THE BEST BOND; OR THE SUREST ENGAGEMENT.
This was an Action Sermon, preached immediately before
the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, at
“For, Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 30:21
My friends, after that the first Adam’s heart departed from the Lord, so as to violate the covenant of works, never one heart of all his posterity could, or would have approached unto God again, but had remained in their natural enmity against him, had not the second Adam so engaged his heart unto God, in our favors, as to draw the hearts of many after him: and if we could this day see into Christ’s heart, and discover his heart—kindness in this matter, so as to unite our hearts to him, and to God in him, and get the knot sealed in the sacrament with God’s seal; it would make this a day to be much remembered to all eternity. O then, let your hearts be looking up to the Lord, that you may see in to the heart and bosom of this scripture, and in to the mystery of this great question, “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord.”
The Lord, by the prophet Jeremiah, had been comforting
his church, by several excellent promises relating to their return out of
the Babylonian captivity, typical of the glorious things reserved for the
church in the days of the Messias; particularly in the preceding verse, it
is promised, that they shall be blest with an excellent government, “Their
nobles shall be of themselves,” they shall not have strangers and enemies to
be their judges, but those of their own nation. “Their governor shall
proceed from the midst of them.” This hath a reference to Christ our
Governor, David our King, as you may see by comparing this with verse 9,
“They shall serve the Lord their God, and David their King, whom I will
raise up unto them.” This Governor is of ourselves, being in all things made
like unto his brethren: “I will cause him to draw near, and he shall
approach unto me.”—It is a single person that is spoken of, and the person
is the Governor,
and the Governor is Christ.
God the Father did cause him, as Mediator, to draw near and approach to him;
he commanded and authorized him to do it; he sanctified and sealed him for
this end; he appointed and anointed him for this purpose, and he accepted of
him, and declared himself well—pleased in him; and therefore he speaks of it
with wonderful pleasure, “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach
unto me?” When God draws a person near to him, he is even delighted with
that approach unto him, whereof he himself is the cause; much more if it be
such a person as here the Governor of Israel; “For who is this that engaged
his heart to approach unto me?” Here is the issue of the excellent promises
that were made to
I know that some take the words to be spoken of the people of God their drawing near by faith, and in point of duty engaging themselves to approach to him through his grace. This is a consequent that follows upon the other; and therefore I shall not exclude it from its own room in the application of this subject, if the Lord will. But, with the best interpreters that I have seen, I apprehend it is spoken of Christ, holding out his undertaking for an elect world in the covenant of redemption, of grace, and becoming our Surety, engaging himself to the Father for us, in the view of our having ruined ourselves, and broken our own credit and interest with God. The first Adam, our natural and federal head, in the covenant of works, he brake the covenant, and violated the engagement that he made of approaching to God, with his perfect, personal obedience; and so he, and we in him, lost all our power with God. But behold, the second Adam, having his heart filled and fraughted with love to a company of sinful miserable worms, such as are here present, he takes on the engagement that Adam brake: and he being a person of entire credit, it was a done bargain, and God issues out all blessings on his account: “For, who is he that engaged his heart?”
In the words you may notice these four things,
1. The proper work and office of our Lord Jesus as Mediator, via., to approach unto God, and that for us, and in our room and stead, as the High-priest of our profession. The priests are said to draw near to God, (Lev. 10:21: 21:17,18). It is said (Ex. 20:21), that Moses drew near unto the thick darkness, where God was. So did Christ, our great Moses, draw near and approach unto God.
2. Notice, in the words, his cordial compliance with his work: He engaged his heart to it; received a commandment of the Father, who caused him to approach; he being the original cause and spring, as the connecting particle for does show; for, who is this that does approach? Could any do it without me? No: the Father was first at work; but Christ was as willing to the work, as his Father was to employ him: he engaged his heart to it; that is, he bound and obliged himself to it; he undertook for his heart, as some read it; he undertook for his soul, that in the fullness of time it should be made an offering for sin. His own voluntary compliance with his Father's will, and his compassion to fallen man engaged him; and he was hearty and resolute, free and cheerful in it, and made nothing of the difficulties that stood in the way.
3. You have here the singularity of this fact, and the wonderfulness of it, expressed in the question, “Who is this that engaged his heart unto me?” It points out the greatness of the person, the amiable nature of the work he essays. Christ is in all this matter truly wonderful; and when it is a God that expresses it in this manner, we may well ask it with admiration, Who is this that engaged his heart to such an undertaking? And then,
4. You have the divine testimony annexed to the whole, in these words, “Saith the Lord.” Here is a noble ground for faith, even the testimony of the God of truth: let the mouth of unbelief be stopped, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. God's testimony is our security; and we need no better than the word of God testifying concerning his eternal Son, “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord.”
Observe: That our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, cordially and willingly engaged himself to approach unto God, in the work and business of our redemption.
I shall endeavor to clear this doctrine, and upon it speak to the several parts of the text, in the following method; after that we have cleared the truth of the doctrine, we shall,
I. Show what a wonderful person this is, that engaged his heart to approach unto God: as seems to be pointed out in this question, “Who is this?”
II. The nature of the work that he engages himself in, while it is an engagement to approach unto God.
III. The singularity of the fact, included in the manner of the expression, “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto God?”
IV. The reasons of the doctrine; or, why Christ came under this engagement: together with the reasons of our faith concerning it; or, why it is, that Jehovah's testimony is added in these words, “Saith the Lord.”
V. Draw some inferences by way of application of the doctrine, as the Lord shall please to assist.
Now, before I proceed to the method here laid down, I would offer you some scriptural proofs of the doctrine. That Christ willingly engaged himself herein is evident.
1. From his accepting of the work and office; “When sacrifice and offering would not, then, said he, Lo I come,” &c., (Ps. 40:7,8, compared with Heb. 10:5-7).
2. From his reckoning it his glory and honor, that he hath taken this office upon him at his Father’s call; as is plain from that expression, “No man takes this honour to himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron: So Christ glorified not himself, to be made an High-priest; but he that said to him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee: Thou art a Priest for ever,” (Heb. 5:4,5).
3. From his promising to depend on his Father for his help and assistance in the work, “Though Israel be not gathered, says Christ, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength,” (Isa. 49:5). “The Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore will I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed,” (Isa. 1:7). Hence it was, that he endured the cross, and despised the shame. “I will put my trust in him,” says Christ, (Heb. 2:13).
4. For his promising subjection to his Father’s will, in bearing reproaches, and laying down his life for those that were given to him. “I was not, rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting,” (Isa. 1:5,9). And “I lay down my life; and this commandment have I received of my Father,” (John 10:17). And,
5. According as he promised, so did he accomplish the promise: His heart was set upon the work in the hardest part thereof; “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till all be accomplished? “And never did he rest, till he could say, “It is finished: I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do,” (John 17:4).—Thus he fulfilled the engagement he came under. And then,
6. He expects the glory promised to him, and the accomplishment of the glorious promise that was made to him upon his fulfilling his engagements; “I have glorified thee on earth: and now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was, (John 17:4,5). Yea, he challenges it as his due every way, “Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me; for thou has loved me before the foundation of the world,” (v. 24).—And thus in all these things you see the truth of the doctrine cleared; and so we proceed to the illustration of the general method.
I. The first thing I promised, was, To show what a wonderful person this is, that engages his heart to approach unto God; as is pointed out by the question, “Who is this? “There are these following things wonderful in this person engaging:—
1. “Who is this?” I answer, Who but the eternal Son of the Eternal Father, one God with him and the, eternal Spirit; even the King eternal and immortal, who is said to be, “Over all, God blessed for ever, Amen.”—(Rom. 9:5). Amen, says the apostle; and Amen let your hearts say to it, by putting the crown of absolute divine Sovereignty and supreme Piety upon the head of our Lord Jesus this day, in opposition to the damnable error of Arianism, that is like to take deep root in Britain and Ireland, and spread like a gangrene, and eat like a cancer. Who is he as to his person? He is the Son of God: and who is he as to his nature and essence? He is “the same in substance, equal in power and glory with the Father and the Holy Ghost.” He is “God over all, blessed for ever;” and cursed is the communicant that shall not say, Amen. Under the Great seal of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, we make the apostle’s confession of faith, That if any ask, “Who is this? “We answer, “This is the true God, and eternal life,” (1 John 5:20). This glorious engager, the Lord Jesus, whose death we commemorate, is, with respect to his divine nature, the true God; and he hath upon his vesture and upon his thigh written this name, “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” This is the eternal Word, that was made flesh; he took upon him our nature, and became man, that he might appease God. The infinitely great quality of the person does highly commend his loving undertaking and engagement. But,
2. “Who is this?” It is One, “Who, though he was in the form of God, and thought it no robbery to be equal with God, yet took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man; and being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” (Phil. 2:6-8). It is he, who though his generation cannot be declared, his goings forth having been from of old, from everlasting; yet engaged to be made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that are under the law, and was cut off out of the land of the living. It is he, who, though he was the Prince of the kings of the earth, and the King of kings, yet engaged to become a servant of servants, and accordingly girds himself to serve them, and wash their feet, (John 13:4,5). It is he, who, though he be admirable in his sovereignty his kingdom being over all, yet is matchless in his condescendency.—Though he is one that could never have been known, unless he had made himself known; yet he hath shown himself to be one that is mighty in word and deed, saying “It is I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save,” (Isa. 63:1). It is he, who though he be the only Son, and dearly beloved of God, yet engages to quit his Father’s company, and take on his wrath and indignation. If it had been a simple privation of his Father’s countenance for a little, it had been more than all the sons of men were worth; for he was daily from eternity his Father’s delight, rejoicing always before him, (Prov. 8:30). But it must be more: he engages to take on our sin and guilt, and to bear our griefs; and, which is still more, to undergo his Father's wrath; insomuch, that though the Father's delight in him was never changed or altered, yet he engaged to become such a strange object of his delight, as that he should delight to bruise him, and take pleasure in making him a sacrifice; “It pleased the Lord to bruise him,” (Isa. 53:10), he took pleasure in bruising him in the mortar of his infinite vengeance, till he bruised his blood out of his heart and veins, and his soul out of his body; for he swate great drops of blood in the garden; yea, bled to death on the cross, and then gave up the ghost. “Who is this?” Who but he who was the pleasant object of God's infinite love? Christ was loved of the Father in his dying, and for his dying in our room: he loves him in himself, and loves him as a sacrifice; for it was a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savor unto God, (Eph. 5:2). But, O dear bought to Christ, was this love!
