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preaching of the gospel, there are three mistakes very usual amongst people about it.
1. This promise is no declaring the eternal purpose of election. Though I know that the promise flows from the purpose, and is a proof that there is an election, yet the promise is 'no declaring of the particular purpose of election to any particular person. You are not commanded to believe the gospel because you are elected, but you are commanded to believe the gospel that you may know your election, and that of God. No man is cast into hell because not elected, (though all that are not so, shall be sent thither); but men under the gospel are damned, because they are unbelievers, and receive not the testimony of God. . 2. Neither is this promise a declaration of the design of the redemption of Christ. A promise of the gospel does not declare nor determine whom Christ died for; it is not the nature of this promise, nor the design of it to do that. Christ hath laid down his life for his sheep; the promise is made to all, though none but his sheep will receive it: Ye believe not, says our Lord, because ye are not of my sheep, John X. 26.
3. Noither is the promise of the gospel, the declaring of the effectual working of the Spirit upon the heart. It is the means that God works by, but it is not that which does declare the work. It is a bad argument for one to say, I know I ain elected, and redeemed by Christ, and sanctified and changed by the Holy Ghost, because I have the promise of salvation by Christ in the gospel. Indeed, if you can says I have received the promise by faith, you speak according to the word; then all the former are evident, the saving operation of the Spirit appears, thy interest in Christ's redemption appears ; thy name is written in the book of life, and thou mayst read it.
What then is the promise, if it be not a declaring of any of these? The promise of the gospel is a declaration of God's good-will to save men by Christ Jesus, and to this declaration he requires their faith. This good-will of God is tendered to men by promise, for wise ends.
1. By this means God brings in all the elect; by the means of the declaring his good-will in a promise. 1st, The pro
mise is the means of their faith, and therefore is a ground of their faith. When the Lord, in the day of his power, makes use of the word, and sends it home upon the heart, it begets faith; and as soon as faith is begotten, it acts upon the same word of promise from whence it sprang. Now, here is the great wisdom of God. His purposes are all kept hid with himself; he hath determined from eternity, in his own thoughts and decrees, the eternal state of all men, and his counsel will stand; he hath his people whom he hath a mind to save, lying scattered up and down the world. There is no mark upon them that is visible to any creature ; they are in the same mass, of the same lump, in the same state, children of wrath even as others, as ripe for hell as any man. The Lord, to accomplish the purpose of his grace, sends the gospel to them . The promise is no more to them in the dispensation of it, than it is to any body else. I know the promise in God's purpose is otherwise designed for them than others ; but this promise is cast abroad as an equal ground of security for all that will lay hold of it; and the poor elect man, when he ventures upon the promise of God, hath nothing before his eye but only the promise : “ It is a true and faithful saying, worthy of “ all acceptation, and therefore worthy of mine; I will give it « due attention, and lay hold of it.”
2. By this means God stops the mouths of the condemned remnant of gospel-despisers. Pray observe the word that is in the parable, Matth. xxii. 10, 11. Though parables, you know, are not to be so strictly urged, yet there are some things that are to be applied, and that is what serves the scope of them: When the King came to view his guests, he spied one without a wedding-garment; and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding-garment? And he was speechless. Pray observe; we find in the same feast the invitation is given to all sorts, the invitation is to good and bad; so the word is; and it is made effectual upon the lame, and blind, and halt, and most miserable that could be found by the hedges and highway-side, as Luke hath it, chap. xiv. 16. where the same parable is. Now, what can be the meaning of this, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding-garment? Why, if the poor man had not a wedding-gar
ment, whence should he get it? Should he not have sought .it? All that makes us amiable and acceptable before God, is of the gift of his grace on us.
That which is the perdition of the ungodly unbelievers of the gospel, is, because they do not receive the testimony of God; they dare not, they are not able, they are not willing to trust their eternal salvation upon God's bare word. So much now for the nature of this promise. The promise is Christ's, and that which he casts forth in the dispensation of the gospel, and gathers in men thereby. Where the power of the promise reaches the heart, it draws in the chosen; where only a common power reaches carnal men, they are only drawn into a profession, and are cast away as lost, as our Lord speaks of the kingdom of heaven under the similitude of a net to catch fish, Matth. xii. 47, 48.
The second thing to be spoke to is, What is that faith that is to answer the faithfulness of God in the promise, the general promise of salvation in the gospel ?
