Acacia John Bunyan - Online Library
T H E
THE THIRD EDITION,
In which is added,
A N S W E R
to those grand objections
that lie in the way of the them that would believe:
for the comfort of them that
fear they have sinned against
T H E - H O L Y - G H O S T.
By J O H N.B U N Y A N, of Bedford.
L O N D O N,
Printed for Elizabeth Smith,
at the Hand and Bible, on London Bridge, 1691.
Reprinted three years after John Bunyan's death.
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR
THAT Bunyan, who considered himself one of the most notorious of Jerusalem sinners,should write with the deepest earnestness upon this subject, is not surprising. Hehad preached upon it with very peculiar pleasure, and, doubtless, from many texts;and, as he says, 'through God's grace, with great success.' It is not probable that,with his characteristic intensity of feeling, and holy fervour in preaching, he everdelivered the same sermon twice; but this was a subject so in unison with his ownfeelings and experience, that he must have dilated upon it with even unusual interestand earnestness. The marrow of all these exercises he concentrated in this treatise;and when his judgment was, by severe internal conflicts, fully matured upon the eveof the close of his earthly pilgrimage, in the last year of his life, 1688 he publishedit in a pocket volume of eight sheets. It was soon translated into several languages,and became so popular as to pass through ten editions in English by 1728. Like otherfavourite books, it was ornamented with some very inferior wood-cuts.
The object of the author is fully explained in the title to his book. It is to displaythe riches of Divine grace and mercy to the greatest sinnerseven to those whose conductentitled them to be called 'Satan's colonels, and captains, the leaders of his people;and to such as most stoutly make head against the Son of God.' It is to those whofeel themselves to be such, and who make a proper estimate of their own characters,as in the sight of God, that the gracious proclamations of the gospel are peculiarlydirected. They to whom much is forgiven, love much; and the same native energieswhich had been misdirected to promote evil, when sanctified and divinely guided,become a great blessing to the church, and to society at large.
Bunyan does not stoop to any attempt to reconcile the humbling doctrines of graceto the self-righteous pride of those who, considering themselves but little sinners,would feel contaminated by the company of those who had been such great sinners,although they were pardoned and sanctified by God. His great effort was directedto relieve the distress and despair of those who were suffering under deep convictions;still, his whole treatise shows that the doctrine of salvation by grace, of freegift, is no encouragement to sin that grace may abound, as some have blasphemouslyasserted. It is degrading to the pride of those who have not drunk so deeply of sin,to be placed upon a level with great sinners. But the disease is the samein breakingone commandment, the whole law is violated; and, however in some the moral leprosydoes not make such fearful ravages as in others, the slightest taint conveys moral,spiritual, and eternal death. ALL, whether young or old, great or small, must besaved by grace, or fall into perdition. The difference between the taint of sin,and its awfully developed leprosy, is given. Who so ready to fly to the physicianas those who feel their case to be desperate? and, when cured, they must love theSaviour most.
Comparatively little sins before conviction, when seen in the glass of God's law,and in his holy presence, become great ones. Those who feel themselves to be greatsinners, are peculiarly invited to the arms of the Saviour, who saves to the uttermostALL that come unto him; and it is thus that peculiar consolation is poured in, andthe broken heart is bound up. We are then called by name, as Bunyan forcibly describesit, as men called by name before a court. 'Who first cry out, "Here, Sir";and then shoulder and crowd, and say, "Pray give way, I am called into the court."This is thy case, wherefore say, "Stand away, devil, Christ calls me; standaway, unbelief, Christ calls me; stand away, all ye my discouraging apprehensions,for my Saviour calls me to him to receive of his mercy."' 'Wherefore, sinceChrist says come, let the angels make a lane, and let all men give place, that theJerusalem sinner may come to Jesus Christ for mercy.' How characteristic is thisof the peculiarly striking style of Bunyan! How solemn his warnings! 'The invitationsof the gospel will be, to those who refuse them, the hottest coals in hell.'
His reasonings against despair are equally forcible: ''Tis a sin to begin to despairbefore one sets his foot over the threshold of hell gate. What! despair of breadin a land that is full of corn! despair of mercy, when our God is full of mercy!when he goes about by his ministers, beseeching of sinners to be reconciled untohim! Thou scrupulous fool, where canst thou find that God was ever false to his promise,or that he ever deceived the soul that ventured itself upon him?' This whole treatiseabounds with strong consolation to those who are beset with fears, and who, becauseof these, are ready to give way to despair; it ought to be put into the hands ofall such, let them belong to what party they may; for, like our author's other books,nothing of a sectarian nature can be traced in it, except we so call the distinguishingtruths of evangelical religion. There are some very interesting references to Bunyan'sexperience and life, and one rather singular idea, in which I heartily concur; itis, that the glorified saints will become part of the heavenly hierarchy of angels,and take the places of those who fell from that exalted state (Rev 22:8,9).
To those whose souls are invaded by despair, or who fear that they have committedthe sin against the Holy Ghostto all who pant to have their faith strengthened, andhopes brightened, this little work is most earnestly and affectionately commended.
TO THE READER.
ONE reason which moved me to write and print this little book was, because, thoughthere are many excellent heart-affecting discourses in the world that tend to convertthe sinner, yet I had a desire to try this simple method of mine; wherefore I makebold thus to invite and encourage the worst to come to Christ for life.
I have been vile myself, but have obtained mercy; and I would have my companionsin sin partake of mercy too: and, therefore, I have writ this little book.
The nation doth swarm with vile ones now , as ever it did since it was a nation.My little book, in some places, can scarce go from house to house, but it will finda suitable subject to spend itself upon. Now, since Christ Jesus is willing to savethe vilest, why should they not, by name, be somewhat acquainted with it, and bidcome to him under that name?
A great sinner, when converted, seems a booty to Jesus Christ; he gets by savingsuch an one; why then should both Jesus lose his glory and the sinner lose his soulat once, and that for want of an invitation?
I have found, through God's grace, good success in preaching upon this subject, andperhaps, so I may by my writing upon it too. I have, as you see, let down thisnet for a draught. The Lord catch some great fishes by it, for the magnifying ofhis truth. There are some most vile in all men's eyes, and some are so in their owneyes too; but some have their paintings, to shroud their vileness under; yet theyare naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do; and for all these,God hath sent a Saviour, Jesus; and to all these the door is opened.
Wherefore, prithee, profane man, give this little book the reading. Come; pardon,and a part in heaven and glory, cannot be hurtful to thee. Let not thy lusts andfolly drive thee beyond the door of mercy, since it is not locked nor bolted up againstthee. Manasseh was a bad man, and Magdalene a bad woman, to say nothing of the thiefupon the cross, or of the murderers of Christ; yet they obtained mercy; Christ willinglyreceived them.
And dost thou think that those, once so bad, now they are in heaven, repent themthere because they left their sins for Christ when they were in the world? I cannotbelieve, but that thou thinkest they have verily got the best on't. Why, sinner,do thou likewise. Christ, at heaven gates, says to thee, Come hither; and the devil,at the gates of hell, does call thee to come to him. Sinner, what sayest thou? Whitherwilt thou go? Don't go into the fire; there thou wilt be burned! Don't let Jesuslose his longing, since it is for thy salvation, but come to him and live.
One word more, and so I have done. Sinner, here thou dost hear of love; prithee,do not provoke it, by turning it into wantonness. He that dies for slighting love,sinks deepest into hell, and will there be tormented by the remembrance of that evil,more than by the deepest cogitation of all his other sins. Take heed, therefore;do not make love thy tormentor, sinner. Farewell.
GOOD NEWS FOR THE VILEST OF MEN;
A HELP FOR DESPAIRING SOULS.
'BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM.' LUKE 24:47.
THE whole verse runs thus: 'And that repentance and remission of sins should be preachedin his name among all nations, 'beginning at Jerusalem.'
The words were spoken by Christ, after he rose from the dead, and they are here rehearsedafter an historical manner, but do contain in them a formal commission, with a specialclause therein. The commission is, as you see, for the preaching of the gospel, andis very distinctly inserted in the holy record by Matthew and Mark. 'Go - teach allnations,' &c. (Matt 28:19) 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel toevery creature' (Mark 16:15). Only this clause is in special mentioned by Luke, whosaith, that as Christ would have the doctrine of repentance and remission of sinspreached in his name among all nations, so he would have the people of Jerusalemto have the first proffer thereof. Preach it, saith Christ, in all nations, but beginat Jerusalem.
The apostles, then, though they had a commission so large as to give them warrantto go and preach the gospel in all the world, yet by this clause they were limitedas to the beginning of their ministry; they were to begin this work at Jerusalem."Beginning at Jerusalem.'