3. “Who is this?” Who but that glorious One, whom we have infinitely disobliged by our sin, and had disengaged to do us any favor, by our revolt from him, by breaking our engagements in the covenant of works, and by continual rebellion against him, and vexing his Holy Spirit, (Isa. 63:10). “Who is this?” Even he whom the party that he engages for on the one side, doth most loath and despise; for, “He is despised and rejected of men: we hid as it were our faces from him: he was despised, and we esteemed him not;” and yet he engages for these that were in actual opposition and enmity to him: for, while we were yet enemies, he engages for us; “He died for the ungodly,” (Rom. 5:6). And, “God commends his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” (v. 8). And, “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son,” (v. 10). He loved them, that loathed him. Again,
4. “Who is this?” He is one that stood in no need of us, being infinitely happy in himself, and had lost nothing, though all mankind had perished forever; and yet before we were not happy, he would expose himself to the greatest misery, resolving that he would not be happy without us. He would rather come and endure the contradiction of sinners against himself, reproach, blasphemy, and all manner of indignities: “Though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor;” and though he was exalted to the highest, yet he would be humbled to the lowest. Let all the excellencies of heaven and earth be put together; let all the perfections that ever the world heard of, and infinitely more; let them be all gathered together, and infinity added to them, and all shining in one person, and that is Christ, O how rich! How glorious! And yet this person engages to die for vile worms, whom he might have trampled under his feet forever.
5. “Who is this?” Why, he is one that could lay his hand upon both parties that were at variance, God and man; and so lay hold on both, and bring them together in himself, though at an infinite distance from one another: He hath made peace by the blood of his cross, and reconciled heaven and earth, (Col. 1:20,21). He is one that was able not only to remove the partition betwixt Jews and Gentiles, man and man, but to take down the partition—wall betwixt God and man, to bring the sinner to God, and God to the sinner; “Christ hath once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God,” (1 Pet. 3:18); “God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself:” and so he is one that brings both together, by his almighty arm; “This man shall be the peace;” this God-man is our peace, being a friend to both parties: being God, he is such a friend to God, that he would let him want nothing of his due; he will give justice every farthing, and retrieve the whole glory that sin defaced: and, being man, he is such a friend to man, that he will pay all our debt, recover all our loss, yea, and gain much more to us than ever we lost.
6. “Who is this?” He is one whose name is called Wonderful, (Isa. 9:6). But who can tell the wonders of his person, the wonders of his perfections, the wonders of his offices, relations, appearances, birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession; the wonders of his righteousness, the wonders of his purchase, the wonders of his love in its height and depth, length and breadth; in its eternity, efficacy, and constancy? He is one whose name is Wonderful, whose followers, that bear his name, are for signs and wonders, “Behold, I and the children which thou hast given me, are for signs and wonders,” (Isa. 7:18); “Thou and thy fellows, that sit before thee, are men wondered at,” (Zech. 3:8). And, indeed, the more of Christ that they have about them, the more they do become a world’s wonder, as Christ himself was. What shall I say? Time would fail to speak of these things, and to mention his wonderful acts, his wonderful counsels, his wonderful way upon the earth, and in the hearts of his people, his wonderful works towards the children of men, both in judgment and in mercy, and his wonderful conduct towards his own children. Let it suffice that this is he whose name is, and shall be called Wonderful.
II. The Second thing proposed was, To speak of the nature of the work he engages himself in, while it is said, “He engaged his heart to approach unto God.” The priests under the law, their approaching unto God did but adumbrate and shadow forth our High-priest his approach unto God, in our room and stead.—In order to clear this point, then, in the general, I premise these two things:
1st, All mankind were barred out from the presence of God, so as they could not approach to him in their own persons: and that by a threefold bar.
1. The bar of a broken and violated law, or covenant of works. The covenant of works, you know, was, Do and Live, otherwise ye shall die: in which covenant the precept was Do, and the promise was Life, and the penalty was Death. Man, by his sin, hath broken the precept of doing, forfeited the promise of life, and incurred the penalty of death. Now, if we were to approach God in mercy, this broken precept must be repaired, this forfeited life must be redeemed, this incurred penalty must be executed, and endured. Here is a bar that neither men nor angels can draw and take out of the way, in order to our approach unto God.
2. The bar of God’s injured perfections, particularly God's infinite holiness, which stands up for the defense of the precept of the law: insomuch that none can approach to a holy God, unless his holiness be vindicate by a perfect obedience. Again, God’s infinite justice, which stands up for the penalty, or threatening of the law; insomuch that none can approach to a just God, unless his justice be satisfied by a complete sacrifice. Now, as our natural want of conformity to the law makes the holiness of God stand in the way of our approach to him; so our natural want of ability, to give satisfaction, makes the justice of God to be a bar against our approach. O! who will draw this bar of God's injured perfections!
3. The bar of natural enmity and sin on our part; “Your iniquities have separate betwixt you and your God,” (Isa. 59:2), so as we cannot approach to him. We are enemies to God, by wicked works. This is a bar that cannot be broken, but by an almighty arm.—Thus, I say, all mankind was barred out from the presence of God; no approaching to him.
2dly, I premise, That the work of him who shall approach to God, in our room, and as our representative, must include the breaking of these bars. He that will engage to approach unto God as our head, to bring us back to God, must engage to break these bars: And so,
1. To break the bar of a violated covenant of works. And, accordingly, Christ comes; and, by his obedience to the death, he magnifies the law, and makes it honorable: The precept of the law that we had broken, he must fulfill, by obeying perfectly; the promise of eternal life, which we had forfeited, he must recover, by redeeming the forfeiture, bringing in everlasting righteousness; the threatening and penalty of eternal death he must endure, or the equivalent, by coming under the curse of the law.
2. To break the bar of God's injured perfections, by vindicating the holiness of God, and satisfying the justice of God, that so these and the like injured attributes of the divine Majesty may not stand in the way; for, while they do, there is no approaching unto God.
3. To break the bar of man's natural enmity against God, other ways he that engages himself to approach unto God, cannot bring us to God with him.
These things being premised, we may the more easily see what is the work that the Lord Jesus engaged his heart unto, in approaching unto God: he comes to God in our room, who could not approach in our own persons. It is below the majesty of a great king, to treat and transact immediately with a guilty rebel and traitor: and so it is below the majesty of the great God, to transact immediately with wretched sinners: and who then will approach? Therefore he transacts immediately with Christ, a person of equal dignity with himself, as to his divine nature; and a person able to break these bars, and so make an open door for himself as Redeemer, and then, for all the Redeemed at his back, to approach unto God, as their eternal rest and happiness; and all this he does by fulfilling the broken law, for he came to fulfill all righteousness by satisfying God's injured perfections, insomuch that God is well-pleased, for his righteousness' sake: and by destroying man's natural enmity, insomuch that they are reconciled to God by the death of his Son.
But, more particularly, I would show here, 1. What engagements Christ came under. 2. What approach did he make to God, under these engagements. 3. Under what considerations are we to view God, to whom he engages to approach. 4. In what station did he engage to approach unto God.
1st, What engagements did Christ come under, when he engaged himself to approach unto this God? He came under engagements about the whole work of our redemption. And,
1. He engaged to put himself in the form of a servant, by taking on our nature, and taking our place in law, that so the law might reach him in the room of the guilty sinner; otherwise the law-curse due to us could never have reached him. Now, to this engagement belong several things, which I shall shortly deliver in so many spiritual expressions.—He engaged to be made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.—He engaged, even he who knew no sin, to be made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. And thus,
2. He engaged to satisfy, not only the law, in all its commands and demands, but also all the injured attributes of the divine Majesty, by bringing in everlasting righteousness.—He engaged to give himself a sacrifice; and to give his soul an offering for sin; and to give his life a ransom for many.—He engaged to make peace by the blood of his cross, and so to repair the breach betwixt God and man, making way by his blood, to the holy of holies, that we might have boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, consecrate to us through the vail, that is to say his flesh, that we might come again to God with full assurance of faith. And in order to this,
3. He engaged to redeem by power as well as by price, and to make a willing people in the day of his power; and that, having bruised the head of the serpent, and destroyed the works of the devil, he should bring forth his prisoners out of the pit wherein there was no water.—He engaged to lead captivity captive, to take the prey from the mighty, that the lawful captive might be delivered, (Isa. 49:24,25); and so to restore the lost image of God upon man, and to make them partakers of the divine nature. And thus,
4. He engaged not only to destroy sin, and to condemn it in the flesh, because it tended to destroy God’s law, to darken his glory, and to strike at his being, as well as to ruin the sinner; but also, to destroy death, and bring life and immortality to light:—He engages to come, that we might have life, and that we might have it more immediately.—And in all these Christ becomes engaged to the Father, for our debt, for our duty, and for our safety. And as he became engaged to God for us so he became engaged to us for God; that having engaged to God for our debt, we should be justified; having engaged for our duty, we should be sanctified; and that having engaged for our safety, we should be glorified, and safely brought to heaven, to be forever with the Lord.
(1.) He engaged for our debt, that it should be paid every farthing, to the uttermost that the infinite holiness of God could command in the precept of the law, and to the uttermost, that the infinite justice of God could demand in the threatening of the law; and so he is able to save to the uttermost, because he ever lives to make intercession, upon the ground of that complete payment that he made by his obedience unto death. And here stands the ground of our justification before God; this ground he engaged to God for us to lay down, and upon this ground he engaged to us that he shall be justified, saying, “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”
(2.) He engaged not only for our debt, but for our duty: having engaged to God to make a purchase of all grace and holiness for us, he engages, in his promise to us, to give us the new heart and the new spirit, to make us know the Lord; and to put his Spirit within us, and cause us to walk in his statutes; to put his fear in our hearts, that we shall not depart from him; and consequently that we shall not sin the sin unto death, nor live and die under the power of sin: and that sin shall not have a final dominion over us: but that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, shall free us from the law of sin and death.—And in consequence of these two engagements for debt and for duty,
(3.) He also engages for our safety, saying to his Father, “I give them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand,” (John 10:28). He engages to the Father, “That of all that he hath given him, he shall loose nothing, but shall raise it up at the last day; and that they shall all be with him, where he is, to behold his glory.” And hence issue all the promises wherein also he engages to us for God, such as, that he will save us from falling, and present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy; and that though we may be sometimes carried captive of our enemies by constraint, yet that we shall overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and sit with him on his throne, even as he overcame, and is set down with his Father on his throne: And that no cross shall come, but what shall be for our advantage in the end, whatever for the present it seem to be to our sense; but that all things shall work together for our good, who love him, and are the called according to his purpose.
This leads me to a question; Why, say you, who may expect a share of this engagement of Christ; Does he engage in behalf of us all? I answer in such a manner as concerns all that hear me, that he engaged in behalf of all that were given him of the Father: and that none of all that hear this gospel, may look upon themselves as shut out, he expresses it thus, “All that the Father hath given me, shall come to me, and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out,” (John 11:37). And consequently he engages in behalf of all that shall not exclude themselves from the benefit of this glorious engagement, by their final unbelief, in rejecting this Christ, and refusing to be saved on these terms, which Christ engaged to fulfill. And so the door is open to you all, to put in for a full share of all that Christ hath engaged to do; especially if you think that your own personal bonds and engagements, vows, promises, and covenants, are not so good and sufficient as Christ’s personal engagement in your room: think you so, man, woman? O then, here is a good bargain for you; you that have no money to pay your debt; no grace to perform your duty; no strength to secure your safety; O here is a Christ engaging to God for your debt, your duty, and your safety? O let your heart say with application, Amen, it is a good bargain for me; and if so, God hath beforehand said Amen, so let it be. In a word, the sum of Christ’s engagement, that he came under, in his approach to God, was to fulfill God's law, to vindicate his holiness, to satisfy his justice, to bear his wrath in our room, and to be made sin for us, and so to be made a curse for us, (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). He engaged to be made a sacrifice, a ransom, a propitiation for us, and to be all that the glory of God’s perfections in the matter of our salvation required.—Thus he engaged himself to approach to God.
