Providential changes, an argument for universal holiness, Part 4
by John Owen
I shall now add some cautions as to the pursuit of the first direction:—
[1.] Take heed of a degeneration into self-righteousness. Intendments of holiness have more than once been ruined by Satan through this deceit; they have set out upon conviction, and ended in Pharisaism. Now, this hath been done many ways:—
1st. Some, really convinced of the vanity of an empty profession, and of boasting of saintship upon the account of faith and light without holiness and godliness, — which was the way of many when James and John wrote their epistles, — fall to dispute and contend (as well they may) for the absolute necessity of holiness and strict obedience, of fruitfulness and good works. But Satan here gets advantage upon men’s natural spirits, their heats, and contentions, and insinuates an inherent righteousness, upon the account whereof we should, under one pretence or other, expect acceptation with God as to the justification of our persons. So he prevailed upon the Galatians. The way is narrow and strait that lies between the indispensable necessity of holiness, and its influence into our righteousness. Because no faith will justify us before God, but that also which will justify itself by fruitfulness before men, a great mistake arises, as though what it doth for its own justification were to be reckoned unto ours. Many in our days have gone off from the mystery of the gospel on this account.
2dly. It prevails from a secret self-pleasing, that is apt to grow on the minds of men from a singularity in the performance of duties. This is that which the Heart-searcher aims to prevent in his command, that “when we have done all, we should say we are unprofitable servants;” that is, in the secrets of our hearts to sit down in a sense of our own worthlessness. And here lies another great practical difficulty, — namely, to have the rejoicing of a good conscience in our integrity and constancy in duties, without a reflection upon something of self, that the soul may please itself and rest in. Nehemiah fixes on the medium, Neh. xiii. 22. He had in the sight of God the testimony of his conscience concerning the service he had done for the house of God; but as to the rest, he winds up all in mercy, pardon, and grace. “God, I thank thee I am not as other men,” is apt to creep into the heart in a strict course of duties. And this self-pleasing is the very root of self-righteousness; which, as it may defile the saints themselves, so it will destroy those who only in the strength of their convictions go forth after a holiness and righteousness: for it quickly produceth the deadly, poisonous effect of spiritual pride; which is the greatest assimilation to the nature of the devil that the nature of man is capable of.
3dly. Our own holiness hath an advantage upon spiritual sense against the righteousness of Christ. The righteousness of Christ is utterly a strange thing to the best of unbelievers; and this puts them by all means upon the setting up of their own, Rom. x. 3. And believers themselves know it only by faith, Rom. i. 17; which is “of things not seen.” But what we are ourselves, what we do, what we aim at, and in what manner, this we have a near sense of. And holiness is apt to insinuate itself into the conscience with a beauty that is none of its own, — to proffer itself to the soul’s embraces instead of Jesus Christ. Its native beauty consists in its answering the will of God, conforming the soul to the likeness of Christ, and being useful in the world, in a covenant of mere mercy. From its presence, and the sense we have of it, the heart is apt to put a varnish and false beauty upon it, as to the relief of conscience upon the account of justification. As it was of old with the children of Israel, when Moses was in the mount, and not seen, nor had they any visible pledge of the presence of God, instantly they turned their gold into a calf that would be always present with them; — being in the dark as to the righteousness of Christ, which is, as it were, absent from them, men set up their own holiness in the stead of it; which, though of itself it be of God, yet turned into self-righteousness is but a calf, — an idol, that cannot save them.
This is my first caution. But that we may make the better improvement of it, as unto present practice, I shall add some evidences of the prevalency, or at least contending, of self-righteousness for an interest in the soul, under a pretence of duty and holiness; as, —
(1st.) When, under a design of holiness, there is an increase of a bondage-frame of spirit; — when the mind begins to be enslaved to the duties which it doth itself perform; — when that amplitude, freedom, and largeness of mind which is in a gracious frame of heart decays, and a servile bondage-frame grows in the room of it, so that the soul doth what it doth under this notion, that it dare not do otherwise. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” 2 Cor. iii. 17. Those that come to Christ, he makes free, John viii. 36; — there is freedom and spiritual largeness of heart unto obedience and duty. A will unto duty, enlarged, dilated, and sweetened by love, delight, joy, complacency in the matter of obedience, is the freedom we speak of. This frame, I confess, is not always alike prevalent in gracious souls. They may have things ready to die; sin within, temptations without, desertion from God, — all of them together, each of them, may disturb this harmony, and bring them for a time, it may be a long time, under an indisposition unto such a frame; — but this is for the most part predominant. When such a frame decays, or is not, all endeavours, pains, attempts, severities in duties, do all relate to the law, — to bondage; and consequently lead to self-righteousness, fear, subjection of conscience to duties, — not [to] God in Christ in the duty; fluctuating of peace according to performances. The soul, in its strictest course, had need fear a snare.