Before I proceed to an observation upon the words, I must, but briefly, touch upontwo things: namely, FIRST, Show you what Jerusalem now was. SECOND, Show you whatit was to preach the gospel to them.
FIRST, Jerusalem is to be considered either, First , With respect to the descentof her people; or, Second , With respect to her preference and exaltation; or, Third, With respect to her present state, as to her decays.
First , As to her descent, she was from Abraham, [by] the sons of Jacob, a peoplethat God singled out from the rest of the nations, to set his love upon them.
Secondly , As to her preference or exaltation, she was the place of God's worship,and that which had in and with her the special tokens and signs of God's favour andpresence, above any other people in the world. Hence, the tribes went up to Jerusalemto worship; there was God's house, God's high-priest, God's sacrifices accepted,and God's eye, and God's heart perpetually (Psa 76:1,2, 122; 1 Kings 9:3). But,
Thirdly , We are to consider Jerusalem also in her decays; for, as she is so considered,she is the proper object of our text, as will be further showed by and by.
Jerusalem, as I told you, was the place and seat of God's worship, but now decayed,degenerated, and apostatized. The Word, the rule of worship, was rejected of them,and in its place they had put and set up their own traditions: they had rejected,also, the most weighty ordinances, and put in the room thereof their own little things(Matt 15; Mark 7). Jerusalem was therefore now greatly backslidden, and become theplace where the truth and true religion were much defaced.
It was also now become the very sink of sin and seat of hypocrisy, and gulf wheretrue religion was drowned. Here also now reigned presumption, and groundless confidencein God, which is the bane of souls. Amongst its rulers, doctors, and leaders, envy,malice, and blasphemy vented itself against the power of godliness, in all placeswhere it was espied; as also against the promoters of it; yea, their Lord and Makercould not escape them.
In a word, Jerusalem was now become the shambles, the very slaughter- shop for saints.This was the place wherein the prophets, Christ, and his people, were most horriblypersecuted and murdered. Yea, so hardened at this time was this Jerusalem in hersins, that she feared not to commit the biggest, and to bind herself, by wish, underthe guilt and damning evil of it; saying, when she had murdered the Son of God, 'Hisblood be on us, and on our children.' And though Jesus Christ did, both by doctrine,miracles, and holiness of life, seek to put a stop to their villanies, yet they shuttheir eyes, stopped their ears, and rested not, till, as was hinted before, theyhad driven him out of the world. Yea, that they might, if possible, have extinguishedhis name, and exploded his doctrine out of the world, they, against all argument,and in despite of heaven, its mighty hand, and undeniable proof of his resurrection,did hire soldiers to invent a lie, saying, his disciples stole him away from thegrave; on purpose that men might not count him the Saviour of the world, nor trustin him for the remission of sins.
They were, saith Paul, contrary to all men: for they did not only shut up the doorof life against themselves, but forbade that it should be opened to any else. 'Forbiddingus,' saith he, 'to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, to fill up theirsins alway' (1 Thess 2:14-16; Matt 23:35; 15:7-9; Mark 7:6-8; Matt 3:7-9; John 8:33,41;Matt 27:18; Mark 3:30; Matt 23:37; Luke 13:33,34; Matt 27:25; 20:11-16).
This is the city, and these are the people; this is their character, and these aretheir sins: nor can there be produced their parallel in all this world. Nay, whatworld, what people, what nation, for sin and transgression, could or can be comparedto Jerusalem? especially if you join to the matter of fact the light they sinnedagainst, and the patience which they abused. Infinite was the wickedness upon thisaccount which they committed.
After all their abusings of wise men, and prophets, God sent unto them John Baptist,to reduce them, and then his Son, to redeem them; but they would be neither reducednor redeemed, but persecuted both to the death. Nor did they, as I said, stop here;the holy apostles they afterwards persecuted also to death, even so many as theycould; the rest they drove from them unto the utmost corners.
SECOND, I come not to show you what it was to preach the gospel to them. It was,saith Luke, to preach to them 'repentance and remission of sins' in Christ's name;or, as Mark has it, to bid them 'repent and believe the gospel' (Mark 1:15). Notthat repentance is a cause of remission, but a sign of our hearty reception thereof.Repentance is therefore here put to intimate, that no pretended faith of the gospelis good that is not accompanied with it; and this he doth on purpose, because hewould not have them deceive themselves: for with what faith can he expect remissionof sins in the name of Christ, that is not heartily sorry for them? Or how shalla man be able to give to others a satisfactory account of his unfeigned subjectionto the gospel, that yet abides in his impenitency?
Wherefore repentance is here joined with faith, in the way of receiving the gospel.Faith is that without which it cannot be received at all; and repentance that withoutwhich it cannot be received unfeignedly. When, therefore, Christ says, he would havea repentance and remission of sins preached in his name among all nations, it isas much as to say, I will that all men everywhere be sorry for their sins, and acceptof mercy at God's hand through me, lest they fall under his wrath in the judgment;for, as I have said, without repentance, what pretence soever men have of faith,they cannot escape the wrath to come. Wherefore Paul said, God commands 'all meneverywhere to repent,' (in order to their salvation): 'because he hath appointeda day, in the which he shall judge the world in righteousness by that man whom hehath ordained' (Acts 17:31).
And now, to come to this clause, 'Beginning at Jerusalem'; that is, that Christ wouldhave Jerusalem have the first offer of the gospel. 1. This cannot be so commandedbecause they had now any more right, of themselves, thereto, than had any of thenations of the world; for their sins had divested them of all self-deservings. 2.Nor yet because they stood upon the advance-ground with the worst of the sinnersof the nations; nay, rather, the sinners of the nations had the advance-ground ofthem: for Jerusalem was, long before she had added this iniquity to her sin, worsethan the very nations that God cast out before the children of Israel (2 Chron 33).3. It must, therefore, follow, that this cause, 'Beginning at Jerusalem,' was putinto this commission of mere grace and compassion, even from the overflowings ofthe bowels of mercy; for indeed they were the worst, and so in the most deplorablecondition of any people under the heavens.
Whatever, therefore, their relation was to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacobhowever they formerlyhad been the people among whom God had placed his name and worship, they were nowdegenerated from God, more than the nations were from their idols, and were becomeguilty of the highest sins which the people of the world were capable of committing.Nay, none can be capable of committing of such pardonable sins as they committedagainst their God, when they slew his Son, and persecuted his name and Word.
From these words, therefore, thus explained, we gain this observation: That JesusChrist . would have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggest sinners
That these Jerusalem sinners were the biggest sinners that ever were in the world,I think none will deny, that believes that Christ was the best man that ever wasin the world, and also was their Lord God. And that they were to have the first offerof his grace, the text is as clear as the sun; for it saith, 'Beginning at Jerusalem.''Preach,' saith he, 'repentance and remission of sins' to the Jerusalem sinners:to the Jerusalem sinners in the first place. One would a-thought, since the Jerusalemsinners were the worst and greatest sinners, Christ's greatest enemies, and thosethat not only despised his person, doctrine, and miracles, but that, a little before,had had their hands up to the elbows in his heart's blood, that he should ratherhave said, Go into all the world, and preach repentance and remission of sins amongall nations; and, after that, offer the same to Jerusalem; yea, it had been infinitegrace if he had said so. But what grace is this, or what name shall we give it, whenhe commands that this repentance and remission of sins, which is designed to be preachedin all nations, should first be offered to Jerusalem; in the first place to the worstof sinners!
Nor was this the first time that the grace, which was in the heart of Christ, thusshowed itself to the world. For while he was yet alive, even while he was yet inJerusalem, and perceived, even among these Jerusalem sinners, which was the mostvile among them, he still, in his preaching, did signify that he had a desire thatthe worst of these worst should, in the first place, come unto him. The which heshoweth, where he saith to the better sort of them, 'The publicans and the harlotsgo into the kingdom of God before you' (Matt 21:31). Also when he compared Jerusalemwith the sinners of the nations, then he commands that the Jerusalem sinners shouldhave the gospel at present confined to them. 'Go not,' saith he, 'into the way ofthe Gentiles, and into any of the cities of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go ratherto the lost sheep of the house of Israel' (Matt 10:5,6; 23:37). But go rather tothem, for they were in the most fearful plight. These, therefore, must have the creamof the gospel, namely, the first offer thereof, in his lifetime; yea, when he departedout of the world, he left this as part of his last will with his preachers, thatthey also should offer it first to Jerusalem. He had a mind, a careful mind, as itseems, to privilege the worst of sinners with the fist offer of mercy, and to takefrom among them a people, to be the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb.
