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SERMON XXVIII.

BY THE REV. JOHN SINGLETON, A.M.

SOMETIME STUDENT OF CHRIST CHURCH, OXFORD.

WHAT

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IS THE BEST WAY TO PREPARE TO MEET GOD

WAY OF HIS JUDGMENTS OR MERCIES ?

Father, glorify thy name.John xii. 28.

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In this chapter we find the Lord Jesus under two very different exercises : in the one attended with much solemnity, in the other under great perplexity; much courted, much cast down; highly honoured, and exceedingly troubled : and he beareth both with wonderful equanimity. He is feasted at Bethany ; (verses 1, 2 ;) anointed with oil of spikenard, “very costly;" (verse 3 ;) rideth triumphantly into Jerusalem. (Verses 12–19.) His disciples bless and entertain him upon the way with hosannas;. (verse 13; Matt. xxi. 8, 9 ;) strangers desire to see him, and give him their acknowledgments ; (John xii. 20, 21 ;) and the multitudes throng after him, (verse 12) and strow his way with palm branches. (Verse 13.) But immediately the scene is changed. As our blessed Lord was not much affected with these things, so, contrary to all expectation, he enters upon a discourse of another nature : “ The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.” (Verse 23.) Why ? had he not been glorifying throughout this chapter ?” Yea; but not comparably to what he here intends : as if he had said, “My feast, my triumph, my applause, bear no proportion to the glory I am hasting to. These are but dull, low glories to what is at hand. The hour is come,' that is, “is near," ««that the Son of man should be glorified :' glorified upon the cross, by expiating the sins of his elect; glorified thereupon in heaven at the right hand of the Father.”

Christ had his eye upon a higher glory, which would redound to him upon the performing and finishing [of] our redemption. And a true Christian frame overlooks present comforts and honours from men, and fixeth mainly upon the honour to be received from God, in the

way of obedience, here and hereafter. Nor will our Lord Jesus pass over this meditation till he have improved it :

1. Inferring thence the fruitfulness of his death : “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone : but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit;” (verse 24 ;) alluding to the propagation of his church by his death.

2. The proportionable advantage of the death of his saints for his sake and testimony, and the disadvantage of forbearing and refusing

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to suffer for his name : “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me ; and where I am, there shall also

my servant be : if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” (John xii. 25, 26.)

But passing thence to the consideration of his dreadful agony and passion ensuing, his thoughts are at a stand, his soul is troubled;" yea, the extremity of his grief stopped his mouth; so amazing, so astonishing was the foresight of his sufferings !

At last prayer breaks out: “Father, save me from this hour ; and is presently corrected : “But for this cause came I unto this hour.” (Verse 27.) As if he had said, I would escape, but must not resist thy will. I would save myself, yet not without a salvo to thy purpose and counsel. I am in a strait between nature and faith, between fear and subjection, between death and duty. 1. Mere trouble is no sin.—Christ's soul was

troubled,” τεταρακTai, as water when it is muddied. (John v. 4, 7.) Not that there was any mixture of sin in his trouble : it was such as might consist with his pure, unspotted nature. If grief be not groundless, if not extravagant, not tainted with unbelief, or [the] effect of disobedience ; it is but nature's weakness. Grace induceth no stoical stupidity ; it is no property of the gospel to make men senseless.

2. Fear of death, and sense of the wrath of God, are of all things most perplexing.—“Now is my soul troubled.” Now I am to conflict with the Father's anger, men’s malice, and death's pains and terrors ; and now, not my flesh only, but “ my soul is troubled.”

3. Extreme distress of spirit is of an amazing nature.—Christ had not the freedom of prayer : “What shall I say?” and then what he did say was corrected. (Matt. xxvi. 39, 42.)

4. No extremity can ordinarily, or should really, put a holy soul by the plea of or hope in his relation to God.Christ calls God “ Father :

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. xxvii. 46.)

5. Prayer must be suited to the occasion.—"Save me from this hour," &c. A great argument against most forms is, that a holy soul cannot relish them, nor can I see how God accepts them, because they are impertinent, or not full to the case.

