COME AND WELCOME TO JESUS CHRIST;
A PLAIN AND PROFITABLE DISCOURSE ON JOHN 6:37
SHOWING THE CAUSE, TRUTH, AND MANNER OF THE COMING OF A SINNER TO JESUS CHRIST; WITH HIS HAPPY RECEPTION AND BLESSED ENTERTAINMENT.
WRITTEN BY JOHN BUNYAN, AUTHOR OF "THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS."
"And they shall come which were ready to perish."—Isaiah 27:13.
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR.
"Come and welcome to Jesus Christ," is a subject peculiarly fitted to the deep and searching experience of John Bunyan. He knew all the wiles of sin and Satan, in placing stumblingblocks in the way of a sincere penitent; all the human craft employed in keeping the soul from a simple and entire reliance upon Christ for salvation. This little work soon became most deservedly popular, passing through four large editions during the last seven years of the author's life. It is an enlightened display of the dealings of the Father in giving sinners to Christ; the Son in saving them by his atonement, mediation, and intercession; and the Holy Spirit in sanctifying and fitting them for glory. Here is no Calvinism, Lutheranism, or Arminianism; no Episcopacy, Presbytery, or Independency; nothing but Christism and Bibleism. The gracious invitation is addressed to all who feel their misery, Come unto me, and I will make you happy and blessed. All who feel the leprosy of sin are invited to this spiritual Physician, and he only can and will heal them. All who suffer under the slavery of sin and Satan, Christ alone can make you free. Come to him, and you shall be free indeed. The analysis of Bunyan's treatise shows that ALL mankind are born in sin. ALL sinners are invited to Christ. None will come but such as feel the plague, and see the leprosy of sin. Those who come are drawn in a variety of ways—some terrified with the horrors of hell, others allured by the gracious voice of the Saviour, and the prospects of heavenly felicity. ALL who sincerely come, attain the same end, a sincere and total reliance upon the Saviour as the only refuge from the roaring lion.
Every other way to life is guarded by the flaming swords of the cherubim. Christ opens his golden arms wider than all our miseries. But he suffers no rival on his throne, no partnership with Moses or John Baptist. The personification of "shall come," and of "ignorance," is strikingly illustrative; as is "sin, the winding-sheet of the soul;" "unbelief, the white devil;" the sinner being a counsellor for Satan; and the two ways of taking our own likeness. His appeal to persecutors is most forcible. But I must not detain the reader longer from the pleasure and profit he will receive from an attentive perusal of these pages.
HACKNEY, 1850. GEORGE OFFOR.
COME AND WELCOME TO JESUS CHRIST.
"ALL THAT THE FATHER GIVETH ME SHALL COME TO ME; AND HIM THAT COMETH TO ME I WILL IN NO WISE CAST OUT."—JOHN 6:37.
A little before, in this chapter, you may read that the Lord Jesus walked on the sea to go to Capernaum, having sent his disciples before in a ship, but the wind was contrary; by which means the ship was hindered in her passage. Now, about the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came walking upon the sea, and overtook them; at the sight of whom they were afraid.
Note, When providences are black and terrible to God's people, the Lord Jesus shows himself to them in wonderful manner; the which sometimes they can as little bear, as they can the things that were before terrible to them. They were afraid of the wind and the water; they were also afraid of their Lord and Saviour, when he appeared to them in that state.
But he said, "Be not afraid, it is I."
Note, That the end of the appearing of the Lord Jesus unto his people, though the manner of his appearing be never so terrible, is to allay their fears and perplexities.
Then they received him into the ship, and immediately the ship was at land whither it went.
Note, When Christ is absent from his people, they go on but slowly, and with great difficulty; but when he joineth himself unto them, oh! how fast they steer their course! how soon are they at their journey's end! 1
The people now among whom he last preached, when they saw that both Jesus was gone and his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found him, they wonderingly asked him, "Rabbi, when camest thou hither?" but the Lord Jesus, slighting their compliment, answered, "Verily, verily, ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled."
Note, A people may follow Christ far for base ends, as these went after him beyond sea for loaves. A man's belly will carry him a great way in religion; yea, a man's belly will make him venture far for Christ.
Note again, They are not feigning compliments, but gracious intentions, that crown the work in the eye of Christ; or thus, it is not the toil and business of professors, 2 but their love to him, that makes him approve of them.
Note again, When men shall look for friendly entertainment at Christ's hand, if their hearts be rotten, even then will they meet with a check and rebuke. "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled."
Yet observe again, He doth not refuse to give, even to these, good counsel: he bids them labour for the meat that endureth to eternal life. Oh! how willingly would Jesus Christ have even those professors that come to him with pretences only, come to him sincerely, that they may be saved.
The text, you will find, is, after much more discourse with and about this people, and it is uttered by the Lord Jesus as the conclusion of the whole, and intimateth that, since they were professors in pretence only, and therefore such as his soul could not delight in, as such, that he would content himself with a remnant that his Father had bestowed upon him. As who should say, I am not like to be honoured in your salvation; but the Father hath bestowed upon me a people, and they shall come to me in truth, and in them will I be satisfied. The text, therefore, may be called Christ's repose; in the fulfilling whereof he resteth himself content, after much labour and many sermons spent, as it were, in vain. As he saith by the prophet, "I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain" (Isa 49:4).
But as there he saith, "My judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God;" so in the text he saith, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." By these words, therefore, the Lord Jesus comforteth himself under the consideration of the dissimulation of some of his followers. He also thus betook himself to rest under the consideration of the little effect that his ministry had in Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida: "I thank thee, O Father," said he, "Lord of heaven and earth, because thou has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight" (Matt 11:25; Luke 10:21).
The text, in the general, standeth of TWO PARTS, and hath special respect to the Father and the Son; as also to their joint management of the salvation of the people: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." The first part of the text, as is evident, respecteth the Father and his gift; the other part the Son and his reception of that gift.
FIRST, For the gift of the Father there is this to be considered, to wit, the gift itself; and that is the gift of certain persons to the Son. The Father giveth, and that gift shall come: "And him that cometh." The gift, then, is of persons; the Father giveth persons to Jesus Christ.
SECOND, Next you have the Son's reception of this gift, and that showeth itself in these particulars:—1. In his hearty acknowledgement of it to be a gift: "The Father giveth me." 2. In his taking notice, after a solemn manner, of all and every part of the gift: "All that the Father giveth me." 3. In his resolution to bring them to himself: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." 4. And in his determining that not anything shall make him dislike them in their coming: "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
These things might be spoken to at large, as they are in this method presented to view: but I shall choose to speak to the words, FIRST, BY WAY OF EXPLICATION. SECOND, BY WAY OF OBSERVATION.
[FIRST, THE TEXT TREATED BY WAY OF EXPLICATION.]
[THE EXTENT OF THE GIFT.]
"All that the Father giveth me." This word all, is often used in Scripture, and is to be taken more largely, or more strictly, even as the truth or argument, for the sake of which it is made use of, will bear. Wherefore, that we may the better understand the mind of Christ in the use of it here, we must consider, that it is limited and restrained only to those that shall be saved, to wit, to those that shall come to Christ; even to those whom he will "in no wise cast out." Thus, also, the words all Israel, is sometimes to be taken, although sometimes it is taken for the whole family of Jacob. "And so all Israel shall be saved" (Rom 11:26). By all Israel here, he intendeth not all of Israel, in the largest sense; "for they are not all Israel which are of Israel;" "neither because they are of the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom 9:6-8).
This word ALL, therefore, must be limited and enlarged, as the truth and argument, for the sake of which it is used, will bear; else we shall abuse Scripture, and readers, and ourselves, and all. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth," said Christ, "will draw ALL men unto me" (John 12:32). Can any man imagine, that by ALL, in this place, he should mean all and every individual man in the world, and not rather that all that is consonant to the scope of the place? And if, by being "lifted up from the earth," he means, as he should seem, his being taken up into heaven; and if, by "drawing ALL men after him," he meant a drawing them unto that place of glory; then must he mean by ALL men, those, and only those, that shall in truth be eternally saved from the wrath to come. "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all" (Rom 11:32). Here again you have all and all, two alls; but yet a greater disparity between the all made mention of in the first place, and that all made mention of the second. Those intended in this text are the Jews, even all of them, by the first all that you find in the words. The second all doth also intend the same people; but yet only so many of them as God will have mercy upon. "He hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all." The all also in the text, is likewise to be limited and restrained to the saved, and to them only. But again;—
The word "giveth," or "hath given," must be restrained, after the same manner, to the same limited number. "All that the Father giveth me." Not all that are given, if you take the gift of the Father to the Son in the largest sense; for in that sense there are many given to him that shall never come unto him; yea, many are given unto him that he will "cast out." I shall, therefore, first show you the truth of this; and then in what sense the gift in the text must be taken.
