Lay both your hands on the head of the live goat, confess over him all your iniquities,and by faith put all your transgressions and all your sins upon the head of the goat, to be carried into the wilderness." The Jews write that this goat was carried to the mountain Azazel, therefore the goat is so called, ver. 10, and that there he was cast down headlong, and that the red string by which he was led turned white, when God was pleased with the Iraelites, otherwise it remained red, and then they mourned all that year; and the ancient Hebrews write that forty years before the destruction of the temple, which was about the time of Christ's death, this red string turned no more white. Though the Jews be rejected, and wrath is come upon them to the uttermost for their wilful murder of Christ and their unbelief, yet this scarlet line of the blood of Jesus will be a token to secure Jew or Gentile who is interested in it by faith, and renounceth his own righteousness. O that you and I could look upon this scarlet hung up in the window of the gospel, as the means and pledge of our deliverance. But by no means depend on your own righteousness, it will prove a rotten branch and deceive you. You will say, what needs all this? will you make us pharisees, self-justiciaries? where is the man that trusts in his grace or goodness? Alas, I may say, where is the Christian that doth fully stand clear? Do we not all lean towards the old house, and resemble the old stock? Sanctifying grace doth but cure us in part of this as well as other sins. He is a rare pilot
Isa. lxvi. 3.
Josh. ii. 21.