6. In our extremities we may be importunate, must not be peremptory, with God in prayer.–Our Saviour here prayed not more heartily than submissively : “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. xxvi. 39.)

Our text is the result of the Lord's wrestling, both with his own soul, and with his Father. Here is, first, Christ's prayer : “ Father, glorify thy name." And the Father's answer in the next words : but I meddle not with that now.

In the text we have two things: 1. The compellation : “Father.” 2. The petition : Glorify thy name." 1. The compellation : “Father."

“ Father.” Prayer ought to be ushered in with some suitable title of God, which is expressive of his supremacy, our reverence of him and relation to him. All these are couched in the single word “ Father.” Read Matt. vi. 9, 10; Mal. i. 6; Rom. vii. 15.

(1.) This title expresseth God's authority and Christ's allegiance, both owned by him in this little word.

(2.) Relation.—The Lord's petitioners must ask so as to assure themselves of acceptation ; which the recognition of our interest in God, as our Father in Christ, is very proper to effect. (Read Isai. lxii. 16.) Hence the rule of prayer enters with “Our Father ;” and it is most suitable to the spirit of the gospel, that believers call God “Father” in prayer, having the Spirit of the Son poured out upon them to this end. (Gal. iv. 6.)

2. The petition : “Father, glorify thy name.” As if he had said, “ Be thou rather glorified, than I spared. If I die, thy glory will make amends for my torment and death.”

Where note, (1.) His submission to the will of the Father.—He puts himself into his Father's hands, and subjects himself to his pleasure.

(2.) His design.—The Father's glory : “Glorify thy name." He doth not say simply, “Let my agony and death come ; but, “ Glorify thy name.” As though he had said, “ This being the means of thy glory which thou hast fixed upon, here I am ; do to me as seemeth good in thy sight.” Hence observe,

(i.) The best way to quiet and compose our spirits in time of distress, is the prayer of faith. Wrestle with God, and you conquer your own tumultuatings. (1 Sam. i. 10, 11, 18.)

(ii.) That soul will be heard who forgets or neglects himself in comparison, and prayeth for the accomplishment of the will and glory of God. So doth Christ here; and God heard him. (See Heb. v. 7.)

(iii.) Our exemption from suffering may sometimes be inconsistent with the glory of God. “ Save me from this hour,” saith Christ, “ but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” The ground of the point lies in his correction of his first petition.

(iv.) The best and most effectual means to prepare ourselves to meet God either in the way of mercy or judgment, is to resign ourselves to the sovereign will of God, to be disposed of for his glory.

I. I shall prove the doctrine.
II. Open the nature of this resigned frame of spirit.

III. Give some arguments, manifesting that it is our duty, especially in a day of distress.

IV. Apply the whole.

Before I enter upon the first, I lay down this supposition :That believer who is prepared for affliction, is prepared for salvation ; that the same qualification fits for both these dispensations. I know some

“ vessels of wrath fitted” only for “ destruction.” (Rom. ix. 22.) If the apostle did there treat of a moral preparation, (which I know he doth not,) then we must distinguish between destruction and affliction ; and of the fitness of the vessels of wrath for that, and saints for this. But to decide this matter : our doctrine and ques

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tion speaks of a holy, gracious preparation for sufferings, to bear them quietly and beneficially ; not of a judicial aptitude for ruin, much less an eternal act of preterition, which is the apostle's meaning there. This premised, I suppose, none will deny him who is holily qualified for suffering to be in a blessed readiness for comfortable dispensations and providences.

I. Now, that the above-mentioned resignation to the will of God for his glory prepareth a soul both for mercy or judgment, suffering or deliverance, appeareth as follows:

1. In that we find holy men of old in this spirit ready for either dispensation, -tribulation or comfort, adversity or prosperity.

Job shall be our first instance : his resignation is notably expressed : “ Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither : the Lord gave, and the Lord bath taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job i. 21.) The good man, upon the first gust of the storm that beats terribly upon him, falls down at the feet of God, acknowledging his sovereignty, and adoring his name. Well, in this frame he met with greater trials afterward ; and how did he bear them ? See James v. 11 : “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord ; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” In this spirit he bore affliction patiently, and received mercy plentifully. God had two designs on Job,—to try and [to] bless him; and Job's humble spirit equally qualified him for both.