(2dly.) Increasing in form, and withering in power. Forms are of three sorts:— [1st.] Those of institution; [2dly.] Moral; [3dly.] Arbitrary, in conversation.
[1st.] There are forms and ways of worship, whereof some are, and all pretend to be, of Christ’s institution. Let us at present take it for granted that they are all what they are apprehended to be, — namely, from Christ. For a man to grow high, earnest, zealous, in and about them, — to be strict and severe in contending for them, and yet find no spiritual refreshment in them, or communion with God, nor to grow in faith and love by them, is to dwell on the confines of self-righteousness, if not hypocrisy. This was the very sin of the Jews about their institutions, so much condemned in the Scripture. None use instituted ways or forms of worship profitably, but such as find communion with God in them, or are seriously humbled because they do not.
[2dly.] The outward form of moral duties, that depend not merely on institution, is the same. Such are praying, preaching, hearing. Abounding in them, without a suitable increase in grace, power, liberty, love, meekness, lowliness of mind, argues, though under the highest light to the contrary, a real mixture of self.
[3dly.] There are also outward forms in conversation that are used to the same purpose. We have had some who have changed their outward form in a few years as often as Laban changed Jacob’s wages. What shape they will next turn themselves into, I know not. This is not going from strength to strength, and increasing in life and power, but from one shape to another. And as their word and prophecy is directly proportioned and answerable, in its outward appearance, to the administration of the Old Testament, and not at all to the spiritual dispensation of the New; so it may be feared that, in the principle of their obedience, they lie under a legal bondage and self-righteousness, which hath utterly spoiled that which, perhaps, in its first design, set out for mortification and holiness.
(3dly.) Where self-righteousness is getting ground, these two, bondage and form, at length bring forth burdensomeness and wearisomeness. This God charges on such justiciaries, Isa. xliii. 22, “Thou hast been weary of me.” The ways and worship of God grow very grievous and burdensome to such a soul. He is a stranger to that of the apostle, “His commandments are not grievous;” and that of our Saviour himself, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The easiness of the yoke of Christ ariseth from the assistance that is given to him that bears it by the Holy Ghost, as also the connaturalness that is wrought in the heart to all the duties of it. Both these accompany a gospel frame. But when a soul is deserted of these, the yoke grows heavy, and galleth him; but yet he must go on. This is from self-righteousness. Let this, then, be our first caution.
[2.] Take heed of monastic uselessness. I am persuaded monkery came into the world not only with a glorious pretence, but also with a sincere intention. Men weary of the ways, weary of the lusts and sin of the world, designing personal holiness, left their stations, and withdrew themselves into retirement. David was almost gone with this design, Ps. lv. 6, “O that I had wings!” and Jeremiah, Jer. ix. 2, “O that I had a lodging in the wilderness!” Whose heart hath not been exercised with reasonings of this kind, “Oh, that we could be freed from the encumbrances and provocations of this world; what manner of persons might we be in all holy conversation and godliness?” But consider, —
1st. What success this design prosecuted hath had in others. How quickly did it degenerate into wretched superstition, and was thereon blasted and rejected of God!
2dly. God can suffer temptation to pursue us into a wilderness, that shall more obstruct us in the progress of holiness than all the difficulties we meet withal in this world. It is not of what kind our temptations are, but what assistance we are to expect under them, that we are to look after.
3dly. Not our communion [our intercourse with men], but God’s work, is to be considered. God hath work to do in this world; and to desert it because of its difficulties and entanglements, is to cast off his authority. Universal holiness is required of us, that we may do the will of God in our generation, Gen. vi. 9. It is not enough that we be just, that we be righteous, and walk with God in holiness; but we must also serve our generation, as David did before he fell asleep. God hath a work to do; and not to help him, is to oppose him.