First, [ALL cannot be intended in its largest sense.] That ALL that are given to Christ, if you take the gift of the Father to him in the largest sense, cannot be intended in the text, is evident—
1. Because, then, all the men, yea, all the things in the world, must be saved. "All things," saith he, "are delivered unto me of my Father" (Matt 11:27). This, I think, no rational man in the world will conclude. Therefore, the gift intended in the text must be restrained to some, to a gift that is given by way of speciality by the Father to the Son.
2. It must not be taken for ALL, that in any sense are given by the Father to him, because the Father hath given some, yea, many to him, to be dashed in pieces by him. "Ask of me," said the Father to him, "and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." But what must be done with them? must he save them all? No. "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" (Psa 2). This method he useth not with them that he saveth by his grace, but with those that himself and saints shall rule over in justice and severity (Rev 2:26,27). Yet, as you see, "they are given to him." Therefore, the gift intended in the text must be restrained to some, to a gift that is given by way of speciality by the Father to the Son.
In Psalm 18 he saith plainly, that some are given to him that he might destroy them. "Thou hast given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me" (verse 40). These, therefore, cannot be of the number of those that are said to be given in the text; for those, even ALL of them, shall come to him, "and he will in no wise cast them out."
3. Some are given to Christ, that he by them might bring about some of his high and deep designs in the world. Thus Judas was given to Christ, to wit, that by him, even as was determined before, he might bring about his death, and so the salvation of his elect by his blood. Yea, and Judas must so manage this business, as that he must lose himself for ever in bringing it to pass. Therefore the Lord Jesus, even in his losing of Judas, applies himself to the judgment of his Father, if he had not in that thing done that which was right, even in suffering of Judas so to bring about his Master's death, as that he might, by so doing, bring about his own eternal damnation also.
"Those," said he, "that thou gavest me, I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12). Let us, then, grant that Judas was given to Christ, but not as others are given to him, not as those made mention of in the text; for then he should have failed to have been so received by Christ, and kept to eternal life. Indeed, he was given to Christ; but he was given to him to lose him, in the way that I have mentioned before; he was given to Christ, that he by him might bring about his own death, as was before determined; and that in the overthrow of him that did it. Yea, he must bring about his own death, as was before determined, and that in the overthrow of him that did it. Yea, he must bring about his dying for us in the loss of the instrument that betrayed him, that he might even fulfil the Scripture in his destruction, as well as in the salvation of the rest. "And none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled."
[Second, Those intended as the gift.]—The gift, therefore, in the text, must not be taken in the largest sense, but even as the words will bear, to wit, for such a gift as he accepteth, and promiseth to be an effectual means of eternal salvation to. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Mark! they shall come that are in special given to me; and they shall by no means be rejected. For this is the substance of the text.
Those, therefore, intended as the gift in the text, are those that are given by covenant to the Son; those that in other places are called "the elect," "the chosen," "the sheep," and "the children of the promise," &c. These be they that the Father hath given to Christ to keep them; those that Christ hath promised eternal life unto; those to whom he hath given his word, and that he will have with him in his kingdom to behold his glory.
"This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day" (John 6:39). "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28). "As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. Thine they were, and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy word; I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them." "Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are." "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:1,6,9,10,24).
All these sentences are of the same import with the text; and the alls and manies, those, they, &c., in these several sayings of Christ, are the same with all the given in the text. "All that the Father giveth."
So that, as I said before, the word ALL, as also other words, must not be taken in such sort as our foolish fancies or groundless opinions will prompt us to, but do admit of an enlargement or a restriction, according to the true meaning and intent of the text. We must therefore diligently consult the meaning of the text, by comparing it with other the sayings of God; so shall we be better able to find out the mind of the Lord, in the word which he has given us to know it by.
[THE PERSON GIVING, THE FATHER.]
"All that the Father giveth." By this word "Father," Christ describeth the person giving; by which we may learn several useful things.
First, That the Lord God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is concerned with the Son in the salvation of his people. True, his acts, as to our salvation, are diverse from those of the Son; he was not capable of doing that, or those things for us, as did the Son; he died not, he spilt not blood for our redemption, as the Son; but yet he hath a hand, a great hand, in our salvation too. As Christ saith, "The Father himself loveth you," and his love is manifest in choosing of us, in giving of us to his Son; yea, and in giving his Son also to be a ransom for us. Hence he is called, "The Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort." For here even the Father hath himself found out, and made way for his grace to come to us through the sides and the heart-blood of his well-beloved Son (Col 1:12-14). The Father, therefore, is to be remembered and adored, as one having a chief hand in the salvation of sinners. We ought to give "thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col 1:12). For "the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world" (John 4:14). As also we see in the text, the "Father giveth" the sinner to Christ to save him.
Second, Christ Jesus the Lord, by this word "Father," would familiarize this giver to us. Naturally the name of God is dreadful to us, especially when he is discovered to us by those names that declare his justice, holiness, power, and glory; but now this word "Father" is a familiar word, it frighteth not the sinner, but rather inclineth his heart to love, and be pleased with the remembrance of him. Hence Christ also, when he would have us to pray with godly boldness, puts this word "Father" into our mouths; saying, "When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven;" concluding thereby, that by the familiarity that by such a word is intimated, the children of God may take more boldness to pray for, and ask great things. I myself have often found, that when I can say but this word Father, it doth me more good than when I call him by any other Scripture name. It is worth your noting, that to call God by his relative title was rare among the saints in Old Testament times. Seldom do you find him called by this name; no, sometimes not in three or four books: but now in New Testament times, he is called by no name so often as this, both by the Lord Jesus himself, and by the apostles afterwards. Indeed, the Lord Jesus was he that first made this name common among the saints, and that taught them, both in their discourses, their prayers, and in their writings, so much to use it; it being more pleasing to, and discovering more plainly our interest in, God, than any other expression; for by this one name we are made to understand that all our mercies are the offspring of God, and that we also that are called are his children by adoption.
[Import of the word GIVETH.]—"All that the Father giveth."
This word "giveth" is out of Christ's ordinary dialect, and seemeth to intimate, at the first sound, as if the Father's gift to the Son was not an act that is past, but one that is present and continuing; when, indeed, this gift was bestowed upon Christ when the covenant, the eternal covenant, was made between them before all worlds. Wherefore, in those other places, when this gift is mentioned, it is still spoken of, as of an act that is past; as, "All that he hath give me; to as many as thou hast given me; thou gavest them me; and those which thou hast given me." Therefore, of necessity, this must be the first and chief sense of the text; I mean of this word "giveth," otherwise the doctrine of election, and of the eternal covenant which was made between the Father and the Son, in which covenant this gift of the Father is most certainly comprised, will be shaken, or at leastwise questionable, by erroneous and wicked men: for they may say, That the Father gave not all those to Christ that shall be saved, before the world was made; for that this act of giving is an act of continuation. 3 But again, this word "giveth" is not to be rejected, for it hath its proper use, and may signify to us—
1. That though the act of giving among men doth admit of the time past, or the time to come, and is to be spoken of with reference to such time; yet with God it is not so. Things past, or things to come, are always present with God, and with his Son Jesus Christ: He "calleth those things which be not," that is, to us, "as though they were" (Rom 4:17). And again, "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." All things to God are present, and so the gift of the Father to the Son, although to us, as is manifest by the word, it is an act that is past (Acts 15:16).
2. Christ may express himself thus, to show, that the Father hath not only given him this portion in the lump, before the world was, but that those that he had so given, he will give him again; that is, will bring them to him at the time of their conversion; for the Father bringeth them to Christ (John 6:44). As it is said, "She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needle-work;" that is, in the righteousness of Christ; for it is God that imputeth that to those that are saved (Psa 45:14; 1 Cor 1). A man giveth his daughter to such a man, first in order to marriage, and this respects the time past, and he giveth her again at the day appointed in marriage. And in this last sense, perhaps, the text may have a meaning; that is, that all that the Father hath, before the world was, given to Jesus Christ, he giveth them again to him in the day of their espousals.
Things that are given among men, are ofttimes best at first; to wit, when they are new; and the reason is, because all earthly things wax old; but with Christ it is not so. This gift of the Father is not old and deformed, and unpleasant in his eyes; and therefore to him it is always new. When the Lord spake of giving the land of Canaan to the Israelites, he saith not, that he had given, or would give it to them, but thus: "The Lord thy God giveth thee—this good land" (Deut 9:6). Not but that he had given it to them, while they were in the loins of their fathers, hundreds of years before. Yet he saith now he giveth it to them; as if they were now also in the very act of taking possession, when as yet they were on the other side Jordan. What then should be the meaning? Why, I take it to be this. That the land should be to them always as new; as new as if they were taking possession thereof but now. And so is the gift of the Father, mentioned in the text, to the Son; it is always new, as if it were always new.