Take David for a second example. By Absalom’s rebellion he was brought to a great strait, that [he] must fly, to prevent the surprise

Now take notice of his frame : And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation : but if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.” (2 Sam. xv. 25, 26.) David was not without hopes of being restored to his throne, and yet he had fears of the contrary : but whether God would dispose of him that way or this, he submits to his pleasure, resigns himself to his will; and this prepared him for suffering, and qualified him for deliverance. In İsai. xli. 2, it is said that God “called " Abraham “to his foot ;” that is, to an entire subjection to his will. He disputed nothing that God revealed, and refused nothing which he commanded.

“ What was

this for?” Why, to fit him for great trials and mercies. (Gen. xii. 1-4; xxii. 1-3, 10, 16-18.) This Paul's frame. (Acts xx. 22–24.)

2. That frame is most fit to meet the Lord in the way of judgment or mercy, which Christ chose to suffer in, and so to enter into glory.-In the text this was his case ; he was shortly to meet with two contrary dispensations. He was to bear our sin, and to conflict with the wrath of God for it ; to suffer the violence of hell and the world, and to die an accursed death : but withal immediately he is to be glorified at the right hand of the Father. Both these he had in his eye in

of his person.

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verses 23, 24, of this chapter. He expected a double glory upon his death : here, by the propagation of the gospel ; in heaven, by the exaltation of his human nature. (John xvii. 5.) And both these he looked for. (Heb. xii. 2.) Well, how will he

prepare

himself for suffering and glory?" Even by lying at his Father's foot in the text ; and now he can grapple with all his enemies, and now he can wait for his reward. (Matt. xxvi. 39, 42, 44.) It was in this spirit that he went to meet his betrayer. (Verses 45, 46.) This all the evangelists mention for our example. Certainly Christ knew what was the best preparation for judgment or mercy, and chose it for himself, and was therein our pattern.

3. That is the best way to meet God in the way of his judgments or mercies, which himself prescribeth.-But a resigned, humbled spirit to his will and pleasure is commanded by himself, to qualify us for such dispensations : “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter v. 6.) As if he had said, “ Bear my afflicting hand, and you shall feel my supporting, exalting hand." • 4. That is the best preparation for mercy or judgment, which God aimeth at in afflicting, and rewardeth in delivering, his people.--- And this is a resigned frame, an obedient, submiss, subdued will to the will of God. If he afflict his children, it is because they are froward ; if he cherish them, it is for the compliance with his plea

Ephraim was smitten for his stubbornness, and comforted for his obedience. (Jer. xxxi. 18—20.) God hath no contention with us, but our crossness ; because our wills thwart his, and our ways contradict his. First we resist his commanding will by disobedience, and then his chastising will by impatience; and he in his wisdom and love is resolved to bring us “ to his foot.” Well; if we comply beforehand, when we see the storm approaching, God's end is attained ; and he either lays down his rod, or mitigateth the chastisement ; yea, he will ere long embrace and comfort broken and humble Ephraim. Indeed this frame supersedes affliction : for judgments upon saints are not to destroy, but subdue them to their Father's will ; and if we meet our angry Father in this spirit, he may correct a little, but he will certainly comfort much.

5. Lastly. A resigned soul meeteth God in the way of judgments or mercies to great advantage. They are so far from doing him harm, that they do good; therefore it must needs be a blessed preparation for either. Physic never works so well as when the body is antecedently prepared ; nor is any person 80 certainly profited by judgments or mercies, as he that is ready to entertain them. I know, God can do an unprepared soul good by any providence ; but I am sure, none can come amiss to such as be prepared.

“ What, then, will prepare us to receive chastisements profitably?” The apostle tells us : “Be subject to the Father of spirits, and live.” (Heb. xii. 9.) Comply with his will, resign yourselves to his pleasure ; and whatever he doeth will be a quickening, improving providence.

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