[3.] Take heed of laying a design for holiness in a subserviency unto any carnal interest, — of crying, with Jehu, “Come see my zeal for the Lord of hosts,” — thereby to do our own work and compass our own ends. The great scandal that hath befallen the days wherein we live, and which hath hardened the spirits of many against all the ways of God, is, that religion, godliness, zeal, holiness, have been made a cloak for carnal and secular ends. What of this hath been really given, and what hath been taken on false imaginations, the last day will discover. In the meantime this is certain, that there is a corruption in the heart of man, rising up to such a visible prostitution of the whole profession of religion, — which of all things must be carefully avoided.
And this is the grand exhortation that I shall insist on: Let it be our design to promote generation-holiness in ourselves and others, with the cautions insisted on.
(2.) That which in the next place is considerable, is the proposing of the ingredients that lie in the motive to holiness, here expressed by the apostle, “Seeing that these things shall be dissolved.” As, —
[1.] It will be a furtherance of holiness, to take off our hearts from an esteem and valuation of all things that are so obnoxious to dissolution. An estimation or valuation of earthly things is on all accounts the greatest hinderance to the promotion of holiness. Earthly-mindedness, pride of spirit, elation above our brethren, self-estimation, carnal confidence, contempt of the wisdom and grace of others, aptness to wrath and anger, — some or all of these always accompany such a frame.
The apostle also makes this an effectual means of the improvement of holiness, — that the mind be taken off from the delightful contemplation of visible things, 2 Cor. iv. 18. Things will work towards “a weight of glory,” (in which words the apostle alludes to the Hebrew word כָּבוֹד, “glory,” which comes from a root signifying to “weigh,” or “to be heavy;” that being the only weighty thing, and all others light and of no moment;) — this way, I say, things will work, whilst our minds are taken off from things that are seen. The mind’s valuation of them is as great an obstruction to the growth of holiness as any thing whatever that can beset us in our pilgrimage. [Now, what can give a greater allay to the warmth of our thoughts and minds, than their continual obnoxiousness to dissolution and change? This the apostle makes his argument everywhere. “They are temporal things,” saith he, “things that abide not, things obnoxious to change and ruin. The world passeth away, and the figure of it. Wilt thou set thine heart upon that which is not?” And there lies the force of the inference under consideration: “Seeing that these things shall be dissolved,” — and it may be in a way of judgment, in a dreadful, fearful manner, — how is it incumbent on us to fix our hearts on more durable things, to choose the better part, the better portion! What advantage can it be to enlarge our hearts to the love of the things that are upon the wing? — to cleave to parting things with our affections? — to grow in our desires after that which withdraws itself from us continually? Let us, then, consider how many duties have been omitted, — how many temptations have been offered and objected to us, — how many spiritual frames of heart prevented or expelled, — how much looseness and vanity of mind introduced, — how much self-confidence promoted, — by an overvaluation of these things; and we shall then see what influence a watching against it may have to the furtherance of a design of holiness.
[2.] It will be so, to take off our care about them. This also is a worm that lies at the root of obedience, and is of itself able to wither it, if not removed. Our Lord Jesus Christ, giving us instruction how we should be prepared for the coming of such a day as that whereof we are speaking, charges us, among other things, to take heed that we “be not overcharged with the cares of this life,” Luke xxi. 34. Indeed, there is nothing so opposite to that peculiar holiness and godliness that is required of us, in and under great providential dissolutions, as this of care about perishing things. The special holiness that we press after is a due mixture of faith, love, self-denial, fruitfulness, — all working in a peculiar and eminent manner. Now, to every one of these is this care a canker and a gangrene, fitted to eat out and devour the life and spirit of them. The very nature of faith consists in a universal casting of our care on God, 1 Pet. v. 7, “Cast all your care on him.” All our care about temporal, spiritual, eternal things, let us cast all this on God, — our whole burden. This is believing, this is faith: and what is more opposite unto it than this care and solicitousness of the soul about the obtaining or retaining of these things? Resignation, acquiescency, rest, — all which are acts or effects of faith, — are devoured by it. Trust in God, affiance, delight in his will, — [it] ruins them all. How can a soul glorify God in believing in a difficult season, that is overlaid with this distemper. Nothing is more diametrically opposite thereunto.
