A. Warrants to Believe (1 of 4)
For building our confidence upon this solid ground, these four Warrants and special Motives to believe in Christ may serve.
The first is God's hearty invitation, held forth, Isa. 55:1-4.
"1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Wherefore do ye spend money for [that which is] not bread? and your labour for [that which] satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye [that which is] good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. 3 Incline your ear, 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. 4 Behold, I have given him [for] a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people."
Here (after setting down the precious ransom of our redemption by the sufferings of Christ, and the rich blessings purchased to us by it, in the two former chapters) the Lord, in this chapter,
1. Makes open offer of Christ and his grace, by proclamation of a free and gracious market of righteousness and salvation, to be had through Christ to every soul, without exception, that truly desires to be saved from sin and wrath: "Ho, every one that thirsteth".
2. He invites all sinners, that for any reason stand at a distance from God, to come and take from him riches of grace, running in Christ as a river, to wash away sin, and to slacken wrath: "Come ye to the waters".
3. Lest any should stand back in the sense of his own sinfulness or unworthiness, and inability to do any good, the Lord calls upon such persons in special, saying, "He that hath no money, come."
4. He craves no more of his merchant, but that he be pleased with the wares offered, which are grace, and more grace; and that he heartily consent to, and embrace this offer of grace, that so he may close a bargain, and a formal covenant with God; "Come, buy without money, come, eat:" that is, consent to have, and take to you all saving graces; make the wares your own, possess them, and make use of all blessings in Christ; whatever makes for your spiritual life and comfort, use and enjoy it freely, without paying anything for it: "Come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price".
5. Because the Lord knows how much we are inclined to seek righteousness and life by our own performances and satisfaction, to have righteousness and life as it were by the way of works, and how loath we are to embrace Christ Jesus, and to take life by way of free grace through Jesus Christ, upon the terms whereupon it is offered to us; therefore the Lord lovingly calls us off this our crooked and unhappy way with a gentle and timeous admonition, giving us to understand, that we shall but lose our labour in this our way: "Wherefore do ye spend your money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?"
6. The Lord promises to us solid satisfaction in the way of taking ourselves to the grace of Christ, even true contentment, and fulness of spiritual pleasure saying, "Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."
7. Because faith comes by hearing, he calls for listening to the explanation of the offer, and calls for believing of, and listening to the truth, which is able to beget the application of saving faith, and to draw the soul to trust in God: "Incline your ear, and come unto me". To which end, the Lord promises, that this offer being received, shall quicken the dead sinner; and that, upon the welcoming of this offer, he will close the covenant of grace with the man that shall consent to it, even an everlasting covenant of perpetual reconciliation and peace: "Hearken, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you." Which covenant, he declares, shall be in substance the assigning, and the making over, of all the saving graces which David (who is Jesus Christ, Acts 13.34) has bought for us in the covenant of redemption: "I will make a covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." By sure mercies, he means saving graces, such as are righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, adoption, sanctification, and glorification, and whatever belongs to godliness and life eternal.
8. To confirm and assure us of the real grant of these saving mercies, and to persuade us of the reality of the covenant between God and the believer of this word, the Father has made a fourfold gift of his eternal and only begotten Son:
8a) To be incarnate and born for our sake, of the seed of David his type; for which cause he is called here, and Acts 13.34, David, the true and everlasting King of Israel. This is the great gift of God to man John 4.10. And here "I have given him to be David," or born of David, "to the people."
8b) He has made a gift of Christ to be a witness to the people, both of the sure and saving mercies granted to the redeemed in the covenant of redemption; and also of the Father's willingness and purpose to apply them, and to make them fast in the covenant of reconciliation made with such as embrace the offer: "I have given him to be a witness to the people." And truly he is a sufficient witness in this matter in many respects:
8b1) Because he is one of the blessed Trinity, and party-contractor for us, in the covenant of redemption, before the world was. 8b2) He is by office, as Mediator, the Messenger of the covenant, and has received a commission to reveal it. 8b3) He began actually to reveal in paradise, where he promised, that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent. 8b4) He set forth his own death and sufferings, and the great benefits that should come thereby to us, in the type and figures of sacrifices and ceremonies before his coming. 8b5) He gave more and more light about this covenant, speaking by his Spirit, from age to age, in the holy prophets. 8b6) He came himself, in the fulness of time, and did bear witness of all things belonging to this covenant, and of God's willing mind to take believers into it; partly, by uniting our nature in one person with the divine nature; partly, by preaching the good tidings of the covenant with his own mouth; partly, by paying the price of redemption on the cross; and partly by dealing still with the people, from the beginning to this day, to draw in, and to hold in the redeemed in this covenant.
