TEXTS FROM ENGLISH RELIGIOUS HISTORY
Flavel, The Quaker,
and the Crown
A Coronation Sermon preached at Dartmouth
Go forth ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon
with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals,
and in the day of the gladness of his heart. Cant. 3.11
When God puts a crown upon the head, and a scepter into
the hand of a man, he engraves upon that man in a qualified sense, both
his name and the lively characters of his majesty and authority; Ps.
82:6: I have said ye are gods, and all of you the children of the most
high. But yet in all the grants and conveyances of heaven, there is
always a reservation and salvo to the divine prerogative to displace
it at pleasure, and set it upon what head he shall please: Ezek. 21:26:
Thus saith the Lord God, remove the diadem, and take off the crown,
this shall not be the same, exalt him that is low and abase him that
The coronation day of a king is in a sense the marriage-day betwixt him and his people, and is accordingly solemnized with all the signs and demonstrations of joy and gladness: for the shout of a King is among them. Thus when the crown of Israel was set upon the head of Solomon, the scripture represents their exuberant joy in an elegant and lofty hyperbole, 1 Kings 1:40: And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them.
Carnal men rejoice carnally, and spiritual men should rejoice spiritually. The most glorious part of the solemnity of such a day consists in, first, praises and prayers for him that wears the crown, and second, in a spiritual improvement of the action to ourselves.
In praises and prayers for the king whom God has set over us: Your prayers and praises reflect more glory upon the crown than all the jewels and sparkling stones with which it shines; and so I am persuaded our king will account it according to Zech. 12:5: The governors of Judah shall say in their hearts, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the Lord of hosts, their God.
Praise your God, O England! for setting your crown this
day upon the head of a Protestant Prince, who accounted not his treasures
or blood dear unto him, to redeem the interest of Christ out of the
dangers that were ready to swallow it up.
1. That God would cleanse and wash the crown of England
from all that guilt and pollution it has contracted under former governments,
that the sins of the Crown may not descend with it.
The next thing belonging to the solemnity of this day
will be the spiritual improvement of the whole scene of actions, to
your own instruction, and spiritual advantage; and this will be much
more glorious than all the triumphant arches, royal robes, thundering
guns, and loud acclamations of the people. To this purpose, I have chosen
this text for the direction and spiritualizing of the duties of the
day: Go forth ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the
crown wherewith his mother crowned him, in the day of his espousals;
and in the day of the gladness of his heart.
Procul hinc, procul este profani.
It is a crystal stream of pure spiritual love, sliding sweetly betwixt two pleasant banks, Christ and the Church.
In the 9th and 10th verse you have the description of a triumphant chariot, prepared by King Solomon for the daughters of Jerusalem: The pillars thereof of silver, the bottom of gold, the covering of purple, and the midst thereof paved with love. A chariot is an instrument framed for easy, safe and honourable conveyance. This chariot is the Covenant of grace fitted by Christ for the safe and honourable transporting of his bride the Church through this world to her stately pavilion, or glorious mansion in the highest heaven.
But how stately and magnificent soever this royal chariot be, he that contrived and framed it is much more glorious to behold; and therefore in the next words, which are my text, believers are summoned and invited to behold and contemplate Christ that framed it: Go forth ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with his crown, &etc. In which words we have first, the spectators summoned or invited, and second, the spectacle they are invited to see.
First, the spectators invited, The daughters of Zion. By Zion understand the Church; and by the daughters of Zion, the members of the Church, or every particular believer. These are here invited or summoned to go forth, i.e., of their entangling, diverting temptations; and to behold viz. by the eye of faith, this most glorious and heart-ravishing object.
Second, the spectacle they are invited to behold and contemplate, King Solomon with his crown, the most illustrious, glorious and ravishing sight that ever the eyes of men did or shall behold. By King Solomon understand Christ, of whom Solomon in this book is the figure or shadow, yet one to whom Solomon in all his glory, was but as a depainted sun on a signpost, to the Sun in the mid-heavens shining in all his glory.
And by his crown, understand not any material crown, as that of Solomon's was; but the glory and honour that is put upon Christ the King of Zion; of which glory a crown is the emblem.
What crown is here meant, interpreters are not all agreed about it. Some would have it to be understood of our human nature, which he was crowned withal by his mother Mary, of whom he took it; but though his assumption of our nature put such a crown of glory upon our nature as it never had before, yet was rather an obscuring of Christ's glory, than any addition of glory to him.
Others interpret it of the crown of thorns, with which his mother, the Jewish church, or Synagogue, crowned him in the day of his passion at Jerusalem; but this seems to be as hard and foreign a sense as the former.