The 15th of Luke also is famous for this, where the Lord Jesus takes more care, asappears there by three parables, for the lost sheep, lost groat, and the prodigalson, than for the other sheep, the other pence, or for the son that said he had nevertransgressed; yea, he shows that there is joy in heaven, among the angels of God,at the repentance of one sinner, more than over ninety and nine just persons whichneed no repentance. After this manner, therefore, the mind of Christ was set on thesalvation of the biggest sinners in his lifetime. But join to this, this clause,which he carefully put into the apostles' commission to preach, when he departedhence to the Father, and then you shall see that his heart was vehemently set uponit; for these were part of his last words with them, Preach my gospel to all nations,but that you begin at Jerusalem.
Nor did the apostles overlook this clause when their Lord was gone into heaven; theywent first to them of Jerusalem, and preached Christ's gospel to them; they abodealso there for a season and time, and preached it to nobody else, for they had regardto the commandment of their Lord. And it is to be observed, namely, that the firstsermon which they preached after the ascension of Christ, it was preached to thevery worst of these Jerusalem sinners, even to those that were the murderers of JesusChrist (Acts 2:23), for these are part of the sermon: 'Ye took him, and by wickedhands have crucified and slain him.' Yea, the next sermon, and the next, and alsothe next to that, was preached to the self-same murderers, to the end they mightbe saved (Acts 3:14-16; 4:10,11; 5:30; 7:52).
But we will return to the first sermon that was preached to these Jerusalem sinners,by which will be manifest more than great grace, if it be duly considered. For afterthat Peter, and the rest of the apostles, had, in their exhortation, persuaded thesewretches to believe that they had killed the Prince of life; and after they had dulyfallen under the guilt of their murder, saying, 'Men and brethren, what shall wedo?' he replies, by an universal tender to them all in general, considering themas Christ's killers, that if they were sorry for what they had done, and would bebaptized for the remission of their sins in his name, they should receive the giftof the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:37,38).
This he said to them all, though he knew that they were such sinners. Yea, he saidit without the least stick or stop, or pause of spirit, as to whether he had bestto say so or no. Nay, so far off was Peter from making an objection against one ofthem, that, by a particular clause in his exhortation, he endeavours, that not oneof them may escape the salvation offered. 'Repent,' saith he, 'and be baptized everyone of you.' I shut out never an one of you; for I am commanded by my Lord to dealwith you, as it were, one by one, by the word of his salvation. But why speaks heso particularly? Oh! there were reasons for it. The people with whom the apostleswere now to deal, as they were murderers of our Lord, and to be charged in the generalwith his blood, so they had their various and particular acts of villany in the guiltthereof, now lying upon their consciences. And the guilt of these, their variousand particular acts of wickedness, could not, perhaps, be reached to a removal thereofbut by this particular application. Repent, every one of you; be baptized, everyone of you, in his name, for the remission of sins, and you shall, every one of you,receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Objector . 'But I was one of them that plotted to take away his life. May I be savedby him?'
Peter . Every one of you.
Objector. 'But I was one of them that bare false witness against him. Is there gracefor me?'
Peter . For every one of you.
Objector . 'But I was one of them that cried out, Crucify him, crucify him; and desiredthat Barabbas, the murderer, might live, rather than him. What will become of me,think you?'
Peter . I am to preach repentance and remission of sins to every one of you, saysPeter.
Objector . 'But I was one of them that did spit in his face when he stood beforehis accusers. I also was one that mocked him, when in anguish he hanged bleedingon the tree. Is there room for me?'
Peter . For every one of you, says Peter.
Objector . 'But I was one of them that, in his extremity, said, Give him gall andvinegar to drink. Why may not I expect the same when anguish and guilt is upon me?'
Peter . Repent of these your wickednesses, and here is remission of sins for everyone of you.
Objector . 'But I railed on him, I reviled him, I hated him, I rejoiced to see himmocked at by others. Can there be hope for me?'
Peter . There is, for every one of you. 'Repent, and be baptized every one of youin the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive thegift of the Holy Ghost.' Oh! what a blessed 'Every one of you,' is here! How willingwas Peter, and the Lord Jesus, by his ministry, to catch these murderers with theword of the gospel, that they might be made monuments of the grace of God! How unwilling,I say, was he, that any of these should escape the hand of mercy! Yea, what an amazingwonder is it to think, that above all the world, and above everybody in it, theseshould have the first offer of mercy! 'Beginning at Jerusalem.'
But was there not something of moment in this clause of the commission? Did not Peter,think you, see a great deal in it, that he should thus begin with these men, andthus offer, so particularly, this grace to each particular man of them?
But, as I told you, this is not all; these Jerusalem sinners must have this offeragain and again; every one of them must be offered it over and over. Christ wouldnot take their first rejection for a denial, nor their second repulse for a denial;but he will have grace offered once, and twice, and thrice, to these Jerusalem sinners.Is not this amazing grace? Christ will not be put off. These are the sinners thatare sinners indeed. They are sinners of the biggest sort; consequently, such as Christcan, if they convert and be saved, best serve his ends and designs upon. Of whichmore anon.
But what a pitch of grace is this! Christ is minded to amaze the world, and to showthat he acteth not like the children of men. This is that which he said of old, 'Iwill not execute the fierceness of my wrath, I will not return to destroy Ephraim;for I am God and not man' (Hosea 11:9). This is not the manner of men; men areshorter winded; men are soon moved to take vengeance, and to right themselves ina way of wrath and indignation. But God is full of grace, full of patience, readyto forgive, and one that delights in mercy. All this is seen in our text. The biggestsinners must first be offered mercy; they must, I say, have the cream of the gospeloffered unto them.
But we will a little proceed. In the third chapter we find, that they who escapedconverting by the first sermon, are called upon again to accept of grace and forgiveness,for their murder committed upon the Son of God. You have killed, yea, 'ye deniedthe Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killedthe Prince of life.' Mark, he falls again upon the very men that actually were, asyou have it in the chapters following, his very betrayers and murderers (Acts 3:14,15),as being loath that they should escape the mercy of forgiveness: and exhorts themagain to repent, that their sins might 'be blotted out' (verse 19,20).
Again, in the fourth chapter, he charges them afresh with this murder (verse 10),but withal tells them salvation is in no other. Then, like a heavenly decoy, he putshimself also among them, to draw them the better under the net of the gospel; saying,'There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved'(verse 12).
In the fifth chapter, you find them railing at him, because he continued preachingamong them salvation in the name of Jesus. But he tells them, that that very Jesuswhom they had slain and hanged on a tree, him God had raised up, and exalted 'tobe a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins'(verse 29-31). Still insinuating, that though they had killed him, and to this dayrejected him, yet his business was to bestow upon them repentance and forgivenessof sins.
'Tis true, after they began to kill again, and when nothing but killing would servetheir turn, then they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.Yet even some of them so hankered after the conversion of the Jews, that they preachedthe gospel only to them. Also the apostles still made their abode at Jerusalem, inhopes that they might let down their net for another draught of these Jerusalem sinners.Neither did Paul and Barnabas, who were the ministers of God to the Gentiles, butoffer the gospel, in the first place, to those of them that, for their wickedness,were scattered, like vagabonds, among the nations; yea, and when they rendered rebellionand blasphemy for their service and love, they replied it was necessary that theword of God should first have been spoken to them (Acts 1:8; 13:46,47).
Nor was this their preaching unsuccessful among these people: but the Lord Jesusso wrought with the word thus spoken, that thousands of them came flocking to himfor mercy. Three thousand of them closed with him at the first; and, afterwards,two thousand more; for now they were in number about five thousand; whereas, beforesermons were preached to these murderers, the number of the disciples was not above'a hundred and twenty' (Acts 1:15; 2:41; 4:4).
Also among these people that thus flocked to him for mercy, there was a 'great companyof the priests' (Acts 6:7). Now, the priests were they that were the greatest ofthese biggest sinners; they were the ringleaders, they were the inventors and ringleadersin the mischief. It was they that set the people against the Lord Jesus, and thatwere the cause why the uproar increased, until Pilate had given sentence upon him.'The chief priests and elders,' says the text, 'persuaded (the people) the multitude,that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus' (Matt 27:20). And yet, behold thepriests, yea, a great company of the priests, became obedient to the faith.
Oh, the greatness of the grace of Christ, that he should be thus in love with thesouls of Jerusalem sinners! that he should be thus delighted with the salvation ofthe Jerusalem sinners! that he should not only will that his gospel should be offeredthem, but that it should be offered unto them first, and before other sinners wereadmitted to a hearing of it. 'Begin at Jerusalem.'
