THE MOUNTING CHRISTIAN; OR, THE EAGLE-WINGED BELIEVER
This sermon was preached at Kinclaven, on the Sabbath evening immediately alter the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper there, June 1st, 1736.
“They shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Isaiah 40:31
We have a remarkable question of the disciples, and answer of our Lord, (Luke 17:37). The question is, Where, Lord? The answer is, “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” Christ had been speaking of days of great tribulation scorning; and the meaning of the question seems to be, Lord, where shall these that fear thy name, fly in these days of trouble and distress? Where shall we find peace in the midst of war? Where is he who gives peace to the world? Where is Christ to be found, to whom the believer shall fly like an eagle to his prey? Faith needs not be at a loss in this inquiry, Where, Lord? In the womb, in the rags, in the manger? thither may we go to see the Son of God in a low humbled state. Where, Lord? Go to the garden, and see him suffering for your sins the wrath of his Father. Where, Lord? Fly to Mount Calvary, and see him on the cross! there may the eagles gather together, and behold him bleeding, suffering, crying, dying for them. Again, Where, Lord? From Calvary to heaven, there he is now and there must the soul fly, and see him crowned with glory and honor. Where, Lord? Even at a communion-table, where he is spiritually present to be fed upon like a carcass, by the poor, believing, greedy, hungry eagle. Where, Lord? Wherever he be, the believing souls must be at him; if on earth, no corner must be unsearched: if in heaven, distance must not keep them from him: nay, though he be mounted up to glory, yet they must mount up after him, according to his promise, “They shall mount up with wings as eagles.”
In the four preceding verses we have the prophet,
1. Reproving the children of Israel for their unbelief and distrust of God, their dejection, and despondency of spirit; “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel; My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God,” (Isa. 40:27). Why do you think and speak, as if God did not heed and observe you, and as if God could not help and save you, whatever be your afflicted miserable case?
2. He reminds them of what is able to silence all their fear and distrust, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding.” (Isa. 40:28). He is an eternal God; so that there is no defect, no decay in him; he is an omnipotent God, who created the ends of the earth, and doubtless is as able to save, as he was at first to make the world: He is of infinite wisdom to contrive your salvation; “There is no searching of his understanding:” none can say, so far God’s wisdom can go, and no further; for when we know not what to do, he knows; and he is a God of infinite power, he faints not, nor is wearied; he upholds the pillars of heaven and earth, and is neither wearied nor toiled with it.
3. The prophet relates to them God’s communicative goodness, “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength,” (Isa. 40:29). He is not only powerful himself, but he communicates power and strength to these that need the same; “He gives power to the faint.” Many out of weakness, even of body, are made strong, and recovered by his providence; and many that are feeble in Spirit, unable for service and suffering, yet are strengthened by his grace, with all might in the inward man; and especially to them that are sensible of their weakness, he increases strength: for when they are weak in themselves, they are strong in the Lord.
4. The prophet states the difference betwixt them that trust in themselves, and them that trust in God: as for them that trust in themselves, and trust to their own sufficiency, they shall find their strength to be but weakness; “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fail,” (Isa. 40:30); the young men who are strong, and apt to look upon themselves as stronger than they are, and so look not unto God for his grace to be sufficient for them, they shall faint and fail, and be made to see the folly of trusting to themselves. But as for them that trust in the Lord, and wait on him for supplies of grace, “They shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not weary; they shall walk and not faint, (Isa. 40:31).
Thus you see the connection of the words with the preceding; and in them you have three things, 1. The exercise of God’s people. 2. Their privilege, “They shall renew their strength.” 3. The effect of this privilege, “They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
1. The exercise of God’s people; they are such as wait upon the Lord. Now, who are these that wait upon God? I answer, in the words of the Psalmist David, —“This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob:” (Ps. 24:6), that is, O God of Jacob. And hence seeking and waiting are joined together; “The Lord is good to them that wait for him, and to the soul that seeks him,” (Lam. 2:25). The true waiter is a seeker, and the true seeker is a waiter upon God. It is a duty comprehensive of the whole character of the religious person. If you be truly seeking God, man, woman, at this ordinance, then you are waiting upon him.
2. But what advantage have they that thus seek and wait upon God? This is shown us in the second part of the words, their privilege; “They shall renew their strength.” Their strength shall not only be increased, but renewed: as there is new occasion, they shall have new supplies, and so “they shall renew their strength;” or as it is in the Hebrew, “They shall change their strength,” as a man changes his raiment: as their work is changed, their strength shall be changed, whether it be doing or suffering work; they shall have strength to labor, strength to wrestle, strength to resist temptation, and strength to bear burdens; “They shall renew their strength:” get new strength for new duty. The best of God’s children, if continuing long in duty, their spirits are wasted: well God will renew their strength, especially their spiritual strength, which is from God himself, from whom is their new temper and disposition, their new nature. But what of all this, say you: indeed, they shall have much benefit, if you consider,
3. The effect of this privilege, or how it is made evident; that is evidenced in three particulars.
(1.) “They shall mount up with wings as eagles.” O it is a great privilege for a believer to be brought, through grace, to fly; yea, not only to fly like a weak bird, but to mount up like an eagle, the strongest of flying birds: the weak believer, by waiting on God, becomes strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Grace strengthens the soul to mount heavenward, and carries it above the world and the things of it.
2. “They shall run and not be weary;” that is, they shall run in the way of God’s commandments cheerfully, and with alacrity, constancy, and with perseverance.