"All that the Father giveth me." In these words you find mention made of two persons, the Father and the Son; the Father giving, and the Son receiving or accepting of this gift. This, then, in the first place, clearly demonstrateth, that the Father and the Son, though they, with the Holy Ghost, are one and the same eternal God; yet, as to their personality, are distinct. The Father is one, the Son is one, the Holy Spirit is one. But because there is in this text mention made but of two of the three, therefore a word about these two. The giver and receiver cannot be the same person in a proper sense, in the same act of giving and receiving. He that giveth, giveth not to himself, but to another; the Father giveth not to the Father, to wit, to himself, but to the Son: the Son receiveth not of the Son, to wit, of himself, but of the Father: so when the Father giveth commandment, he giveth it not to himself, but to another; as Christ saith, "He gave me a commandment" (John 12:49). So again, "I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me" (John 8:18).
Further, here is something implied that is not expressed, to wit, that the Father hath not given all men to Christ; that is, in that sense as it is intended in this text, though in a larger, as was said before, he hath given him every one of them; for then all should be saved: he hath, therefore, disposed of some another way. He gives some up to idolatry; he gives some up to uncleanness, to vile affections, and to a reprobate mind. Now these he disposeth of in his anger, for their destruction, that they may reap the fruit of their doings, and be filled with the reward of their own ways (Acts 7:42; Rom 1:24,26,28). But neither hath he thus disposed of all men; he hath even of mercy reserved some from these judgments, and those are they that he will pardon, as he saith, "For I will pardon them whom I reserve" (Jer 50:20). Now these he hath given to Jesus Christ, by will, as a legacy and portion. Hence the Lord Jesus says, "This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day" (John 6:39).
[THE FATHER'S INTENT IN GIVING.]
The Father, therefore, in giving of them to him to save them, must needs declare unto us these following things:—
First, That he is able to answer this design of God, to wit, to save them to the uttermost sin, the uttermost temptation, &c. (Heb 7:25). Hence he is said to lay "help upon one that is mighty," "mighty to save" (Psa 89:19; Isa 63:1) and hence it is again, that God did even of old promise to send his people "a Saviour, a great one" (Isa 19:20). To save is a great work, and calls for almightiness in the undertaker: hence he is called the "Mighty God, the wonderful Counsellor," &c. Sin is strong, Satan is also strong, death and the grave are strong, and so is the curse of the law; therefore it follows, that this Jesus must needs be, by God the Father, accounted almighty, in that he hath given his elect to him to save them, and deliver them from these, and that in despite of all their force and power.
And he gave us testimony of this his might, when he was employed in that part of our deliverance that called for a declaration of it. He abolished death; he destroyed him that had the power of death; he was the destruction of the grave; he hath finished sin, and made an end of it, as to its damning effects upon the persons that the Father hath given him; he hath vanquished the curse of the law, nailed it to his cross, triumphed over them upon his cross, and made a show of these things openly (2 Tim 1:10; Heb 2:14,15; Hosea 13:14; Dan 9:24; Gal 3:13; Col 2:14,15). Yea, and even now, as a sign of his triumph and conquest, he is alive from the dead, and hath the keys of hell and death in his own keeping (Rev 1:18).
Second, The Father's giving of them to him to save them, declares unto us that he is and will be faithful in his office of Mediator, and that therefore they shall be secured from the fruit and wages of their sins, which is eternal damnation, by his faithful execution of it. And, indeed, it is said, even by the Holy Ghost himself, That he "was faithful to him that appointed him," that is, to this work of saving those that the Father hath given him for that purpose; as "Moses was faithful in all his house." Yea, and more faithful too, for Moses was faithful in God's house but as a servant; "but Christ as a Son over his own house" (Heb 3). And therefore this man is counted worthy of more glory than Moses, even upon this account, because more faithful than he, as well as because of the dignity of his person. Therefore in him, and in his truth and faithfulness, God resteth well pleased, and hath put all the government of this people upon his shoulders. Knowing that nothing shall be wanting in him, that may any way perfect this design. And of this he, to wit, the Son, hath already given a proof. For when the time was come, that his blood was, by Divine justice, required for their redemption, washing, and cleansing, he as freely poured it out of his heart, as if it had been water out of a vessel; not sticking to part with his own life, that the life which was laid up for his people in heaven might not fail to be bestowed upon them. And upon this account, as well as upon any other, it is that God calleth him "my righteous servant" (Isa 53:11). For his righteousness could never have been complete, if he had not been to the uttermost faithful to the work he undertook; it is also, because he is faithful and true, that in righteousness he doth judge and make work for his people's deliverance. He will faithfully perform this trust reposed in him. The Father knows this, and hath therefore given his elect unto him.
Third, The Father's giving of them to him, to save them, declares that he is, and will be gentle, and patient towards them, under all their provocations and miscarriages. It is not to be imagined, the trials and provocations that the Son of God hath all along had with these people that have been given to him that saves them: indeed he is said to be "a tried stone;" for he has been tried, not only by the devil, guilt of sin, death, and the curse of the law, but also by his people's ignorance, unruliness, falls into sin, and declining to errors in life and doctrine. Were we but capable of seeing how this Lord Jesus has been tried even by his people, ever since there was one of them in the world, we should be amazed at his patience and gentle carriages to them. It is said, indeed, "The Lord is very pitiful, slow to anger, and of great mercy." And, indeed, if he had not been so, he could never have endured their manners as he has done from Adam hitherto. Therefore is his pity and bowels towards his church preferred above the pity and bowels of a mother towards her child. "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee," saith the Lord (Isa 49:15).
God did once give Moses, as Christ's servant, an handful of his people, to carry them in his bosom, but no further than from Egypt to Canaan; and this Moses, as is said of him by the Holy Ghost, was the meekest man that was then to be found in the earth; yea, and he loved the people at a very great rate; yet neither would his meekness nor love hold out in this work; he failed and grew passionate, even to the provoking his God to anger under this work. "And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant?" But what was the affliction? Why, the Lord had said unto him, "Carry this people in thy bosom as a nursing father beareth the suckling child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers." And how then? Not I, says Moses, "I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. If thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, and let me not see my wretchedness" (Num 11:11-15).
God gave them to Moses, that he might carry them in his bosom, that he might show gentleness and patience towards them, under all the provocations wherewith they would provoke him from that time till he had brought them to their land; but he failed in the work; he could not exercise it, because he had not that sufficiency of patience towards them. But now it is said of the person speaking in the text, "That he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isa 40:11). Intimating, that this was one of the qualifications that God looked for, and knew was in him, when he gave his elect to him to save them.
Fourth, The Father giving of him to save them, declares that he hath a sufficiency of wisdom to wage with all those difficulties that would attend him in his bringing of his sons and daughters unto glory. He made him to us to be wisdom; yea, he is called wisdom itself (1 Cor 1:30). And God saith, moreover, That "he shall deal prudently" (Isa 52:13). And, indeed, he that shall take upon him to be the Saviour of the people, had need be wise, because their adversaries are subtle above any. Here they are to encounter with the serpent, who for his subtilty outwitted our father and mother, when their wisdom was at highest (Gen 3). But if we talk of wisdom, our Jesus is wise, wiser than Solomon, wiser than all men, wiser than all angels; he is even the wisdom of God. "Christ is the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24). And hence it is that he turneth sin, temptations, persecutions, falls, and all things, for good unto his people (Rom 8:28).
Now these things thus concluded on do show us also the great and wonderful love of the Father, in that he should choose out one every way so well prepared for the work of man's salvation.
Herein, indeed, perceive we the love of God. Huram gathered, that God loved Israel because he had given them such a king as Solomon (2 Chron 2:11). But how much more may we behold the love that God hath bestowed upon us, in that he hath given us to his Son, and also given his Son for us?
[THE SON'S RECEPTION OF THE GIFT.]