The more judicious expositors are agreed in a third sense, i.e., that by the crown on Christ's head, we are to understand that glory and honour which believers give unto, or put upon Christ, when in the day of their espousals to him by faith, renouncing Satan, sin and all that had exercised dominion over them before, with all trust and dependence on any righteousness of their own, they give their deliberate, full and hearty consent, that Christ alone shall reign over them for ever and ever, saying, The Lord is our King, the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver." Christ is the Lord our Righteousness, and in all things we will obey him. This Christ esteems as a crown of glory put upon his head in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart. There is no such honour, no such pleasure, a poor sinner can give to Christ, as to believe in him; this is as the putting of a crown of glory upon his head. It is true, it adds no glory to him, but it is the greatest manifestation of his glory we are capable of making.
Objection: But then it will be objected, in what sense believers can be tolerably styled his Mother? For the text tells us it was the crown his mother put upon him.
Answer: They may be so styled in a double respect.
First, because Christ is formed in every believer, he is in a spiritual sense conceived and formed in their souls, as the child is formed in its mother's womb. So the apostle speaks (Gal. 4:19), My little children, of whom I travail again in birth till Christ be formed in you.
Second, in respect of the dear affection Christ bears to every soul that believes in him: No man loves his brother, sister or mother as Christ esteems and loves believers. Mark 3:34: When he was told his mother and brethren were outside, seeking him, he said, Behold my mother and my brethren; for whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. The day of a sinner's consent to come under Christ's government is the day of espousals. 2 Cor. 11:2. And the day of a sinner's espousals to Christ is the day of the gladness of his heart; Luke 15:32. Thus you have the parts and sense of the text.
The point from it is this doctrine: That the day of a believer's espousals to Christ by faith is to Christ as the day of a King's coronation is to him, even the day of the gladness of his heart.
It is very remarkable, what we find in Luke 10:21, where the Spirit has carefully recorded one hour of joy in the life of Christ, for he had not many, being a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. In that hour, Jesus rejoiced in spirit, the text says, and what hour was that? Why, it was the same hour in which the 70 returned with these joyful tidings to him, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through thy name. ver. 17. The hour when Christ saw Satan fall as lightning from heaven, ver. 18, his kingdom tottering, his forces routed by the gospel, his subjects running away to Christ from under his cruel bondage, and made willing to come under his government; in that hour Jesus rejoiced in Spirit. This was joyful news to Christ, it was the day of the gladness of his heart. He had now got a new throne in the souls of poor sinners, of whom the devil and sin had reigned; this was as a crown of glory to Christ.
In opening this point, I shall discourse these three things:
Let me show the resemblances and agreements which are betwixt the day of a king's coronation and the day of a sinner's espousals to Christ by faith. And this will appear in six respects.
First, a king that is duly crowned over his subjects has a lawful right to govern them, either by lineal descent, conquest, or compact. Solomon had his right and title to the kingdom by descent from his royal father David, who by his last will and testament constituted and appointed him to be his immediate successor upon the throne of Israel (1 Kings 1:35). The Roman Caesar's title to that kingdom was by conquest, and this title was legitimated not only by the Jews' acknowledgment of it, but also by Christ's express owning it, and submission to it. The people said, We have no king but Caesar (John 19:15) and Christ owned it (Luke 20:25) when he paid tribute, saying, Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. But David had his title by compact with, and voluntary election of the people; Abner confers with the elders of Israel about it, and they meet David at Hebron, and there choose him King in the room of Saul (2 Sam. 5:15) and that in consideration of the eminent service he had performed for that Kingdom, in delivering them from their mortal enemies, the Philistines, enemies to their religion and civil liberties; and certainly the crown of Israel was not such a reward above the merit of such a performance. These came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and said, Behold we are thy bone, and thy flesh. Also in time past when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out, and broughtest in Israel, and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel. So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron, and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord: and they anointed David king over Israel.
But Christ has right to reign over our souls by all these titles and claims; the throne of our souls is his by his father's constitution and decree (Ps. 2:6): Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion; by conquest, for he wins it by the sword of his spirit, before he possesses it. 2 Cor. 10:4,5: he casts down by spiritual weapons all that opposes and brings every thought into obedience to him. And he has right also by consent and compact (Psalm 110:3): The people shall be willing in the day of thy power. Of which more anon.