3. “They shall walk and not faint;” weak and sickly persons are in danger to faint and fail when they walk, but “they shall walk and not faint,” (Gal. 6:9). You have a word, — “Let us not weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” O says a child of God, that is endeavoring, through grace, to wait upon the Lord, I fear I never reap, because I will soon be faint and weary: but here is the promise you are to take hold of, “You shall run without wearying, and walk and not faint:” and in this way, there is no fear but you shall reap: grace is promised, as well as the reward of grace.
We have already discussed one doctrinal observation from these words, viz., That as it is the duty and practice of God’s people to wait on God; so it shall be their privilege to have their strength renewed. But having finished what we intended upon this doctrine, we come now to consider the second observation, namely.
Doctrine: That believers, who, in waiting on the Lord, get their strength renewed, they shall mount up on wings as eagles.
The scripture is full of parables, where spiritual things are represented by natural; so here, the believer is compared to the eagle: the gospel of Christ is full of them; and it may be for these two reasons,
1. Because parables make a lively impression on the minds of auditors, and convey the truth to the person before he be aware: some, who are ready to forget the truth, will mind the simile; and so it leads them back again to the truth, which they had forgot.
2. To teach us a spiritual and sacred use of the creature, like Jacob’s ladder, the foot on earth, and the top in heaven; that by these we may ascend to heaven, and by the creature look above the creature.
The method we would propose, for illustrating this subject, through divine assistance, shall be the following:—
We shall speak a little of the wings wherewith they mount up.
The things wherein they mount up.
The seasons when it is especially they mount up.
The manner how they mount up.
The reasons why they mount up. And,
Make some application of the subject. And in the whole of these particulars, study as much brevity as possible.
I. We are to speak of the wings wherewith they mount up. And here I might tell you the wings wherewith they are mounted up, and the wings wherewith they do mount. The wings wherewith they are mounted up, are nothing else but the influences of the Spirit of Christ; the enlightening and enlivening influences thereof: they are, indeed, more passive than active at first; “When I am lifted up I will draw all men after me.” Christ being mounted up, he makes all his remnant to mount up after him: and herein they are acted before they act; for, “He works in them both to will and to do.” They are carried up, as it were, on the wings of the wind: for these influences of the Spirit, wherewith they are mounted up, are compared to the wind, — “Awake, O north wind; come thou south: blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out,” (Song 4:16). Believers know well enough what it is to be mounted up on the wings of the Spirit. But more particularly, as to the wings wherewith they do mount up, they are especially these two, viz., the wing of faith, and the wing of love.
1. The wing of faith they have, and must have, who would mount up heavenward. Now, there is not a feather in this wing, but is made in heaven: “By grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God,” (Eph. 2:8). Yea, after the believer hath got faith, he cannot spread out his wing without God; “To you it is given, not only to believe but to suffer for his sake,” (Phil. 1:29). To you, believers, it is given to believe: not only the habit of faith is the gift of God, but the exercise of faith is his gift also. Now, this is one wing, and none can mount up to heaven without it; for it is a grace that looks not at things that are seen in this world, but at the things that are not seen; it is the evidence of things not seen; it mounts the soul to heaven and heavenly things, and makes them evident.
2. There is the wing of love, by which the believer mounts up to heaven: and this is a wing made also by God; “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost,” (Rom. 5:5). This is a wing then framed in heaven, a grace that comes from the God of love; and therefore it flies up to heaven again: the holy spark of this fire flies upward. This grace is of such a mounting quality, that it unites the soul of the believer to Christ, as well as faith. As Jonathan’s soul was knit or joined to the soul of David by love; so is the soul of the believer knit and glued to Christ by love: and, O this wing of love is a strong wing! “Love is strong as death;” (Song 8:6) yea, stronger than death and life, and principalities, and powers: “I am persuaded,” says the apostle, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Rom. 8:38- 39). This is such a strong wind that the fire cannot burn it: martyrs have found that it would abide the fire, when they glorified God in the fires; the fire did not burn their love, no; it mounted up to heaven with the flame.
II. The second thing was, To show the things wherein they mount up. Here we shall give you both a negative, and a positive account of them.
1st, We propose to give you a negative account of these things.
1. They do not mount up in airy speculations: some mount up only in airy notions; they have a great deal of head-knowledge, but no heart-love to the truth, “They receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved; for which cause, God sends them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie,” (2 Thess. 2:10-11). The devil himself knows God and Christ; but hath no love to God or Christ in his heart: there may be much speculative knowledge, where there is no saving grace.
2. They do not mount up in sinful curiosity, to pry into the secrets of God, “For secret things belong to God, to us the things that are revealed,” (Deut. 29:29). Many mount up too far into the decrees of election and reprobation. Oh! I fear I am a reprobate, say some. Alas sirs, beware of such blasphemy; as if, forsooth, you were omniscient, like God; and as if you had been upon the privy counsel of God from eternity, when he marked down the names of elect and reprobate: this is a thing that cannot be known. In this side of time you cannot be sure you are a reprobate, as long as you are out of hell; but I can give you an assurance, better than the stability of heaven and earth, that if you truly repent of your sin, and flee to Christ, the only Saviour, you are no reprobate; “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon,” (Isa. 55:7). But if you will not part with sin, nor flee to Christ you subscribe your own reprobation. Now, I say, the believer doth mount up in sinful curiosity, concerning the decree of election and reprobation; but in so far as it is revealed to him, to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure: neither doth he pry curiously into the secrets of God’s providence: “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” Some have been very rash in telling when the Day of Judgment would be; we should not meddle with such secrets: “For of that day and that hour knoweth no man,” (Matt. 25:13).