1. It is to believe the gospel-report firmly concerning Jesus Christ, and God's great salvation in him and by him ; that there is life enough in Christ for men, 1 John v. 11. It is to believe the report concerning Christ, according to the prophet Isaiah, chap. liii. l. Which words our Lord applies unto the gospel, more plainly to himself, John xii. 40. where he applies the words of the same Isaiah unto the unbelievers that were in his own days. Some folks may possibly think there is no great difficulty in this matter ; but it is because they are ignorant, and have never been tried. How hard a matter is it to believe the mystery of the gospel, that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world ; that he came in the appointed time, that he did all his work, and obtained eternal redemption for us; that he bought all his sheep by the price of his blood, and by that blood entered into heaven to make intercession for us? and that because he is there, he is able to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him? as in Heb. vü. 25. Pray observe this, when a great many Christians doubtings are thoroughly sifted and convassed, it will be found that the shaking of their faith, as to their interest in Christ, proceeds much from the weakness of their faith as to the gospelreport concerning him. If people did firmly believe all that
is said in the Old and New Testament, concerning that righteousness and salvation wrought out by the Son of God, they would find it an easier matter to apply it to themselves, and say, Surely, (1.) I have no righteousness of my own. (2.) Nor can any creature procure it for me. (3.) Enough is in Christ. (4.) All is offered to me in the gospel. 15.) My soul likes the offer. (6.) I willingly accept him for my only Saviour. Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength, Isa. xlv. 24.
2. It is to believe firmly the truth and the sincerity of God in the offer of this Saviour, and of all his salvation as offered to men. Pray observe, here we shall come to that which does pinch the consciences of many Christians. Ye are required by the Lord, and in his name, by them that preach the gospel, to believe the truth and the sincerity of the offer of Christ and all his salvation to thee in particular. You are to think thus within yourselves, Verily this Saviour, and all his great salvation is offered to me. Pray what conceptions have you of the gospel, if you do not admit this ? For you to run away with an imagination, that Christ is offered unto the church, that he is offered unto his people, is wrong. I tell you, in the gospel he is offered to you in particular; and there are none that believe in him, until they take it up $0.Says the poor jailor, What shall I do to be saved? Blieve thou on the Lord Jesus, says Paul to him, and thou shalt be saved. I am preaching Clirist, and I have got bonds for my reward; but if thou wouldst be saved, remember that I in prison offer this Saviour to thee : Believe thou on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved. Unless people do come this length of faith, firmly to believe, that God fairly, and honestly, and with an upright meaning, makes free offer and tender of Christ and of all his salvation to them; they never will be believers, they never will believe the scriptures aright.
3. You are to believe that there is no impertiment nor hinderance, neither on God's part nor thine, to binder thee frona partaking of Christ, if thou be willing. This is a part of that faith that answers the faithfulness of God in the p:omise of the gospel, and which a poor creature should believe firmly: that there is no impedim"11t on Gui' pari, nor on my part is
hinder my partaking of Christ, according to God's offer, if I aca. cept of him. The impediment on our part is sin, the impediments on God's part are the law and justice. The Lord hath declared these shall not stand. The law and justice stands in no man's way to hinder him from partaking of Christ, if he will accept thereof. Neither shall sin hinder him; for the offer is made to all men as sinners, whatsoever they have been, and whatsoever they are ; but none will accept it but en: lightened sinners.
4. You are required to venture your salvation on Jesus Christ, according to the warrant of this offer, and according to the truth of this promise. As you believe the doctrine of Christ, and believe the offer of God, and the sincerity, and freedom, and largeness of the offer, you are to accept thereof, and to venture your all upon it. This is believing. God has . given his promise of life in Christ Jesus, as the foundation of all our hope of salvation ; we should answer his faithfulness by building all our hopes tpon that bottom. Lay hold therefore on this cord of salvation, and ye cannot miscarry. No man can receive Christ out of a promise, no man can receive a promise of salvation out of Christ; ne man can do both, no man can do any one of them without faith ; for believing is receiving; and none who believe on him can perish, but shall have eternal life, John iii. 14,—20. 8. Lastly, You are to believe firmly, that if you
be willing, the Lord is willing, and you shall be welcome ; nay, you are now welcome at this present on believing. I say you are to believe firmly, that when your hearts are drawn forth to acó cept of him, the Lord will accept of you, and to be confident of it too. Now, I shall offer for the clearing of this, as far as some ordinary transactions amongst men may help, some instances which the Spirit of God makes use of in the word to illustrate this affair, this first believing the promise of Jesus Christ, or a poor sinner's first believing. I know all similitudes that are used in the word, or can be contrived by us, are but like parables, they do not quadrate fully; but I shall use them no farther, than as shall serve the scope and drift of this doctrine. The first is a common transaction of mankind, that of mars Vob. III.