"All that the Father giveth me SHALL COME." In these last words there is closely inserted an answer unto the Father's end in giving of his elect to Jesus Christ. The Father's end was, that they might come to him, and be saved by him; and that, says the Son, shall be done; neither sin nor Satan, neither flesh nor world, neither wisdom nor folly, shall hinder their coming to me. "They shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
Here, therefore, the Lord Jesus positively determineth to put forth such a sufficiency of all grace as shall effectually perform this promise. "They shall come;" that is, he will cause them to come, by infusing of an effectual blessing into all the means that shall be used to that end. As was said to the evil spirit that was sent to persuade Ahab to go and fall at Ramoth-Gilead; Go: "Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so" (1 Kings 22:22). So will Jesus Christ say to the means that shall be used for the bringing of those to him that the Father hath given him. I say, he will bless it effectually to this very end; it shall persuade them, and shall prevail also; else, as I said, the Father's end would be frustrate; for the Father's will is, that "of all which he hath given him, he should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day," (John 6:39); in order next unto himself, Christ the first-fruits, afterwards those that are his at his coming (1 Cor 15). But this cannot be done if there should fail to be a work of grace effectually wrought, though but in any one of them. But this shall not fail to be wrought in them, even in all the Father hath given him to save. "All that the Father hath given me shall come unto me," &c.
But to speak more distinctly to the words, THEY "SHALL COME," two things I would show you from these words—FIRST, What it is to come to Christ. SECOND, What force there is in this promise, to make them come to him.
[WHAT IT IS TO COME TO CHRIST.]
FIRST, I would show you WHAT IT IS TO COME TO CHRIST. This word come must be understood spiritually, not carnally; for many came to him carnally, or bodily, that had no saving advantage by him. Multitudes did thus come unto him in the days of his flesh; yea, innumerable companies. There is also at this day a formal customary coming to his ordinances and ways of worship, which availeth not anything; but with them I shall not now meddle, for they are not intended in the text. The coming, then, intended in the text is to be understood of the coming of the mind to him, even the moving of the heart towards him. I say the moving of the heart towards him, from a sound sense of the absolute want that a man hath of him for his justification and salvation.
This description of coming to Christ divideth itself into two heads: First, That coming to Christ is a moving of the mind towards him. Second, That it is a moving of the mind towards him, from a sound sense of the absolute want that a man hath of him for his justification and salvation.
[First.] To speak to the first, that it is a moving of the mind towards him. This is evident; because coming hither or thither, if it be voluntary, is by an act of the mind or will; so coming to Christ is through the inclining of the will. "Thy people shall be willing" (Psa 110:3). This willingness of heart is it which sets the mind a-moving after or towards him. The church expresseth this moving of her mind towards Christ by the moving of her bowels. "My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him" (Can 5:4). "My bowels;" the passions of my mind and affections; which passions of the affections are expressed by the yearning and sounding of the bowels, the yearning or passionate working of them, the sounding of them, or their making a noise for him (Gen 43:30; 1 Kings 3:26; Isa 16:11).
This, then, is the coming to Christ, even a moving towards him with the mind. 4 "And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live" (Eze 47:9). The water in this text is the grace of God in the doctrine of it. The living things are the children of men, to whom the grace of God, by the gospel, is preached. Now, saith he, every living thing which moveth, whithersoever the water shall come, shall live. And see how this word moveth is expounded by Christ himself, in the book of the Revelations: "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will," that is, willing, "let him take the water of life freely" (Rev 22:17).
So that to move in thy mind and will after Christ, is to be coming to him. There are many poor souls that are coming to Christ, that yet cannot tell how to believe it, because they think that coming to him is some strange and wonderful thing; and, indeed, so it is. But I mean, they overlook the inclination of their will, the moving of their mind, and the sounding of their bowels after him; and count these none of this strange and wonderful thing; when, indeed, it is a work of greatest wonder in this world, to see a man who was sometimes dead in sin possessed of the devil, an enemy to Christ and to all things spiritually good; I say, to see this man moving with his mind after the Lord Jesus Christ, is one of the highest wonders in the world.
Second, It is a moving of the mind towards him, from a sound sense of the absolute want that a man hath of him for his justification and salvation. Indeed, without this sense of a lost condition without him, there will be no moving of the mind towards him. A moving of their mouth there may be; "With their mouth they show much love" (Eze 33:31). Such a people as this will come as the true people cometh; that is, in show and outward appearance. And they will sit before God's ministers, as his people sit before them; and they will hear his words too, but they will not do them; that is, will not come inwardly with their minds. "For with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart," or mind, "goeth after their covetousness." Now, all this is because they want an effectual sense of the misery of their state by nature; for not till they have that will they, in their mind, move after him. Therefore, thus it is said concerning the true comers, At "that day the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem" (Isa 27:13). They are then, as you see, the outcasts, and those that are ready to perish, that, indeed, have their minds effectually moved to come to Jesus Christ. This sense of things was that which made the three thousand come, that made Saul come, that made the jailer come, and that, indeed, makes all others come, that come effectually (Acts 2:8,18).
Of the true coming to Christ, the four lepers were a famous semblance, of whom you read, (2 Kings 7:3), &c. The famine in those days was sore in the land, there was no bread for the people; and as for that sustenance that was, which was asses' flesh and doves' dung, that was only in Samaria, and of these the lepers had no share, for they were thrust without the city. Well, now they sat in the gate of the city, and hunger was, as I may say, making his last meal of them; and being, therefore, half dead already, what do they think of doing? Why, first they display the dismal colours of death before each other's faces, and then resolve what to do, saying, "If we say we will enter into the city, then famine is in the city, and we shall die there: if we sit still here, we die also. Now, therefore, come, let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; if they kill us, we shall but die." Here, now, was necessity at work, and this necessity drove them to go thither for life, whither else they would never have gone for it. Thus it is with them that in truth come to Jesus Christ. Death is before them, they see it and feel it; he is feeding upon them, and will eat them quite up, if they come not to Jesus Christ; and therefore they come, even of necessity, being forced thereto by that sense they have of their being utterly and everlastingly undone, if they find not safety in him. These are they that will come. Indeed, these are they that are invited to come. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28).
Take two or three things to make this more plain; to wit, That coming to Christ floweth from a sound sense of the absolute need that a man hath of him, as afore.
1. "They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them; I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way wherein they shall not stumble" (Jer 31:9). Mind it; they come with weeping and supplication; they come with prayers and tears. Now prayers and tears are the effects of a right sense of the need of mercy. Thus a senseless sinner cannot come, he cannot pray, he cannot cry, he cannot come sensible of what he sees not, nor feels. "In those days, and in that time—the children of Israel shall come; they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten" (Jer 1:4,5).
2. This coming to Christ, it is called a running to him, as flying to him; a flying to him from wrath to come. By all which terms is set forth the sense of the man that comes; to wit, That he is affected with the sense of his sin, and the death due thereto; that he is sensible that the avenger of blood pursues him, and that, therefore, he is thus off, if he makes not speed to the Son of God for life (Matt 3:7; Psa 143:9). Flying is the last work of a man in danger; all that are in danger do not fly; no, not all that see themselves in danger; flying is the last work of a man in danger; all that hear of danger will not fly. Men will consider if there be no other way of escape before they fly. Therefore, as I said, flying is the last thing. When all refuge fails, and a man is made to see that there is nothing left him but sin, death, and damnation, unless he flies to Christ for life; then he flies, and not till then.
3. That the true coming is from a sense of an absolute need of Jesus Christ to save, &c., is evident by the outcry that is made by them to come, even as they are coming to him, "Lord, save me," or I perish; "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" and the like (Matt 14:30; Acts 2:37; 16:30). This language doth sufficiently discover that the truly-coming souls are souls sensible of their need of salvation by Jesus Christ; and, moreover, that there is nothing else that can help them but Christ.
4. It is yet further evident by these few things that follow: It is said that such are "pricked in their heart," that is, with the sentence of death by the law; and the least prick in the heart kills a man (Acts 2:37). Such are said, as I said before, to weep, to tremble, and to be astonished in themselves at the evident and unavoidable danger that attends them, unless they fly to Jesus Christ (Acts 9:16).
5. Coming to Christ is attended with an honest and sincere forsaking of all for him. "If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26,27).
By these and the like expressions elsewhere, Christ describeth the true comer, or the man that indeed is coming to him; he is one that casteth all behind his back; he leaveth all, he forsaketh all, he hateth all things that would stand in his way to hinder his coming to Jesus Christ. There are a great many pretended comers to Jesus Christ in the world; and they are much like to the man you read of in Matthew 21:30, that said to his father's bidding, "I go, Sir, and went not." I say, there are a great many such comers to Jesus Christ; they say, when Christ calls by his gospel, I come, Sir; but still they abide by their pleasures and carnal delights. They come not at all, only they give him a courtly compliment; but he takes notice of it, and will not let it pass for any more than a lie. He said, "I go, Sir, and went not;" he dissembled and lied. Take heed of this, you that flatter yourselves with your own deceivings. Words will not do with Jesus Christ. Coming is coming, and nothing else will go for coming with him.