Second, on the coronation day, kings appear in all their royal robes, glittering jewels, and all the luster that can be put upon them. They shine in the eyes of the people more gloriously than all that are about them. Velut luna, inter minora fidera: There's none like him in the beauty of his ornaments. Much more does Christ excel all others in beauty and glory to the eyes of those that chose him for their Lord and King; 1 Pet. 2:7, To you that believe, he is precious, m , honour itself. Col. 1:17, He is before all things, not only in time or in order, but in real dignity and solid glory, and excellence. So his spouse pronounces him, Psalm 45:2, Thou art fairer than the children of men, grace is poured into thy lips. And Cant. 5:10, My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. Examine and mark all the creatures in both worlds, angels and men; and they bear no more proportion to Christ in glory than a glowworm to the sun.
Third, on the coronation day the consent of the people
is demanded and given. Consent was demanded by Abner in the behalf of
David, 2 Sam. 3:17, 18, and freely given by them in order to David's
coronation, 2 Sam. 5:14. Thus at the coronation of our kings,
the consent of the nobles and Commonalty is demanded on the public theatre
in these words,
And they say, "We are willing"; or signify they are so by their loud and joyful acclamations.
So it is when Christ is crowned king over the soul. His right is asserted, and their consent is demanded by his ambassadors; the believer manifests his hearty consent. Psalm 110:3, Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power. And over all that are made truly willing to receive him, he reigns, and invests them all with the privileges of his kingdom, John 1:12. The unbeliever is not willing to come under Christ's government, John 5:4, You will not come to me, &c. and the issue of their unwillingness is their eternal ruin, Luke 19:27, But those mine enemies that would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me. Now, to make a soul truly willing to accept Christ's government, and give his consent to him, four things must be done upon and by such a soul. First, he must be convinced of his sin and misery; no man will be willing to change his Lord whilst he finds no matter of complaint. Second, he must know, and deliberate upon, the terms of Christ; for an ignorant person cannot be said to consent. Non consentit qui non sentit. Christ will have all the world to know his terms, and will not hide the worst and hardest things from them, whether they like them or not. No man shall say afterwards, I was surprised, or imposed upon; had I known this, I had never consented to be a Christian. Therefore the hardest terms of Christianity are plainly propounded, Luke 14:26, and that to cut off all after pleas and pretenses for reviling from Christ, John 16:1, These things have I spoken to you, that you should not be offended in me. Third, upon deliberation, there must appear to the soul that chooses Christ and consents to his government, a preponderating good; that Christ with all his reproaches and sufferings is better than sin with all its honours and pleasures. No man will change for no advantage, much less to his loss. Thus Moses saw more glory and excellence in the very reproaches of Christ than in all the treasures of Egypt, or pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25, 26). O! says the soul, although there be hard and bitter sufferings in the way of godliness, yet it is infinitely better for me to endure them for Christ, than to be damned. And upon balancing the gains and losses, the conveniences and the inconveniences of Christianity, the odds appear so great that the soul pronounces they are not worthy to be compared (Rom. 8:18). Fourth, when all is done, there must be a divine almighty influence upon the will, without which men will never heartily consent to Christ's terms. No man (says Christ) can come unto me, except my father, which hath sent me, draw him (John 6:44). This influence of God upon the will is in a way suitable to its nature (Hosea 11:4) and produces a consent without coaction. If the Lord show any man the infinite advantages that come, and accrue to his soul by Christ, this very discovery does, as it were, compel that man to come into Christ, as that expression is used, Luke 14:23, a scripture vilely abused in our times. Christ compels none into his kingdom, as the Spaniards did the poor Indians to baptism; or as others have been compelled to the Lord's table. He will reign over a willing people, or not reign at all.
Fourth, on the coronation day, a champion appears on the king's behalf, to challenge any that shall deny his right, or by allurements or threatenings attempt to draw his subjects from their duty and allegiance; he throws down the gauntlet, and defies the proudest enemy the king has.
So when Christ is crowned king over the souls of his people,
there is a public defiance bid, a formal challenge given to all the
enemies of Christ and his people, as you may read at large, Rom 8:3335,
Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Who is he that
condemns? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Devils and
men are defied to do their worst. Christ must reign until all his enemies
be put under his feet. Sin shall not have dominion over his people;
for they are not under the law but under grace. Come, Gebal, Amon and
Amalek, come Satan and all his infernal powers; they are all defied
in the name of Christ; believers are his own subjects, and none shall
pluck them out of his hand.
Thus it is at the day of Christ's coronation over the believers soul, and its espousals to him by faith; all his sins are pardoned, new and old, great and small; and of this, proclamation is openly made in the Gospel, Acts 10:43, To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. O glorious pardon! Free without purchase, full without exception, and final without revocation. Now there's a goal-delivery, the prison-doors are open, liberty proclaimed to the captives, Isa. 61:1,2. The king of Zion is a merciful king and his subjects shall find him so; they have gladdened his heart by accepting his government, and he will gladden theirs by his pardons; the Son has made them free, and they are free indeed.