3. They do not mount up in self-conceit and self-estimation, as some do, who mount up in the pride of their hearts; God abhors the proud, and he will cast them down, let them mount up never so far: “He resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble,” (Jam. 5:6). Pride was the sin of fallen angels; they would be as high as God, viz., self-dependent: and therefore God casts them down. This was the lesson that the devil taught our first parents, “You shall be as gods;” and they were taken with this bait, to their overthrow and ruin; and ever since, pride and self-conceit hath been natural to their posterity; and hence it is, so much self is mixed with all our preaching, praying, communicating. But when the believer mounts, he mounts in some measure above self, and gets it trod under his feet in self-abasing, self-abhorring thoughts.
4. They do not mount up in fits and starts of devotion, in modes and pangs of affection in a transient way. Many professors, when they hear the word, they seem to be mounted up in joy; but what comes of it? It is but a flash, and like a land flood. The stony-ground hearers may receive the word with joy; but having no root they wither and dwindle to nothing, (Luke 8:6, 13). Some, when they hear of Christ’s sufferings, and see him sacramentally crucified, it draws tears from their eyes, and they never mount further.
2dly, We come now to give a positive account of these things wherein the believer mounts up. Believers mount up with wings as eagles, in these following things, or the like.
1. They mount up in spiritual-mindedness, contemplation, and holy meditation. Hence, says David, “My meditation of him shall be sweet,” (Ps. 104:34). Having got the Spirit, they mind the things of the Spirit: “They that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, mind the things of the Spirit: that which is born of the Spirit, is Spirit,” (Rom. 8:5). Their heart is set and bent to mind the great mystery of godliness, “God made manifest in the flesh,” (1 Tim. 3:16). “And to know the height, and depth, and breadth of the love of Christ.” They do not suffer their thoughts to wander on the mountains of vanity.
2. They mount up in high designs and intentions: their ultimate design is the glory of God, and the enjoyment of him, which, you know, is man’s chief end. This is the winged Christian’s end: he mounts up in this high and holy end, and that in all his actions; in his civil actions, as in his buying and selling, travelling, laboring: and in his sacred actions; as his praying, reading, hearing, communicating; or, in his relative actions, what he doth as a father, master, servant, or child; and in his natural actions, whether he eat or drink, or whatever he doth, he doth all to the glory of God, (1 Cor. 10:31). At least, his shortcoming herein, is matter of sorrow and shame to him.
3. They mount up in holy desires, saying with Job, “O that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!” And their desires are not like the faint, languishing wish of the wicked, such as Balaam had: no no, their desires are spiritual and sincere, such as these spoken of; “With my soul have I desired thee in the night; and with my spirit within me, will I seek thee early,” (Isa. 26:9). Their desires are strong and fervent; none but Christ will satisfy them. “What wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless?” said Abraham, (Gen. 15:2). So says the soul, mounting up towards God, O what wilt thou give me, seeing I go Christless? It pants after God, the living God. Their desires are restricted to God and Christ alone: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee,” (Ps. 73:25). Their desires are dilated on a whole God, and a whole Christ: “O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord, my God, my King,” (Ps. 16:2). They will have a whole God in all his essential perfections, and in all the relations he stands in to his people. They will have this God for their God forever and ever, and for their guide even unto death. And they will have a whole Christ; Christ for sanctification, as well as for salvation; yea, Christ for their all in all.
4. They mount up in pious inclinations; they have an aversion at sin, at the sinful pleasures of this life; yea, they abhor them with Ephraim, “What have I any more to do with idols?” That is the language of the eagle-like believer; he hath a great inclination, a strong bent of spirit after a God in Christ, as the top of his perfection, as the very spring of all his pleasure, and as the magazine of all his treasure, as the rest of his soul; if the devil and his evil heart hath set him at any distance from God, his mind is restless till he return to him again: “Return to thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee,” (Ps. 116:7). The top swarm, as it were, of his inclination, mounts up this way.
5. He mounts up in heavenly affections: hence is that injunction, “Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth,” (Col. 3:2). He endeavors, through grace, to have his affection some way corresponding with God’s affection, so as to love what God loves, and hate what God hates; yea, to love as God loves, and to hate as God hates. God loves holiness with a strong and great love; so doth the believer. God hates sin with a perfect hatred; and so doth the believer: “I hate every false way.” See also Psalm 139:21-22.
They mount up in a gospel-conversation: so saith the apostle, “Our conversation is in heaven, from whence we look for our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Phil. 3:20).
7. The winged saint mounts up in a heavenly walk: as Enoch and Noah walked with God, so doth the winged soul, whose strength is renewed; he runs without wearying, and walks without fainting, on the Lord’s way. His heavenly walk discovers itself, 1. In his heavenly words; they are seasoned with salt, and edifying. And, 2. In his actions, wherein he studies sobriety, righteousness, and godliness, in all the duties of religion, prayer, and praise. And,
3. In his company; for he can say with David, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee,” (Ps. 119:63).
II. The next thing was, The seasons when it is that the believer, whose strength is renewed, doth mount up.
1. Whenever he gets the new nature, and the disposition; whenever he is converted, he mounts up on wings as an eagle. It is said of Paul, whenever he was converted, “Behold, he prayeth:” (Acts 9:11), think you Paul never prayed any before that time? Yea, many a prayer had he uttered, no doubt; for he profited in the Jewish religion, above many of his equals in his own nation; he had learned to say his prayers as well as the best of them; but he never prayed spiritually and acceptably before; he had never mounted up to heaven in his prayer before: but now, “Behold he prays;” behold he mounts up, whenever he is converted.