2dly, What approach did he make to God under these engagements; In short,
It was a near approach, by God's own allowance and appointment: See the context; “I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach to me.” We behooved to have stood at an infinite distance from God to all eternity, had not Christ been allowed to come near in our room. But behold, he made a near approach under the shadow of lawful authority; his Father authorized him therein, and caused him to approach: God the Father is the primary cause of our salvation; “This commandment,” says Christ, “have I received of my Father,” (John 10:15).—It is his Father's will that he came to do, (Ps. 40:8). And how near Christ approaches to God in our room, under this authority, allowance, and command, who can tell among men or angels? For he came so near, as to lay his hand upon God; yea, to take God and all his glorious perfections, all his seemingly jarring attributes in his arms, as it were, and reconcile them one to another, and bind them together with the bond of infinite amity and harmony, to the highest glory of each of them, in the matter of our salvation: And hence, upon this near approach it was said, “Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Therefore,
2. It was a bold approach, by God's own assistance; as well as near, by his allowance. This is evident also in the text, “I will cause him to draw near;” and “Who is he that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord.” It was a bold and courageous approach indeed; but it was by his Father's help and assistance, “The Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded; yea, therefore have I set my face like a flint,” (Isa. 50:7). It was such a bold adventure, as none could have made but himself. And yet,
3. It was an humble approach: for, “Though he was in the form of God, and thought it no robbery to be equal with God, yet he humbled himself, and took upon him the form of a servant,” Phil. ii. 8. He became his Father’s humble servant in the work of our redemption; “Behold my servant whom I uphold.” He served him in a state of humiliation, from the time of his incarnation to the time of his exaltation. He was meek and lowly while he offered his humble service to God for our sake, stooping down to wash our feet, to wash our hearts, to wash our consciences, to wash our souls in his own blood, saying, “if I wash thee not, thou hast no part in me.” His approach to God was an humble and reverential approach, with holy filial fear and regard of his Father; therefore it is said, that in the days of his flesh, he offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, to him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared, (Heb. 5:7). How humbly did he cry to his Father in the garden, when he said, “Father, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done: Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say: “Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I to this hour: Father glorify thy name.” It was in the saddest earnest, and deepest humility, that he approached to his Father in this work.
4. It was a solemn approach: “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me?” It is I, says Christ; and he says it with a solemnity, “Lo I come.” “Lo I come, in the volume of thy book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God,” (Ps. 40:7). Lo I come; as if he had said, Let heaven and earth be witnesses to this approach of mine; let God and all the creatures of God attest it; for I am not ashamed of this work which the Father had given me to do: “Lo, I come.”—Other characters of this approach may fall in upon the next general head; therefore I go to the next particular here premised, which will also further illustrate the nature of this approach.
3rdly, Under what consideration are we to view the God to whom he approached? “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me?” What me? It is to me, says Jehovah. And here we would consider the God to whom he approached in our room, in these following respects.
1. He engaged to approach unto God as an absolute God. Christ, the second Person of the adorable Trinity, personally considered, engaged in our name to approach to God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, essentially considered; to approach to the throne of infinite Majesty. We have to do with a God in Christ, in all our approaches; and may not approach to a God out of Christ, otherwise we would be confounded: but Christ had to do with a God by himself. Christ is the Mediator betwixt God and man, but there was no mediator betwixt God and Christ: Christ must approach, as well as he could, to God himself immediately, that we, through his mediation, might have access to God.—It was a saying of Luther's Nolo Deum Absolutum; Lord, deliver me from an absolute God, a God out of ‘Christ;’ for as he is terrible to sinners, so, in himself considered, he dwells in light to which no man can approach, (1 Tim. 6:16). But this inaccessible Being is the God to whom Christ did approach.
2. He engaged to approach unto God as a commanding God, commanding perfect obedience, according to the tenor of the covenant of works; commanding perfect obedience in man's own person, as the condition of life; and now, seeing, in the covenant of grace, a change of persons is allowed, but no change of the terms or conditions, but that our holy God will still be a commanding God, Christ accepts of the terms, and engages to fulfill the condition of life, be the command what will: “Lo, I come, to do thy will.” Father, what is thy command? I come to thee as a commanding God, a Law-giver, to obey thy law; yea, “Thy law is within my heart;” or, as it is in the Hebrew, It is in the midst of my bowels. None, that had any blemish, was to approach or come near unto God, (Lev. 21:21). If there had been any blemish in the person or righteousness of Christ, he could not have approached to an infinitely holy and commanding God; and his coming to God under this consideration, is just his coming under the law, or under the command, in our room.
3. He engaged to approach unto God as a threatening God, threatening death and wrath to the transgressors of his command, and saying, as “I will be sanctified by all that approach, or come nigh unto me,” (Lev. 10:3); I will either be sanctified by them, or sanctified upon them: and thus he had God to deal with, not only as a Commander and Law-giver, requiring obedience; but as a Judge, requiring satisfaction when the law is broken. He approaches to God, not only as a God of infinite holiness, whose command must be obeyed; but as a God of infinite justice, whose threatening must be executed: and therefore, he coming to God in the room of these that had broken the command, and incurred the threatening, it must follow, that,
4. He engaged to approach to God as an angry God, an offended Deity, and an Avenger of blood: “The Lord laid on him the iniquities of us all;” and under this load of sin and guilt, he approaches to the God that was to take vengeance upon sin in his own person, and all the vengeance that sin deserved: He engaged to approach to God as a displeased and incensed God, that he might please him by his obedience, and pacify him by his satisfaction. He engaged to approach to that God, who is a consuming fire to sinners; and, taking their sins along with him, he goes in to the very midst of that devouring fire, which would have devoured and destroyed the sinner himself eternally, that he might quench the flame of that fire with his blood; though he was burnt to death in the cause, that we might not burn forever in hell.—What is hell, but the fire of God’s wrath? It is just God himself, as a consuming fire, that is the hell of hell. It was a lamentable moan of a man upon his deathbed once, “We have some in this life that will go to aquire for us, some that will say mass for us, some that will plough for us, and some that will pray for us; but, O where is there one that will go to hell for us!” But, behold, here is one that engaged his heart to approach to God, as a consuming fire, and so to go to hell, and quench the fire of it for us; yea, and to drink off the cup of God’s red-hot boiling vengeance to the bottom. For he engaged to approach to God as a God of terrible Majesty, being content that infinite justice should act upon him a tragedy of blood and wounds, that our salvation might be obtained without any detriment to divine justice, and to the highest glory of all the other divine perfections.—When Christ approached to God as an absolute God, he came near, as it were, to the seat of his Majesty, to present himself in our room; when he approached to God as a commanding God, he came near, as it were, to the throne of his holiness, and there he was an obedient subject in our room; when he approached to God as a threatening God, then he came near, as it were, to his bench of judgment, and there he was a condemned pannel at the bar in our room; and when he approached to God as an angry and offended God, then he came near, as it were, to the tribunal of justice, the fiery tribunal of his indignation, and there the sentence was execute upon him, while he gave himself to incensed justice in our room.—Now, Christ having thus approached to God, according to his engagement, the God to whom he approached is so well-pleased with this approach of his, that now, by an act passed at the same tribunal of justice, where he was solemnly condemned to death in our room and stead, he is as solemnly justified and absolved in our room; therefore he is said to be justified by the Spirit, (1 Tim. 3:16); and Christ himself says, “he is near that justifies me,” (Isa. 50:8). And therefore the Lord is well-pleased for his righteousness sake: and when the Spirit of Christ convinces of righteousness, he will demonstrate this from that argument, that Christ hath gone to his Father, (John 16:10).—And now the approach that he makes to God, is to a God whom he hath pleased and pacified in our behalf, whose Majesty he hath allayed, whose command he hath fulfilled, whose threatening he hath sustained, and whose wrath he hath endured, and for whose loving-kindness he hath made a vent; and, accordingly, it is vented by an audible voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Whatever approach now it is that Christ makes unto God, as an Advocate at the Father’s right-hand, it is in the virtue and value of that engaged approach that I have mentioned: and so it is now to a God whom he hath pleased and pacified: and whatever approach we make to God in him, it is to a God reconciled in him, (Rom. 5:10). Thus you see under what considerations we are to view the God to whom Christ did engage to approach, and, “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord.”
4thly, In what station did he engage to approach unto God? Why,
1. He engaged to approach unto God in the station of a surety, therefore he is called, “The Surety of a better testament:” a surety for God to us, that all that he hath promised in his word shall be made good: for in him are all the promises Yea and Amen, and he is engaged to see them accomplished: also, as a Surety for us to God, having given his band to his Father, that all our debt should be paid; Christ says to his Father, in a manner, as Paul said to Philemon concerning Onesimus, “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that to mine account; I, Paul, have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it,” (Phil. 1:18,19).—So says Christ, Since these poor sinners have wronged thee, O Father, by their sin, and owe thee an infinite sum, a debt of obedience and satisfaction, Put it to mine account, I, Jesus, have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: I give my bond for it, subscribed with my own hand: “Lo, I come to do it; in the volume of thy book it is written of me.” And indeed he is a Surety that gets all the debt to pay, and all the duty to perform for the debtor and bankrupt.
2. He engaged to approach to God in the station of a Mediator, therefore called the Mediator of the new covenant. He is sent of God to negotiate a peace betwixt God and man; and, accordingly, he is our peace, and travels betwixt the parties in order to their reconciliation. He is a repairer of breaches, and a restorer of that which he took not away, (Ps. 49:4). For, as Mediator, he restores that glory to God which he took not away; that obedience to the law which he took not Away: that holiness to man which he took not away; that beauty and order to the world which he took not away; that agreement and concord betwixt heaven and earth, betwixt man and man, which he took not away.
3. He engaged himself to approach unto God in the station of an Ambassador, to serve him in that station; and hence he is so frequently called the Sent of God. Christ magnifies his office as being the Sent of God; “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work,” (John 4:34); “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me,” (John v. 40). Christ magnifies the faith that believes on him as the Sent of God; “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Yea, I have observed that Christ is spoken of as the Sent of God betwixt forty and fifty times in that one gospel according to John. He is sent as the Father’s Ambassador, with the Father’s seal appended to his commission: “Him hath God the Father sealed.”
4. He engaged to approach unto God in the station of a mean Servant: for, “He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant;” yet a faithful servant, faithful in all his house; a Servant according to God’s heart; and as righteous as God would have him to be; “By his knowledge shall my righteous Servant justify many.” A Servant whom God glories in; “Behold my Servant, whom I uphold: mine Elect, in whom my soul delighteth.” I might here show you how he engaged to approach to God in the Station of a Prophet, Priest, and King; a Witness, Leader, and Commander, (Isa. 55:4). But what I have said is sufficient to give us some view of the nature of the work he engaged himself to in approaching to God. Therefore I come,
III. To the Third general head proposed, which was, To speak of the singularity of the fact intimated in the expression, “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me?” Now, that this was a singular engagement, will appear, both from the matter and the manner.