8c) God has made a gift of Christ, as a leader to the people, to bring us through all difficulties, all afflictions and temptations, to life, by this covenant: and he it is, and no other, who does indeed lead his own to the covenant; and, in the covenant, all the way on to salvation:
8c1) By the direction of his word and Spirit. 8c2) By the example of this own life, in faith and obedience, even to the death of the cross. 8c3) By his powerful working, bearing his redeemed ones in his arms, and causing them to lean on him, while they go up through the wilderness.
8d) God has made a gift of Christ to his people, as a commander: which office he faithfully exercises, by giving to his church and people laws and ordinances, pastors and elders, and all necessary officers; by keeping courts and assemblies among them, to see that his laws are obeyed; subduing, by his word, Spirit, and discipline, his people's corruptions; and, by his wisdom and power, guarding them against all their enemies whatever.
Hence he who has closed bargain with God may strengthen his faith, by reasoning after this manner:
"Whoever heartily receives the offer of free grace, made here to sinners, thirsting for righteousness and salvation: to him, by an everlasting covenant, belongs Christ, the true David, with all his sure and saving mercies:" "But I (may the weak believer say) do heartily receive the offer of free grace made here to sinners, thirsting for righteousness and salvation:" "Therefore to me, by an everlasting covenant, belongs Christ Jesus, with all his sure and saving mercies."
B. Warrants to Believe (2 of 4)
The second Warrant and special Motive to embrace Christ, and believe in him, is the "earnest request" that God makes to us to be reconciled to him in Christ; held forth, 2 Cor. 5.19-21
"19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech [you] by us: we pray [you] in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For he has made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
Wherein the apostle teaches us these nine doctrines.
1. That the elect world, or world of redeemed souls, are by nature in the estate of enmity against God: this is presupposed in the word reconciliation; for reconciliation, or renewing of friendship, cannot be, except between those that have been at enmity.
2. That in all the time past, since the fall of Adam, Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of God, as Mediator, and the Father in him, has been about the making friendship (by his work and Spirit) between himself and the elect world: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself."
3. That the way of reconciliation was in all ages one and the same in substance, that is, by forgiving the sons of them who do acknowledge their sins and their enmity against God, and do seek reconciliation and remission of sins in Christ: "For God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself," by way of, "not imputing their trespasses unto them."
4. That the end and scope of the gospel, and whole word of God, is threefold:
4a) It serves to make people sensitive to their sins, and of their enmity against God, and of their danger, if they should stand out, and not fear God's displeasure.
4b) The word of God serves to make men acquainted with the course which God has prepared for making friendship with them through Christ, That is, that if men shall acknowledge the enmity, and shall be content to enter into a covenant of friendship with God through Christ, then God will be content to be reconciled with them freely.
4c) The word of God serves to teach men how to carry themselves toward God, as friends, after they are reconciled to him, that is, to be loath to sin against him, and to strive heartily to obey his commandments: and therefore the word of God here is called "the word of reconciliation", because it teaches us what need we have of reconciliation, and how to make it, and how to keep the reconciliation of friendship, being made with God through Christ.
5. That albeit the hearing, believing, and obeying of this word, does belong to all those to whom this gospel comes; yet the office of preaching of it with authority belongs to none, but to such only as God calls to his ministry, and sends out with commission for this work. This the apostle holds forth, Verse 19. in these words, "He hath committed to us the word of reconciliation."
6. That the ministers of the gospel should behave themselves as Christ's messengers, and should closely follow their commission set down in the word, Matt 28.19,20; and when they do so, they should be received by the people as ambassadors from God; for here the apostle, in all their names say, "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us."
7. That ministers, in all earnestness of affections, should deal with people to acknowledge their sins, and their natural enmity against God, more and more seriously; and to consent to the covenant of grace and ambassador of Christ more and more heartily; and to evidence more and more clearly their reconciliation, by a holy carriage before God. This he holds forth, when he says, "We pray you, be ye reconciled to God."