2. He mounts up to heaven, all the days of his life, after his conversion; he is still making some progress heavenward; whatever backsets he may get by sin and Satan, now and then, yet he gets up again, and still ascends nearer and nearer heaven: “Nevertheless, I am continually with thee,” (Ps. 73:23). Whatever I do, I endeavor still to be on the mount with God. David would have both day and night spent with God: “The Lord will command his loving-kindness in the day-time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life,” (Ps. 42:8). He went to bed, as it were, with God in his arms; for he remembered him upon his bed, and meditated on him in the night-watches; and his soul was satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and when awakened out of his sleep, he found him in his arms; “When I awake, I am still with thee.”
3. He mounts up, when he gets a fresh gale and new influences of the Spirit. The believer, at his lowest, is like a ship wind-bound, lying at anchor, but ready to set sail whenever the wind is fair; he can but make small progress with the oars of diligence, when the wind and tide is against him. O sirs, if there be any gale of the Spirit blowing among you this day, then mount, mount, mount; you may make more progress then in an hour, than you will do without it in many a year, yea, in a whole life-time.
4. The believer uses to mount up with wings about a communion-time; nothing less will serve him than to come to Bethel, the house of God; he will go into the chambers of presence, and never rest till he be at the end of his flight. Where is that, say you? Doth he mount to a communion-table? nay, he must be farther; doth he mount to the top of duties and ordinances? nay, he must be farther; doth he mount to heaven? nay, he must be farther yet. Strange! where would he flee next? Indeed, he would flee into the heart of Christ: “Set me as a seal upon thine heart;” yea, and which is more yet, he would not only have himself in Christ’s heart, but he would have Christ in his heart; “Christ in him the hope of glory.” And what would he do with him when he hath got him there? O then, saith he, “he shall lie all night between my breasts; “if I can, I will keep him all the nighttime of this life, which is but a night, “till the day of eternity break, and the shadows fly away.”
5. The believer mounts up on wings, as an eagle, at the day of death; then he soars aloft: “This night thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” It is said of the adder, that when she is old, she goes through some strait passage, and leaves her old skin in the passage, and thereby renews her vigor and life. This passage of death is strait, and uneasy to the body, which, like the adder’s skin, is left in the way; and not without much pain and difficulty to it; but the soul passeth through without any harm; and the next moment mounts up to her state of immortality and happiness: then the believer mounts up indeed to the general assembly and church of the first-born, to the innumerable company of angels, to God the judge of all, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant; yea, then he is mounted up a pillar in the temple of his God.
6. The believer will mount up at the day of judgment as with eagle’s wings; then will he flee up to meet Christ in the air; “Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord,” (1 Thess. 4:17). You see then when the believer mounts up.
IV. The Fourth thing is, To speak to the manner how the believer mounts up, He mounts up with wings as an eagle. In whatever respects the eagle mounts up, the same way doth the believer.
1. The eagle mounts up freely and naturally; God gives it a mounting nature: “Doth the eagle mount up at thy command?” says the Lord to Job, (39:27), nay, it is by the instinct which the Lord hath given it; so that it is natural to it. Thus the believer mounts up naturally after God hath given him the new heart; it is natural to him to be mounting towards God; when the hypocrite mounts, he is forced up contrary to his natural tendency, as it were, like a stone cast up into the air; it is not natural to it to fly up, but rather to fall down; but the believer mounts up naturally and freely.
2. The eagle mounts up highly; she flies higher than other birds: she makes her nest on high, on some inaccessible rock; not like the ostrich, that leaves her eggs in the sand, as some leave their souls here on earth; but these spiritual eagle believers, these heavenly birds, they fly high, even to the Rock of ages; and hence their daily desire is, “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”
3. The eagle mounts up strongly, vehemently, and violently; it is a strong bird, and when it hath got the prey, it flies with violence. Thus doth the believer mount up; “For the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” With such earnestness and intentness doth he mount up towards heaven, that no difficulty in the way shall hinder him.
4. The eagle mounts up swiftly and suddenly: this follows upon the other; for its strength and violence in flying, infers celerity: so doth the believer, under the lively influences of the Spirit. O how quick is his motion! “Or ever he is aware his soul makes him like the chariots of Aminadab.” It is a speedy flight that the believer makes towards Christ; he mounts swiftly.
5. The eagle mounts up gradually; though its flight be strong and swift, yet it is gradual; it comes not to the utmost extent of its motion, but by degrees: so the believer mounts up gradually; he goes from strength to strength, till he appear before God in Zion, (Ps. 84:7). He flies still higher and higher; and so the object of his aim draws nearer and nearer to him, while he comes to more and more knowledge of God, and more and more communion with him, till faith and hope land in vision and fruition.
6. The eagle mounts up frequently and daily; and in respect of its mounting disposition, constantly; so it is with the believer, he is always mounting; he hath still a mounting disposition, and he is constantly endeavoring to be actually mounting. The carnal professor never mounts up, but about the time of a communion, or the time of some sore affliction or conviction; and whenever these seasons are over, he goes as fast down as he went up; but it is the believer’s trade of life to be mounting on week days, as well as on Sabbath-days; and on ordinary Sabbaths, as well as communion-Sabbaths.
V. The next thing is, To show the reasons why the believer, who hath his strength renewed, mounts up on wings like an eagle.
1. Because he hath an eagle’s nature. I said before, that the believer mounts up naturally; why, because he hath an eagle’s nature. It is the natural disposition of the eagle to fly upward; so the believer hath a disposition to mount up to God, he being a new creature; “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” (2 Cor. 5:17). This new nature ascends to heaven from whence it descended: the old nature goes always downward, but the new nature mounts upwards. If you want the new nature, you want the mounting disposition.