[Objections that usually lie in the way of coming to Christ.]
Before I speak to the other head, I shall answer some objections that usually lie in the way of those that in truth are coming to Jesus Christ.
Objection 1. Though I cannot deny but my mind runs after Christ, and that too as being moved thereto from a sight and consideration of my lost condition, for I see without him I perish; yet I fear my ends are not right in coming to him.
Quest. Why, what is thine end in coming to Christ?
Answ. My end is, that I might have life, and be saved by Jesus Christ.
This is the objection; well, let me tell thee, that to come to Christ for life, and to be saved, although at present thou hast no other end, is a lawful and good coming to Jesus Christ. This is evident, because Christ propoundeth life as the only argument to prevail with sinners to come to him, and so also blameth them because they come not to him for life. "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (John 5:40). Besides, there are many other scriptures whereby he allureth sinners to come to him, in which he propoundeth nothing to them but their safety. As, "whosoever believeth in him should not perish;" he that believeth is "passed from death unto life." "He that believeth—shall be saved." "He that believeth on him is not condemned." And believing and coming are all one. So that you see, to come to Christ for life, is a lawful coming and good. In that he believeth, that he alone hath made atonement for sin (Rom 2). And let me add over and above, that for a man to come to Christ for life, though he comes to him for nothing else but life, it is to give much honour to him.
1. He honoureth the word of Christ, and consenteth to the truth of it; and that in these two general heads. (1.) He consenteth to the truth of all those sayings that testify that sin is most abominable in itself, dishonourable to God, and damnable to the soul of man; for thus saith the man that cometh to Jesus Christ (Jer 44:4; Rom 2:23; 6:23; 2 Thess 2:12). (2.) In that he believeth, as the word hath said, that there is in the world's best things, righteousness and all, nothing but death and damnation; for so also says the man that comes to Jesus Christ for life (Rom 7:24,25; 8:2,3; 2 Cor 3:6-8).
2. He honoureth Christ's person, in that he believeth that there is life in him, and that he is able to save him from death, hell, the devil, and damnation; for unless a man believes this, he will not come to Christ for life (Heb 7:24,25).
3. He honoureth him, in that he believeth that he is authorized of the Father to give life to those that come to him for it (John 5:11,12; 17:1-3).
4. He honoureth the priesthood of Jesus Christ. (1.) In that he believeth that Christ hath more power to save from sin by the sacrifice that he hath offered for it, than hath all law, devils, death, or sin to condemn. He that believes not this, will not come to Jesus Christ for life (Acts 13:38; Heb 2:14,15; Rev 1:17,18). (2.) In that he believeth that Christ, according to his office, will be most faithful and merciful in the discharge of his office. This must be included in the faith of him that comes for life to Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1-3; Heb 2:17,18).
5. Further, He that cometh to Jesus Christ for life, taketh part with him against sin, and against the ragged and imperfect righteousness of the world; yea, and against false Christs, and damnable errors, that set themselves against the worthiness of his merits and sufficiency. This is evident, for that such a soul singleth Christ out from them all, as the only one that can save.
6. Therefore as Noah, at God's command, thou preparest this ark, for the saving of thyself, by which also thou condemnest the world, and art become heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Heb 11:7). Wherefore, coming sinner, be content; he that cometh to Jesus Christ, believeth too that he is willing to show mercy to, and have compassion upon him, though unworthy, that comes to him for life. And therefore thy soul lieth not only under a special invitation to come, but under a promise too of being accepted and forgiven (Matt 11:28).
All these particular parts and qualities of faith are in that soul that comes to Jesus Christ for life, as is evident to any indifferent judgment. For, will he that believeth not the testimony of Christ concerning the baseness of sin, and the insufficiency of the righteousness of the world, come to Christ for life? No. He that believeth not this testimony of the word, comes not. He that believeth that there is life anywhere else, comes not. He that questions whether the Father hath given Christ power to forgive, comes not. He that thinketh that there is more in sin, in the law, in death, and the devil, to destroy, than there is in Christ to save, comes not. He also that questions his faithful management of his priesthood for the salvation of sinners, comes not.
Thou, then, that art indeed the coming sinner, believest all this. True, perhaps thou dost not believe with that full assurance, nor hast thou leisure to take notice of thy faith as to these distinct acts of it; but yet all this faith is in him coming to Christ for life. And the faith that thus worketh, is the faith of the best and purest kind; because this man comes alone as a sinner, and as seeing that life is, and is to be had only in Jesus Christ.
Before I conclude my answer to this objection, take into thy consideration these two things.
1st. [Consider] that the cities of refuge were erected for those that were dead in law, and that yet would live by grace; even for those that were to fly thither for life from the avenger of blood that pursueth after them. And it is worth your noting, that those that were upon their flight thither, are in a peculiar manner called the people of God: "Cast ye up, cast ye up," saith God; "prepare the way; take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people" (Isa 57:14). This is meant of preparing the way to the city of refuge, that the slayers might escape thither; which flying slayers are here, by way of specialty, called the people of God; even those of them that escaped thither for life.
2dly. [Consider] that of Ahab, when Benhadad sent to him for life, saying, "Thus saith thy servant Benhadad, I pray thee let me live." Though Benhadad had sought the crown, kingdom, yea, and also the life of Ahab, yet how effectually doth Benhadad prevail with him! Is Benhadad yet alive? saith Ahab; He is my brother; yea, go ye, bring him to me. So he made him ride in his chariot (1 Kings 20).
Coming sinner, what thinkest thou? If Jesus Christ had as little goodness in him as Ahab, he might grant an humble Benhadad life; thou neither beggest of him his crown and dignity; life, eternal life, will serve thy turn. How much more then shalt thou have it, since thou hast to deal with him who is goodness and mercy itself! yea, since thou art also called upon, yea, greatly encouraged by a promise of life, to come unto him for life! Read also these Scriptures, Numbers 35:11,14,15, Joshua 20:1-6, Hebrews 6:16-21.
Object. 2. When I say I only seek myself, I mean I do not find that I do design God's glory in mine own salvation by Christ, and that makes me fear I do not come aright.
Answ. Where doth Christ Jesus require such a qualification of those that are coming to him for life? Come thou for life, and trouble not thy head with such objections against thyself, and let God and Christ alone to glorify themselves in the salvation of such a worm as thou art. The Father saith to the Son, "Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified." God propoundeth life to sinners, as the argument to prevail with them to come to him for life; and Christ says plainly, "I am come that they might have life" (John 10:10). He hath no need of thy designs, though thou hast need of his. Eternal life, pardon of sin, and deliverance from wrath to come, Christ propounds to thee, and these be the things that thou hast need of; besides, God will be gracious and merciful to worthless, undeserving wretches; come then as such an one, and lay no stumblingblocks in the way to him, but come to him for life, and live (John 5:34; 10:10; 3:36; Matt 1:21; Prov 8:35,36; 1 Thess 1:10; John 11:25,26).
When the jailer said, "Sirs, What must I do to be saved?" Paul did not so much as once ask him, What is your end in this question? do you design the glory of God, in the salvation of your soul? He had more wit; he knew that such questions as these would have been but fools' babbles about, instead of a sufficient salve5 "Which Cambell seeing, though he could not salve, to so weighty a question as this. Wherefore, since this poor wretch lacked salvation by Jesus Christ, I mean to be saved from hell and death," which he knew, now, was due to him for the sins that he had committed, Paul bids him, like a poor condemned sinner as he was, to proceed still in this his way of self-seeking, saying, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:30-32). I know that afterwards thou wilt desire to glorify Christ by walking in the way of his precepts; but at present thou wantest life; the avenger of blood is behind thee, and the devil like a roaring lion is behind thee; well, come now, and obtain life from these; and when thou hast obtained some comfortable persuasion that thou art made partaker of life by Christ, then, and not till then, thou wilt say, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: 6 who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies" (Psa 103:1-4).
Object. 3. But I cannot believe that I come to Christ aright, because sometimes I am apt to question his very being and office to save.
Thus to do is horrible; but mayest thou not judge amiss in this matter? How can I judge amiss, when I judge as I feel? Poor soul! Thou mayest judge amiss for all that. Why, saith the sinner, I think that these questionings come from my heart. Let me answer. That which comes from thy heart, comes from thy will and affections, from thy understanding, judgment, and conscience, for these must acquiesce in thy questioning, if thy questioning be with thy heart. And how sayest thou, for to name no more, dost thou with thy affection and conscience thus question? Answ. No, my conscience trembles when such thoughts come into my mind; and my affections are otherwise inclined.