Sixth, in a word, a coronation day is a day of gladness, a day of joy and triumph: joy displays itself in the faces of all loyal subjects; those only that had rather be under another government hang the head and bite the lip.
So it is here, all that are loyal subjects to Jesus Christ, rejoice exceedingly in his government; and it must needs be so, because his kingdom consists in joy in the Holy Ghost, Rom 14:17. When Zaccheus came under this king, he came down joyfully, Luke 19:6,9. When the eunuch received him for his Lord and King, he went home rejoicing, Acts. 8:39. When Samaria submitted to his scepter, there was great joy in that city, Acts. 8:5,6, and let the joy be what it will, the causes of joy are greater than the joy itself. But those that belong to Satan's kingdom, that love to be under the dominion of sin, and hate the strictness and severities of religion, these are the only malcontents, these fled to see Christ's kingdom enlarged, and secretly plot to destroy it. Thus we see the agreement betwixt the day of a king's coronation over his subjects, and Christ's coronation over believers.
But though they harmonize in these particulars, and diverse others that may be named, yet there are as many remarkable differences and disagreements between them, but none to the believers' loss, or disadvantage, for they all fall on his side; as ex gr.
First, it is not the privilege of every subject, no, nor of one among many thousands, to see the king who is crowned over them, to hear his voice, or give their explicit consent in his presence. But every subject in Christ's kingdom does see Christ by the eye of faith; John 6:40, He that sees the Son, and believes on him. Seeing and believing are terms convertible; they do all hear his voice, and give their explicit consent to take him for their king. Union with Christ is not a work to be done by a proxy or representative, but it is the result of a solemn debate betwixt Christ and the soul.
Second, kings are crowned over many that love them not, but are filled with prejudice against their persons and government. But it cannot be so in the kingdom of Christ; to them that believe, he is precious, 1 Pet. 2:7. All Christ's subjects love him above father or mother, wife or children; yea above their own lives, otherwise they cannot be his subjects, Luke 14:26. They also delight in his government, and nothing would be more pleasant to their souls than to find every thought of their heart brought into subjection to him, 2 Cor. 10:4,5. They dare not confederate with his enemies, and will choose rather to die than forsake him; they will esteem it a glorious thing, though their right arm should be severed from their shoulder blade, for their regular endeavors to defend and support the crown upon the head of their royal master.
Third, the relation betwixt a king and his subjects may and must be dissolved by death. Death fears not to arrest the most potent monarch upon his throne, and translate his crown to another head.
But our king, Christ, lives forever; death has no dominion over him; his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and his dominion that which shall have no end, Dan. 7:13,14. Death is so far from separating Christ and his subjects that it brings them nearer together than ever they were before; it brings them into his immediate presence, to his facial vision, 1 Cor. 13:12, and fixes them there forever; 1 Thess. 4:17.
Fourth, kings may degenerate into tyrants and subjects into rebels; they may undermine the laws, liberties and religion of their people. They that rule over the people may make them to howl; Isa. 52:5. The world is too full of such instances and examples. But Christ can never oppress his subjects, the scepter of his kingdom is a right scepter (Ps. 45:6), his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:9), and his true subjects can never shake off their allegiance to him; they will rather die than do it.
Fifth, kings will not permit their greatest favourites
to sit in their thrones; it is their peculiar honour, and not communicable
to any; Gen. 41:40: Only in the throne I will be greater than thou,
said Pharaoh to his Joseph.
Sixth, to conclude, the joy and triumph at a king's coronation is only among men, in this lower world; but the joy and triumph at Christ's coronation is among angels in heaven; Luke 15:7. The city of God holds a solemn triumph at the conversion of a particular sinner. What are the shouts of men, to the jubilations of angels?
Thus you have six particulars wherein they agree, and
as many in which they differ.
First, because it is Christ's marriage-day, at least the day of his espousals; and the day of marriage or espousals is a day of joy and gladness. Christ has now a new spouse, a soul in which he never dwelt before; and as a bridegroom rejoiceth over the Bride, so doth Christ over believers, Isa. 62:5. Here is a new relation entered, and that with the King of Kings; the angels of God rejoice exceedingly in it, but much more Christ, the blessed bridegroom.
Second, it is Christ's day of conquest and victory over Satan; the day in which he has deposed him from his throne; Matt. 12:29, delivered a soul of invaluable worth in his eyes out of the power of darkness and translated it into his own kingdom, Col. 1:13. And the day of conquest is a day of extraordinary joy and triumph, Isa. 9:3.