2. He mounts up on wings like an eagle; because he hath an eagle’s eye: so the believer, he can see that invisible Sun, which no natural eye can attain to; “The poor in spirit, and pure in heart, shall see God,” (Matt. 5:3, 8). “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him,” (1 Cor. 2:14), but the believer knowing the mind of Christ, sees farther than the world; he sees the King in his beauty and the land afar off. When he sees these things, he cannot but mount up to them; “He endures, as seeing him who is invisible,” (Heb. 2:27). He is far sighted: “Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day afar off, and he saw it, and was glad.” This is that blessed object, which every believing soul doth see, even when he is in this world.
3. He mounts up on wings like an eagle; because he hath his nest on high, like an eagle: no wonder then he flies up, for his nest, I mean, his seat, his food, his treasure, his heart, his head, his all is above. His seat is above; the believing eagle cannot find himself safe while here below; therefore he flies to the Rock of ages, and there he sits. His food is above: Christ is his food; “My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” Now, his food being above, “Where the carcass is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” His treasure is above; he hath an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, that is reserved in heaven for him; and up he must to visit his inheritance. His heart is above, where his treasure is; yea, Christ hath gotten his heart a-keeping; and he must be where his heart is. And, in a word, his head is above; and must not the members be where the head is? And must not the stones of the building be where the foundation is? Christ is the head cornerstone. His all is above: Christ is all in all to him: and, therefore, mount he must; for this eagle hath a rich nest above.
4. He mounts up with wings as an eagle, because his strength is renewed, like the eagle’s; “Who satisfies thy soul with good things; so that thy strength is renewed like the eagle’s,” (Ps. 3:5). Therefore, having renewed his strength, he mounts up on wings, like the eagle. Some say the eagle is, renewed, when it casts its old feathers, and gets new ones; so the believer gets the old feathers of corruption removed, and puts on the new man, (Eph. 4:24). Others say, the eagle’s youth is renewed, when, its stomach being thirsty, it drinks the blood of the prey; and so the believer gets his strength renewed, by drinking the blood of Christ by faith, (Eph. 4:13). It is in the unity of the faith that he comes to the perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. If you have got a drink of the blood of Christ this day, to be sure your strength will be renewed; and if your strength be renewed, you cannot but be mounting up on wings as an eagle. Here we might show the influence between the renewing of the believer’s strength, and his mounting up; but this is easily perceived, especially by these that know it experimentally.
VI. The Sixth thing in the general method, is the Application. Is it so, That believers, who in waiting on the Lord, have their strength renewed, do mount upon wings as eagles? Waving several uses that might be made, hence,
1st. May we not see ground to lament, that so few are mounting up as on eagle’s wings at this day. Many people’s mind are no-ways with God; “God is not in all their thoughts.” Some mount up only in vain thoughts: and, Oh “How long shall vain thoughts lodge within you?” (Jer. 4:14). Some spend their thoughts on worldly affairs, the profits, pleasures, riches, and honors of it; they mind earthly things. Some seem to mount, and they mount a little, but they come down again; like Herod, who heard John gladly, but soon did he fall. Some when they are young, they are very religious, but their religion is easily rubbed off again: They begin in the Spirit, and end in the flesh. Some mount no farther than restraining grace, while the Lord with-holds them, as he did Abimelech from sinning against him; but they want restraining grace; they know not what it is to have the love of God constraining them. Many, instead of mounting in time of ordinances, the devil and the world run away with their hearts: or if they get any kindly frame about a sacrament, whenever they go home, they forget all, and give loose reins again to their thoughts and words, to their affections and actions.
2dly, We may apply it for examination and trial. Try whether you are mounting Christians or not: to be sure you are mounting or sinking. You need to try after as well as before you go to the Lord’s Table. How shall I know, say you, whether or not I be mounting up as on eagle’s wings? I shall keep by the simile, and give you the following marks.
1. If you be mounting up on wings like an eagle, then God hath opened the iron cage, and set you at liberty. While a man is in a state of nature, or in legal bondage, he is like a bird in an iron cage; he cannot mount, till God come and knock off his fetters, and loose his bands, and proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison-doors to them that are bound; and so lets them out to the free air, that they may fly. If you be a mounting soul, you will know something, more or less of this; you have found yourself in the iron cage, in the devil’s claws: and you have found the Lord turning you from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; at least, you can say, in some measure, “Once I was blind, now I see?” once I was bound, and now I am set at liberty.
2. If you be mounting up on eagles’ wings, then you will have something of an eagles’ appetite; “Where the carcass is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” The eagle, it is said, doth very greedily devour her prey; and if you be a true eagle, you will eat greedily of the flesh and blood of the Son of God. It is not a little of this heavenly carcass that satisfies the believing eagle: he must feed upon him greedily, and daily; yea, and live upon it constantly: “The life that he lives, is by faith on the son of God.”
3. If you be mounting up on eagle’s wings, then you have got something of an eagle’s heart: the eagle is a noble kind of creature, disdaining to prey upon mean birds. We have a common Latin proverb, Aquila non captat muscas; [that is, The eagle doth not catch flies.]. It preys only upon creatures worthy of it; so, the noble generous soul of the mounting believer, will not stoop to these things that are inferior to him, or unworthy of him: no kingdom will please him, but the kingdom of heaven: no heritage, but the heritage of Jacob; no rock, but the Rock of ages; no portion but a portion in the Son of Jesse.
