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with every wind of doctrine. But speaking the truth in love, may grow. up unto him in all things, who is the head, even Christ.” A rolling stone gathers no fog, and a wavering judgment makes a fruitless life. Though a tree be never so sound, yet how can it grow, or be fruitful, if ye be still removing it out of one soil into another? (3.) Endeavour to cut off the suckers, as gardeners do, that their trees may thrive. These are unmortified lusts. Therefore, « mortify your members that are upon the earth,” Col. iii. 5. When the Israelites got meat to their lusts, they got leanness to their souls. She that has many hungry children about her hand, and must be still putting into their mouths, will have much ado to get a bit put into her own. They must refuse the craving of inordinate affections, who would have their souls to prosper. Lastly, Improve, for these ends, the ordinances of God. The courts of our God are the place, where the trees of righteousness flourish, Psalm xcii. 13. The waters of the sanctuary are the means appointed of God, to cause his people grow as willows by the water-courses. Therefore, drink in with desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby, 1 Pet. ii. 2. Come to these wells of salvation, not to look at them only, but to draw water out of them. The sacrament of the Lord's supper is in a special manner appointed for these ends. It is not only a solemn public profession, and a seal of our union and communion with Christ, but it is a means of most intimate communion with him,and strengthens our union with him ; our faith, love, repentance, and other graces,
1 Cor. x. 26. “ The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ ?" And chap. xii. 13. “ We have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” Give yourselves unto prayer; open your mouths, and he will fill them. By these means the branches in Christ may be further nourished, grow up, and bring forth much fruit.
A seventh benefit is, The acceptance of their fruits of holiness before the Lord. Though they be very imperfect, they are accepted, because they savour of Christ the blessed stock, which the branches grow upon; while the fruits of others are rejected of God, Gen. ii. 4, 5. « And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering : But unto Cain and his offering he had not respect.“ Compare Heb. xi. 3. “ By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” O how defective are the saints duties in the eye of the law! The believer himself espies many faults in his best performances, yet the Lord graciously receives them. There is no grace planted in the heart, but there is a weed of corruption hard by its side, while the saints are in this lower world. Their very sincerity is not without mixture of dissimula. tion or hypocrisy, Gal. ii. 13. Hence there are defects in the exercise of every grace, in the performance of every duty; depraved nature always drops something to stain their best works. There is still a mixture of darkness with their clearest light. Yet this does not mar their acceptance, Cant. vi. 10. " Who is she that looketh forth as the morning ?” or as the dawning. Behold how Christ's spouse is esteemed and accepted of her Lord, even when she looks forth as the morning, whose beauty is mixed with the blackness of the night! When the morning was looking out, as the word is, Judges xix. 26. i. e. in the dawning of the day, as we read it. So the very dawning of grace, and good-will to Christ, grace peeping out from under a mass of darkness in believers, is pleasant and acceptable to him, as the break of day is to the weary traveller. Though the remains of unbelief make their hand of faith to shake and tremble, yet the Lord is so well pleased with it, that he employs it to carry away pardons and supplies of grace, from the throne of grace, and the fountain of grace. His faith was effectual, who cried out, and said with tears, “ Lord, I believe, help thou mine un. belief," Mark ix. 24. Though the remains of sensual affections make the flame of their love weak and smoky, he turns his eyes from the smoke and beholds the flame, how fair it is, Cant. iv. 10. « How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse !" The smell of their under-garments of inherent holiness, as imperfect as it is, is like the smell of Lebanon, ver. 11. and that because they are covered with their elder brother's clothes, which make the sons of God to smell as a field which the Lord hath blessed. Their good works are accepted ; their cups of cold water given to a disciple, in the name of a disciple, shall not want a rewarde. Though they cannot offer for the tabernacle
gold, silver, and brass, and onyx-stone, let them come for. ward with what they have ; if it were but goat's hair, it shall not be rejected ; if it be but ram-skins, they shall be kindly accepted, for they are dyed red, dipped by faith in the Mediator's blood, and so presented unto God. A very ordinary work done in faith, and from faith, if it were but the building of a wall about the holy city, is a great work, Neh. vi. 3. If it were but the bestowing of a box of ointinent on Christ, it shall never be forgotten, Matth. xxvi. 13. Even a cup of cold water only, given to one of Christ's little ones, in the name of a disciple, shall be rewarded, Matth. X. 42. Nay, not a good word for Christ shall drop from their mouths, but it shall be registered in God's book of remembrance, Mal. ü. 16. Nor shall a tear drop from their eyes for him, but he will put it in his bottle, Psal. Ivi. 8. Their will is accepted for the deed ; their sorrow for the want of will, for the will itself, 2 Cor. viii. 12.