Third, it is the day in which he receives the fruit and reward of his bloody travails and bitter agonies; there is now a son or daughter born to God, an heir born to the heavenly inheritance. Now it is most pleasant and joyful to Jesus Christ to see the travail of his soul, Isa. 53:11, no satisfaction in this world comparable to it. When a young heir is born to the kingdom and crown of heaven, it deserves a triumph.
Fourth, it is the day in which Christ finds a soul that was lost, Luke 15:5,6. What joy was it to the father of the prodigal, when he had found his lost son? Luke 15:20: There was mirth and music, feasting and rejoicing; This my son was lost, and is found; was dead, and is alive.
Poor sinners are lost creatures by nature; they have lost their God and therein themselves too. God has lost, and the devil found every unregenerate sinner; all strayers from God fall to his share; but this loss is not irrecoverable; the errand and end for which Christ came into the world was to seek and to save that which was lost, Matt. 18:11, and when the sinner that was lost comes home to him by repentance and faith, he obtains the end of his incarnation, life and death, upon that soul, which cannot but be the day of the gladness of his heart.
If then the day of a king's espousal or marriage be a day of joy and gladness to his soul; if a day of conquest and dividing the spoils be a day of joy to the conqueror after a sharp and blood fight; if it be a joy to a mother after long and sore travail to embrace in her arms and kiss the child for whom she endured so many bitter throes; if it be a joy to a father to find and recover a child that was lost, and as dead to him in a word, if it be high delight and satisfaction to see a great design on which the heart is intently set, brought at last by orderly conduct to the desired happy issue, then let us allow the day of a sinner's coming into Christ by conversion to be as a coronation day to a king, the day of his espousals, and of the gladness of his heart.
This point, like a fruitful root, sends forth many branches, and all loaded with diversity of fruits. The first is for information, in several inferences from it.
Infer. 1. Be informed from hence, what is the true cause and reason of Satan's rage and spite against the gospel, and the most painful, able and successful preachers of it in the world.
The great design of the gospel, and of all that sincerely preach it, is to win and persuade Satan's subjects to forsake his cruel, unjust and tyrannical government, and submit to the kingdom and scepter of the Lord Jesus. What is the preaching of the gospel but the sounding of a trumpet in the devil's kingdom, to win his subjects from their allegiance to him; to proclaim another king in his territories? Every faithful minister's business is to gather these wretched vassals of Satan together, and set before them the miserable captivity and bondage they are in under that tyrant that rules over them, whose laws like Draco's, are written in the blood of their souls, to exaggerate their sin and misery, and to let them know how willing Christ is to receive and save them, if they will renounce and abandon Satan's government. To set before them the blessed freedom and glorious privileges of the subjects of Christ. To beseech and persuade them to break away from their old cruel master, and come over to Christ, to answer all their pleas and objections against it, and to denounce the wrath of God against all the refusers of Christ's gracious proclamation. Now Satan is not ignorant of all this; he esteems the loss of one, much more the revolt of many, a greater mischief than a king reckons the loss of a kingdom, and to see them break away so fast from him and be lifted to fight against him: Oh how it grates that envious spirit, and sharpens his malice against the instruments and agents in this work! "This," as a late worthy speaks, "torments the soul spirit, to see himself forsaken of his old friends and servants, and this new Lord to come and take away his subjects from him. Hence come persecutions, slanders &c. in showers upon Christ's faithful ministers." He knows the kingdom of darkness must vanish as the light of the gospel rises and spreads itself. You read in Rev. 14:6,7, of an angel fleeing in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth. And in vs. 8 you have another angel following him, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city. No sooner is the two-edged sword of the gospel drawn, but the next voice is, Victory, victory. He knows every home-charge made by the gospel will issue in a rout of his infernal legions. Now ministers coming forth against him as heralds to proclaim Christ's right, and as captains of the army of Christ their general; he owes them a particular grudge, and seeks every way to stop their mouths and destroy their persons. And surely he has pushed hard at them, and made desperate attempts against them in our days; no doubt but it was reckoned a great service done him, to shut up the mouths of so many at once; but the time draws nigh, that Babylon must fall; and those that could not lately show their faces on earth must fly in the midst of heaven with the everlasting gospel. The dead witnesses of Christ shall hear shortly a great voice from heaven, saying, Come up hither; and they shall ascend in a cloud, their enemies beholding, but not able any more to hinder them.
Infer. 2. How causeless and altogether groundless are the discouragements and fears of humbled and convinced sinners, that Jesus Christ will reject them, and shut the door of mercy against them, if they should go to him, and cast their poor sinful souls upon him by faith?