Love enlarges the heart to Christ, and every thing of Christ: valuation, delight, satisfaction, accompany it. It makes the heart free, noble, ready for service, compassionate, — zealous. Nothing is more called for in such a day: and the decay of faith, in the trials and temptations of such a season, is called the “waxing cold of love;” as the fruit decays when the root is consumed. To think of glorifying God in the days wherein we live, without hearts warmed, enlarged, made tender, compassionate, by gospel love, is to think to fly without wings, or to walk without feet. What day, almost, what business, wherein our love is not put to the trial, in all the properties of it! Whether it can bear and forbear; whether it can pity and relieve; whether it can hope all things, and believe all things; whether it can exercise itself towards friends and towards enemies; whether it can give allowance for men’s weakness and temptations; whether it can value Christ above all, and rejoice in him in the loss of all, and many the like things, is it continually tried withal. Now, nothing so contracts and withers the heart, as to all these things, as the cares of this world do. Whatever is selfish, fearful, unbelieving, is inwrapped in them. They sometimes pine, wither, and render useless, the whole man; — always drink up the spirit, and deprive it of any communion with God in any thing it hath to do.
The same may be said concerning self-denial and fruitfulness; which in an eminent manner Christ now calls upon us for. Love, care, and fear, about the things that shall be dissolved, unframes the soul for them.
On these considerations, and the like which might be added, may this direction be improved, and no small obstacle unto a course of universal holiness and godliness be taken away. Is the power, are the riches, the pleasures of the world valuable? — Alas! they are all passing away; it is but yet a little while, and their place shall know them no more. Yet, could we take off our hearts from an undue valuation of these things, and care about them, half our work were done.
(3.) That which remains, for the closing of our discourse on this subject, is to give some few motives unto the duty proposed; and I shall only mention three generals:— [1.] Relating unto ourselves; [2.] Unto others; [3.] Unto Christ himself.
[1.] As to ourselves; — this alone will maintain peace and quiet in our souls, in and under those dissolutions of things that we are to be exercised with. We know what desolations, what ruin of families, what destruction of all outward enjoyments in many, they have already in these nations been attended with; and we know not how soon, nor by what ways or means, the bitterest part of the cup, as to outward pressures and calamities, may become our portion. We have seen somewhat of the beginning of the work of Christ; — where he will cease, what he hath yet farther to do, we know not. Our concernment, then, certainly was never greater than it is at this day, to keep up peace and rest within. If there should be a confederacy of outward and inward trouble, who can stand before it? A wounded body, a wounded (it may be ruined) estate, and a wounded spirit all together, who can bear? This is that alone which the world cannot take from us; which is not obnoxious to sword, fire, plots, conspiracies, — nothing without us, — even the peace that is left us, left to our own keeping, through the Holy Ghost, by Jesus Christ. It is not committed to parliaments, to armies, to rulers, to keep for us: it is committed to our own souls to keep, through the Holy Ghost; and no man can take it from us. Again: as it is valuable on this account, that it cannot be taken from us; so on this also, that it will countervail and support us under the loss of all that can. Peace in God, rest in sole retirement, quietness, and security of mind on spiritual, gospel accounts, sense of God’s love in Christ, will support and keep life and vigour in the soul in the loss of outward peace, with whatever is desirable and valuable unto us on any account that relates to this world.
Now, there is no maintaining of this peace and rest in such a season, without the performance of this duty. So dealt Habakkuk, chap. iii. 16, “I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble.” That which God required of him in that season, that he brought up his soul unto, [in order] that he might have rest; and his endeavour had the glorious issue mentioned, verses 17, 18. Though spiritual peace may radically and virtually live under many sins and provocations, yet it will not flourish under them, or bring forth any refreshing fruit. To have the fruit and effect of peace under a continuance in any known sin, is impossible. Now, the omission of any known duty is a known sin; and that a peculiar pressing after eminency in universal holiness and godliness in such a season is a known duty, I have before evinced; — no maintaining of inward peace, rest in God, without it: and we shall be sure to be tried, whether it be in us of a truth or not. I discourse not what the carnal security of seared, blinded, hardened sinners will do; but I am sure the weak, tottering, uncertain peace of many believers, will not support them in such trials as it is not only possible that we may, but probable that we shall, meet withal. Would you now desire that your Master should find you unprepared, — that he should make his entrance whilst all things were in disorder? If the heavens should thunder over you, and the earth tremble under you, and the sword stand ready to devour; — oh! what sad thoughts must you have, if at the same time you should be forced to say, “O my soul! is not God mine enemy also? May not wrath, and hell, and judgment be at the end of this dispensation?” What is the reason that a very rumour, a noise oftentimes, is ready to fill many of our souls with such disturbances? Is it not because this peace doth not flourish in the inward man? And what shall we do in the day of trial itself? Let us, then, endeavour, as Peter exhorts, 2 Epist. iii. 14, to “be found of Christ in peace.” And what may we do that we may be found of him in peace? “Why,” saith he, “be ‘without spot, and blameless.’ ” Let him come when he will, in what way he pleases, we shall be found in a way of peace, if we be found spotless and blameless, in a way of holiness. “And blessed is that servant whom his Master, when he cometh, shall find so doing.” This will give light in a dungeon, as it did to Paul and Silas; — ease in the fire, in the furnace, as to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; — contentment in the loss of all, as it did to Job; — satisfaction on the foresight of future trouble, as it did to David: “Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant.” Whatever sword be in the hand of Christ, whatever fire or tempest be before him and round about him, what vengeance soever he is to take on any or all of the sons of men, — this peace, kept up by the holiness he requires in such a season, will make a way to his bosom-love, and there repose the soul in rest and quietness.
