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united with that faith which receives them; so incorporated with it, as that they come to be realized in the soul, and to be turned into the principle of that new nature whereby we live to God. The same promise being left to us as to them, and they came short of it for want of mixing faith with it, we have reason to be watchful against the like miscarriages in ourselves.
$10. II. The subject will be farther cleared by the ensuing observations:
Obs. 1. Fear is the proper object of gospel communications, which ought to be answerable to our several conditions, and grounds of obnoxiousness to threatenings. This is that which the apostle presseth us to, on the consideration of the severity of God against unbelievers, peremptorily excluding them out of his rest, after they had rejected the promise; “Let us,' saith he, 'fear therefore. As the sum of all promises is enwrapped in those words, He that believeth shall be saved; Mark xvi, 16, so the sum of all threatenings is in the following: “He that believeth not shall be damned. And a like summary of gospel promises and threatenings we have again, John iii, 36. 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. The law (as distinguished from the gospel) knows no more of gospel threatenings than of gospel promises; for the threatenings of the law lie against sinners for sins committed; the threatenings of the gospel are against sinners, for refusing the remedy provided and tendered to them. They are superadded to those of the law, and in them doth the gospel when rejected become 'death unto death;' 2 Cor. ii, 16, by the addition of that punishment contained in its threatenings, to that which was contained in the threatenings of the law. And this duty is always incumbent on them to whom
the dispensation of the gospel is committed; for not only maythey justly suppose that such there are, and always will be in all churches, but also many do contiually declare themselves to be in no better state; and the discovery of it to them by the word is a great part of our ministerial duty; for they have a respect to the nature of God, and are declarative of his condemning, hating, and forbidding that which the threatening is denounced against; they have a respect to the will of God and declare the connexion there is, by God's institution between the sin prohibited and the punishment threatened; as in that word, “He that believeth not shall be damned,” in which God declares the infallible connexion there is, by virtue of his constitution, between infidelity and damnation. Wherever the one is final, the other shall be inevitable; and in this sense they belong undoubtedly and properly to believers; that is, they are to be declared and preached to them, or pressed upon their consciences; for they are annexed to the dispensation of the covenant of grace as an instituted means, to render it effectual, and to accomplish the ends of it. Noah, when he was warned of God concerning the deluge, being moved with fear, prepared an ark, Heb. ii, 7. A due apprehension of the approaching judgment due to sin, and threatened by the Lord against it, made him wary; (EudeByDsus) he was
moved by this careful fear,” to use the appointed means for his deliverance and safety. The nature of this fear, as discovering itself in its effects, consists principally in a sedulous watchfulness against all sin by a diligent use of instituted means: and to promote this is the direct design of God in his communications. What is the mind and intention of God in any of his communications, either as recorded in his word, or as declared and preached to us by his appointinent? It is this; that considering the terror of the Lord and the desert of sin we should apply ourselves to that constancy in obedience, which we are guided to, under the conduct of his good Spirit, whereby we may avoid it.
And hence followeth, a constant watchfulness against all carnal confidence and security; “Thou standest by faith,” saith the apostle, "ibe not high-minded but fear,” Rom. ii, 20. And whence doth he derive the caution? From the severity of God in dealing with other professors, and the virtual threats contained therein: “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he spare not thee.” ver. 21. This fear is the great preventive of carnal security; its stands upon its watch to prevent the mind from being influenced by the sloth, or negligence, or any other lusts of the flesh; or by pride, presumption, elation of heart, and other lusts of the spirit. And therefore, this fear is not such a dread as may take a sudden impression on believers by a surprisal, or under some special guilt contracted, but that which ought to accompany us in our whole course, as the apostle Peter adviseth us; “See,” saith he, “that you pass the time of your sojourning here with fear.” 1 Pet. i, 17.
$11. Obs. 2. It is a matter of great and tremendous consequence, to have the promises left and proposed to
When Moses had of old declared the law to the people, he assured them that he had set life and death before them, one whereof would be the unquestionable consequent of that proposal. Much more may this be said of the promises of the gospel; they are “a savor of life unto life,” or “of death unto death," to all to whom they are revealed, as containing and exhibiting the whole love, goodness, and grace of God towards mankind; the infinite wisdom of the counsel of his will about their salvation. Now even amongst
men, it is a thing of some hazard and consequence, for any to have any offer made them of the favor, love, and kindness of potentates or princes; for they do not take any thing more unkindly nor usually revenge more severely than the neglect of their favors; though their favor be of little worth, and not at all to be confided in; Psalm cxlvi, 3, 4. And what shall we think of this amazing tender of all this grace, love, and kindness exhibited in the promise! Everlasting blessedness, or everlasting woe will be the inevitable issue.
$12. Obs. 3. The failing of men through their unbelief doth no way cause the promise of God to fail
Those to whom the promise here mentioned was first proposed, came short of it, believed it not, and so had no benefit by it. What then became of the promise itself? did that fail also and become of none effect? God forbid; it still remained and was left for others. This our apostle more fully declares elsewhere, Rom. ix, 4—6. For having shewn that the promises of God were given to the posterity of Abraham, he foresaw an objection that might be taken from thence against the truth and efficacy of the promises themselves, which he anticipates and answers; ver. 6. “Not as though the word of God,” that is, the word of promise, “hath taken none effect;” and so proceedeth to shew, that whosoever, and how many soever, reject the promise, yet they do it only to their own ruin; the promise shall have its effect in others; “for what if some did not believe, shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect? God forbid.” The faith of God, that is, “his glory in his veracity,” as the apostle shews in the next words, “Yea, let God be true and every man a liar," he is engaged for the accomplishment of his promises. Men by their unbelief may dissappoint themselves of their expectation, but
cannot bereave God of his faithfulness. And the reason on the one hand is, that God doth not give his promise to all men to have their gracious effect upon them, whether they will or no, whether they believe or reject them; and on the other hand, he can and will raise up them, who shall through his grace mix his promise with faith, and enjoy the benefit of it. If the natural seed of Abraham prove obstinate, he can out of stones raise
up children unto him, who shall be his heirs to inherit the promises. And therefore, when the gospel is preached to any nation, or city, or assembly, the glory and success of it depend not upon the wills of them to whom it is preached; neither is it frustrated by their unbelief: for the salvation contained in it, shall be disposed of to others, but they and their house shall be destroyed. This our Savior often threatened upon the obstinate Jews, which accordingly came to pass. And God hath blessed ends in granting the outward dispensation of the promises even to them by whom they are rejected; hence our apostle tells us, that those who preach the gospel are “a sweet savor of Christ unto God, as well in them that perish, as in them that are saved,” 2 Cor. ii, 15. Christ is glorified and God in him in the dispensation of it, whether men receive or reject it.
$13. Obs. 4. Not only backsliding through unbelief, but all appearances of tergiversation in profession, and occasions of them in times of difficulty and trials, ought to be carefully avoided by professors: “Lest any of you “should seem.” Not only a profession,
” but also the beauty and glory of it is required of us. Now there are two parts of our profession that we are to heed lest we should seem to fail when times of difficulty attend us: the one is personal holiness, righteousness, and universal obedience; the other is the due