Certainly such persons fear where no fear is. That which is the command of Christ, the earnest desire of his soul, that act which makes his heart glad, as the text speaks, can never meet with such a repulse as you fear. Was ever any king unwilling to have the crown set upon his head? Do they use to frown upon their subjects that are upon the knee, tender their homage and allegiance to them? No, no, it is the day of the gladness of their hearts. Renounce your old master, Satan, give a bill of divorce to those lusts which have reigned over your soul; ponder well Christ's terms, and heartily consent to them, and try whether he will not quickly confute these vain fears of yours, and fully make good his gracious, sweet, and most encouraging word, John 6:37, Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out. A sweet encouragement to a coming soul; and because sense of guilt and unworthiness usually doubles their fears, Christ has caused a double negative to be put into that text, on purpose to obviate their fears and discouragements: , I will not, no I will not; or as we render, I will in no wise cast him out. Acts of delight flow freely and easily, and so does this.
Infer. 3. What an high and honourable relation does faith bring the soul of a sinner into! The day of conversion is the day of that soul's espousals to Christ.
A king from heaven makes suit for a poor sinner's heart, woos for union with sinful creatures; rejoices exceedingly when he wins their consent; and espouses them forever to himself, when he obtains it; for contractus is nothing else but consensus explicatus; a contract is consent explained, in affirmative plain words de presenti. I do disclaim and forever renounce all others, and willingly yield up my heart and life to Jesus Christ. Now ex contractu oritur vinculum; an obligation results from this contract with Christ; and a most honourable mystical union with him. He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit, 1 Cor. 6:17. The greatest honour that was ever put upon the human nature was by its assumption into union with the Son of God hypostatically; and the greatest honour that can be done to our persons is by our union with Christ mystically; hereby we become members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, Eph. 5:30, the spouse of Christ. Oh, what a preferment is this! What soul feels not itself lifted up far above all earthly honours, in such a relation to Christ as this? The nobles and barons of the kingdom think it a preferment to serve the Queen; and the angels of heaven do not think themselves degraded by performing service to the Bride, the Lamb's wife. Well might great Constantine prefer the honour of being a member of the church to that of being head of an empire.
Let all the saints understand their dignity and privileges by this their honourable union with Christ, and with it let them balance all the reproaches, scorns and contempt this vile world loads them with for his sake.
Infer. 4. Be informed hence of the dreadful and damning nature of the sin of unbelief; a sin that questions, yea denies Christ's right to rule over the soul; blinds the mind, hardens the heart, stiffens the will, and makes the soul obstinate and inflexible to all the gracious tenders of Christ in the Gospel.
Unbelief is the poisonous breath of Satan, whispering jealousies, surmises and dangerous prejudices against Christ into the ear of the soul, and all tending to this mischievous design and purpose, viz. to hinder or break the treaty of the spiritual marriage betwixt Christ and the soul. Now it will be digging at the very root and foundation of the assenting act; and thus it whispers,
"How can you be sure of the reality of the things reported in the gospel? Is it not possible that they may be devised fables? The cunning artifices of men to keep the world in awe? You never saw Christ, for whose sake you are so earnestly solicited to renounce all your real sweet and present comforts and enjoyments."
Then it dilates rhetorically upon the severe terms of the gospel, advises the soul to think sadly, how hard, grievous and unreasonable the demands of Christ be, Luke 14:26: If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, wife and children, brethren and sisters; yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. How do you like this, soul? Here are all your principal comforts, your most dear and desirable things in the world, both personal and relative, to be forsaken, yea, hated for Christ's sake. The terms are set so high that a man must lose his brains and bowels too, says unbelief, before he can be wrought up to them. Can you endure to see all the labours of your life to become a prey to your enemies? That which has cost you so much study and toil, scattered and destroyed in a day, when it is yet in the power of your hand to save all your habitation to cast you out, your pleasant fields possessed by strangers, impius has segetes; Have you hardiness enough to encounter beggary, to fight with hunger, thirst and nakedness? To lie in a nasty prison, to endure a parting pull with nearest relatives, which are as your own soul? But yet there are harder trials than these. Can you endure a tormenting death by cruel barbarous enemies? Can you stand quietly at a stake and endure the exquisite torments of the fire, and that in the fulness of your time, while you are in the flower of your age; fulness of your senses and have so fair a prospect of many pleasant years before you, and all this for an unseen glory in another world?
These are the feeling arguments urged by infidelity against embracing Christ's overtures in the gospel, or coming under the scepter of this new Lord; and with how many do they prevail! Thus Satan fixes his subjects, and makes them secure to himself.