Was this doctrine well believed, where would there be a place for a doubt, or a fearof the damnation of the soul, if the sinner be penitent, how bad a life soever hehas lived, how many soever in number are his sins? But this grace is hid from theeyes of men; the devil hides it from them; for he knows it is alluring, he knowsit has an attracting virtue in it; for this is it that, above all arguments, candraw the soul to God. I cannot help it, but must let drop another word. The firstchurch, the Jerusalem church, from whence the gospel was to be sent into all theworld, was a church made up of Jerusalem sinners. These great sinners were here themost shining monuments of the exceeding grace of God.
Thus, you see, I have proved the doctrine; and that not only by showing you thatthis was the practice of the Lord Jesus Christ in his lifetime, but his last willwhen he went up to God; saying, Begin to preach at Jerusalem. Yea, it is yet furthermanifested, in that when his ministers first began to preach there, he joined hispower to the word, to the converting of thousands of his betrayers and murderers,and also many of the ringleading priests, to the faith.
I shall now proceed, and shall show you, FIRST, The reasons of the point. SECOND,And then make some application of the whole.
[THE REASONS OF THE POINT.]
The observation, you know, is this: Jesus Christ would have mercy offered, in thefirst place, to the biggest sinners, to the Jerusalem sinners: 'Preach repentance,and remission of sins, in my name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.'
The reasons of the point are:
Firs t, Because the biggest sinners have most need thereof .
He that has most need, reason says, should be helped first. I mean, when a helpinghand is offered, and now it is; for the gospel of the grace of God is sent to helpthe world (Act 16:9). But the biggest sinner has most need. Therefore, in reason,when mercy is sent down from heaven to men, the worst of men should have the firstoffer of it. 'Begin at Jerusalem.' This is the reason which the Lord Christ himselfrenders, why, in his lifetime, he left the best, and turned him to the worst; whyhe sat so loose from the righteous, and stuck so close to the wicked. 'The whole,'saith he, 'have no need of the physician, but the sick. I came not to call the righteous,but the sinners to repentance' (Mark 2:15-17).
Above, you read that the scribes and Pharisees said to his disciples, 'How is itthat he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?' Alas! they did not knowthe reason; but the Lord renders them one, and such an one as is both natural andcogent, saying, These have need, most need. Their great necessity requires that Ishould be most friendly, and show my grace first to them.
Not that the other were sinless, and so had no need of a Saviour; but the publicansand their companions were the biggest sinners; they were, as to view, worse thanthe scribes; and, therefore, in reason, should be helped first, because they hadmost need of a Saviour.
Men that are at the point to die, have more need of the physician than they thatare but now and then troubled with a heart-fainting qualm. The publicans and sinnerswere, as it were, in the mouth of death; death was swallowing of them down: and,therefore, the Lord Jesus receives them first; offers them mercy first. 'The wholehave no need of the physician, but the sick. I came not to call the righteous, butthe sinners to repentance.' The sick, as I said, is the biggest sinner, whether hesees his disease or not. He is stained from head to foot, from heart to life andconversation. This man, in every man's judgment, has the most need of mercy. Thereis nothing attends him from bed to board, and from board to bed again, but the visiblecharacters, and obvious symptoms, of eternal damnation. This, therefore, is the manthat has need, most need; and, therefore, in reason, should be helped in the firstplace. Thus it was with the people concerned in the text; they were the worst ofsinners, Jerusalem sinners, sinners of the biggest size; and, therefore, such ashad the greatest need; wherefore they must have mercy offered to them, before itbe offered to anywhere else in the world. 'Begin at Jerusalem,' offer mercy firstto a Jerusalem sinner. This man has most need, he is furthest from God, nearest tohell, and so one that has most need. This man's sins are in number the most, in crythe loudest, in weight the heaviest, and, consequently, will sink him soonest; whereforehe has most need of mercy. This man is shut up in Satan's hand, fastest bound inthe cords of his sins: one that justice is whetting his sword to cut off; and, therefore,has most need, not only of mercy, but that it should be extended to him in the firstplace.
But a little further to show you the true nature of this reason, to wit, That JesusChrist would have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggest sinners.
First, Mercy ariseth from the bowels and compassion, from pity, and from a feelingof the condition of those in misery. 'In his love, and in his pity, he redeemed them.'And again, 'The Lord is pitiful, very pitiful, and of tender mercy' (Isa 63:9; James5:11).
Now, where pity and compassion is, there is yearning of bowels; and where there isthat, there is a readiness to help. And, I say again, the more deplorable and dreadfulthe condition is, the more directly doth bowels and compassion turn themselves tosuch, and offer help and deliverance. All this flows from our first scripture proof,I came to call them that have need; to call them first, while the rest look on andmurmur.
'How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?' Ephraim was a revolter from God, a man thathad given himself up to devilism; a company of men, the ten tribes that worshippeddevils, while Judah kept with his God. But 'how shall I give thee up, Ephraim? Howshall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set theeas Zeboim? [and yet thou art worse than they, nor has Samaria committed half thysins (Eze 16:46-51)] Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together'(Hosea 11:8).
But where do you find that ever the Lord did thus rowl in his bowels for and afterany self-righteous man? No, no; they are the publicans and harlots, idolaters andJerusalem sinners, for whom his bowels thus yearn and tumble about within him: for,alas! poor worms, they have most need of mercy.
Had not the good Samaritan more compassion for that man that fell among thieves (thoughthat fall was occasioned by his going from the place where they worshipped God, toJericho, the cursed city), than we read he had for any other besides? His wine wasfor him, his oil was for him, his beast for him; his penny, his care, and his swaddlingbands for him; for, alas! wretch, he had most need (Luke 10:30-35).
Zaccheus the publican, the chief of the publicans, one that had made himself thericher by wronging of others; the Lord at that time singled him out from all therest of his brother publicans, and that in the face of many Pharisees, and proclaimedin the audience of them all, that that day salvation was come to his house (Luke19:1-8).
The woman, also, that had been bound down by Satan for eighteen years together, hiscompassions putting him upon it, he loosed her, though those that stood by snarledat him for so doing (Luke 13:11-13).
And why the woman of Sarepta, and why Naaman the Syrian, rather than widows and lepersof Israel, but because their conditions were more deplorable; for that they weremost forlorn, and furthest from help (Luke 4:25,27).
But I say, why all these, thus named? Why have we not a catalogue of some holy menthat were so in their own eyes, and in the judgment of the world? Alas! if, at anytime, any of them are mentioned, how seemingly coldly doth the record of scripturepresent them to us? Nicodemus, a night professor, and Simon the Pharisee, with hisfifty pence, and their great ignorance of the methods of grace, we have now and thentouched upon.
Mercy seems to be out of its proper channel when it deals with self- righteous men;but then it runs with a full stream when it extends itself to the biggest sinners.As God's mercy is not regulated by man's goodness, nor obtained by man's worthiness,so not much set out by saving of any such. But more of this anon.
And here let me ask my reader a question: Suppose that, as thou art walking by somepond side, thou shouldst espy in it four or five children, all in danger of drowning,and one in more danger than all the rest; judge which has most need to be helpedout first? I know thou wilt say, he that is nearest drowning. Why, this is the case;the bigger sinner, the nearer drowning; therefore, the bigger sinner, the more needof mercy; yea, of help, by mercy, in the first place. And to this our text agrees,when it saith, 'Beginning at Jerusalem.' Let the Jerusalem sinner, says Christ, havethe first offer, the first invitation, the first tender of my grace and mercy; forhe is the biggest sinner, and so has most need thereof.
Second , Christ Jesus would have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners, because when they, any of them, receive it, it redounds most to the fameof his name .
Christ Jesus, as you may perceive, has put himself under the term of a physician,a doctor for curing of diseases; and you know that applause and fame are things thatphysicians much desire. That is it that helps them to patients; and that, also, thatwill help their patients to commit themselves to their skill, for cure, with themore confidence and repose of spirit. And the best way for a doctor or physicianto get himself a name, is, in the first place, to take in hand, and cure, some suchas all others have given up for lost and dead. Physicians get neither name nor fameby pricking of wheals, or picking out thistles, or by laying of plasters to thescratch of a pin; every old woman can do this. But if they would have a name anda fame, if they will have it quickly, they must, as I said, do some great and desperatecures. Let them fetch one to life that was dead; let them recover one to his witsthat was mad; let them make one that was born blind to see; or let them give ripewits to a fool: these are notable cures, and he that can do thus, and if he doththus first, he shall have the name and fame he desires; he may lie a-bed till noon.
Why, Christ Jesus forgiveth sins for a name, and so begets for himself a good reportin the hearts of the children of men. And, therefore, in reason he must be willing,as, also, he did command, that his mercy should be offered first to the biggest sinners.I will forgive their sins, iniquities, and transgressions, says he, 'And it shallbe to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour, before all the nations of the earth'(Jer 33:8,9).