1st, Consider the matter of this engagement, and we will see the singularity of it, especially if we notice the mysteries that lie in the bosom of this engagement; particularly these six.
1. The first mystery in this engagement is, that herein we may see the glory of the eternal God vailed with flesh, and dwelling in a tabernacle of clay; “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh.” To see the sun in the firmament converted to a clod of dust, or the highest seraph in heaven to a crawling worm, had been but a small matter, if compared to this; for here we have heaven and earth, time and eternity, finite and infinite together in one person.—Here is the Ancient of days becoming a young child; “To us a Child is born.”—Here is the everlasting Fountain of joy, becoming a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.—Here is the greatest beauty of heaven and earth, with his visage marred more than any man, and his form than the sons of men.—Here is the Creator of the world, to whom the earth and its fulness belong, yet destitute of house and hold; “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of man hath no where to lay his head.”
2. The second mystery wrapped up in this engagement, is, that here we may see the glorious Law-giver, whose will is a law to men and angels, subjecting himself to his own law, and that in the room of rebels, that had violated his law, and contemned his authority; for, “He was made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.”
3. The third mystery here to be seen is, that which might make us faint away with wonder and amazement, that the blessed God should, in a manner, become a cursed sinner, that cursed sinners might be blessed in him; behold the ever-blessed God becoming a curse, (Gal. 3:15). And, to be made a curse is a stronger word yet than cursed.—Behold the ever-holy God becoming sin, (2 Cor. 5:21); and to be made sin, is a stronger word yet than to be a sinner. He became a sinner by imputation, even he who knew no sin, that we might be the righteousness of God in him. He put his name in our bond, and wrote down himself the sinner, that our name might be put in his bond, and we might be righteous through his righteousness. But, for the blessed God to become a curse, and the holy God to become sin, is more than if all the angels in heaven should become devils. Is there not somewhat singular here?
4. The fourth mystery wrapped up in this engagement is, that here we see the Creditor becoming Surety for the debtor, and paying the debt that was owing to himself. The eternal Son of God was as much injured by our sin as the Father was, and yet he engaged to come and satisfy his own justice.
5. The fifth mystery here involved is, in this engagement we may see the Judge of all the earth brought under condemnation: condemned by his own Father, whom he never offended; condemned by the law, which he never broke; condemned by sinners, whom he came to save from condemnation; condemned to death though he be the Lord of life, and hath the keys of hell and death in his hand and at his girdle.
6. The sixth mystery to be seen in this engagement is, that here we may observe justice raging against the innocent, and absolving the guilty, and yet without any iniquity or injustice; a God of love and a compassionate Father forgetting, as it were, his bowels towards his only Son, and taking pleasure in his death; “For it pleased the Lord to bruise him:” and yet receiving these into his arms and bosom who had violated his law, and contemned his authority, and grieved his Spirit.—And, by this means, here we see the righteousness of the law fulfilled in these that had broken the law, and never obeyed one of its precepts.—Here we may see the poor guilty sinner, that stands condemned by the law, condemned by justice, condemned by conscience, yet put in case to challenge the whole world to lay anything to his charge, (Rom. 8:33).—By this mean also we see the debt paid and yet pardoned, the guilt of the sinner punished and yet forgiven.—In a word, there was this singular in it, that he engaged to bring the greatest good out of the greatest evil. Sin is the greatest of all evils, and that whereby, of anything in all the world, God is most dishonored; and yet there is nothing by which God brings greater glory to himself than by the fall of man: Upon these ruins mercy shall be built up forever says God; and mercy magnified to the highest, in a way wherein justice is satisfied to the uttermost; sin being condemned by a sacrifice, life bought by a death, and the gates of heaven opened by a cross. The mysteries contained in this engagement show it to be singular.—And thus the matter of the engagement discovers the singularity of the fact.
2dly, Consider the manner of it, and here the singularity thereof will further appear: how did he engage?
1. He engaged alone, He alone; there was none that would or could engage to do this but himself; “I have trod the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me,” (Isa. 63:3); among all the creatures of God there was none to take a part with him in treading the wine-press of his Father's wrath: “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore his own arm brought salvation, and his righteousness it sustained him,” (Isa. 59:16).
2. He engaged fully to do all, to suffer all, to purchase all, to apply all, and to be all in all; he engaged not only to do, but to suffer; “Christ hath once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God,” (1 Pet. 3:18): not only to suffer, but to die, and to die for enemies, rebels, and traitors, such as were given him of the Father; and not only to die, but to continue for a time under the power of death; though he was life itself, and could, in the first instant of time, have risen up from the grave that he was laid into.
3. He engaged freely; his Father’s causing him to approach, did not hinder the freedom of his engagement; for as God, “He and his Father are one,” and have but one divine will; and, as man, his will is sweetly subject to the divine will. He engaged so freely, that there was nothing in us that could move him but misery: there was none of us could desire him to do it; he engaged before we had a being: there was none in heaven or earth that could compel him to it; and there was nothing that he had to expect from us for his pains; we could never reward him for his work; and all that we shall do to eternity, is only, through his grace, to bless him for what he hath done.
4. He engaged firmly, and that both in point of constancy
and courage. In point of courage: he engaged in the work courageously,
though he had justice, and wrath, and hell, and heaven, and all on his top;
yea, and poor man also, for whom he engaged; yet, how courageously did he go
through with his work! so firmly, as not to be moved with discouragements.
He went and set his face up to
5. He engaged timeously and speedily; he did not linger, for the matter could not admit of a delay: when our neck was on the block, and the axe of divine judgment coming down, as it were to give the fatal stroke, he cries speedily, Hold, hold thy hand. What, might God say, will you come and be a sacrifice in their room? No sooner is the motion made to him, than presently he was on fire of love to be thus employed and substitute in our room as a sacrifice; “Lo, I come:” he speaks like one ready to run. When the plague was begun, Moses commands Aaron to go quickly into the congregation to make an atonement, (Num. 16:46). The sentence of divine wrath, which is a terrible plague, was gone out; and therefore Christ does speedily engage to make the atonement.
6. He engaged heartily; he engaged his heart to approach unto God. This being the main particular, with respect to the manner of the fact, or that branch of the singularity of it, expressly mentioned in the text; therefore let us especially take notice of this, “He engaged his heart to approach.—He engaged his heart;” that is, not only did he engage for his soul, as some understand it, that his soul should be made an offering for sin; but also, he engaged his heart, that is, he engaged willingly; and so it was with a thousand good-wills: Lo I come, Father: thy will is my will.— “He engaged his heart;” that is, he engaged cordially, cheerfully, and affectionately; “I delight to do thy will, O my God!” We never read that Christ had a sad heart to quit, for a while, that joy and pleasure that he had in heaven: Why, what was the matter? You see it; he had so much pleasure and satisfaction in the work he was engaged in, that it is said, “His delights were with the sons of men, rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth,” (Prov. 8:31), even the places where his sick patients lay. It was not for any pleasure that he took in habitable places; nay, it was not places, but persons in such and such a place; some of my sick patients lie in this corner of the world, and some of them in that corner; some of them lie among the isles, and uttermost parts of the earth; some of them lie in yonder isle of Britain; some of them in Scotland; and, may not I say, some of them lie in Fife, and some of them in Dunfermline? He rejoiced in the habitable, parts of the earth, where he had patients to heal: “His delights were with the sons of men; “For his heart was engaged in his work, he heartily consented to it from all eternity. And though eternity cannot be divided into parts, yet, to speak after the manner of our conception, he spent the rest of that eternity in rejoicing in the thoughts of it.
But more particularly, that his heart was engaged, will appear, if you consider,
(1.) That not only did he give his hearty consent from all eternity, but so soon as ever he had created the world by his almighty arm, then presently he falls about his work and business: for he was slain from the foundation of the world. It is true he came not personally for the space of about four thousand years, from the beginning of the world: but though he came not in person, yet he came by proxy: The infinite wisdom of God thought fit to order matters so, that many a sacrifice was sent to be a shadow of this good thing that was to come; and many a servant did he send to assure them that he was a-coming.
(2.) When the fulness of time was come, that he appeared on the stage of the earth, he showed, in the whole course of his life how much his heart was engaged in his mediatorial work. When he was yet a child, and his parents lost him, and found him in the temple, and began to chide with him; what says Christ? “How was it that you sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?” (Luke 2:49). Never did a hungry man delight more in meat, than Christ delighted in the work of our redemption: It was his meat and drink to do the will of him that sent him.
(3.) That his heart was engaged in the work, appears from his zeal against everything that had a tendency to hinder his going on to the hardest and highest part of his work. What can be more expressive of a heart engaged in the work, than the passage you have; There Peter began to rebuke Christ, when he spake of his sufferings; “Be it far from thee, Lord,” (Matt. 16:23). One would think, that Christ would have taken this is good part, and that it was love in Peter; but we never read that Christ took anything so ill: he turned about, like a man in the greatest passion, and says, “Get thee behind me, Satan:” Never was such a word heard from the mouth of Christ, and that spoken to a saint. It is Peter’s voice, but the devil hath tuned it: What would become of an elect world, if I should stop here? “Get thee behind me, Satan.” His heart was engaged to the work.
(4.) It appears from his longing to pay the debt which he
had engaged to pay: “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I
straitened until it be finished!” He longed to be plunged over head and
ears, as it were, it the ocean of divine wrath: and when it came near to the
time of his death, it is noted, “He went before, ascending up to Jerusalem,”
(Luke 9:18); as a child, that is going with his friends to a place where he
desires to be, runs out before, as being fond to be forward; so Christ went
before, and all the way talked of it to them, as we use to talk of what we
pant after: Yea, when it came near to his suffering, he cannot forbear
telling his disciples, That with desire he desired to eat that Passover;
wherein he saw, as in a glass, how he was to suffer. And when Judas went
forth to betray him, he said, “What thou doest, do quickly,” (John 13:37);
and when he was gone, he rejoiced, and said, “Now is the Son of man
glorified, and God is glorified in him:” He reckoned the work done, because
the instrument that set all a-work was gone out. And, at the end of the 14th
chapter of John, he brake off, as it were, in the midst of the sermon, and
says, “Arise, let us go hence.” Of all works, preaching was most pleasant
to him; but, behold, he breaks off, and goes out, that he might be taken and
crucified, that the occasion might not slip. And then he does not stay till
Judas found him out; no, he goes forth to the place where Judas and his band
were, and offered himself a willing sacrifice. When they said, “We seek
Jesus of Nazareth:” he answers, “I am he,” (John 18:4,5): and when Peter
would have rescued him, he bade him put up his sword, saying, “The cup which
my Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?” Yea, when he was
beaten and buffeted, how did he give his back to the smiters, and his cheeks
to them that plucked off the hair? “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter;
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.”