4. If you be mounting up on eagle’s wings, then you will be daily casting off your old feathers: such as, the old feather of self-righteousness: you will never allow yourself to mount up with the wing of your own righteousness. You will know that the devil clipped old Adam’s wings; yea that by the fall he brake his wings, and that never one since the fall could mount up to heaven on the wing of this old-covenant righteousness, unless it was the double eagle, if I may so express it, the God-man in two natures, and one person, who came to bring in everlasting righteousness: under this great wing, do all the little eagles flock, as the hen’s chicken’s do under her wings, desiring to be found in Christ, “Not having their own righteousness, which is after the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” (Phil. 3:9). And as they will be casting the old feather of their own self-righteousness, so the old feather of self-conceit. O the mounting believer thinks little of himself; so little, that he thinks nothing of himself. If nothing could be divided, he is less than nothing in his own sight; and if nothing could be disparaged, he is worse than nothing; he is the least of saints, and the chief of sinners, as Paul was in his own eyes; he casts down all his attainments, all his enjoyments, all his qualifications, all duties at Christ’s feet as nothing; that so he may have nothing to be a weight to keep him from mounting up. In a word, he casts off the old feathers of sin and corruption daily; also enmity, unbelief, hypocrisy, carnality; he seeks to have these works of the devil destroyed wholly. It is said, that there is antipathy between eagles and serpents: so there is a continual antipathy between the believing eagle and the old serpent; and all the serpent’s brood are abominable to him.
5. If you be mounting up on eagle’s wings, then you will be clothed with the sun; the sun will be big in your eye. The mounting eagle gets a view of the sun: and the higher it mounts, the bigger doth the sun appear. If you be a mounting Christian, you have got above the clouds of darkness and unbelief now and then, and got a view of the Sun of righteousness; and he hath been so big in your eye, as to darken the glory of all created objects; yea, so big in your eye, that you have seen him all in all; to be the all of the covenant, the all of the sacraments, the all of the gospel: you have seen him to be all things, and above all things, and better than all things: you have seen him to be heaven itself, yea, more than heaven, yea, more than ten thousand heavens: you have seen all things to be in him; election, redemption, justification, sanctification, grace, glory, and all. O sirs, “To you that believe, he is precious,” and a pearl of great price.
6. If you be mounting up on wings as eagles, you will be clothed with the sun, and you will have the moon of this world under your feet, (Rev. 12:1). The mounting eagle being above the clouds sees the sun big above, and the earth little below; and the higher it mounts the less will the earth appear. O the mounting believer thinks little of the world; if we were as high as the stars, we would not see the earth; the higher we fly to heaven, the more doth the nothingness of the earth appear to us. The believer sometimes mounts up so high, that he flies out of sight; the world is out of sight to him, and out of his sight and mind also; when he is on the mount of communion with God, glad would he be that he might never come down to the world again, as Peter on the mount of transfiguration, “It is good for us to be here.”
3dly, This doctrine may be applied for Exhortation, which I shall form in a short address. 1. In a word of terror to the soul that never mounted. 2. A word of comfort to the mounting soul. 3. A word of counsel to the hovering soul.
[1.] A word of terror to you that never mounted up to heaven towards Christ. Alas! what shall we say to you? You are not like eagles, but like filthy black ravens, that do not mount heavenward, nor look upon the sun, but wander to and fro upon the earth, as Noah’s raven did, and feed upon dung-hills and sordid things: you cannot fly to heaven, but flutter upon the earth: but if you do not mount up to heaven, the curse of God will come upon you; all the curses mentioned, (Deut. 26:15, 29). You will be “cursed in your basket, and in your store; cursed in your out-goings and incomings.” The curse of God will be in your house; “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked,” (Prov. 3:23): that is, the man that doth not mount up to Christ by faith, nor mount up in the ways of God. The curse of God will be in your prayers and duties; “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to God: your sacrifice will be cursed to you: the word you hear will be a curse to you; it will be a savor and seal of death and not of life to you, (2 Cor. 2:16). The sacrament of the Lord ’s Supper will be cursed to you; for there you eat and drink damnation to yourself. If you never mounted by faith, and yet went to a communion-table, you have been eating and drinking God’s curse, which you will never vomit up again, unless you mount up to Christ with the wing of faith. What shall I say? If you do not mount, Christ himself will be cursed to you: “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness.” If you do not mount, you will stumble into hell; and Christ himself will be a stumbling-block over which you will fall and break your neck, and perish forever. O then, do not tempt Christ by lying still in your sin and unbelief, when you should be mounting. See a remarkable word, “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents,” (1 Cor. 10:9). If you do not mount, with the eye of faith towards Christ, the mystical brazen serpent, you will be destroyed with worse serpents than the Israelites were; he will let loose the old serpent, the devil; he will let loose the young serpent, your conscience, upon you; and both these will tear you to pieces to all eternity; besides, the fiery serpent of God’s everlasting vengeance: if you do not mount, God will cast you down into the dungeon of hell, to live among all these serpents as long as God lives. Think not these to be words of course, man, woman; I am not jesting with you; nay, I declare to you, in the name of the everlasting God, that if you do not mount up to Christ you shall go down to hell with the devil: “The unprofitable servant shall be cast into utter darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” (Matt. 25:30). They shall have no rest. Consider this, all ye that forget God,” and forget to mount up to him (Rev. 14:10).
