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to the everlasting perfection, and blessedness of the soul; and such a means as containeth, or presently procureth, somewhat of the end. All the saints are even here 66 a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that they shall shew forth the praises of him that hath called them out of darkness, into his marvellous light they are a holy priesthood, to offer up a spiritual sacrifice, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ; 1 Pet. ii. 5. 9. Their very bodies are "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, in their reasonable service." What a sweet work is it to live in the daily love of God; in his praises, in the hopes, and sweet forethoughts of everlasting joys. The world affordeth not such a Master, nor such a work.
(8.) Another of the precious benefits by Christ, is, The liberty of access in all our wants to God by Prayer, with a promise to be heard. The flaming sword did keep the way to the tree of life, till Christ had taken it down, and consecrated for us a new and living way, through the vail, which is his flesh. And now we have "boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus; and, therefore, may draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith;" Heb. x. 19, 20.22. When worldlings may cry to their Baal in vain, the "righteous cry, and the Lord heareth them, and delivereth them out of all their (hurtful) troubles." O what a mercy is it in our falls, in our distresses, in our dangers, in our wants, to have a God, a faithful, merciful Father to go to, and make our moan to for relief! What a mercy is it, when our flesh and our hearts do fail us, when friends and worldly things all fail us, to have God for the rock of our hearts, of our portion; Psal. lxxiii. 26. When sickness begins to break these bodies, and earthly delights do all forsake us, and death calls us to come to our endless state, then to have a reconciled Father to go to, and crave his aid, upon the encouragement of a promise, and recommend our souls into his hand as to a faithful Creator, and our surest, dearest friend; this is a mercy that no man can well value, till they come to use it. To know every day, that as oft as ever we come to God, we are always welcome; and that our persons, and prayers are pleasing to him through his Son, what a mercy is it. One would think we should live joyfully, if we had but one such promise as this for faith to live upon : "Call upon me in the days of trouble, and I will deliver thee,
and thou shalt glorify me;" Psal. 1. 15. shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son;" John xiv. 13, 14. No wonder if they be rich, that have so free access to such a treasure; and if they be safe that have access to so sure a help. For God is a very present help in trouble; Psal. xlvi. 1.
(9.) Another precious benefit, is, That we have peace of conscience, or ground for it at the least, in our peace with God; and so may come to assurance of salvation, and may partake of the joy of the Holy Ghost. For in this peace and joy the kingdom of God doth much consist. When the chief cause of all our fear and sorrow is done away, what then is left to break our peace? When we have no cause to fear the flames of hell, nor the sting of death, or the appearance of our Judge, any further than to move us to make ready, what then should greatly trouble the soul? If God and heaven be not matter of comfort, I know not what is. If we saw a man, that had got many kingdoms, to be still sad, and dumpish, because he had no more, we would say, he were very ambitious, or covetous; and yet he might have reason for it. But if you have the love of God, and a title by promise to heavenly inheritance, and yet you are discontented, and God and glory is not enough for you, this is most unreasonable.
(10.) Another of our precious benefits by Christ, is, Our spiritual communion with his church, and holy members. We do not only join with them in outward communion, but we unite our desires, and there is a harmony of affections. We are in the main of one mind and will, and way, and we jointly constitute the body of our Lord. We are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly, and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant;" Heb. xii. 22-24. We are joined to that body, and have communion with it, which consisteth both of militant, and triumphant saints, and of the angels also. "We are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, and are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone,
in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom we also are builded together, for a habitation of God, through the Spirit; Ephes. ii. 19-22. And as in holy concord we serve the Lord, having one God, one Christ, one Spirit, one faith, one baptism, one rule, the word of God, one mind, one heart, one work of holiness and righteousness in the main; one hope, one heaven, the place of our expectations. So have we the fruit of the prayers of each other, and of all the church, and have the honour, the safety, and other benefits of being members of so blessed a society.
Yea, we have in this communion, the whole church. obliged, and disposed according to their capacity to endeavour the good of every member. So that ministers and magistrates, yea, though they were apostles, and prophets, Paul, or Apollos, all are ours; 1 Cor. iii. 22. Kings have their power and for us they must use them. If we suffer, every member must be as forward to assist us, and if we want, to relieve us, according to their power, as if they suffered with us; 1 Cor. xii. 25, 26.
Yea, the angels are our brethren (Rev. xxix. 9.) and fellow servants, yea, "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them that shall be heirs of salvation; Heb. i. 14." To encamp about them, and to bear them in their arms," rejoicing to behold their graces, and prosperity, as was shewed before.