Yea, when hanging on a cross, he had enough to provoke so great a spirit to
have rescued himself, when they cried, “Come down, and we will believe thee:
If thou canst save thyself, we will believe that thou canst save others:”
Nay, say they, “He saved others, but himself he cannot save.” He might, like
a Samson, have broken down the pillars of heaven and earth about their ears:
but he bears all patiently. And then, how his heart was engaged, appears in
the very last act; “He bowed his head,” and cried out with a joyful heart,
“It is finished;” the work which my Father gave me to do, is finished; the
work which I engaged my heart unto, is finished: And so he gave up the
ghost, committing his spirit into his Father’s hand, as a pledge and token
that the engagement was fulfilled. And now, this work being accomplished,
shall we not think that his heart is as much engaged to the work of
redemption by power, as it was to the work of redemption by price? Yea, “He
hath entered into heaven, now to appear in the presence of God for us,”
(Heb. 9:24). “If, when we were yet enemies, we were reconciled to God by the
death of his Son; how much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his
IV. The Fourth thing proposed, was, To give the reasons of the doctrine, why Christ did so heartily come under the engagement; together with the reasons of our faith about it; or, why it is that Jehovah's testimony is added in these words, “Saith the Lord:” “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? Saith the Lord.”
Now, as to the first of these, viz., the reason why Christ did so cordially engage in this work. There are these four reasons especially that I would offer.
1. He engaged his heart, from obedience to his Father's command; “I delight to do thy will, O my God.” God the Father chose him to this service: “Behold my Servant, whom I have chosen; mine Elect, in whom my soul delighteth.” And he authorized him in it, and caused him to approach: “This commandment have I received of my Father.”
(2.) He engaged his heart from zeal to his Father's
glory. Though the whole creation of men and angels had been offered up as a
whole burnt-offering, it would not have repaired the honor of God for one
sin whereby his honor is impaired; but Christ's engagement is what brings
more glory to God, than if all mankind had stood, or yet fallen a sacrifice
to divine justice: therefore Christ, from a zeal to his Father's glory, did
come under this engagement; “The zeal of God’s house did eat him up.” By his
engagement all the attributes of God are glorified.—God had a mind to set
out his love and mercy to the utmost, and herein it is done more than any
other way; “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,”
(John 3:16). We may behold here the height and depth, the length and breadth
of the love of God, in taking his Son out of his bosom, where he lay from
eternity, and giving him for us. He looked over all the copies of his love,
grace and mercy that he had, written in all his former works, and found them
short of the thing; therefore it is his will, to write his love in letters
of blood, upon him who is an infinite Spirit with himself: and, that this
may be done, he gives him a body; “A body hast thou given me,” that this
body, this human nature, might be a sacrifice for sin.—God had a mind to set
forth the glory of his justice to the utmost, and by this engagement it is
done. What though the whole world were drowned in a deluge of water, or, as
3. He engaged his heart, from a view of his Father's reward: “For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and now is set down at the right hand of God,” (Heb. 12:2). His Father promised him, that, having drunk of the brook in the way, he then should lift up his head; and accordingly, he having humbled himself, and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, therefore God hath highly exalted him, (Phil. 2:8,9). In a word, it was the Father's promise to him, that, upon his making his soul an offering for sin, he should see his seed, and see the travail of his soul and be satisfied. And therefore his heart was engaged to the work.
4. He engaged his heart to this work: why? It was even out of love and pity to lost sinners; he saw us helpless and hopeless, and lying in our blood: and then our time was a time of love. Christ was drawn to this work; but what was it that drew him? even a cord of love; Love brought him out of heaven, and love nailed him to a cross, and loved laid him in a grave, and love made him rise again, and mount up to heaven to agent our cause. On what design came he to the world? It was a design of love. What sickness died he of? He was even sick of love, and died in love. O! shall not this love beget love, and engage our hearts to him, whose heart was engaged to this work, out of love to us? In a word, it was to engage the hearts of sinners to him, and so to make way for their approaching unto God in him.
2dly, As to the reason of our faith, in the last word of the text; it is built upon, “thus saith the Lord;” “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? Saith the Lord.” There is Jehovah's testimony? and why is this added? Why?
1. Because nothing is more quieting to the conscience of a sinner, than the testimony of a God concerning a Saviour; God, by his holy Spirit in the word, testifying of Christ to the conscience, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” True peace of conscience is grounded upon this testimony.
2. Nothing is more securing to the soul; for God’s testimony is our security; “The testimony of the Lord is sure,” (Ps. 19:7). It is very sure, (Ps. 93:5). Here is ground for the assurance of faith; the sure word and testimony of a God that cannot lie.
3. Nothing is more rejoicing to the heart, “God hath spoken in his holiness, I will rejoice,” (Ps. 19:8; 60:9). Why? Nothing speaks out more love than this, when Jehovah says the word, as well as does the work. The soul cannot but rejoice, when the Lord speaks to it; at least, here is ground of joy unspeakable: “These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full,” (John 15:11).
4. Nothing is more silencing to unbelief than this: Why?
Here is the very utmost length that unbelief can go; for, says the
unbelieving heart, if God would say it, then I would believe it. Well, “Thus
saith the Lord,” comes in here to ruin and silence your unbelief. Here is
the reason of our faith: for you are to notice two things in the text: the
one is, the glorious Object of faith, a Christ engaging himself in our room:
The other is the convincing reason of faith: it come with a “Thus saith the
Lord.” Now, in order to get our faith fixed, and brought to a full assurance
and certainty, we are not so much to look to the object of faith, or the
thing to be believed, as to the reason of faith, and the ground of it,
namely, God’s testimony; He says it: his truth and veracity is at the stake
to give us security; it is the great word of the great God. It is not the
greatness of a promise that draws our faith, but the fidelity of the
promiser: nay, the greater the promise is, the more will we doubt of it,
unless there be a ground for believing it. If a man of undoubted integrity
come and tell you never so great things that he is to do for you, and give
to you, the greatness of the things promised is not the reason of your
believing him; nay, the greater they are, the further will you be from
believing: but the reason of your believing is, because the man is honest
and able, and a person of entire credit, whom you can trust. Even so it is
here; there is a great thing proposed to our faith, that Christ, the Sent of
God, is engaged for our complete salvation; and upon this ground he promises
in the context, “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” But, the
greater it is, the further are we from believing it; and therefore we must
have a reason for our faith: well, it is here, the God of truth says it, and
we are to take it upon the testimony of the God that cannot lie. When
Abraham was strong in the faith, and against hope believed in hope, was it
the greatness of the promise that supported his faith, or the reasonableness
of it! No, no; his body and Sarah’s both were dead: but he considered the
veracity and ability of the God that promised; “He was fully persuaded, that
he that had promised was able to perform,” (Rom. 4:21). When Moses was sent
V. The Fifth thing proposed was the Application of this doctrine in some Inferences. Is it so, that Christ, the eternal Son of God, did thus cordially engage himself to approach unto God in the work and business of our redemption! Then hence we may infer the following particulars. We may see,
1. The greatness of our ruin by nature, and the sad case that mankind is in; that not one of all the posterity of Adam can or dare approach unto God, or come under engagements for this end. If we do, we engage ourselves to what is impossible to perform, and we approach to a fiery tribunal, where we are doomed to eternal death, unless we come under the wings of this glorious Engager and Approacher to God. This God will show no regard to any personal bond or engagement of ours; for our personal credit is cracked and broken, not only originally in Adam, by the violation of the covenant of works, but actually in our own persons; we never kept a word that we promised to God; we never kept our engagements to God one day to an end; and therefore God will not trust us. I am far from disallowing of personal covenanting and engaging, when it is put in its due place; that is, after a man hath once closed with Christ as the principal Engager; and then vows, through his grace, and under the covert of his engagement, from gratitude, to serve the Lord, and walk in his ways; but, for all other kind of engagements, let us know that God will take none of our bonds without a cautioner. And we are blind if we do not see that our credit is cracked: look to our national engagements, our Covenants, National and Solemn League; and sure our national credit is cracked and broken: never a nation was more solemnly engaged to God, and yet never any national engagement was more solemnly broken and buried; the credit of our ministers and people, of our nation and church are sunk into the depth of defection, division, error, security, and carnal compliances. And, whereas our forefathers transmitted to us their posterity, precious truths, and pure Confessions of Faith, worthy of the name of Reformers, how are we like to transmit to our posterity a world of trash and lumber, instead of precious treasure? While, among other things, old Reformation principles and doctrines are like to be carried down to succeeding generations after us, under the tash of wildness, new schemes, and Antinomian cant.1 And, as we ought to be humble this day for the breach of our National Covenant and Solemn League, so we may see what is necessary in order to the reviving of a Covenanted Work of Reformation, and of our Solemn Engagements, even that the generation be brought to acquaintance with Christ as the first and foremost Engager in their room; and then that, under the acceptable covert of his engagement, they come under obligations, through his grace, to approach unto God, by returning to him and to their duty. O that the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ were poured out for this end! However, as our national engagements are sadly broken, so look to your baptismal engagements, your communion engagements, and all your other particular engagements to duty; and see that, as our national so our personal credit is cracked; for an evil heart of unbelief causes your departure from the living God every hour of the day. And this is such an universal disease that there is not one of Adam's race that God can now trust without a cautioner, nor allow to approach to him without a midsman.
2. Hence see the glorious excellency of Christ, and the sufficiency of this wonderful Engager for his people, in that he was able to approach to an unoffended God, and able to stand there in the sinner's stead, and to plead for their good; able to stand the trial of infinite holiness and impartial justice, and, where nothing was to be forgiven, was able to satisfy all that the law and justice could demand, and to finish everything that was necessary to be done, in reference to man's salvation, and the work of redemption. O see his glory! see his glory! O glorious Engager, glorious Approacher! Behold his glory, and the glory of God in him! If you see anything of this glory to captivate you, then, “The God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in your hearts, to give you the light of the knowledge of his glory, in the face of Jesus Christ.”