[2.] As to others, what Paul saith to Timothy in another case, about preaching of the gospel, may in some sense be spoken in this. “Take heed,” saith he, “to the doctrine; for thereby thou shalt save thyself, and them that hear thee.” Who knows but that hereby we may save ourselves, and the nation wherein we live! The Lord Christ hath certainly a controversy with these nations; he hath begun to deal with them in his indignation; and we know that there are provocations enough amongst us to stir him up unto our ruin. Who knows, I say, but that by meeting him in a way of generation-holiness, we may divert deserved ruin; at least hinder, that it be not brought upon us for the provocations of his sons and daughters?
Now, there are several ways whereby this may have an influence into the safety and deliverance of the nations themselves:—
1st. By setting all things right between Christ and the saints, that he may have no need farther to shake the earth and dissolve the heavens of the nations, to awaken his own from their security, to loosen them from perishing things, or to accomplish any other glorious end towards them. Christ sometimes sifts nations, that his wheat may be separated from the chaff: he sets nations on fire, that they may be a furnace for the trial of his own; and when their dross is cleansed he will quench his fire. When there was but one saint in a ship, yet it was for his sake that a storm came on all the rest. It is not always for the sins of the wicked, that they may be destroyed, that he comes in a way of judgment; but for the sins of his people, that they may be cleansed. So “judgment,” as Peter speaks, “begins at the house of God.” It is not unlikely that our troubles were brought on these nations for the sins of the nations, in their persecution of Christ, his truths, and saints, against great light. Nor is it less likely that troubles are continued on these nations for the sins of the saints themselves, — such as those before insisted on. Now, what is it that in such trials Christ calls for, and which he will not cease calling for until he prevails? Is it not the work which we are in the pursuit of, — weanedness from the world, self-denial, zeal for truth, humbleness, fruitfulness, faithfulness, universal holiness? If here, then, lies the root of Christ’s controversy with these nations, as most probably it doth; if this be the cause of our troubles (as to me questionless it is); an engagement into the pursuit of this work is the only remedy and cure of the evils that we either feel or fear in these nations. Other remedies have been tried, and all in vain. O that we had hearts, through the Holy Ghost, to make trial of this, which the great physician, Jesus Christ, hath prescribed unto us! Heaven and earth call for it at our hands; the nations groan under our sin; — if we regard not ourselves, yet let us make it our business to deliver England out of the hand of the Lord, Josh. xxii. 31.
2dly. In that it may be an effectual means for the reformation of the nation. Reformation is the great thing that we have been talking of many years; and this hath been our condition in our attempts after it, — the more that light for it hath broken forth amongst us, the more unreformed hath the body of the people been; yea, the more opposite, for the most part, unto reformation. And may not this, among other things, be one occasion, yea, the principal cause of it, — the light of truth hath been accompanied with so many scandals in some, with so little power and evidence in the most, that prejudices have been strengthened in the minds of men against all that hath been pretended or professed? I am persuaded that a design for generation-holiness, carried on according to the light that we have received, would have a greater influence on the minds of the men of the world to look after reformation, than any of our entreaties or exhortations have yet obtained. We are contemptible to the nation, in our pressing after reformation whilst we are divided amongst ourselves; conformable to the world, whilst we proclaim our unmortified lusts, pride, covetousness, ambition, revenge, self-seeking. Would all the people of God stir up themselves to show forth the power of that faith and life they have received, and so take away advantage from obdurate opposers of the gospel, and give an eminent example to others, who now abhor them on the account of many prejudices that they have taken, the nations would be more awakened unto their duty than now they are. Were we agreed and united on this principle, that we would jointly and severally make this our design, — what work might be wrought in families, councils, counties, cities! Now, reformation is acknowledged to be the means, the only means, of the preservation of a nation; — and this the only means of that.