And hence it is, that, at his first appearing, he took upon him to do such mightyworks; he got a fame thereby, he got a name thereby (Matt 4:23,24).
When Christ had cast the legion of devils out of the man of whom you read (Mark 5),he bid him go home to his friends, and tell it. 'Go home,' saith he, 'to thy friends,and tell them how great things God hath done for thee, and hath had compassion onthee' (Mark 5:19). Christ Jesus seeks a name, and desireth a fame in the world; and,therefore, or the better to obtain that, he commands that mercy should first be profferedto the biggest sinners; because, by the saving of one of them, he makes all men marvel.As it is said of the man last mentioned, whom Christ cured towards the beginningof his ministry. 'And he departed,' says the text, 'and began to publish in Decapolishow great things Jesus had done for him; and all men did marvel' (Mark 5:20).
When John told Christ, that they saw one casting out devils in his name, and theyforbade him, because he followed not with them, what is the answer of Christ? 'Forbidhim not; for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightlyspeak evil of me' (Mark 9:39). No; they will rather cause his praise to be heard,and his name to be magnified, and so put glory on the head of Christ.
But we will follow, a little, our metaphor. Christ, as I said, has put himself underthe term of a physician; consequently, he desireth that his fame, as to the salvationof sinners, may spread abroad, that the world may see what he can do. And to thisend, has not only commanded that the biggest sinners should have the first offerof his mercy, but has, as physicians do, put out his bills, and published hisdoings, that things may be read and talked of. Yea, he has, moreover, in these, hisblessed bills, the holy scriptures I mean, inserted the very names of persons, theplaces of their abode, and the great cures that, by the means of his salvation, hehas wrought upon them to this very end. Here is, Item , such an one, by my graceand redeeming blood, was made a monument of everlasting life; and such an one, bymy perfect obedience, became an heir of glory. And then he produceth their names.Item , I saved Lot from the guilt and damnation that he had procured for himselfby his incest. Item , I saved David from the vengeance that belonged to him for committingof adultery and murder. Here is, also, Solomon, Manasseh, Peter, Magdalene, and manyothers, made mention of in this book. Yea, here are their names, their sins, andtheir salvations recorded together, that you may read and know what a Saviour heis, and do him honour in the world. For why are these things thus recorded, but toshow to sinners what he can do, to the praise and glory of his grace? And it is observable,as I said before, we have but very little of the salvation of little sinners mentionedin God's book, because that would not have answered the design, to wit, to bringglory and fame to the name of the Son of God.
What should be the reason, think you, why Christ should so easily take a denial ofthe great ones that were the grandeur of the world, and struggle so hard for hedge-creepersand highwaymen, as that parable seems to import he doth, but to show forth the richesof the glory of his grace, to his praise? (Luke 14). This, I say, is one reason,to be sure. They that had their grounds, their yoke of oxen, and their marriage joys,were invited to come; but they made the excuse, and that served the turn. But whenhe comes to deal with the worst, he saith to his servants, Go ye out and bring themin hither. 'Go out quickly - and bring in hither the poor, the maimed, the halt,and the blind.' And they did so. And he said again, 'Go out into the highways andhedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled' (Luke 14:18,19,23).These poor, lame, maimed, blind, hedge-creepers, and highwaymen, must come in, mustbe forced in. These, if saved, will make his merit shine.
When Christ was crucified, and hanged up between the earth and heavens, there weretwo thieves crucified with him; and, behold, he lays hold of one of them, and willhave him away with him to glory. Was not this a strange act, and a display of unthought-ofgrace? Were there none but thieves there, or were the rest of that company out ofhis reach? Could he not, think you, have stooped from the cross to the ground, andhave laid hold on some honester man, if he would? Yes, doubtless. Oh! but then hewould not have displayed his grace, nor so have pursued his own designs, namely,to get to himself a praise and a name; but now he has done it to purpose. For whothat shall read this story, but must confess, that the Son of God is full of grace;for a proof of the riches thereof, he left behind him, when, upon the cross, he tookthe thief away with him to glory. Nor can this one act of his be buried; it willbe talked of, to the end of the world, to his praise. 'Men shall speak of the mightof thy terrible acts; and I will declare thy greatness. They shall abundantly utterthe memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness - They shallspeak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; to make known to the sonsof men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom' (Psa 145:6-12).
When the Word of God came among the conjurors and those soothsayers, that you readof (Acts 19), and had prevailed with some of them to accept of the grace of Christ,the Holy Ghost records it with a boast, for that it would redound to his praise,saying, 'Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together,and burned them before all men ; and they counted the price of them, and found itfifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the Word of God, and prevailed'(Acts 19:19,20). It wrenched out of the clutches of Satan some of those of whom hethought himself most sure. 'So mightily grew the Word of God.' It grew mightily,it encroached upon the kingdom of the devil. It pursued him, and took the prey; itforced him to let go his hold! It brought away captive, as prisoners taken by forceof arms, some of the most valiant of his army. It fetched back from, as it were,the confines of hell, some of those that were his most trusty, and that, with hell,had been at an agreement. It made them come and confess their deeds, and burn theirbooks before all men. 'So mightily grew the Word of God, and prevailed.' Thus, therefore,you see why Christ will have offered mercy, in the first place, to the biggest sinners;they have most need thereof; and this is the most ready way to extol his name 'thatrideth upon the heavens' to our help. But,
Third , Christ Jesus would have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners, because, by their forgiveness and salvation, others, hearing of it, willbe encouraged the more to come to him for life .
For the physician, by curing the most desperate at the first, doth not only get himselfa name, but begets encouragement in the minds of other diseased folk to come to himfor help. Hence you read of our Lord, that after, through his tender mercy, he hadcured many of great diseases, his fame was spread abroad: 'They brought unto himall sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those whichwere possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had thepalsy, and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people fromGalilee, and Decapolis, and Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond Jordan' (Matt 4:24,25).See here, he first, by working, gets himself a fame, a name, and renown; and nowmen take encouragement, and bring, from all quarters, their diseased to him, beinghelped, by what they had heard, to believe that their diseased should be healed.
Now, as he did with those outward cures, so he does in the proffers of his graceand mercy; he proffers that, in the first place, to the biggest sinners, that othersmay take heart to come to him to be saved. I will give you a scripture or two. Imean to show you that Christ, by commanding that his mercy should, in the first place,be offered to the biggest of sinners, has a design thereby to encourage and provokeothers to come also to him for mercy. 'God,' said Paul, 'who is rich in mercy, forhis great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickenedus together with Christ (by grace ye are saved); and hath raised us up together,and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.' But why did he do allthis? 'That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace inhis kindness towards us through Christ Jesus' (Eph 2:4- 7). See, here is a design;God lets out his mercy to Ephesus of design, even to show to the ages to come theexceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness to them through Christ Jesus. Andwhy, to show, by these, the exceeding riches of his grace to the ages to come, throughChrist Jesus? But to allure them, and their children also to come to him, and topartake the same grace through Christ Jesus?
But what was Paul, and the Ephesian sinners? (of Paul we will speak anon.) TheseEphesian sinners, they were men dead in sins; men that walked according to the dictatesand motions of the devil; worshippers of Diana, that effeminate goddess; men faroff from God, aliens and strangers to all good things; such as were far off fromthat, as I said, and, consequently, in a most deplorable condition. As the Jerusalemsinners were of the highest sort among the Jews, so these Ephesian sinners were ofthe highest sort among the Gentiles (Eph 2:1-3,11,12; Acts 19:35). Wherefore, asby the Jerusalem sinners, in saving them first, he had a design to provoke othersto come to him for mercy, so the same design is here set on foot again, in his callingand converting the Ephesian sinners, 'That in the ages to come he might show theexceeding riches of his grace,' says he, 'in his kindness towards us through ChristJesus.' There is yet one hint behind. It is said that God saved these 'for his greatlove'; that is, as I think, for the setting forth, for the commendation of his love,for the advance of his love, in the hearts and minds of them that should come after.As who should say, God has had mercy upon, and been gracious to you, that he mightshow to others, for their encouragement, that they have ground to come to him tobe saved. When God saves one great sinner, it is to encourage another great sinnerto come to him for mercy.
He saved the thief, to encourage thieves to come to him for mercy; he saved Magdalene,to encourage other Magdalenes to come to him for mercy; he saved Saul, to encourageSauls to come to him for mercy; and this Paul himself doth say, 'For this cause,'saith he, 'I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting'(1 Tim 1:16). How plain are the words! Christ, in saving of me, has given to theworld a pattern of his grace, that they might see, and believe, and come, and besaved; that they that are to be born hereafter might believe on Jesus Christ to lifeeverlasting.