3. Hence see what is the gospel-way of a sinner's
engaging to duty, and approaching to God: Why, it is just to take on with
this Engager, and so to engage under him; and to take on with this blessed
Approacher, and to approach to God in him. In the old covenant of works, man
got a stock of created grace in his own hand; and if he misspent his stock,
and became bankrupt, he was to answer for himself; he had no surety or
cautioner to stand up for him, or to pay his debt, or to approach to God for
him: but the covenant of grace is better ordered than so, and therefore
called a better testament, whereof Christ is the mediator, in whose hand the
principal stock is; and whatever small measure of grace believers have
bestowed upon them, yet their stock can never be spent, and they can never
break, or become liable to a law-pursuit, for the Cautioner keeps them and
their stock both; and he being the Engager, they may engage to do anything,
yea, all things, upon this score; “I can do all things, through Christ
strengthening me:” and he being the leading Approacher to God, they may
approach to God with boldness, when he goes before them; “We have boldness
to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus.” Here then is a test of
right engagements; you cannot be trusted, if you engage alone; you must
match with one that can make good your engagements. In your common affairs
in the world, you know that no man will take a person's bond or engagement
for a sum of money; for example, if he know the person to be insolvent, that
can never make payment, but rather is always taking on more and more debt;
but if that person, be he never so poor himself, will provide you a
sufficient cautioner, that will give his bond of suretyship for him, then
you will accept of the person's bond under this cautionary; because, though
the principal, whom you have good ground to suspect, should break the next
hour, and become utterly insolvent, yet you are secure, because you can
pursue the cautioner when you will, upon his engagement and bond of
suretyship. Well, just so is it here; poor broken bankrupt that thou art,
there is no trusting of thy bond or engagement; God will not trust any of
the race of Adam; since the time that he brake, when he violate his first
covenant-engagement. Nay, the Lord knows, you are so far from being able to
pay your debt, that you are but every moment taking on more and more: but,
be you never so poor and insolvent, if you once accept Christ for your
Cautioner, then God will accept of any bond off your hand, that hath his
name as the Engager in it; for, if you fail, your cautioner is liable, and
he is a rich and opulent Cautioner, responsible enough; and God seeks no
better than his bond, though you be never so unable to pay: yea, God reckons
himself secure, and that all shall be well enough paid, when Christ is the
Cautioner and Engager, accepted by you. He is secured of his honor;
obedience to his law is secured, satisfaction to his justice is secured,
glory to all his attributes is secured; and herein lies the triumph of
faith, over all charges and challenges from the law or justice of
4. And, lastly, passing all other inferences that might be drawn from this doctrine, hence see the duty of all that hear this gospel, and what the Lord is calling you to this day; it is even this, that your heart be engaged to approach unto him whose heart was engaged to approach unto God in your room; that so, approaching heartily to Christ, you may approach confidently to God in him, for there is no approaching to God but by taking Christ by the way. O, then, let your hearts be engaged to approach unto Christ, this is the very design of all that we have been saying, even to engage your hearts to the Son of God. And O, sirs, what in all the world will engage your hearts if the engaged heart of Christ do not do it? He is come here this day to court your hearts; the very heart of a Saviour is come down to court the heart of a sinner, and to court you with this argument, That his heart is so much upon you, that he engaged his heart to approach unto God in your room. Away with the devil's logic, “Maybe it was not for me that Christ engaged, nor for me that he approached unto God, for there is but a select number that were elected from eternity, for whom he engaged and approached.” In order to shut this objection out of the way, let me tell you, man, that “Secret things belong to God, but to us the things that are revealed.” Let an infinitely wise God answer for his own decrees, as well as he can; but you dare not be answerable to God for meddling with them; and you meddle too far, if the thoughts thereof discourage you from coming to Christ this day. Will it be a good answer for you before the bar of God? Lord, I thought, perhaps, I was not elected, and therefore my heart could never be engaged to Christ. What answer can you expect from God but the like of this? Wretch that thou art, had you not my revealed will to be a rule of your duty? And did not I reveal, That upon the peril of damnation you was to close with my Christ? And what had you to do with my secret decree? How durst you attempt to be wise above what is written? Who but the devil could suggest that to your heart, that you was not an elect? And he was a liar for saying so, for he told you what he did not know himself. How does the devil act herein like himself, while he would carry you up to the pinnacle of the temple of eternal predestination at the first instant, that you may thence throw yourself down from the battlement of heaven to the bottom of hell, which was the way himself went, and he would have you along with him? O! will you regard the ruining suggestions of a black devil more than the kindly motions of a Saviour? O! will you rather outshoot the devil in his own bow, and draw an argument for faith, from what was done from all eternity? (Titus 1:2). Was eternal life promised in Christ before the world began; was all engaged for from eternity? Then there is the less ado for me, when this promise of eternal life comes directed and offered; for, “To you is the word of this salvation sent,” that Christ hath engaged for all that concerns our salvation; and we have nothing ado, but, through grace, to consent that this Engager be ours, to do all for us. From all eternity the Mediator's heart was engaged to the work of our redemption; and from this infinitely high and eternal tower there are ropes of divine promises hanging down, for us to lay hold on with our hearts; “For the promise is to us, and to our children, and to all that are afar off.” And when our hearts embrace any of these promises that are fastened to Christ's engaged heart, then our hearts are carried up, in God's order, to the knowledge of the divine counsels, and go up the scripture stair; while Satan would have us begin at the top, that we may fall down headlong. Now, among these promises that are let down from Christ's engaged heart, for us to embrace with our heart, there is one, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness will I draw thee,” (Jer. 31:2). O sirs, here is a cord of love let down, and the upper end of it is fastened to Christ's heart, and the lower end of it hanging down the length of your hearts: And, O! shall not Christ's heart and yours be knit together this day. Here is a cord to bind his heart to your heart, and your heart to his heart. O! strong cord, of God's making! O! shall not the Saviour's heart and the sinner's heart meet together this day? Will the heart of Jesus gain no heart in this house today? Yea, we hope there shall be a meeting of hearts betwixt him and a remnant here. O then, sinner, come into his heart, for his heart is open; and I have a commission to tell you, that his heart is open to you, and opened so wide, that you may all go in to his opened heart.—It is not a hard heart like yours: No, no; If he had been as hardened against you, as your hearts were hardened against him, he would never have engaged so heartily to approach to God for you, nor ever sent us to tell you his heart's love towards you. O believe it upon his word, (Jer. 31:20). He is not hard-hearted; no, his heart is a melting heart, saying, “I do earnestly remember you still; my bowels are troubled for you; I will surely have mercy upon you.” From the very time that I engaged for you, which was from all eternity, I do earnestly remember you still; and now the time of love is come, the time of letting out my heart toward you: my bowels are sounding for you, and my heart is melting over you, and warm drops of love are falling down from my melted heart to your hard hearts, that they may be melted and dissolved, so as both mine and yours may be melted into one; and being run together with the fire of my everlasting love, they may be engaged to each other forever. O sinner! sinner! sinner! O enemies! enemies to God, enemies to Jesus! O hard-hearted sinner! Words and rods, calls and threatenings, sermons and sacraments have not melted your heart; and if you go to hell, the flames of hell will never melt your heart: but here are the flames of infinite love from the heart of a God-man; what will this do? A God of love is come down, and must not the mountains melt before him? Yea, mountains of enmity and unbelief, and the hard flinty heart will melt like wax before him. A live coal from the flaming altar of Christ’s engaged heart, is come down to put fire to your cold-rife heart. O! is the blessed fire kindled? Is your heart engaged to him or not? If not, will you consider,
(1.) What a sad thing it is, if your heart shall not be engaged to approach unto him: It says, the heart is engaged to some others than to Christ, that your heart is engaged to idols and lusts, and you cannot find in your heart to sign a bill of divorce from these. —But, O! will you tell me, if your heart be engaged to the devil, engaged to the world, engaged to the flesh, and the lusts thereof, engaged to wicked company, engaged to corrupt courses, and that you cannot be disengaged from them, nor break these engagements, nor your covenant with hell? O! will any of these lovers to whom your hearts are engaged, will any of them engage to approach to God in your room, as Christ hath done? Will any of them engage to bring you to heaven, or to keep you out of hell? Nay, are they not engaged rather to ruin your souls forever, if they can? And why should your hearts be engaged to your greatest enemies, that would lead you to destruction; and not engaged to Christ, who engaged his heart to approach unto God for your salvation and redemption? If your hearts be not engaged to Christ, it says you are, at best, married and engaged to the law: you are going about to establish a righteousness of your own; hoping to please God, and procure salvation to yourselves by your prayers and good duties: Your language is like that of the wicked servant, that said, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” You are not yet pleased to have one to undertake for all in your room; and therefore, O sad is your state! for you stand under a personal obligation to pay all indeed: You are a debtor to do the whole law; and yet because of your failure, you are under obligation to bear the whole curse of the law. O terrible! If you stay there, you must approach to the tribunal of God, in your own person. O! how will you approach to God without him! You will find God out of Christ a consuming fire.
(2.) Consider how sweet it is to have your hearts engaged to him, whose heart was engaged to approach to God for you: his heart was engaged to you before ever yours were engaged to him: yea, from all eternity; and you may rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Though your debt be never so great, he is engaged to pay it; though your sins be never so heinous, he is engaged to pardon them; though your corruptions be never so strong, he is engaged to subdue them; though your enemies be never so mighty, he is engaged to conquer them; and though the promises be never so precious in themselves, and unlikely to be accomplished to you, yet he is engaged to fulfill them; only, while you are here, on this side Jordan, he will accomplish them in his own time, and in his own measure, and according as you need, your work, and his glory do call for it. Yea, he is engaged to perform all your work, in you and for you, and to perfect strength in your weakness; he is engaged to guide you by his counsel, and bring you to his glory, and to lead you safe through the valley of the shadow of death into Immanuel's land; he is engaged for your debt, your duty, your safety and all. O what a loadstone is this, to draw the heart and engage the affections of any rational soul, to engage with one that engages for all that you can need through time, and through eternity! Why, say you, But must I engage to do nothing? O that old covenant, Do and Live, sticks fast to you: in the covenant of works, man was engaged to do all, but O, in the covenant of grace, Christ is engaged to do all. Why, man, if you can do anything without Christ, you may try your hand; but why will you give Christ the lie, who says, “Without me ye can do nothing? “And if that be a truth, O how sweet is it to have a heart engaged to him, that has engaged to do all! You may know from your experience, how sad a thing it is to take any engagement upon yourself alone, and on your own head: for it never abides a touch; and when you break your engagement, then you are quite dispirited, as if the covenant of grace was broken: and thus you turn your covenant of duties to God's covenant of grace, and so the covenant of grace to a covenant of works; and in that case, no wonder that you find the law a hard and heavy taskmaster. But the covenant of grace is Christ's engaging to do all; it is not a bargain that God is making with you; for he will not make a bargain with the like of you; God knows you are a bargain-maker; but it is a bargain made with Christ, wherein Christ hath engaged to God to do all for you, because you can do nothing: and now he courts your heart to fall in with this device of glorious and free grace.
(3.) Consider who it is that is courting your heart: It is he to whom the heart of God is engaged; Behold my Servant, whom I uphold; mine Elect, in whom my soul delighteth.” God’s heart was engaged to Christ from all eternity, not only because he was his eternal Son, but also because he engaged his heart to approach to him on your account. God's heart is so much engaged to him for that very reason, that he declares three times, with an audible voice from heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased; and all that he seeks is, that you be well-pleased too. And, O you are ill to please, if that which pleases God, will not please you; and your heart is ill-disposed, if it be not engaged to him to whom God's heart is engaged. God the Father put him upon this work, out of goodwill to you: he caused him to approach on your account; and he is pleased with his engagement and approach; and nothing in the world will please God so much, nor make him take so much pleasure in you, as your being well pleased with Christ and his undertaking, so as to find your heart engaged to him for it: for then you will please him more than ever your sins displeased him; and you will honor him more than ever your sins dishonored him; Yea, then he will get full satisfaction for all your sins; because that glorious Engager, whom you close with, hath fully contented his heart; and so you will satisfy his justice more than your eternal damnation in hell could do.—O! the heart of God is engaged to him, and the hearts of angels are engaged to him, and the hearts of all the redeemed are engaged to him: O! shall all hearts be engaged to him but yours? O there would be joy in heaven, and it would be a day of the gladness of Christ's heart, and it would give a glad heart to God, angels and saints, if your hearts were engaged to Christ!