[2.] A word of comfort to the mounting soul. Are you a mounting eagle? Then you shall be blessed in your out-going and in-coming: God’s blessing will be in your house: “For he blesseth the habitation of the just:” you will be blessed in your prayers and duties: “For the prayer of the upright is his delight; the word will be blessed to you; it will be a river of life to comfort you, poor believing eagle, when you droop your wings: the sacraments are blessed to you; the communion-table is a foretaste of the fruit of the vine, which you shall drink for ever new in your Father’s kingdom, where you shall be forever with the Lord: you are happier than the tongues of men and angels can tell. And as the mounting soul is blessed, so he is safe: as long as he is mounting, he is out of the reach of this world’s misery; safe against death itself; yea, safe against the wrath of God; you are above all this, for you are mounted up to the love of God, and that is above his wrath. O believer, if you be mounting, keep up your head, and be always mounting, till you come to the throne of God and the Lamb. O mount, mount, mount, till you come to heaven, to the top of the tree of life, where the birds of Paradise shall sing, Hallelujah, to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever.” The eagle is never in danger, but when she is on earth: we are never in danger when we are in Christ, but till we fly down to the earth; therefore, seeing God hath renewed your strength to mount up as on eagles’ wings, O soar aloft; look down with a generous disdain upon the world, and the vanities thereof, and keep your heart up in heaven.
[3.] A word of counsel to the hovering soul. Perhaps there are some hovering sinners and some hovering saints here.
(1.) As for hovering sinners that never yet mounted, they have some thoughts of mounting; but some objections come in their way, and they are in a hover.
Objection: O, say you, you are desiring us to go about a duty we are not able to do; alas I am a poor thing, not able to fly up to heaven; how is that possible to me that want the wing of faith and love?
Answer: 1. Up you must go, or else go down to the bottomless pit; God commands you to mount; and if you be not able, consider whence your inability flows; the fall brake your wings: “For God made man upright, but he found out many inventions:” thou hast disabled thyself in Adam, therefore God may condemn thee.
2. The reason why you do not mount up is, because you are willful: “You will not come to me that you might have life,” (John 5:40). Your weakness flows from your willfulness: if the weakness of your will were taken away, then you would mount up with ease.
3. Do what you can to fly up; if you cannot fly, endeavor to run without wearying: if you cannot run, endeavor to walk without fainting; if you cannot walk because of your broken leg, then will you creep to the Physician with it, and hold out the broken leg, the withered arm to him; if you cannot creep, will you cry to him: “He hath not said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain;” if you cannot cry, will ye look to him: “Look to me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; “if you cannot look to him, will you long for him; for “He satisfies the longing soul: “sigh, and sob, and groan after him. And if, after all, you think you can do nothing, because of your absolute weakness; then, O will you wait on the Lord, and you shall renew your strength; wait on him in the use of means: lie at the pool, and you cannot tell how soon you shall get strength to mount: “Wait, I say, on the Lord.”
Objection: Alas! say some, my mounting time is gone, my day of grace is past; I have been a long hearer of the gospel, and many a call have I slighted; I fear Christ will never take pains on me, to make me mount up to heaven.
Answer: To you I would say, 1. O how dare you meddle with God’s decree? I said something to this already; mind this is a stratagem of Satan, to keep you from coming to Christ. I have read that the devil said once to a man, “You need not serve God any more,” “for you will not win to heaven.” The man was troubled at this; but what was his answer? “If I cannot win to God in heaven, I shall have as much of God as I can on earth.” O man, you will cheat the devil effectually, if you tell him in earnest, I will take all of God that I can now, though I should never get any more of him.
2. Are you not waiting on God in ordinances, and sorrowing at your heart, that you have sinned so much, and slighted Christ so long? Then your day of grace is not past; it is yet time to mount. “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation;” and it is, perhaps, now or never. O young sinner, old sinner, your mounting-time may be gone before you get another call. Death will dismount you from these high privileges in a little, and then you shall never mount again; but sink, sink, sink forever in fire and brimstone.
(2.) There may be some hovering saints here, who know what it is to have mounted some-time-a-day, but now they are fallen down again; gladly would they mount, but many things hinder them from mounting.
Objection 1: Alas say some, the woeful world keeps me from mounting; the losses and crosses, and temptation of the world are a clog; whenever I go home, I will meet with something that will draw me down by the heels again, as it were.
Answer: O believer, be not discouraged, but set a stout heart to a steep mountain: oppose the love of the world as much as you can; and see vanity written on its forehead: you know that communion with God is better than all the enjoyments of this life; cast off these things that trouble and afford vexation to you; O let not the world get into your heart; if the world mount up in your heart, it will indeed draw you down, that you shall not mount up to heaven. Beware of your graceless friends; their carnal walk and conversation may rob you of all your spirituality in half an hour, and spoil a good communion in two minutes. O sirs, be as little in their company as you can; and when you are obliged to be with them, yet let your heart be always mounting, and giving a stolen look to Christ. But perhaps, there are other things in the world also that keep you from mounting, and keep you down with discouragement: you see things going all wrong in the Church; grievances lying heavy upon us, zeal decaying, and iniquity abounding, and the like. O how can I get mounted up under such discouragements! As to all which, I shall only say, you have the more need to mount up to heaven, that you see things so far wrong here below.
Objection 2: But O, say you, there is another thing that hinders me from mounting; I have a stone in my heart that bears me down; the dead weight of corruption that draws me downward: how can I mount with such a rock on my back, such a heavy, stony heart in my breast.