But what was Paul? Why, he tells you himself; I am, says he, the chief of sinners.I was, says he, a blasphemer, a persecutor, an injurious person; but I obtained mercy(1 Tim 1:13,14). Ay, that is well for you, Paul; but what advantage have we thereby?Oh, very much, saith he; for, 'for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me firstJesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which shouldhereafter believe on him to life everlasting' (verse 16). Thus, therefore, you seethat this third reason is of strength; namely, that Jesus Christ would have mercyoffered, in the first place, to the biggest sinners, because, by their forgivenessand salvation, others, hearing of it, will be encouraged the more to come to himfor mercy. It may well, therefore, be said to God, Thou delightest in mercy, andmercy pleases thee (Micah 7:18).
But who believes that this was God's design in showing mercy of oldnamely, that wethat come after might take courage to come to him for mercy; or that Jesus Christwould have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggest sinners, to stir upothers to come to him for life? This is not the manner of men, O God! But David sawthis betimes; therefore he makes this one argument with God, that he would blot outhis transgressions, that he would forgive his adultery, his murders, and horriblehypocrisy. Do it, O Lord, saith he, do it, and 'then will I teach transgressors thyways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee' (Psa 2:7-13). He knew that the conversionof sinners would be a work highly pleasing to God, as being that which he had designedbefore he made mountain or hill: wherefore he comes, and he saith, Save me, O Lord;if thou wilt but save me, I will fall in with thy design; I will help to bring whatsinners to thee I can. And, Lord, I am willing to be made a preacher myself, forthat I have been a horrible sinner; wherefore, if thou shalt forgive my great transgressions,I shall be a fit man to tell of thy wondrous grace to others. Yea, Lord, I dare promise,that if thou wilt have mercy upon me, it shall tend to the glory of thy grace, andalso to the increase of thy kingdom; for I will tell it, and sinners will hear on't.And there is nothing so suiteth with the hearing sinner as mercy; and to be informedthat God is willing to bestow it upon him. 'I will teach transgressors thy ways;and sinners shall be converted unto thee.'
Nor will Christ Jesus miss of his design in proffering of mercy, in the first place,to the biggest sinners. You know what work the Lord, by laying hold of the womanof Samaria, made among the people there. They knew that she was a town sinner, anadulteress; yea, one that, after the most audacious manner, lived in uncleannesswith a man that was not her husband. But when she, from a turn upon her heart, wentinto the city, and said to her neighbours, 'Come,' Oh, how they came! how they flockedout of the city to Jesus Christ! 'Then they went out of the city, and came to him.''And many of the Samaritans of that city (people, perhaps, as bad as herself) believedon him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did'(John 4:39). That word, 'He told me all that ever I did,' was a great argument withthem; for by that they gathered, that though he knew her to be vile, yet he did notdespise her, nor refuse to show how willing he was to communicate his grace untoher; and this fetched over, first her, then them.
This woman, as I said, was a Samaritan sinner, a sinner of the worst complexion;for the Jews abhorred to have ought to do with them (verse 9), wherefore none morefit than she to be made one of the decoys of heaven, to bring others of these Samaritanwild-fowls under the net of the grace of Christ; and she did the work to purpose.Many, and many more of the Samaritans believed on him (verse 40-42). The heart ofman, though set on sin, will, when it comes once to a persuasion that God is willingto have mercy upon us, incline to come to Jesus Christ for life. Witness those turn-awaysfrom God that you also read of in Jeremiah; for after they had heard, three or fourtimes over, that God had mercy for backsliders, they broke out, and said, 'Behold,we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God.' (Jer 3:22); or, as those in Hoseadid, 'For in thee the fatherless findeth mercy' (Hosea 14:1-3).
Mercy, and the revelation thereof, is the only antidote against sin. 'Tis of a thawingnature; 'twill loose the heart that is frozen up in sin; yea, 'twill make the unwillingwilling to come to Jesus Christ for life. Wherefore, do you think, was it that JesusChrist told the adulterous woman, and that before so many sinners, that he had notcondemned her, but to allure her, with them there present, to hope to find favourat his hands? As he also saith, in another place, 'I came not to judge, but to savethe world.' For might they not thence most rationally conclude, that if Jesus Christhad rather save than damn an harlot, there was encouragement for them [although greatsinners] to come to him for mercy.
I heard once a story from a soldier, who, with his company, had laid siege againsta fort, that so long as the besieged were persuaded their foes would show them nofavour, they fought like madmen; but when they saw one of their fellows taken, andreceived to favour, they all came tumbling down from their fortress, and deliveredthemselves into their enemies' hands. I am persuaded, did men believe that thereis that grace and willingness in the heart of Christ to save sinners, as the Wordimports there is, they would come tumbling into his arms: but Satan has blinded theirminds that they cannot see this thing. Howbeit, the Lord Jesus has, as I said, thatothers might take heart and come to him, given out a commandment, that mercy should,in the first place, be offered to the biggest sinners. 'Begin,' saith he, 'at Jerusalem';and thus I end the third reason.
Fourth , Jesus Christ would have mercy offered, in the first place, to biggest sinners,because that is the way, if they receive it, most to weaken the kingdom of Satan,and to keep it lowest in every age of the world.
The biggest sinners, they are Satan's colonels and captains, the leaders of his people,and they that most stoutly make head against the Son of God. Wherefore, let thesefirst be conquered, and his kingdom will be weak. When Ishbosheth had lost his Abner,the kingdom was made weak, nor did he sit but tottering then upon his throne. So,when Satan loseth his strong men, them that are mighty to work iniquity, and dexterousto manage others in the same, then is his kingdom weak (2 Sam 3). Therefore, I say,Christ, and doth offer mercy, in the first place, to such, the more to weaken hiskingdom. Christ Jesus was glad to see Satan fall like lightning from heaven; thatis, suddenly, or head-long; and it was, surely, by casting of him out of strong possession,and by recovering of some notorious sinners out of his clutches (Luke 10:17-19).
Samson, when he would pull down the Philistines' temple, took hold of the two mainpillars of it, and, breaking them, down came the house. Christ came to destroy theworks of the devil, and to destroy by converting grace, as well as by redeeming blood.Now, sin swarms, and lieth by legions, and whole armies, in the souls of the biggestsinners, as in garrisons; wherefore, the way, the most direct way, to destroyit, is first to deal with such sinners by the word of his gospel, and by the meritsof his passion.
For example, though I shall give you but a homely one; suppose a family to be verylousy, and one or two of the family to be in chief the breeders, the way, the quickestway, to clean that family, or at least to weaken the so swarming of those vermin,is, in the first place, to sweeten the skin, head, and clothes of the chief breeders;and then, though all the family should be apt to breed them, the number of them,and so the greatness of that plague there, will be the more impaired. Why, thereare some people that are in chief the devil's sin-breeders in the towns and placeswhere they live. The place, town, or family where they live, must needs be horriblylousy, and, as it were, eaten up with vermin. Now, let the Lord Jesus, in the firstplace, cleanse these great breeders, and there will be given a nip to those swarmsof sins that used to be committed in such places throughout the town, house, or family,where such sin-breeding persons used to be.
I speak by experience. I was one of these lousy ones, one of these great sin-breeders;I infected all the youth of the town where I was born, with all manner of youthfulvanities. The neighbours counted me so; my practice proved me so: wherefore ChristJesus took me first; and taking me first, the contagion was much allayed all thetown over. When God made me sigh, they would hearken, and inquiringly say, What'sthe matter with John? They also gave their various opinions of me; but, as I said,sin cooled, and failed, as to his full career. When I went out to seek the breadof life, some of them would follow, and the rest be put into a muse  at home.Yea, almost the town, at first, at times would go out to hear at the place whereI found good; yea, young and old for a while had some reformation on them; also someof them, perceiving that God had mercy upon me, came crying to him for mercy too.
But what need I give you an instance of poor I; I will come to Manasseh the king.So long as he was a ringleading sinner, the great idolater, and chief for devilism,the whole land flowed with wickedness; for he made them to sin (2 Chron 33), anddo worse than the heathen that dwelt round about them, or that was cast out frombefore them: but when God converted him, the whole land was reformed. Down went thegroves, the idols, and altars of Baal, and up went true religion in much of the powerand purity of it. You will say, The king reformed by power. I answer, doubtless,and by example too; for people observe their leaders; as their fathers did, so didthey (2 Kings 17:41). This, therefore, is another reason why Jesus would have mercyoffered, in the first place, to the biggest sinners, because that is the best way,if they receive it, most to weaken the kingdom of Satan, and to keep it poor andlow.