(4.) Consider whose heart he is courting: You perhaps think, surely it will be some very good heart that will please him: indeed I know none that have a good heart by nature; and you that think you have a good heart to God, do but deceive yourselves: But, O he is even courting the love of that heart that is full of enmity against him; his love is seeking to break your enmity this day. What for a heart have you, man, woman? Be what sort of a heart it will, he is seeking it; My son, give me thy heart.” Is it a wicked heart, and a wandering heart, an unbelieving heart, a deceitful heart? Is it the heart of Manasseh in compact with Satan? Is it the heart of Mary Magdalene, out of whom were cast seven devils? Is it the worst heart in all the world, and the worst heart that ever was in the world? a hard heart, a stout heart, a heart full of hell, and a heart like the devil? It is even the heart that he is seeking and courting this day: he engages to give you a new heart and a new spirit; and if you sign his engagement with your heart, saying, Content, Lord; he will make your heart to his mind by degrees; and your heart shall be according to his heart. What say you, is that possible that he is courting such a heart as mine? Would it not be presumption for such an one as me, vile, filthy, black, and ugly me, to trust for so much good at the hand of such an one as Christ? What man! when God calls, is it presumption in you to answer his call? No; it is the greatest presumption in the world to sit his call, and refuse his kind embraces, when he offers to take you into his very heart. When Christ offered to wash Peter's feet, O did it not ill become him to say, “Lord, thou shalt never wash my feet,” (John 13:8). Be your feet never so dirty and your heart never so black, you have the more need to let Christ wash you.
(5.) Consider that the present opportunity is a special season of letting out your heart upon him, when he is coming so near to you in this work. It is a dangerous thing to miss the tide when it is flowing: some of your friends and neighbors are in eternity since the last communion here: and you may never hear another action-sermon all your life: and though you may hear other sermons, yet it is but now and then that the wind blows, and that the Spirit breathes; and it is dangerous to resist the motions that blow you into the happy harbor of Christ's engaged heart: if there be a gale of heaven just now blowing, yet it may be over before an hour go about. O shall not your heart be engaged unto Christ! What if death approach to you, and snap the thread of your life in two? O! you would be more miserable than the devil to all eternity; for he never had such an offer as this. Death is approaching, judgment is approaching, eternity is approaching, and your heart not approaching to Christ: woe is me! what will come of you!
(6.) Consider, that Christ hath fulfilled his engagement to the Father for you, by bringing in everlasting righteousness; and God hath accepted its and is well-pleased with its as the condition of the covenant, and all the promises thereof: and, upon this account, the promise is made to you, as follows immediately upon the text, “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” I will and ye shall, is the tenor of the promise; because Christ hath fulfilled the condition of its so as you have nothing to do, but to say with the heart, “Thy will be done.” And if your heart be engaged to him, and made willing, the God who commends Christ so highly to you in the words of the text, will turn it over to your commendation saying, “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me, saith the Lord?” Now, say not, that you want such and such qualifications and conditions requisite in these that give their heart and hand to the Son of God: if your heart stand off from him on this account, it argues a heart in league with the law as a covenant of works, which is but a black bargain now, for any of the fallen race of Adam; but the better testament is a better bargain, where Christ hath engaged for all fully, and you are only to take all freely: and never a good qualification will you have acceptable to God, till your heart be engaged to him whose heart was engaged to give all. If your heart be not thus engaged to Christ, to be obliged and indebted to him for all, then, though you had a thousand times more qualifications than you would be at, yet you shall go to hell with them, and perish eternally: and if your heart be once engaged to Christ, then though you had ten thousand good qualifications, you will count them all but dung, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, as Paul did. It is said of the creditor, concerning his two debtors, “When they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them all,” (Luke 7:42). So long as you think you have something to pay your own debt, or hope that you shall have something to make payment with, you are not in God’sway of forgiveness: but when you have nothing to pay; not a penny in your purse, either to pay your debt of obedience and satisfaction to the law, as a covenant; or your debt of duty to the law, as a rule, and are content to take a cautioner, then he frankly forgives all. And so the best qualification is for you to see that you have nothing; no money nor money-worth, that you may be obliged to Christ for all.
What say you, man? Is your heart engaged to him? I think so, may some say; but it may be only a flash, because I have a deceitful heart. Why, man, be your heart never so deceitful, yet if there be such a heart-warming in your breast, as makes you subscribe to his engagement to do all for you, and to make you holy as well as happy, and to free you from sin as well as hell; if it be such as makes you come out of yourself, saying, I dare engage for nothing, but my heart goes in to Christ, as engaging to God for all; then, in God's great name, I will say, it is a good flash indeed; even a flash of heavenly fire, kindled at Christ's warm heart towards you, which will never cool to eternity, though your live-coal should come under the ashes again.
What shall I say? O! is there any here, whose hearts are not yet engaged to Christ? O many, many! but, woe is me that there should be any! O drunkard, swearer, Sabbath-breaker, whoremonger, mocker, here is a good bargain for you, even you whom we cannot allow to come to a communion table; yet we allow you, yea God allows you and commands you, and we in his awful name and authority command you to come to Christ, and take a full pardon of all your sins, and subscribe to Christ's whole engagement; and you shall have a title not only to the communion table below, but to the communion table above that shall never be drawn. Away, man, away with all objections against Christ; let your objections be ten thousand times more and greater than they are, there is no room for one of them here; for Christ’s engagement to do all things for you, answers all difficulties to you: and, therefore, be you never such a wretched sinner, there is no objection you can make, but it is answered here, if your heart be not engaged to some other lovers. O, say you, I have not power, I cannot get my wicked heart engaged to him. O doleful and miserable case. What is this, that infinite love and everlasting kindness, flaming out of Christ's heart upon you, cannot engage your heart to him! O! is there no power in this love? Is not love strong as death, and the coals thereof coals of fire, which have a most vehement flame? O! here is a strong flame, that is able to melt the hardest heart to the sweetest compliances; and, therefore, O will you bring these strong cords of death, by which your heart is held, bring them to this fire, and it will burn and burst them asunder! Do not resist the powerful love and precious grace of God, but be content to let it in to your heart, and it will draw and engage it. And, therefore, seeing no argument will do but an argument of power; and seeing Almighty power uses to ride in the chariot of this gospel of grace; O then, will you join with me, and say, “O powerful arm of Jehovah, come and draw, come and draw: O exalted Jesus, come and draw, by the power of thy Spirit. Awake, O arm of the Lord, put on strength, and let the right hand of the Lord do valiantly.” Let all the heart-leagues with lusts and other lovers than Christ be broken this day, and Christ alone have the whole heart engaged to him; and let all the people say, Amen, So be it, Lord. And if your heart say, Amen, I hope your heart is engaged and made willing in a day of power: and being made willing to come to his Christ, you shall be made welcome to come to his table; having signed his engagement to approach to God in your room to do all for you, you may approach with boldness to God in him, and expect the same welcome with your Cautioner that goes before you. “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto God? saith the Lord.”
UPON THE SAME SUBJECT, AFTER THE SOLEMN WORK WAS ENDED.
Now, my friends, after the great work is over, I would ask you, (whether you have been communicants or not), Have your hearts been engaged to Christ this day, as the glorious Engager and Approacher to God for you? I would tell you, if your hearts have engaged to him, then your hearts have been disengaged from all things besides him; you have been brought to forsake your father’s house, and the people that are yours, and to “What have I any more to do with idols?” There hath been a mutual donation betwixt Christ and you, as man and wife give up themselves to one another. Ye have rendered up your love to him, instead of all other lovers to whom your hearts were engaged before; and ye look upon yourselves as bound in love and gratitude, never to give a back-look to any other lover, so long as your present Husband lives; and behold he lives forever and ever: whereas your former husband, particularly the law, is dead, and ye are dead to it, (Rom. 7:4), and are to expect nothing from it, because you have all, and more than all, in him to whom you are now engaged, and whose heart is engaged to you. Yea, as ye have rendered up your love to him as your Husband, so ye have rendered up your arms to him as your Lord: ye have surrendered all the weapons that have been weapons of unrighteousness, to be weapons of righteousness unto holiness, never to fight against him anymore, but rather to fight under his banner against all his enemies, especially under his banner of love; for the love of Christ will constrain you both to work and war. Now,
First, A word to you whose hearts have never yet been
engaged to Christ. O do ye know what for a case ye are in? and whence it is
that your hearts are not engaged to Christ? Why, ye are even ignorant of
glorious Christ: for, “They who know his name will love him, and put their
trust in him;” but you are alienated from the life of God, through the
ignorance that is in you; and enemies in your minds by wicked works: your
carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God; and
your darkened mind is enmity against Christ, and is not subject to the
righteousness of Christ. Thus yon are enemies to the Lord of life, and care
not for him to be your Lord; ye are enemies to the word of life, and care
not for that word to be your rule; ye are enemies to the Spirit of life, to
the grace of life, the light of life, and the way of life: ye are dead, and
under the power of death and sin, under the power of security and heart-obduration,
having no savor of Christ about you: under the power of a sordid choice,
whereby ye set up the basest of objects above our Lord and Master, whom yet
the tongues of seraphims are not worthy to adore; behold, ye are choosing
some base lusts and idols in his room, or else insolently capitulating with
him upon the most ignoble and ignominious terms, to engage your heart to
him, and to your lusts both, to him and to the world both, to him and to
other lovers, to be hugged in your bosoms with him, as if he were a minister
of sin, and a slave to serve your lusts; or at best, ye put him off with
trifling delays from your heart, and let him stand at the door and knock,
without ever having your heart engaged to come to him, or to let him come to
you. Well, is that the matter with you? What is this that thou art doing,
poor soul? Shall there be no gathering of the people to
And, First, I will tell you what is his complaining word upon, you; “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life: All day long have I stretched forth my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people.”
Again, I will tell you what is his lamenting word over you, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, (O Dunfermline, Dunfermline), how often would I have gathered you as a hen doth her chickens under her wings, but you would not, you would not! “
Again, I would tell you what is his astonishing word; “Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be ye horribly afraid; for my people have committed two great evils, they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewn out to themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water.” They reject fulness itself, and turn to an empty world, as if it were their heaven and their happiness.
Further, I must tell you what is his weeping word, O shall he weep alone, and none drop a tear with him, while he is grieved at the hardness of your heart; and with the tear in his eye, weeping over the city, and saying, “O if thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace!” but the time approaches when they shall be hid from thine eyes; the time of desolation is coming, because thou knowest not the time of thy visitation. Do ye expect that these days will always last with you, and that you will never be deprived of sermons, and ministers, and sacraments? Nay, they shall be hid from your eyes: “Your fathers where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?” Nay, since the last communion here, one of our dear helpers, in this presbytery, from whose lips you used to hear the joyful sound, he is gone away to the communion-table above; and glory to God, that he got a full gale of heavenly wind, to drive him in with holy joy and triumph to the harbor of glory. But now, O sinners, have ye no regard to Christ weeping over you, and saying, O if ye knew the day of your visitation, before the shadows of the everlasting evening be drawn upon you! And, O that ye knew the things that belong to your peace, before they be hid from your eyes!