8. That in the ministers' affectionate dealing with the people, the people should consider what they have to do with God and Christ, requesting them, by the ministers, to be reconciled. Now, there cannot be a greater inducement to break a sinner's hard heart, than God's making a request to him for friendship; for when it became us, who have done so many wrongs to God, to seek friendship of God, he comes before us: and (O wonder of wonders!) he requests us to be content to be reconciled to him; and therefore most fearful wrath must abide on them who make light of this request, and do not yield when they hear ministers with commission, saying, " We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."
9. To make it appear how it comes to pass that the covenant of reconciliation should be so easily made up between God and a humble sinner fleeing to Christ, the apostle leads us to the cause of it, held forth in the covenant of redemption, the sum whereof is this:
"It is agreed between God and the Mediator Jesus Christ the Son of God, surety for the redeemed, as the parties of the contract, that the sins of the redeemed should be imputed to the innocent Christ, and he both condemned and put to death for them, upon this very condition, that whoever heartily consents to the covenant of reconciliation offered through Christ, shall, by the imputation of his obedience to them, be justified and held righteous before God; for God has made Christ, `who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.'"
Hence may a weak believer strengthen his faith, by reasoning from this ground after this manner:
"He that, upon the loving request of God and Christ, made to him by the mouth of ministers, (having commission to that effect,) has embraced the offer of perpetual reconciliation through Christ, and does purpose, by God's grace, as a reconciled person, to strive against sin, and to serve God to his power constantly, may be as sure to have righteousness and eternal life given to him, for the obedience of Christ imputed to him, as it is sure that Christ was condemned and put to death for the sins of the redeemed imputed to him:" "But I (may the weak believer say) upon the loving request of God and Christ, made to me by the mouth of his ministers, have embraced the offer or perpetual reconciliation through Christ, and do purpose, by God's grace, as a reconciled person, to strive against sin, and to serve God to my power constantly:" "Therefore I may be as sure to have righteousness and eternal life given to me, for the obedience of Christ imputed to me, as it is sure that Christ was condemned and put to death for the sins of the redeemed imputed to him."
C. Warrants to Believe Part (3 of 4)
The third warrant and special Motive to believe in Christ, is the straight and "awful command of God", charging all the hearers of the gospel to approach to Christ in the order set down by him, and to believe in him; as held forth,
"And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment." 1 John 3.23
Wherein the apostle gives us to understand these five doctrines:
1. That if any man shall not accept the sweet invitation of God, or the humble and loving request of God, made to him to be reconciled, he shall find he has to deal with the sovereign authority of the highest Majesty; for "this is his commandment, that we believe in him".
2. That if any man look upon this commandment as he has looked hereto upon the neglected commandments of the law, he must consider that this is a command of the gospel, after the law, given for making use of the remedy of sins; which, if it be disobeyed, there is no other command to follow but this, "Go, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire of hell;" for "this is his commandment;" the obedience of which is most pleasant in his sight, Verse 22 and without which it is impossible to please him, Heb 11.6.
3. That every one who hears the gospel, must make conscience of the duty of lively faith in Christ; the weak believer must not think it presumption to do what is commanded; the person inclined to desperation must take up himself, and think upon obedience to sweet and saving command; the strong believer must dip yet more in the sense of his need he has of Jesus Christ, and more and more grow in the obedience of this command, yes, the most impenitent, profane, and wicked person must not thrust out himself, or be thrust out by others, from orderly aiming at this duty, how desperate ever his condition seems to be; for he that commands all men to believe in Christ, does thereby command all men to believe that they are damned and lost without Christ: he thereby commands all men to acknowledge their sins, and their need of Christ, and in effect commands all men to repent, that they may believe in him. And whoever does refuse to repent of their past sins, are guilty of disobedience to this command given to all hearers, but especially to those that are within the visible church: for "this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ".
4. That he who obeys this commandment has built his salvation on a solid ground: for,
4a) He has found the promised Messiah, completely furnished with all perfections to the perfect execution of the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King; for he is that Christ in whom the man does believe.
4b) He has embraced a Saviour, who is able to save to the uttermost, yes, who does effectually save every one that comes to God through him; for he is Jesus, the true Saviour of his people from their sins.
4c) He that obeys this command has built his salvation on the Rock, that is, on the Son of God, to whom it is no robbery to be called equal to the Father, and who is worthy to be the object of saving faith, and of spiritual worship: for this is his command, that "we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ."