And do you not think now, that if God would but take hold of the hearts of some ofthe most notorious in your town, in your family, or country, that this thing wouldbe verified before your faces? It would, it would, to the joy of you that are godly,to the making of hell to sigh, to the great suppressing of sin, the glory of Christ,and the joy of the angels of God. And ministers, should, therefore, that thiswork might go on, take advantages to persuade with the biggest sinners to come intoChrist, according to my text, and their commission, 'Beginning at Jerusalem.'
Fifth , Jesus Christ would have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners, because such, when converted, are usually the best helps in the church againsttemptations, and fittest for the support of the feeble-minded there.
Hence, usually, you have some such in the first plantation of churches, or quicklyupon it. Churches would do but sorrily, if Christ Jesus did not put such convertsamong them; they are the monuments and mirrors of mercy. The very sight of such asinner in God's house, yea, the very thought of him, where the sight of him cannotbe had, is ofttimes greatly for the help of the faith of the feeble.
When the churches, saith Paul, that were in Judea, heard this concerning me, thathe which persecuted them in time past, now preached the faith which once he destroyed,'they glorified God in me' (Gal 1:20-24). 'Glorified God.' How is that? Why, theypraised him, and took courage to believe the more in the mercy of God; for that hehad had mercy on such a great sinner as he. They glorified God 'in me'; they wonderedthat grace should be so rich, as to take hold of such a wretch as I was; and formy sake believed in Christ the more.
There are two things that great sinners are acquainted with, when they come to divulgethem to the saints, that are a great relief to their faith. 1. The contests thatthey usually have with the devil at their parting with him. 2. Their knowledge ofhis secrets in his workings.
1. For first, The biggest sinners have usually great contests with the devilat their partings; and this is an help to saints: for ordinary saints find afterwardswhat the vile ones find at first, but when, at the opening of hearts, the one findshimself to be as the otherthe one is a comfort to the other. The lesser sort of sinnersfind but little of this, till after they have been some time in profession; but thevile man meets with his at the beginning. Wherefore he, when the other is down, isready to tell that he has met with the same before; for, I say, he has had it before.Satan is loath to part with a great sinner. 'What, my true servant,' quoth he, 'myold servant, wilt thou forsake me now? Having so often sold thyself to me to workwickedness, wilt thou forsake me now? Thou horrible wretch, dost not know, that thouhas sinned thyself beyond the reach of grace, and dost thou think to find mercy now?Art not thou a murderer, a thief, a harlot, a witch, a sinner of the greatest size,and dost thou look for mercy now? Dost thou think that Christ will foul his fingerswith thee? It is enough to make angels blush , saith Satan, to see so vile an oneknock at heaven-gates for mercy, and wilt thou be so abominably bold to do it?' Thus Satan dealt with me, says the great sinner, when at first I came to Jesus Christ.And what did you reply? saith the tempted. Why, I granted the while charge to betrue, says the other. And what, did you despair, or how? No, saith he, I said, Iam Magdalene, I am Zaccheus, I am the thief, I am the harlot, I am the publican,I am the prodigal, and one of Christ's murderers; yea, worse than any of these; andyet God was so far off from rejecting of me, as I found afterwards, that there wasmusic and dancing in his house for me, and for joy that I was come home unto him.O blessed be God for grace (says the other), for then, I hope, there is favour forme. Yea, as I told you, such an one is a continual spectacle in the church, for everyone by to behold God's grace and wonder by.
2. And as for the secrets of Satan, such as are suggestions to question the beingof God, the truth of his Word, and to be annoyed with devilish blasphemies; nonemore acquainted with these than the biggest sinners at their conversion; whereforethus also they are prepared to be helps in the church to relieve and comfort theother.
I might also here tell you of the contests and battles that such are engaged in,wherein they find the buffetings of Satan, above any other of the saints. At whichtime Satan assaults the soul with darkness, fears, frightful thoughts of apparitions;now they sweat, pant, cry out, and struggle for life. The angels now come down tobehold the sight, and rejoice to see a bit of dust and ashes to overcome principalitiesand powers, and might, and dominions. But, as I said, when these come a little tobe settled, they are prepared for helps for others, and are great comforts unto them.Their great sins give encouragement to the devil to assault them; and by these temptationsChrist takes advantage to make them the more helpful to the churches.
The biggest sinner, when he is converted, and comes into the church, says to themall, by his very coming in, Behold me, all you that are men and women of a low andtimorous spirit, you whose hearts are narrow, for that you never had the advantageto know, because your sins are few, the largeness of the grace of God. Behold, Isay, in me, the exceeding riches of his grace! I am a pattern set forth before yourfaces, on whom you may look and take heart. This, I say, the great sinner can say,to the exceeding comfort of all the rest. Wherefore, as I have hinted before, whenGod intends to stock a place with saints, and to make that place excellently to flourishwith the riches of his grace, he usually begins with the conversion of some of themost notorious thereabouts, and lays them, as an example, to allure others, and tobuild up when they are converted. It was Paul that must go to the Gentiles, becausePaul was the most outrageous of all the apostles, in the time of his unregeneracy.Yea, Peter must be he, that after his horrible fall, was thought fittest, when recoveredagain, to comfort and strengthen his brethren (See Luke 22:31,32).
Some must be pillars in God's house; and if they be pillars of cedar, they must standwhile they are stout and sturdy sticks in the forest, before they are cut down, andplanted or placed there. No man, when he buildeth his house, makes the principalparts thereof of weak or feeble timber; for how could such bear up the rest? butof great and able wood. Christ Jesus also goeth this way to work; he makes of thebiggest sinners bearers and supporters to the rest. This, then, may serve for anotherreason, why Jesus Christ gives out in commandment, that mercy should, in the firstplace, be offered to the biggest sinners, because such, when converted, are usuallythe best helps in the church against temptations, and fittest for the support ofthe feeble-minded there.
Sixth , Another reason why Jesus Christ would have mercy offered, in the first place,to the biggest sinners, is, because they, when converted, are apt to love him most.
This agrees both with scripture and reason. Scripture says so. To whom much is forgiven,the same loveth much. 'To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little' (Luke7:47). Reason says so: for as it would be the unreasonablest thing in the world torender hatred for love, and contempt for forgiveness; so it would be as ridiculousto think, that the reception of a little kindness should lay the same obligationsupon the heart to love as the reception of a great deal. I would not disparage thelove of Christ; I know the least drachm of it, when it reaches to forgiveness, isgreat above all the world; but comparatively, there are greater extensions of thelove of Christ to one than to another. He that has most sin, if. forgiven, is partakerof the greatest love, of the greatest forgiveness.
I know also, that there are some, that from this very doctrine say, 'Let us do evilthat good may come'; and that turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness. ButI speak not of these; these will neither be ruled by grace nor reason. Grace wouldteach them, if they knew it, to deny ungodly courses; and so would reason too, ifit could truly sense the love of God (Titus 2:11,12; Rom 12:1).
Doth it look like what hath any coherence with reason or mercy, for a man to abusehis friend? Because Christ died for me, shall I therefore spit in his face? The breadand water that was given by Elisha to his enemies, that came into the land of Israelto take him, had so much influence upon their minds, though heathens, that they returnedto their homes without hurting him; yea, it kept them from coming again in a hostilemanner into the coasts of Israel (2 Kings 6:19-23).
But to forbear to illustrate, till anon. One reason why Christ Jesus shows mercyto sinners, is, that he might obtain their love, that he may remove their base affectionsfrom base objects to himself. Now, if he loves to be loved a little, he loves tobe loved much; but there is not any that are capable of loving much, save those thathave much forgiven them. Hence it is said of Paul, that he laboured more than themall; to wit, with a labour of love, because he had been by sin more vile againstChrist than they all (1 Cor 15). He it was that 'persecuted the church of God, andwasted it' (Gal 1:13). He of them all was the only raving bedlam against the saints.'And being exceeding mad,' says he, 'against them, I persecuted them even unto strangecities' (Acts 26:11). This raving bedlam, that once was so, is he that now says,I laboured more than them all, more for Christ than them all. But Paul, what movedthee thus to do? The love of Christ, says he. It was not I, but the grace of Godthat was with me. As who should say, O grace! It was such grace to save me! It wassuch marvellous grace for God to look down from heaven upon me, and that securedme from the wrath to come, that I am captivated with the sense of the riches of it.Hence I act, hence I labour; for how can I otherwise do, since God not only separatedme from my sins and companions, but separated all the powers of my soul and bodyto his service? I am, therefore, prompted on by this exceeding love to labour asI have done; yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Oh! I shall never forget hislove, nor the circumstances under which I was, when his love laid hold upon me. Iwas going to Damascus with letters from the high-priest, to make havoc of God's peoplethere, as I had made havoc of them in other places. These bloody letters were notimposed upon me. I went to the high-priest and desired them of him, and yet he savedme! (Acts 9:1,2). I was one of the men, of the chief men, that had a hand in theblood of his martyr Stephen; yet he had mercy upon me! When I was at Damascus, Istunk so horribly like a blood-sucker, that I became a terror to all thereabout.Yea, Ananias, good man, made intercession to my Lord against me; yet he would havemercy upon me, yea, joined mercy to mercy, until he had made me a monument of grace.He made a saint of me, and persuaded me that my transgressions were forgiven me.