But sinner, if God has any intention of saving mercy to your soul, you shall feel the more potent principles of divine faith and love overpowering and subacting these carnal reasonings within your soul. It is admirable to behold the Almighty influence of Grace upon Nature. How the drawings of the spirit, his omnipotent pull at the heart, make the strongest ties this world has upon it, to give way, and easily to lose; Mark 10:28: Lord, we have left all and followed thee. If not, but you are fixedly resolved not to change Satan's government for Christ's; if you say in your heart and stand to that saying, "I will never content to such hard conditions," then hear your sentence; read your Mittimus, Luke 19:27: But those mine enemies, that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me. The sentence is dreadful, the execution sure, your unbelief will as surely damn you as a millstone about your neck in the midst of the sea will drown you; Mark 16:16, He that believeth not shall be damned. You have cast the vilest dishonour upon Christ, you have rejected the only way of salvation; and what can the issue of your final unbelief be but ruin and destruction?
My next work will be persuasive work, to gain the consent of the souls to come under the scepter and government of Christ; to make his heart glad, and yourselves happy forever by your espousals to him. And oh that I could this day so represent this king in his glory, so discover the miserable thraldom you are in under Satan, and your lusts; so clear up the reasonableness and easiness of Christ's terms and demands, that there might be as cheerful and hearty (though not so loud and audible) an applause and acclamation returned to my demand of your consent to Christ, as this day is, or ever was at the coronation of any king.
And to this end, first consider the glory and dignity of the person of Christ; he is the Son of God by nature, the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person; Heb. 1:3, He is the Prince of the kings of the earth, Rev. 1:5. The most glorious monarch that ever swayed a scepter over men is but as a worm of the earth or a despicable insect in the air compared with Solomon in his glory; the most perfect beauty in the creatures beneath or above is blackness and deformity in comparison with Christ; the beauty of roses, lilies, sun, stars, angels, is not worthy to be mentioned in comparison with Christ. Thou art fairer (says his spouse) than the children of men; None ever saw him savingly by the eye of faith, but were charmed into his bosom by love. The facial vision of Christ is the feast of blessed souls above.
This king of glory makes suit for your hearts this day. He woos for your consent. He passed by apostate angels, not once making a tender of reconciliation or union; but comes to you in his red garments, glorious in his apparel. He shed his invaluable blood to redeem you to God. He loved you and gave himself for you. If there be a drop of love in your hearts, methinks the excellence of Christ should extract and engage it; write that man a beast, a senseless stock, that has no love for Christ.
Consider secondly, what a blessed state abounding with glorious and invaluable privileges your consent to be Christ's is introductive to; it opens into all privileges, mercies and blessings, desirable in the eyes of men; it opens into freedom and liberty from the vassalage of Satan the servitude of sin, the curse of the law, the danger of wrath to come; John 8:36, If the Son therefore make you free, then are ye free indeed. It opens the door into rest and peace, peace with God, peace in your own consciences; Rom. 5:13. The deliciousness of peace you never yet tasted, who are strangers to Christ, nor ever shall till you consent to be his; Rev. 2:17. This shall be your support amidst all the confusions and distractions, hurries and tumults of this restless and unquiet world; Micah 5:5, This man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian cometh into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces. Christ has pitched his standard in the gospel; repair to it, come under his banner and lift yourselves among his faithful subjects and the glory of the world to come is yours, if you overcome and be faithful unto death; Rev. 3:21. The subjects of Christ in this kingdom of grace are shortly to be all translated into the kingdom of glory; Rom. 8:30.
Third, consider the miserable bondage you are now in,
over whom Satan rules, and how your condition still grows worse and
worse, till it shall not be capable of any further addition of misery,
to make it more absolutely and completely miserable.
Is this a condition to be satisfied in? Can you sleep
quietly in your chains? O methinks the poor prisoners of Satan should
sigh and cry through the grates of the prison, especially when they
are informed of deliverance at the door!
What do you think, brethren, of Christ's terms now? What is there here for men to scare and fright at? Can you mend yourselves elsewhere? Oh! When shall the match be made? When will you come to Christ and say, Lord, I heartily consent to take you for my king; I am pleased with the hardest condition required in your word!