Then I conclude, that these things are either suddenly injected by the devil, or else are the fruits of that body of sin and death that yet dwells within thee, or perhaps from both together.
If they come wholly from the devil, as they seem, because thy conscience and affections are against them, or if they come from that body of death that is in thee, and be not thou curious in inquiring from whether of them they come, the safest way is to lay enough at thy own door; nothing of this should hinder thy coming, nor make thee conclude thou comest not aright. 7 And before I leave thee, let me a little query with thee about this matter.
1. Dost thou like these wicked blasphemies? Answ. No, no, their presence and working kills me.
2. Dost thou mourn for them, pray against them, and hate thyself because of them? Answ. Yes, yes; but that which afflicts me is, I do not prevail against them.
3. Dost thou sincerely choose, mightest thou have thy choice, that thy heart might be affected and taken with the things that are best, most heavenly, and holy? Answ. With all my heart, and death the next hour, if it were God's will, rather than thus to sin against him.
Well then, thy not liking of them, thy mourning for them, thy praying against them, and thy loathing thyself because of them, with thy sincere choosing of those thoughts for thy delectation that are heavenly and holy, clearly declares, that these things are not countenanced either with thy will, affections, understanding, judgment, or conscience; and so, that thy heart is not in them, but that rather they come immediately from the devil, or arise from the body of death that is in thy flesh, of which thou oughtest thus to say, "Now, then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom 7:17).
I will give thee a pertinent instance. In Deuteronomy 22, thou mayest read of a betrothed damsel, one betrothed to her beloved, one that had given him her heart and mouth, as thou hast given thyself to Christ; yet was she met with as she walked in the field, by one that forced her, because he was stronger than she. Well, what judgment now doth God, the righteous judge, pass upon the damsel for this? "The man only that lay with her," saith God, "shall die. But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death. For, as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter; for he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her" (Deut 22:25-27).
Thou art this damsel. The man that forced thee with these blasphemous thoughts, is the devil; and he lighteth upon thee in a fit place, even in the field, as thou art wandering after Jesus Christ; but thou criest out, and by thy cry did show, that thou abhorrest such wicked lewdness. Well, the Judge of all the earth will do right; he will not lay the sin at thy door, but at his that offered the violence. And for thy comfort take this into consideration, that he came to heal them "that were oppressed of the devil" (Acts 10:38).
Object. 4. But, saith another, I am so heartless, so slow, and, as I think, so indifferent in my coming, that, to speak truth, I know not whether my kind of coming ought to be called a coming to Christ.
Answ. You know that I told you at first, that coming to Christ is a moving of the heart and affections towards him.
But, saith the soul, my dullness and indifferency in all holy duties, demonstrate my heartlessness in coming; and to come, and not with the heart, signifies nothing at all.
1. The moving of the heart after Christ is not to be discerned, at all times, by thy sensible affectionate performance of duties, but rather by those secret groanings and complaints which thy soul makes to God against that sloth that attends thee in duties.
2. But grant it to be even as thou sayest it is, that thou comest so slowly, &c., yet, since Christ bids them come that come not at all, surely they may be accepted that come, though attended with those infirmities which thou at present groanest under. He saith, "and him that cometh;" he saith not, If they come sensible; so fast; but, "and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." He saith also in the ninth of Proverbs, "As for him that wanteth understanding," that is, an heart (for oftentimes the understanding is taken for the heart), "come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled."
3. Thou mayest be vehement in thy spirit in coming to Jesus Christ, and yet be plagued with sensible sloth; so was the church when she cried, "Draw me, we will run after thee;" and Paul, when he said, "When I would do good, evil is present with me" (Song 14; Rom 7; Gal 5:19). The works, strugglings, and oppositions of the flesh, are more manifest than are the works of the Spirit in our hearts, and so are sooner felt than they. What then? Let us not be discouraged at the sight and feeling of our own infirmities, but run the faster to Jesus Christ for salvation.
4. Get thy heart warmed with the sweet promise of Christ's acceptance of the coming sinner, and that will make thee make more haste unto him. Discouraging thoughts they are like unto cold weather, they benumb the senses, and make us go ungainly about our business; but the sweet and warm gleads8 of promise are like the comfortable beams of the sun, which liven and refresh. 9 You see how little the bee and fly do play in the air in winter; why, the cold hinders them from doing it; but when the wind and sun is warm, who so busy as they?
5. But again, he that comes to Christ, flies for his life. Now, there is no man that flies for his life, that thinks he speeds fast enough on his journey; no, could he, he would willingly take a mile at a step. O my sloth and heartlessness, sayest thou! "Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest" (Psa 55:6,8).
Poor coming soul, thou art like the man that would ride full gallop, whose horse will hardly trot! Now, the desire of his mind is not to be judged of by the slow pace of the dull jade he rides on, but by the hitching, and kicking, and spurring, as he sits on his back. Thy flesh is like this dull jade; it will not gallop after Christ; it will be backward, though thy soul and heaven lie at stake. 10 But be of good comfort, Christ judgeth not according to the fierceness of outward motion (Mark 10:17) but according to the sincerity of the heart and inward parts (John 1:47; Psa 51:6; Matt 26:41).
6. Ziba, in appearance, came to David much faster than did Mephibosheth; but yet his heart was not so upright in him to David as was his. It is true, Mephibosheth had a check from David; for, said he, "Why wentest not thou with me, Mephibosheth?" But when David came to remember that Mephibosheth was lame, for that was his plea—"thy servant is lame" (2 Sam 19), he was content, and concluded, he would have come after him faster than he did; and Mephibosheth appealed to David, who was in those days as an angel of God, to know all things that are done in the earth, if he did not believe that the reason of his backwardness lay in his lameness, and not in his mind. Why, poor coming sinner, thou canst not come to Christ with that outward swiftness of a courier as many others do; but doth the reason of thy backwardness lie in thy mind and will, or in the sluggishness of the flesh? Canst thou say sincerely, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt 26:41). Yea, canst thou appeal to the Lord Jesus, who knoweth perfectly the very inmost thought of thy heart, that this is true? Then take this for thy comfort, he hath said, "I will assemble her that halteth—I will make her that halted a remnant," (Micah 4:6), "and I will save her that halteth" (Zeph 3:19). What canst thou have more from the sweet lips of the Son of God? But,
7. I read of some that are to follow Christ in chains; I say, to come after him in chains. "Thus saith the Lord, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee: in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee: they shall make supplication unto thee, saying—Surely there is none else" to save (Isa 45:14). Surely they that come after Christ in chains, come to him in great difficulty, because their steps, by the chains, are straitened. And what chains are so heavy as those that discourage thee? Thy chain, which is made up of guilt and filth, is heavy; it is a wretched bond about thy neck, by which thy strength doth fail (Lam 1:14; 3:18). But come, though thou comest in chains; it is glory to Christ that a sinner comes after him in chains. The chinking of thy chains, though troublesome to thee, are not, nor can be obstruction to thy salvation; it is Christ's work and glory to save thee from thy chains, to enlarge thy steps, and set thee at liberty. The blind man, though called, surely could not come apace to Jesus Christ, but Christ could stand still, and stay for him (Mark 10:49). True, "He rideth upon the wings of the wind;" but yet he is long-suffering, and his long-suffering is salvation to him that cometh to him (2 Peter 3:9).
8. Hadst thou seen those that came to the Lord Jesus in the days of his flesh, how slowly, how hobblingly, they came to him, by reason of their infirmities; and also how friendly, and kindly, and graciously, he received them, and gave them the desire of their hearts, thou wouldest not, as thou dost, make such objections against thyself, in thy coming to Jesus Christ.
Object. 5. But, says another, I fear I come too late; I doubt I have staid too long; I am afraid the door is shut.
Answ. Thou canst never come too late to Jesus Christ, if thou dost come. This is manifest by two instances.
1. By the man that came to him at the eleventh hour. This man was idle all the day long. He had a whole gospel day to come in, and he played it all away save only the last hour thereof. But at last, at the eleventh hour, he came, and goes into the vineyard to work with the rest of the labourers, that had borne the burden and heat of the day. Well, but how was he received by the lord of the vineyard? Why, when pay-day came, he had even as much as the rest; yea, had his money first. True, the others murmured at him; but what did the Lord Jesus answer them? "Is thine eye evil, because I am good? I will give unto this last, even as unto thee" (Matt 20:14,15).