3dly. This is the most effectual way of standing in the gap, to turn away the indignation of the Lord against the nation. Whatever is required thereunto is contained in this design of holiness: there is reformation, there is wrestling by prayer, sundry promises improving our interest in Christ, — all included in this duty. Now, this is the most common way of saving nations, — when wrath is ready to break forth, some Moses or Samuel stands up and pleads for a deliverance, and prevails. Says God, “Destroy not the cluster; there is a blessing in it.” When the greatest and most dreadful judgment that God ever executed on sinners in this world was coming forth, had there been ten persons following after holiness, its accomplishment had been prevented. Here, then, we have a project to save three nations by; and without this, in vain shall they use any other remedies, — they shall not be healed.
[3.] Consider this thing, how it relates unto Christ and his glory. All the revenue of glory or honour that we bring unto Christ in this world, is by our obedience or holiness. He did not die for us that we might be great, or wise, or learned, or powerful in the world; but that he might purify us to be a peculiar people unto himself, zealous of good works. This was his design and aim, — that he might have a holy people, a faithful people in the world. He tells us that herein his Father is glorified, that we bear much fruit; — not that we be successful, that we rule and prevail, that we are in credit and reputation; but that we bring forth much fruit: and in the glory of the Father is the Son glorified also. It is this alone that adorns the doctrine of his gospel, and lifts up his name in the world; but especially is Christ glorified by the holiness of his saints in such a season; because, —
1st. Thereby we bear witness to the world that indeed we believe him to be come forth amongst us, and that the works that are on the wheel relate to his kingdom and interest. Let us talk of it whilst we please, unless we live and walk as those who have communion with Christ in the works he doth, the world will yet think that, whatever we profess, yet indeed we believe, as they do, that it is a common thing that hath befallen us. But when indeed they shall see that there is a real reverence of his person upon our spirits, and that we bestir ourselves in his ways, like servants in the presence of their master, — this carries a conviction along with it. To hear men talk of the coming of Christ, and the day of Christ, and the great and terrible things that Christ hath done in these days, and yet in the meantime to walk as the men of the world, — in a spirit of pride, selfishness, and wrath, in sensuality or pleasure, in neglect of prayer and humiliation, yea, of all gospel duties, — swearers and drunkards do not so dishonour Christ as such men do. But let men but see professors making it their business to be holy, humble, self-denying, useful in the world, condescending in love, resigning all to God, — they cannot but say, “Well, this is a great day to the saints; they verily believe that Christ is among them.” This is a professing that brings conviction; words are but as speaking with tongues, that work not out the glory of Christ.
2dly. Thereby we bear witness unto what sort of kingdom it is that Christ hath in the world, and what a kind of king he is. I cannot but fear that our talking of the kingdom of Christ, and managing our notions of it (at least in the world’s apprehensions) to carnal advantages, hath been a notable hinderance of the coming of it forth in beauty and glory amongst us. Every party talks of the kingdom of Christ, some more, some less, — all pretend unto it; but it is evident that many would set him on his throne with the petition of Zebedee’s children in their mouths, — that they may sit on his right hand and his left. Hence the world doth really persuade itself, and is hardened every day in that persuasion, that, whatever is pretended of Christ, it is self-interest that carries all before it; and that men do entertain that notion for the promotion of self-ends. But now this design of abounding in real holiness sets up the pure, unmixed interest of Christ, and casts a conviction upon the world to that purpose. When the world may read in our lives that the kingdom we look for, though it be in this world, yet it is not indeed of this world, but is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, — this bring that honour to Christ wherein he is delighted, and the ignorance of foolish men is put to silence.
3dly. This brings honour unto Christ, and glorifies him in all the vengeance that he executes on his enemies, and all the care that he takes of his own. The world itself is hereby made to see that there is a real difference, indeed, in them between whom Christ puts a difference, and is convinced of the righteousness of his judgments. Every one may answer them when they inquire the reason of the dispensations amongst us, yea, they may answer themselves, “The Lord hath done great things for these, even these that serve him.”
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