Answer: O believer, that art groaning under the sense of your heart-evils, will you go to God with your stony heart; none can cure the spiritual gravel but God himself; he can cut the stone out of the hard-hearted sinner, and he hath promised to do it. — “I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh,” (Ezek. 36:26). O sirs, go and tell him, that it bears you down when you would mount up to heaven, and seek to have the stony heart softened in the blood of Christ; for Christ’s blood is a heart-softening blood; look to him whom you have pierced, and mourn: if you but mount up with your eye to him, it will melt your stony heart; and then the melted heart will be a mounting heart. Alas say you, I have a worm at my heart; iniquity prevails against me, and this is a heavy thing that bears me down, sorely down; and, I think, it will wear me down to hell; mine iniquities are a burden; they sink me down, terribly down into the mire. But what shall I do; I will never win up, I think, from under this burden: Poor soul, cast your burden upon Christ; “God laid on him the iniquity of us all. Cast thy burden on the Lord, and he will sustain thee.” Doth the guilt of sin burden you? Look to him who is made of God to you righteousness. Doth the power of sin burden you? Look to him who is made of God to you sanctification. “Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Objection 3: O, say some, there is another thing that hinders me from mounting up; the devil steps in between me and heaven, between Christ and me, and so I cannot get mounted; he assaults me sore with many sad temptations, he scares me from duty, and tempts me to sin.
Answer: Poor believer, be comforted; it seems you are not on Satan’s side; it seems you are come out of his camp; and therefore he assaults you so sore; meantime, O endeavor to mount up notwithstanding of all temptations; for, within a little, “God shall bruise Satan under your feet,” (Rom. 16:20). The believing eagle shall get day about with the devil, and tread upon this old serpent. Again, tell me, hast thou not wings to fight against the devil, as they say the eagle doth? When any come to take her young, then she fights with her wings. So do you fight with the wing of faith that is the shield that quenches the fiery darts of the devil. The devil’s darts cannot pierce the believer’s wing of faith. Fight with the wing of love; love is a strong wing, like coals of fire, it hath a most vehement flame; this fire of love will burn the devil’s darts that he throws at you; the love of Christ will constrain you to resist him boldly. But, alas! say you, for all that I cannot fight; my faith is feeble, and my love is faint. Then I only say to you, O poor soul, go to Christ; Christ is like the old eagle that helps the young ones; yea, Christ takes the young eagles on his wings. — “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him; and there was no strange God with him,” (Deut. 32:11-12) — “I bear you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to myself,” (Ex. 19:4). Christ will carry you on his wings; and for your encouragement, know that he hath fought with the devil already, and overcome him; he hath overcome principalities and powers; yea, by death he hath destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.
Objection 4: And lastly, Alas! say you, there is another thing yet that hinders me from mounting; I would not think much of the common enemies of my salvation, sin, Satan, and the world: I know they will do their utmost to keep me out of heaven; but, oh! GOD himself is pressing me down, and that is saddest of all, he doth not give the wonted communication of his grace nor strength to mount: though I had habitual grace that will not do, I must have auxiliary grace.
Answer: It may be, when you got additional grace at the last communion, you have sinned it away; and no wonder, when you turn the grace of God into wantonness, that the Lord make you go empty-handed. But again, he may do this to let you see, that habitual grace is not sufficient, in order to your mounting up to heaven, without actual grace; “It is not in him that willeth, nor in him that runneth, but in God that showeth mercy.” However, know that God is a sovereign God, and he will let you know that he is so by-giving you new supplies of grace, and withdrawing them again when he pleases; but wait on him, and you shall renew your strength.
Objection: “But oh! how can I mount, when he not only denies his grace, but hides his face from me? The eagle mounts towards the body of the sun, but my sun is covered with a cloud, and I go mourning without the Sun. A day-bird cannot fly in the night; and alas how should I mount in the dark night of desertion?”
Answer: It may be, you have hid your face from God, and that makes him hide his face from you: you have sinned away his presence, by turning away from his presence; or, perhaps, God doth this for the trial of your faith, love, and patience. However it be, you must exercise your wings of faith and love, and mount up notwithstanding that you be in the dark; “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, and obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay himself upon his God,” (Isa. 50:10). The spouse was busy even when Christ was gone, “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?”
Objection: “Oh! but how can I mount, when he is not only an absent, but an angry God; I see nothing but surly looks in his countenance; and he is shooting arrows against me; yea, “His arrows stick fast in me, and his hand presses me sore;” when I mount up, he shoots me down with his arrows; “For the arrows of the Almighty are within me:” and when my wings are wounded, down I fall.
Answer: God may do so to humble you; you must be humbled; and the more humble and low you are, the higher you shall be advanced, and mount up the higher after your humiliation: never was the believer highest, than after he was lowest. —“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up;” (Jam. 4:10) and remember how you may meet with barbed arrows, poisoned arrows of God’s anger, and yet all in love: “In a little wrath have I hid myself from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy upon thee,” (Isa. 54:10) —“For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee.” You shall at last find all these things well ordered. What think you when you shall come to heaven, and Christ say to you, Welcome, believer, when I hid my face, did I not deal kindly with you? When I shot the arrows into your heart, did I not deal kindly with you? And the believer will then say, Indeed Lord, thou hast done all things well: all is well that ends well.
Objection: “Alas! but I think the Lord will kill me with his arrows; and will I fly to heaven, if he kill me?”
Answer: There is no fear that your kind Lord will kill you; but though he should, yet make use of your wings, and fly to him, as Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” I read of a sparrow, that when pursued by a hawk, flew into Xenocrates’ bosom, his words were, Non oportes supplicant prodere; “It were barbarous to betray a poor supplicant.” If you fly to God’s bosom, no fear that he kill you: when his wrath pursues you, he is but chasing you into his bosom; therefore let nothing hinder you from mounting.
The Lord himself engage you to wait on him, that you may renew your strength, and mount up on wings as eagles.