2. The other instance is, the thief upon the cross. He came late also, even as at an hour before his death; yea, he stayed from Jesus Christ as long as he had liberty to be a thief, and longer too; for could he have deluded the judge, and by lying words have escaped his just condemnation, for ought I know, he had not come as yet to his Saviour; but being convicted, and condemned to die, yea, fastened to the cross, that he might die like a rogue, as he was in his life; behold the Lord Jesus, when this wicked one, even now, desireth mercy at his hands, tells him, and that without the least reflection upon him, for his former misspent life, "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Let no man turn this grace of God into wantonness. My design is now to encourage the coming soul.
Object. But is not the door of mercy shut against some before they die?
Answ. Yea; and God forbids that prayers should be made to him for them (Jer 6:16; Jude 22).
Quest. Then, why may not I doubt that I may be one of these?
Answ. By no means, if thou art coming to Jesus Christ; because when God shuts the door upon men, he gives them no heart to come to Jesus Christ. "None come but those to whom it is given of the Father." But thou comest, therefore it is given to thee of the Father.
Be sure, therefore, if the Father hath given thee an heart to come to Jesus Christ, the gate of mercy yet stands open to thee. For it stands not with the wisdom of God to give strength to come to the birth, and yet to shut up the womb, (Isa 66:9); to give grace to come to Jesus Christ, and yet shut up the door of his mercy upon thee. "Incline your ear," saith he, "and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David" (Isa 55:3).
Object. But it is said, that some knocked when the door was shut.
Answ. Yes; but the texts in which these knockers are mentioned, are to be referred unto the day of judgment, and not to the coming of the sinner to Christ in this life. See the texts, Matthew 15:11, Luke 13:24,25. These, therefore, concern thee nothing at all, that art coming to Jesus Christ, thou art coming NOW! "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2). Now God is upon the mercy-seat; now Christ Jesus sits by, continually pleading the victory of his blood for sinners; and now, even as long as this world lasts, this word of the text shall still be free, and fully fulfilled; "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
Sinner, the greater sinner thou art, the greater need of mercy thou hast, and the more will Christ be glorified thereby. Come then, come and try; come, taste and see how good the Lord is to an undeserving sinner!
Object. 6. But, says another, I am fallen since I began to come to Christ; therefore I fear I did not come aright, and so consequently that Christ will not receive me.
Answ. Falls are dangerous, for they dishonour Christ, wound the conscience, and cause the enemies of God to speak reproachfully. But it is no good argument, I am fallen, therefore I was not coming aright to Jesus Christ. If David, and Solomon, and Peter, had thus objected against themselves, they had added to their griefs; and yet, at least they had as much cause as thou. A man whose steps are ordered by the Lord, and whose goings the Lord delights in, may yet be overtaken with a temptation that may cause him to fall 11 (Psa 37:23,24). Did not Aaron fall; yea, and Moses himself? What shall we say of Hezekiah and Jehosaphat? There are, therefore, falls and falls; falls pardonable and falls unpardonable. Falls unpardonable are falls against light, from the faith, to the despising of, and trampling upon Jesus Christ and his blessed undertakings (Heb 6:2-5; 10:28,29). Now, as for such, there remains no more sacrifice for sin. Indeed, they have no heart, no mind, no desire to come to Jesus Christ for life, therefore they must perish. Nay, says the Holy Ghost, "It is impossible that they should be renewed again unto repentance." Therefore these God had no compassion for, neither ought we; but for other falls though they be dreadful, and God will chastise his people for them, they do not prove thee a graceless man, one not coming to Jesus Christ for life.
It is said of the child in the gospel, that while "he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him" (Luke 9:42). Dejected sinner, it is no wonder that thou hast caught a fall in coming to Jesus Christ. Is it not rather to be wondered at, that thou hast not caught before this a thousand times a thousand falls? considering, 1. What fools we are by nature. 2. What weaknesses are in us. 3. What mighty powers the fallen angels, our implacable enemies, are. 4. Considering also how often the coming man is benighted in his journey; and also what stumblingblocks do lie in his way. 5. Also his familiars, that were so before, now watch for his halting, and seek by what means they may to cause him to fall by the hand of their strong ones.
What then? Must we, because of these temptations, incline to fall? No. Must we not fear falls? Yes. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor 10:12). Yet let him not utterly be cast down; "The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up those that are bowed down." Make not light of falls! Yet, hast thou fallen? "Ye have," said Samuel, "done all this wickedness; yet turn not aside from following the Lord," but serve him with a perfect heart, and turn not aside, "for the Lord will not forsake his people," and he counteth the coming sinner one of them, "because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people" (1 Sam 12:20-22).
[WHAT FORCE THERE IS IN THE PROMISE TO MAKE THEM COME TO CHRIST.]
SECOND, "Shall come to me." Now we come to show WHAT FORCE THERE IS IN THIS PROMISE TO MAKE THEM COME TO HIM. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." I will speak to this promise, First, In general. Second, In particular.
[First], In general. This word SHALL is confined to these ALL that are given to Christ. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." Hence I conclude,
1. That coming to Jesus Christ aright is an effect of their being, of God, given to Christ before. Mark, They shall come. Who? Those that are given. They come, then, because they were given, "thine they were, and thou gavest them me." Now, this is indeed a singular comfort to them that are coming in truth to Christ, to think that the reason why they come is, because they were given of the Father before to him. Thus, then, may the coming soul reason with himself as he comes. Am I coming, indeed, to Jesus Christ? This coming of mine is not to be attributed to me or my goodness, but to the grace and gift of God to Christ. God gave first my person to him, and, therefore, hath now given me a heart to come.
2. This word, shall come, maketh thy coming not only the fruit of the gift of the Father, but also of the purpose of the Son; for these words are a Divine purpose; they show us the heavenly determination of the Son. "The Father hath given them to me, and they shall; yea, they shall come to me." Christ is as full in his resolution to save those given to him as is the Father in giving of them. Christ prizeth the gift of his Father; he will lose nothing of it; he is resolved to save it every whit by his blood, and to raise it up again at the last day; and thus he fulfills his Father's will, and accomplisheth his own desires (John 6:39).
3. These words, shall come, make thy coming to be also the effect of an absolute promise; coming sinner, thou art concluded in a promise; thy coming is the fruit of the faithfulness of an absolute promise. It was this promise, by the virtue of which thou at first receivedst strength to come; and this is the promise, by the virtue of which thou shalt be effectually brought to him. It was said to Abraham, "At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son." This son was Isaac. Mark! "Sarah shall have a son;" there is the promise. And Sarah had a son; there was the fulfilling of the promise; and, therefore, was Isaac called the child of the promise (Gen 17:19; 18:10; Rom 9:9).
Sarah shall have a son. But how, if Sarah be past age? Why, still the promise continues to say, Sarah shall have a son. But how, if Sarah be barren? Why, still the promise says, Sarah shall have a son. But Abraham's body is now dead? Why, the promise is still the same, Sarah shall have a son. Thus, you see what virtue there is in an absolute promise; it carrieth enough in its own bowels to accomplish the thing promised, whether there be means or no in us to effect it. Wherefore, this promise in the text, being an absolute promise, by virtue of it, not by virtue of ourselves, or by our own inducements, do we come to Jesus Christ: for so are the words of the text: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me."
Therefore is every sincere comer to Jesus Christ called also a child of the promise. "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise," (Gal 4:28); that is, we are the children that God hath promised to Jesus Christ, and given to him; yea, the children that Jesus Christ hath promised shall come to him. "All that the Father giveth me shall come."
4. This word, shall come, engageth Christ to communicate all manner of grace to those thus given him to make them effectually to come to him. "They shall come;" that is, not if they will, but if grace, all grace, if power, wisdom, a new heart, and the Holy Spirit, and all joining together, can make them come. I say, this word, shall come, being absolute, hath no dependence upon our own will, or power, or goodness; but it engageth for us even God himself, Christ himself, the Spirit himself. When God had made that absolute promise to Abraham, that Sarah "should have a son," Abraham did not at all look at any qualification in himself, because the promise looked at none; but as God had, by the promise, absolutely promised him a son; so he considered now not his own body now dead, nor yet the barrenness of Sarah's womb. "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform" (Rom 4:20,21). He had promised, and had promised absolutely, Sarah shall have a son. Therefore, Abraham looks that he, to wit, God, must fulfil the condition of it. Neither is this expectation of Abraham disapproved by the Holy Ghost, but accounted good and laudable; it being that by which he gave glory to God. The Father, also, hath given to Christ a certain number of souls for him to save; and he himself hath said, "They shall come to him." Let the church of God then live in a joyful expectation of the utmost accomplishment of this promise; for assuredly it shall be fulfilled, and not one thousandth part of a tittle thereof shall fail. "They SHALL come to me."
[Second, In particular.] And now, before I go any further, I will more particularly inquire into the nature of an absolute promise.