« For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” Their groanings, when they cannot well word their desires, are heard in heaven; the meaning of these groans is well known there, and they will be returned like the dove with an olive branch of peace in her mouth. See Rom. viii. 26, 27. Their mites are better than other mens talents. Their lisping and broken sentences are more pleasant to their Father in heaven than the most fluent and flourishing speeches of those that are not in Christ. Their voice is sweet, even when they are ashamed it should be heard ; their countenance is comely, even when they blush, and draw a veil over it, Cant. ii. 14. The Mediator takes their petitions, blots out some parts, rectifies others, and then presents them to the Father, in consequence whereof they pass in the court of
Every true Christian is a temple to God. If ye look for sacrifices, they are not wanting there ; they offer the sacrifice of praise, and they do good; with such sacrifices God is well pleased, Heb. xiü. 15, 16. Christ himself is the altar that sanctifies the gift, ver. 10, But what comes of the skins and dung of their sacrifices? They are carried away without the camp. If we look for incense, it is therc too. The graces of the Spirit are found in their
hearts; and the Spirit of a crucified Christ fires them and puts them in exercise, like as the fire was brought from the altar of burnt-offering, to set the incense on flame; then they mount heavenward, like pillars of smoke, Cant. iï. 6, But the best of incense will leave ashes behind it; yes, indeed; but as the priest took away the ashes of the in cense in a golden dish, and threw them out, so our High Priest takes away the ashes and refuse of all the sainte Services, by his mediation in their behalf.
An cighth benefit flowing from union with Christ is Establishment. The Christian cannot fall away, but must persevere unto the end, John X. 28. “ They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." Indeed, if a branch do not knit with the stock, it will fall away when shaking winds arise ; but the branch knit to the stock stands fast, whatever wind blows. Sometimes a stormy wind of temptation blows from hell, and tosseth the branches in Christ the true Vine, but their union with him is their security; moved they may be, but removed they never can be : The Lord will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, 1 Cor. x. 13. Calms are never of any continuance; there is almost always some wind blowing; and, therefore, branches are rarely altogether at rest. But sometimes violent winds arise, which i threaten to rend them from off their stock. Even so it is flow with saints; they are daily put to it, to keep their ground against temptation ; but sometimes the wind from hell riseth so high, and bloweth so furiously, that it makes even top branches.to sweep the ground ; yet being knit to Christ their stock, they get up again in spite of the most violent efforts of the prince of the power of the air, Psal. xcir.18. 6 When I said my foot slippeth, thy! mercy, O Lord, held me up.??.) But the Christian improves by this trial; and is so far from being damaged, that he is benefited by it, in so far as it discovers what hold the soul has of Christ, and what hold Christ has of the soul. And look, as the wind in the bellows, which would blow out the candle, blows up the fire ; even so it often comes to pass, that such temptations do enliven the true Christiani, awakening the graces of the Spirit in him; and, by that means, discovers both the veality and the strength of grace in him. And hence, a Lathers that great man of God,
saith, One Christian who hath had experience of tempta. tion, is worth a thousand others.
Sometimes a stormy wind of trouble and persecution, from the men of the world, blows upon the vine, i. en inystical Christ; but union with the stock is a sufficient security to the branches. In a time of the church's peace and outward prosperity, while the angels hold the winds that they blow not; there are a great many branches taken up, and put into the stock, which never knit with it, nor live by it, though they be bound up with it, by the bonds of external ordinances. Now these may stand a while on the stock, and stand with great ease while the calm lasts : But when once the storms arise, and the winds blow, they will begin to fall off, one after another; and the higher the wind riseth, the greater will the number be that falls. Yea some strong boughs of that sort, when they fall, will, by their weight, carry others of their own kind quite down to the earth with them, and will bruise and press down some true branches in such a manner, that they would also fall off, were it not for their being knit to the stock; in virtue whereof they get up their heads again, and cannot fall off, because of that fast hold the stock has of them. Then it is that many branches, sometime high and eminent, are found lying on the earth withered, and fit to be gathered up and cast into the fire, Matth. xiii. 6. “ And when the sun was up, they were scorched ; and because they had no root, they withered away." John xv. 6. man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered, and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” But however violently the winds blow, none of the truly ingrafted branches, that are knit with the stock, are found missing, when the storm is changed into a calm, John xvii. 12. 6 Those that thou gavest me, I have kept, and none of them is lost.” The least twig growing in Christ shall stand it out, and subsist ; when the tallest cedars growing on their own root, shall be laid flat on the ground, Rom. viii. 35-59. 6 Who
separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ?" &c. However severely Israel be sifted, yet shall not the least grain, or, as it is in the original language, a little stone fall upon the earth, Amos. ix o.
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