But again, I must tell you what is his wrathful and threatening word; “If you believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins;” and, “How shall ye escape, if ye neglect so great salvation?” If they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.
And O! what if we come to his farewell word! “I go my way, and ye shall see me no more,” till he come in the clouds of heaven, and every eye shall see him; and then you will come to that word with it, who live and die with a heart never engaged to him; you will come, I say, to that word with it, “O mountains and hills, fall upon us, and hide us from the face of the Lamb.”
And how dreadful will his last word be to you, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels! “Ye did eat and drink in my house, and at my table, but I know you not; “Depart from me;” ye adventured to approach to my table, but your hearts were not engaged to approach to me; nay, your hearts departed from me; therefore depart with a vengeance; “Depart from me, ye cursed.”
But, because it is not come that with you as yet, nay, it is yet a day of salvation; I would tell you next, his expostulating word, or his entreating word; he would gladly take his word of wrath again, that ye whose hearts are saying, Away with him, may yet take your word again: he is saying, “Why will ye die, O house of Israel? As I live, I have no pleasure in your death; O turn ye, turn ye: “Come, come, the door is yet open, the door of salvation is cast wide to the walls, that ye all may run in; the drawbridge of mercy is not yet taken up: the day of mercy is present; the day of judgment is but coming, and now I am looking to you, and ye are looking to me; and if ye be not looking on me, ye that are behind the pillars and lofts there, I hope ye are hearing me: and therefore, in the view of that most awful day, when we shall hear and see at another rate, before the flaming tribunal, I take witnesses here, in the presence of the great God, and all this numerous company, that I am giving you a new offer of Christ; as an Engager to do all for you; and that if you will but consent to take him, and give him employment, yea, that if ye do not reject him, you shall have him. None here shall have it to say, they got nothing at this communion: for, lo, you have got an offer of Christ, and if ye go away without him, we shall be witnesses against one another at the great day of his appearance. O! “Now is the acceptable time, and now is the day of salvation.” O! are ye pleased? Are your hearts pleased with one to be a Cautioner for you, to save you both from sin and hell, and that will engage for debt, and duty, and safety, and pave your way for approaching to God’s glorious presence forever? Will ye have him for your head and captain? I allude to the words of Jephthah, “If I fight for you and prevail, shall I be your head?” (Judges 11:9). O yes, yes, say they; well, so says Christ to you, If I engage to satisfy justice for you, and answer all law demands for you, and take away all your sins, and fight all your battles, and do all your work in you and for you, shall I be your head? O! is your heart engaged to say, yes? O man, woman, old and young, that are here, do your hearts, say, Amen, Amen; content to have him as a Prophet, to take away the darkness of my mind; content to take him as a Priest, to take away the guilt of all my sins; and content to have him as a King, to take away the power of all my lusts and idols, and to make me holy and happy in himself, that his name may be glorified in me, and his grace magnified forever: O then, I hope, the day of salvation is begun, that shall be celebrated with joy to eternity. Therefore, let me close with a word, in the next place,
2dly, To you whose hearts are engaged to the Lord Jesus,
whether ye have been communicants or not; and because some such may be in
doubts, whether ever they have believed in Christ truly and savingly. Why,
if your hearts be truly engaged to Christ, never make a question about your
believing; for a heart engaged to him is the best believing in the world;
“With the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” (
If you think of engaging and approaching in your own name and person, that is the old covenant way of engaging and approaching; and therefore no wonder then, if that be your way, that you be overwhelmed with fear, and doubts, and discouragements.
But let gallant faith come in and say, Christ hath engaged, and therefore I have nothing ado but to trust him for all, and in the use of means depend upon him: Christ hath approached before me, and therefore upon the red carpet of his justice-satisfying blood, I will go in to the holy of holies, even into the presence of a just and holy God. O have you thus approached to God, at this occasion? I know not, say ye; I would be glad to know. Why, if ye would judge of your approach to God in Christ, judge of your approach, not by the measure of it; for believers are only admitted, sometimes as it were, to wash his feet with their tears, like Mary, though at other times they may be privileged to lie in his bosom, like the beloved disciple.—Judge not of your approach, by the matter of that which he gives you; for sometimes you may be seeking one thing, and he may give another: It may be ye were seeking a feast of joy; but if he hath given you a feast of godly sorrow, that is as good for you.—Judge not of your approach by your former experiences: It may be, some time a day you was like a lamb in his bosom, saying, under a sense of his love, “This is my Beloved:” and now, perhaps, you must lie like a dog at his feet, saying, under a sense of sin, “Truth, Lord, I am a dog: “well that is a token of more a coming.—Judge not of your approach by your own sense and apprehension; for David was not in a desperate case when he was crying, as “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord for ever? How long wilt thou hide thy, face from me?” (Ps. 13:1). When your longings are increased, though your strength be small, yet it is a notable feast; for, “he will satisfy the longing soul, and fill the hungry with good things.” Be thankful if you get as much as holds your soul in life, though you get not much. Know, that though he will be faithful to the accomplishment of all his promises, and to do all that he hath engaged for, yet the times and seasons are in his hand, and he hath his own measure of communication: if some of you received what you would be at, you would grow giddy, and be ready to cry with Peter, “It is good for us to be here,” and forget the other work that God hath for you in the world.—He is engaged by promise; but know, moreover, that he accomplishes his promise according to your need, and as it is for your good and advantage, and according as he hath work and business to put in your hand. Now, some here, I hope, have got their hearts engaged to approach to a God in Christ upon the ground of Christ’s engagement to approach to God in their room; and I hope they can say it with holy confidence, that their hearts have been drawn, and they have been caused to approach to God; and if so, then I hope you can say of the water of the well of salvation, O sweet, sweet! “O how sweet are thy words to my taste! sweeter than honey to my mouth!” And that all other things in a world are but empty trash, loss and dung, in comparison of him. O the gallant fops of the world would think shame of themselves, if they knew how much contempt the poorest saints on earth do pour upon them, and all earthly glory and gallantry, when they get near to God! Surely, if you have been favored with this approach to a God in Christ, it hath brought you to a great wondering at the grace of God. “O what am I? And what is my father’s house?” Why did he pass by my neighbor, my husband, my wife, my brother, my sister, and fix his love upon me, the vilest of them all?—It hath brought you to great humility and abasement; “Now, mine eyes have seen thee, therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”—And also to a great longing after more fellowship and communion with him; “O when wilt thou come unto me! O when shall I come and appear before thee! O to depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation!” O to be among the four and twenty elders that are before the throne! O to be drinking at the fountain head! Why, what means this language, poor soul? It seems you are just lying in his lap; “He hath loved you with an everlasting love, and therefore with loving kindness hath he drawn you.” His heart is engaged to you, and your heart is engaged to him; the Spirit hath been sent to fasten Christ's heart and your heart together, and the knot shall never be loosed; “Him that cometh, I will in no wise cast out.”
And now, that he is engaged to do all for you, O does not equity and gratitude require, that you be wholly engaged to him, and that forever? Let your hearts be more engaged to him than ever; let your affections be engaged to love him; let your wills be engaged to obey him in his preceptive and providential will; let your thoughts be engaged to think upon him and his loving kindness; let your tongues be engaged to speak to his praise; “In his temple shall every one speak of his glory:” let your whole life be engaged to his service, and all so engaged as to depend on him for all. He hath engaged for all, that you may depend on him for all: and all the service you perform will be vain and to no purpose, unless it be done in the faith of his engagement to do all in you and for you. The believer hath two hands, the one a holding hand, and the other a working hand; like a woman spinning at the wheel, (to use a homely simile) the one hand holds the thread and draws it down, and the other hand goes round and sets about the wheel; now, if she do not hold the thread constantly with the one hand, it is to no purpose though the other hand go round with the wheel; even so it is here, the one hand of the believer is the hand of faith, whereby he takes fast hold of Christ, and draws grace and virtue from him; the other is the hand of obedience and service, which is accepted only in Christ, and upon the score of his engaging for all, and to do all our work in us and for us. Now, if the hand of faith let go the hold of Christ, so as not to draw virtue from him, nor depend upon his engagement, it is in vain that the other hand of obedience and service doth go its round; but, when faith keeps fast hold of Christ’s engagement, then there is profitable service and obedience; for, “We are accepted in the beloved.” Let faith take a view daily of your privileges in Christ; O how strengthening for your work and warfare, would it be to you, if you had the lively faith of his engagement! It would make you approach to God in every duty with boldness. Did you believe that his honor is engaged for your through-bearing, till you arrive at glory; that his faithfulness is engaged, his power is engaged, his name is engaged, his truth is engaged, his credit is at the stake; for he hath said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee; I will put my Spirit within thee, and cause thee to walk in my statutes.” Is he thus engaged? Then let faith keep a fast grip of his engagement; and when faith is like to lose the grip, remember, that he who hath engaged for everything that concerns you hath engaged for faith too, having promised to keep your faith that it fail not, and to keep you, by his power through faith unto salvation. Therefore, in the want of faith look to his engagement for it; and, in the weakness of faith, look to his engagement to strengthen it; and, in the trial of faith, look to his engagement to support it. Let not your faith depend upon your faith, but your faith and dependence be wholly on Christ, for all that you need with respect to work and warfare, duty or difficulty, soul or body, grace or glory, time or eternity; then will God put your name and Christ’s together, saying, “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me?”
1 This affair may be seen cleared up by referring to Sermon IV., Sermon XX., and the whole of Sermon XXIV—XXVII. Although among the many peculiarly important and singularly interesting doctrines of Christianity there is scarce any that hath a greater tendency to promote holiness than the believer’s being freed from the law as a covenant in point of justification, in virtue of the meritorious obedience of Christ in his room; yet in regard this doctrine is eminently calculated to advance the glory of God, in the manifestation of the freedom of his grace, and to debase the creature in leveling pride and self-confidence, there is hardly any that is more spurned at than this, in the age we live in, and by more than the self-sufficient Legalist, who prides himself in, and vaunts mightily of his legal righteousness; and so speaks, writes, and reasons against the Scripture-doctrine of free justification through the merits of Christ; yea, so much is he in conceit with his legal turn of mind, and external conformity to the law, that be sticks at nothing that he thinks will bring a reproach upon his opponents; and, therefore, let their abilities be never so great, and their character never so high, he is determined to calumniate their name, and depreciate their reputation; for this purpose he hesitates at nothing he imagines will gain his end, and hence we find that introducers of new schemes in Divinity, disturbers of the peace of the church, enemies to holiness, friends to licentiousness, advancers of Antinomianism, and what not are the usual epithets and appellations we meet with conferred upon them. But what period of the church produced more eminent divines, greater lovers of our Reformation-principles, truer patrons of genuine piety, more shining examples of true holiness, greater promoters of external purity, and stranger opposers of licentiousness, than the friends to the Marrow-doctrine, of dying to the law in point of justification, in order to living unto God in point of justification were, who were and still are thus impeached?—But they, being fully persuaded that this is a doctrine agreeable to the inspired writings, and peculiarly calculated to promote holiness, (Gal 3:19; Titus 2:11,12 ) they bore all this unjust calumny and defamation patiently, accounting it their greatest honor to suffer reproach for the truth’s sake.