5. That he who has believed on Jesus Christ, though he is freed from the curse of the law, is not freed from the command and obedience of the law, but tied to it by a new obligation, and a new command from Christ; which new command from Christ gives help to obey the command: to which command from Christ, the Father adds his authority and command also; for "this is his commandment that we believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he has commanded us." The first part of which command, enjoining belief in him, necessarily implies love to God, and so obedience to the first table; for believing in God, and loving God, are inseparable; and the second part of the command enjoins love to our neighbour, (especially to the household of faith,) and so obedience to the second table of the law.
Hence may a weak believer strengthen himself, by reasoning from this ground after this manner:
"Whoever, in the sense of his own sinfulness, and fear of God's wrath, at the command of God, is fled to Jesus Christ, the only remedy of sin and misery, and has engaged his heart to the obedience of the law of love, his faith is not presumptuous or dead, but true and saving faith:" "But I, (may the weak believer say,) in the sense of my own sinfulness, and fear of God's wrath, am fled to Jesus Christ, the only remedy of sin and misery, and have engaged my heart to the obedience of the law of love:" "Therefore my faith is not a presumptuous and dead faith, but true and saving faith."
D. Warrants of Belief Part (4 of 4)
The fourth Warrant and special Motive to believe in Christ, is "much assurance of life" given, in case men shall obey the command of believing; and a "fearful certification" of destruction, in case they obey not; as held forth,
"35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." John 3.35,36
Wherein are held forth to us these five following doctrines:
1. That the Father is well satisfied with the undertakings of the Son, entered Redeemer and Surety, to pay the ransom of believers and to perfect them in holiness and salvation: "the Father loveth the Son,"; that is, as he stands as Mediator in our name, undertaking to perfect our redemption in all points: The Father loves him, that is, does heartily accept his offer to do the work, and is well pleased with him: his soul delights in him, and rests upon him, and makes him, in this his office, the "receptacle of love, and grace, and good will," to be conveyed by him to believers in him.
2. That, for fulfilling of the covenant of redemption, the Father has given to the Son (as he stands in the capacity of the Mediator, or as he is God incarnate, the Word made flesh) all authority in heaven and earth, all supply of the riches of grace, and of spirit and life, with all power and ability, which the union of the divine nature with the human, or which the fulness of the Godhead dwelling substantially in his human nature, or which the indivisible all-sufficiency and omnipotency of the inseparable, every where present Trinity does import, or the work of redemption can require: "the Father has given all things into the Son's hand," that is, for accomplishing his work.
3. Great assurance of life is held forth to all who shall heartily receive Christ, and the offer of the covenant of grace and reconciliation through him: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life;" for it is made certain to him,
3a) In God's purpose and irrevocable decree, as the believer is a man elected to life.
3b) By effectual calling of him to life by God, who, as he is faithful, so will do it.
3c) By promise and everlasting covenant, sworn by God, to give the believer strong consolation in life and death, upon immutable grounds.
3d) By the pledge and security under the great seal of the ordinance of the Lord's supper, so oft as the believer shall come to receive the symbols and pledges of life.
3e) In Christ the fountain and head of life, who is entered in possession, as attorney for believers; in whom our life is so laid up, that it cannot be taken away.
3f) By being in possession of spiritual life and regeneration, and a kingdom consisting in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, erected within the believer, as the earnest of the full possession of everlasting life.
4. A fearful warning is given, if a man receive not the doctrine concerning righteousness and eternal life to be had by Jesus Christ: "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life," that is, not so much as understand what it means.
5. He further warns, that if a man receive not the doctrine of the Son of God, he shall be burdened twice with the wrath of God; once as a born rebel by nature, he shall bear the curse of the law, or the covenant of works; and next, he shall endure a greater condemnation, in respect that light being come into the world, and offered to him, he has rejected it, and loves darkness rather than light: and this double wrath shall be fastened and fixed immovably upon him, so long as he remains in the condition of unbelief: "The wrath of God abideth on him".
Hence may the weak believer strengthen his faith, by reasoning from this ground after this manner:
"Whosoever believes the doctrine delivered by the Son of God, and finds himself partly drawn powerfully to believe in him, by the sight of life in him, and partly driven, by the fear of God's wrath, to adhere to him, may be sure of right and interest to eternal life through him:" "But sinful and unworthy I (may the weak believer say) do believe the doctrine delivered by the Son of God, and do feel myself partly drawn powerfully to believe in him, by the sight of life in him, and partly driven, by the fear of God's wrath, to adhere to him:" "Therefore, I may be sure of my right and interest to eternal life through him."