Fifth, and lastly, be convinced of the unrea-sonableness of all that you can pretend against this great duty. If you say, the pains of mortification are hard; you must in reason yield that the pains of damnation are harder; and that it is better for you to enter into life halt and maimed than having two eyes or hands to be cast into hell, where the worm dies not, and where the fire is not quenched; Matt. 5:29. If you say you have no power to come to Christ, your consciences will presently tell you that you never yet put forth the uttermost power that you have in striving for your own salvation. It will also tell you that you suppose you have such a power; else why have you so long delayed repentance and conversion upon this pretense, that you will seriously perform them hereafter? Besides, although your endeavours do not oblige God to do that for you, you cannot do of yourselves; yet it is more probable he will do so, when you strive to your utmost, than when you carelessly neglect those duties, and give yourselves up to the contrary courses. If you say, you would strive if you were assured of success, and that you should be received and accepted by Christ, if you came unto him, and did cast your poor souls upon him; you can answer yourselves, if you will, that you daily spend your time, pains and studies upon lesser things, having no assurance at all of success. The husbandman toils all day at the plough, yet is not assured of a good harvest; his corn may die in the seed, or be blasted in the ear. The mariner ventures his estate upon the sea; yet has no assurance of a good return; the ship may miscarry. The miner will dig into the bowels of the earth and try here and there, yet has no assurance he shall find that rich vein of ore that shall recompense his cost and pains. Now, if men will labour so hard, and adventure so much upon uncertainties for a little of the world, does not your own reason conclude you ought to do more, and adventure further than any of them to obtain Christ, and eternal salvation? Oh, strive, strive to make your escape out of Satan's kingdom to Christ; sit not with folded hands on the seats of sloth, saying it is to no purpose.
Suppose yourselves now upon your deathbed, all early comforts insipid things to you; conscience presaging the wrath to come; time and hope ending together; would you not then wish, oh, that we had been ruled and governed by Christ's laws and spirit, and not by Satan and our own lusts! Had we been the servants of Christ, we had now been going to Christ; had he governed, he would have saved us; but his servants we are to whom we obey; we have served our lusts, and the wages of sin is death.
Or suppose you saw the glory of heaven, or the horrors of hell; that you heard the allelujahs of the palm-bearing multitude, or the shrieks of damned castaways; would it be so indifferent a thing to you, whether you obey Christ's call or no? Believe it, these are no devised fables, but do really exist, whether you mind them or not. And why should you not suppose, and forethink things so sure, and so nigh? A sweet voice comes from heaven this day, saying, let all that expect to enjoy the glory that is here, see that they submit heartily to Christ's scepter, for he saves no more than he rules; and the whole number of the glorified in heaven is made up of such as heartily closed with Christ's terms on earth. A dreadful voice comes up from hell, crying as it were in your ears, "As ever you expect to escape the miseries and torments that are here, do not reject Christ's yoke and government as we did; our yielding up of ourselves to the sway and government of our lusts was our ruin."
To conclude, let all men try their own estates, and examine to what king they do indeed belong; and whose subjects, in truth, they are, Christ's or Satan's. For these two kingdoms divide the whole world. God has furnished us with self-reflecting powers; we are able to retire out of the confused noises of the world and sit retired in the innermost closet of our own souls, where none but God and our consciences shall be privy to our debates; and there solemnly demand of our conscience, and charge it to make plain and faithful answers to such questions and enquiries as these:
Question 1: To whom do I yield the most prompt, cheerful and constant obedience? To the commands of Christ, or to the solicitations of Satan, and my own lusts? He that has my obedience, the same is my lord and king; Rom. 6:16. To whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey. When God and conscience calls me to pray, and the world calls me off to attend its ensnaring pleasures and unnecessary employments, which of these calls do I pay obedience to?
Question 2: Who governs the secret and unseen part of my life? That every man is in the account of God, which he is in secret; Rom. 2:28, 29. Now, who is king in the closet? And what rules do my thoughts move by? If Christ bring my thoughts into obedience, so that I dare not indulge to myself a sinful liberty to enjoy the speculative pleasure of the sins I have acted, or would act had I opportunity for it: and if I am in the fear of God when alone, and make conscience of my secret, as well as public duties, then I am under Christ's government, and he is king of my soul; 2 Cor. 10:5; Matt. 6:6. But if I make an external show of obedience to Christ, and secretly obey my lusts, I am really the servant of sin, and belong to another king. Oh, my conscience, what do you say to these things?
Question 3: Whom do I follow, or heartily resolve to follow when it comes to a parting point betwixt Christ and the world? When I must cleave to the one and forsake the other; Matt. 6:14. Do I with full purpose of heart cleave to the Lord? Acts 11:23. Is it my sincere resolution to follow the lamb whithersoever he goes? Rev. 14:4. Or have I secret reserves to quit Christ's service and give religion the slip when it comes to a real distress and difficulty? These are sounding questions, and will discover whose government we are under.
Let England praise the Lord for such a day as this! How many sad years are run out since it saw the crown upon the heads of a Protestant King and Queen at once! Let faithful magistrates rejoice, they shall never more be put upon the odious and dangerous drudgery of persecuting good men, under such a government as this.
Let ministers rejoice, yea, let them rejoice with double
joy to others; they shall no more be driven into corners nor put to
silence, a silence as bitter as death, whilst the royal scepter is swayed
by such hands as God has now put it into.