1. We call that an absolute promise that is made without any condition; or more fully thus: That is an absolute promise of God, or of Christ, which maketh over to this or that man any saving, spiritual blessing, without a condition to be done on our part for the obtaining thereof. And this we have in hand is such an one. Let the best Master of Arts on earth show me, if he can, any condition in this text depending upon any qualification in us, which is not by the same promise concluded, shall be by the Lord Jesus effected in us.
2. An absolute promise therefore is, as we say, without if or and; that is, it requireth nothing of us, that itself might be accomplished. It saith not, They shall, if they will; but they shall: not, they shall, if they use the means; but, they shall. You may say, that a will and the use of the means is supposed, though not expressed. But I answer, No, by no means; that is, as a condition of this promise. If they be at all included in the promise, they are included there as the fruit of the absolute promise, not as if it expected the qualification to arise from us. "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power" (Psa 110:3). That is another absolute promise. But doth that promise suppose a willingness in us, as a condition of God's making us willing? They shall be willing, if they are willing; or, they shall be willing, if they will be willing. This is ridiculous; there is nothing of this supposed. The promise is absolute as to us; all that it engageth for its own accomplishment is, the mighty power of Christ and his faithfulness to accomplish.
3. The difference, therefore, betwixt the absolute and conditional promise is this:
(1.) They differ in their terms. The absolute promises say, I will, and you shall: the other, I will, if you will; or, Do this, and thou shalt live (Jer 4:1; 31:31-33; Eze 18:30-32; 36:24-34; Heb 8:7-13; Matt 19:21).
(2.) They differ in their way of communicating of good things to men; the absolute ones communicate things freely, only of grace; the other, if there be that qualification in us, that the promise calls for, not else.
(3.) The absolute promises therefore engage God, the other engage us: I mean, God only, us only.
(4.) Absolute promises must be fulfilled; conditional may, or may not be fulfilled. The absolute ones must be fulfilled, because of the faithfulness of God; the other may not, because of the unfaithfulness of men.
(5.) Absolute promises have therefore a sufficiency in themselves to bring about their own fulfilling; the conditional have not so. The absolute promise is therefore a big-bellied promise, because it hath in itself a fullness of all desired things for us; and will, when the time of that promise is come, yield to us mortals that which will verily save us; yea, and make us capable of answering of the demands of the promise that is conditional.
4. Wherefore, though there be a real, yea, an eternal difference, in these things, with others, betwixt the conditional and absolute promise; yet again, in other respects, there is a blessed harmony betwixt them; as may be seen in these particulars. The conditional promise calls for repentance, the absolute promise gives it (Acts 5:31). The conditional promise calls for faith, the absolute promise gives it (Zeph 3:12; Rom 15:12). The conditional promise calls for a new heart, the absolute promise gives it (Eze 36:25,26). The conditional promise calleth for holy obedience, the absolute promise giveth it, or causeth it (Eze 36:27).
5. And as they harmoniously agree in this, so again the conditional promise blesseth the man, who by the absolute promise is endued with its fruit. As, for instance, the absolute promise maketh men upright; and then the conditional follows, saying, "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord" (Psa 119:1). The absolute promise giveth to this man the fear of the Lord; and then the conditional followeth, saying, "Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord" (Psa 128:1). The absolute promise giveth faith, and then this conditional follows, saying, "Blessed is she that believed" (Zeph 3:12; Luke 1:45). The absolute promise brings free forgiveness of sins; and then says the condition, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered" (Rom 4:7). The absolute promise says, that God's elect shall hold out to the end; then the conditional follows with his blessings, "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (1 Peter 1:4-6; Matt 24:13).
Thus do the promises gloriously serve one another and us, in this their harmonious agreement.
Now, the promise under consideration is an absolute promise. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me."
This promise therefore is, as is said, a big-bellied promise, and hath in itself all those things to bestow upon us that the conditional calleth for at our hands. They shall come! Shall they come? Yes, they shall come. But how, if they want those things, those graces, power, and heart, without which they cannot come? Why, Shall-come answereth all this, and all things else that may in this manner be objected. And here I will take the liberty to amplify things.
[Objections to the absoluteness of this promise (the force of SHALL-COME) answered.]
Object. 1. But they are dead, dead in trespasses and sins, how shall they then come?
Answ. Why, Shall-come can raise them from this death. "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." Thus, therefore, is this impediment by Shall-come removed out of the way. They shall heal, they shall live.
Object. 2. But they are Satan's captives; he takes them captive at his will, and he is stronger than they: how then can they come?
Answ. Why, Shall-come hath also provided an help for this. Satan had bound that daughter of Abraham so, that she could by no means lift up herself; but yet Shall-come set her free both in body and soul. Christ will have them turned from the power of Satan to God. But what! Must it be, if they turn themselves, or do something to merit of him to turn them? No, he will do it freely, of his own good will. Alas! Man, whose soul is possessed by the devil, is turned whithersoever that governor listeth, is taken captive by him, notwithstanding its natural powers, at his will; but what will he do? Will he hold him when Shall-come puts forth itself, will he then let12 him, for coming to Jesus Christ? No, that cannot be! His power is but the power of a fallen angel, but Shall-come is the Word of God. Therefore Shall-come must be fulfilled; "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
There were seven devils in Mary Magdalene, too many for her to get from under the power of; but when the time was come that Shall-come was to be fulfilled upon her, they give place, fly from her, and she comes indeed to Jesus Christ, according as it is written, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me."
The man that was possessed with a legion, (Mark 5), was too much by them captivated for him by human force to come; yea, had he had, to boot, all the men under heaven to help him, had he that said, He shall come, withheld his mighty power: but when this promise was to be fulfilled upon him, then he comes; nor could all their power hinder his coming. It was also this Shall-come that preserved him from death; when by these evil spirits he was hurled hither and thither; and it was by the virtue of Shall-come that at last he was set at liberty from them, and enabled indeed to come to Christ. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me."
Object. 3. They shall, you say; but how if they will not; and, if so, then what can Shall-come do?
Answ. True, there are some men say, "We are lords; we will come no more unto thee" (Jer 2:31). But as God says in another case, if they are concerned in Shall-come to me, they "shall know whose words shall stand, mine or theirs" (Jer 41:28). Here, then, is the case; we must now see who will be the liar, he that saith, I will not; or he that saith, He shall come to me. You shall come, says God; I will not come, saith the sinner. Now, as sure as he is concerned in this Shall-come, God will make that man eat his own words; for I will not, is the unadvised conclusion of a crazy-headed sinner; but Shall-come was spoken by him that is of power to perform his word. "Son, go work to-day in my vineyard," said the Father. But he answered, and said, I will not come. What now? will he be able to stand to his refusal? will he pursue his desperate denial? No, "he afterwards repented and went." But how came he by that repentance? Why, it was wrapped up for him in the absolute promise; and therefore, notwithstanding he said, "I will not, he afterwards repented and went." By this parable Jesus Christ sets forth the obstinacy of the sinners of the world, as touching their coming to him; they will not come, though threatened: yea, though life be offered them upon condition of coming.
But now, when Shall-come, the absolute promise of God, comes to be fulfilled upon them, then they come; because by that promise a cure is provided against the rebellion of their will. "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power"(Psa 110:3). Thy people, what people? Why, the people that thy Father hath given thee. The obstinacy and plague that is in the will of that people, shall be taken away; and they shall be made willing; Shall-come will make them willing to come to thee.
He that had seen Paul in the midst of his outrages against Christ, his gospel, and people, would hardly have thought that he would ever have been a follower of Jesus Christ, especially since he went not against his conscience in his persecuting of them. He thought verily that he ought to do what he did. But we may see what Shall-come can do, when it comes to be fulfilled upon the soul of a rebellious sinner: he was a chosen vessel, given by the Father to the Son; and now the time being come that Shall-come was to take him in hand, behold, he is over-mastered, astonished, and with trembling and reverence, in a moment becomes willing to be obedient to the heavenly call (Acts 9).
And were not they far gone, that you read of, (Acts 2) who had their hands and hearts in the murder of the Son of God; and to show their resolvedness never to repent of that horrid fact, said, "His blood be on us and on our children?" But must their obstinacy rule? Must they be bound to their own ruin, by the rebellion of their stubborn wills? No, not those of these the Father gave to Christ; wherefore, at the times appointed, Shall-come breaks in among them; the absolute promise takes them in hand; and then they come indeed, crying out to Peter, and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" No stubbornness of man's will can stand, when God hath absolutely said the contrary; Shall-come can make them come "as doves to their windows," that had afore resolved never to come to him.