(11.) Another of our precious benefits by Christ, is, That "All things shall work together for good; Rom. viii. 28. When we are sanctified to God, all things are sanctified to us, to serve us for God, and help us to him. Every creature that we have to do with, is, as it were, another thing to the saints, than to other men. They are all wheels in that universal engine of grace, to carry us to salvation. The same things that are common mercies to others, are special to us, as proceeding from a special love, and being designed to a special use. As flesh-pleasing is the ultimate end of the ungodly, and all things are thereby debased, to be but means to that ignoble end; so the pleasing and fruition of God, is the end of all the saints, and thereby all things that they have to do with, are advanced to the honour of being sanctified means to this most high and noble end, and as they are engaged to use them to this end, and consequently to
their own greatest advantage; so God hath engaged himself to bless them in that holy use, and to cause them all by his gracious providence to co-operate to their good. Their greatest afflictions, the cruellest persecutions from the most violent enemies, our wants, our weaknesses, and death itself, all must concur to carry on this work. What then should a Christian fear, but sin? How honourable, and how happy a life may he live, that hath all these assured for his service. And what causeless fears are they that use to afflict the servants of God, concerning their outward troubles, and necessities. What do we fear, and groan under, and complain of, but our Father's physic, and the means of our salvation? If this one truth were but believed, and received, and used according to its worth, O what a life would Christians live!
(12.) The last, and greatest of our benefits by Christ, is, Resurrection, and our justification at the bar of God, and our reception into glory. This is the end of all, and therefore containeth all. For this Christ died; for this we are Christians; for this we believe, hope and labour; for this we suffer, and deny ourselves, and renounce this world. Our bodies shall then be spiritual and glorious, no more troubled with infirmities, diseases or necessities. Our souls shall be both naturally and graciously perfected; both in their faculties and qualities. We shall be brought nigh to God: we shall be numbered with the inhabitants of the heavenly Jerusalem, and be members of that blessed society, and companions and equal with the angels of God: we shall for ever behold our glorified Redeemer, and see our own nature united to the Godhead; and we shall have the greatest and nearest intuition and fruition of God, the fullest love to him, and the sweetest rest, content and delight in him, that our created natures are capable of: we shall everlastingly be employed in this love, and delight, and in his praises with all the heavenly host: and the glory of God will shine forth in our glory, and the abundance of his goodness will be communicated to us: and he will be well-pleased with us, with our praises, with all that blessed society, and with our head ; and this will endure to all eternity.
Christians, I have now named in a few words, those benefits by Christ, which the heart of man is not able to value, in any proportion to their inexpressible worth: I have named
that in an hour, which you will enjoy for ever. So much of our benefits by Christ.
5. The fifth point to be understood in the right knowledge of Christ, is, The terms on which he conveyeth his benefits to men, and how we must be made partakers of them.
And these mercies are of two sorts: 1. Common. 2. Proper to them that are heirs of salvation. The common are, 1. Those discoveries of grace, that are made even to heathens in the creatures, and the merciful providences of God. These are absolutely and freely bestowed in some measure on all, but in a greater measure upon some, as pleases the giver. 2. The supernatural, or instituted means of revealing Christ, and life to the world, and drawing them to a saving consent of faith. These are the Gospel written and preached, with other concomitant helps. The commission Christ hath given to his ambassadors, is to teach this Gospel to all the world, even to every (reasonable) creature, without exception or restriction. And it is absolutely and freely given, where it is given. But as to the providential disposal of the event, God causeth it not to be sent to all, but to whom he seeth meet.
The proper or special mercies are of two sorts: (1.) Some are physical inherent qualities, or performed acts. (2.) And some are adherent rights, or relations.
Of the former inherent sort, there are these three degrees: (1.) There is the first special work of vocation, conversion or regeneration, causing the sinner to repent and believe, and giving him the principle of spiritual life. (2.) There is the bestowing of the indwelling Spirit of God, and progressive sanctification of heart and life, and perseverance with victory. (3.) There is the perfecting of all this, in our glorious perfection in the life to come.
(1.) For the first of these, God hath not promised it conditionally or absolutely to any individual person that hath it not. He hath bound all to repent and believe, but hath not promised to make them do it: (only he hath revealed that there are certain persons so given to Christ, as that they shall be infallibly drawn to believe.) But he hath appointed certain means for the ungodly, which they are bound to use in order to their conversion; and if they will not use them, they are without excuse. If they will, they have very much encouragement from God, both [1.] In the nature of the