When I began to preach, those that heard me were amazed, and said, 'Is not this hethat destroyed them that called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for thatintent, that he might bring them bound to the high-priest?' Hell doth know that Iwas a sinner; heaven doth know that I was a sinner; the world also knows that I wasa sinner, a sinner of the greatest size; but I obtained mercy (Acts 9:20,21). Shallnot this lay obligation upon me? Is not love of the greatest force to oblige? Isit not strong as death, cruel as the grave, and hotter than the coals of juniper?Hath it not a most vehement flame? Can the waters quench it? can the floods drownit? I am under the force of it, and this is my continual cry, What shall I renderto the Lord for all the benefits which he has bestowed upon me?
Aye, Paul! this is something; thou speakest like a man, like a man affected, andcarried away with the love and grace of God. Now, this sense, and this affection,and this labour, giveth to Christ the love that he looks for. But he might have convertedtwenty little sinners, and yet not found, for grace bestowed, so much love in themall. I wonder how far a man might go among the converted sinners of the smaller size,before he could find one that so much as looked anything this way ward. Where ishe that is thus under pangs of love for the grace bestowed upon him by Jesus Christ?Excepting only some few, you may walk to the world's end, and find none. But, asI said, some there are, and so there have been in every age of the church, greatsinners, that have had much forgiven them; and they love much upon this account.Jesus Christ, therefore, knows what he doth, when he lays hold on the hearts of sinnersof the biggest size. He knows that such an one will love more than many that havenot sinned half their sins.
I will tell you a story that I have read of Martha and Mary; the name of the bookI have forgot; I mean of the book in which I found the relation; but the thing wasthus:
Martha, saith my author, was a very holy woman, much like Lazarus, her brother; butMary was a loose and wanton creature; Martha did seldom miss good sermons and lectures,when she could come at them in Jerusalem; but Mary would frequent the house of sports,and the company of the vilest of men for lust. And though Martha had often desiredthat her sister would go with her to hear her preachers, yea, had often entreatedher with tears to do it, yet could she never prevail; for still Mary would make herexcuse, or reject her with disdain, for her zeal and preciseness in religion.
After Martha had waited long, tried many ways to bring her sister to good, and allproved ineffectual, at last she comes upon her thus: 'Sister,' quoth she, 'I praythee go with me to the temple today, to hear one preach a sermon.' 'What kind ofpreacher is he?' said she. Martha replied, 'It is one Jesus of Nazareth; he is thehandsomest man that ever you saw with your eyes. Oh! he shines in beauty, and isa most excellent preacher.'
Now, what does Mary, after a little pause, but goes up into her chamber, and, withher pins and her clouts, decks up herself as fine as her fingers could make her.This done, away she goes, not with her sister Martha, but as much unobserved as shecould, to the sermon, or rather to see the preacher.
The hour and preacher being come, and she having observed whereabout the preacherwould stand, goes and sets herself so in the temple, that she might be sure to havethe full view of this excellent person. So he comes in, and she looks, and the firstglimpse of his person pleased her. Well, Jesus addresseth himself to his sermon,and she looks earnestly on him.
Now, at that time, saith my author, Jesus preached about the lost sheep, the lostgroat, and the prodigal child. And when he came to show what care the shepherd tookfor one lost sheep, and how the woman swept to find her piece which was lost, andwhat joy there was at their finding, she began to be taken by the ears, and forgotwhat she came about, musing what the preacher would make of it. But when he cameto the application, and showed, that by the lost sheep, was meant a great sinner;by the shepherd's care, was meant God's love for great sinners; and that by the joyof the neighbours, was showed what joy there was among the angels in heaven overone great sinner that repenteth; she began to be taken by the heart. And as he spakethese last words, she thought he pitched his innocent eyes just upon her, and lookedas if he spake what was now said to her: wherefore her heart began to tremble, beingshaken with affection and fear; then her eyes ran down with tears apace; whereforeshe was forced to hide her face with her handkerchief, and so sat sobbing and cryingall the rest of the sermon.
Sermon being done, up she gets, and away she goes, and withal inquired where thisJesus the preacher dined that day? and one told her, At the house of Simon the Pharisee.So away goes she, first to her chamber, and there strips herself of her wanton attire;then falls upon her knees to ask God forgiveness for all her wicked life. This done,in a modest dress she goes to Simon's house, where she finds Jesus sat at dinner.So she gets behind him, and weeps, and drops her tears upon his feet like rain, andwashes them, and wipes them with the hair of her head. She also kissed his feet withher lips, and anointed them with ointment. When Simon the Pharisee perceived whatthe woman did, and being ignorant of what it was to be forgiven much (for he neverwas forgiven more than fifty pence), he began to think within himself, that he hadbeen mistaken about Jesus Christ, because he suffered such a sinner as this womanwas, to touch him. Surely, quoth he, this man, if he were a prophet, would not letthis woman come near him, for she is a town-sinner; so ignorant are all self-righteousmen of the way of Christ with sinners. But, lest Mary should be discouraged withsome clownish carriage of this Pharisee, and so desert her good beginnings, and hernew steps which she now had begun to take towards eternal life, Jesus began thuswith Simon: 'Simon,' saith he, 'I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master,say on. There was,' said Jesus, 'a certain creditor which had two debtors; the oneowed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, hefrankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him most?Simon answered, and said, I suppose that he , to whom he forgave most. And he saidunto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon,Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for myfeet; but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of herhead. Thou gavest me no kiss; but this woman, since the time I came in, hath notceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint, but this woman hathanointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore, I say unto her, Her sins, which are many,are forgiven, for she loved much; but to whom little is forgiven, the same lovethlittle. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven' (Luke 7:36-48).
Thus you have the story. If I come short in any circumstance, I beg pardon of thosethat can correct me. It is three or four and twenty years since I saw the book; yetI have, as far as my memory will admit, given you the relation of the matter. However,Luke, as you see, doth here present you with the substance of the whole.
Alas! Christ Jesus has but little thanks for the saving of little sinners. 'To whomlittle is forgiven, the same loveth little.' He gets not water for his feet, by hissaving of such sinners. There are abundance of dry-eyed Christians in the world,and abundance of dry- eyed duties too; duties that never were wetted with the tearsof contrition and repentance, nor ever sweetened with the great sinner's box of ointment.And the reason is, such sinners have not great sins to be saved from; or, if theyhave, they look upon them in the diminishing glass of the holy law of God. But,I rather believe, that the professors of our days want a due sense of what they are;for, verily, for the generality of them, both before and since conversion, they havebeen sinners of a lusty size. But if their eyes be holden, if convictions are notshown, if their knowledge of their sins is but like to the eye-sight in twilight;the heart cannot be affected with that grace that has laid hold on the man; and soChrist Jesus sows much, and has little coming in. Wherefore his way is ofttimes tostep out of the way, to Jericho, to Samaria, to the country of the Gadarenes, tothe coasts of Tyre and Sidon, and also to Mount Calvary, that he may lay hold ofsuch kind of sinners as will love him to his liking (Luke 19:1-11; John 4:3-11; Mark5:1-20; Matt 15:21-29; Luke 23:33-43).
But thus much for the sixth reason, why Christ Jesus would have mercy offered, inthe first place, to the biggest sinners, to wit, because such sinners, when converted,are apt to love him most. The Jerusalem sinners were they that outstripped, whenthey were converted, in some things, all the churches of the Gentiles. They 'wereof one heart, and of one soul: neither said any of them that aught of the thingswhich he possessed was his own.' 'Neither was there any among them that lacked: foras many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices ofthe things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet,' &c. (Acts4:32,35). Now, show me such another pattern, if you can. But why did these do thus?Oh! they were Jerusalem sinners. These were the men that, but a little before, hadkilled the Prince of life; and those to whom he did, that notwithstanding, send thefirst offer of grace and mercy. And the sense of this took them up betwixt the earthand the heaven, and carried them on in such ways and methods as could never be troddenby any since. They talk of the church of Rome, and set her, in her primitive state,as a pattern and mother of churches; when the truth is, they were the Jerusalem sinners,when converts, that out-did all the churches that ever were.
Seventh , Christ Jesus would have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners, because grace, when it is received by such, finds matter to kindle uponmore freely than it finds in other sinners .
Great sinners are like the dry wood, or like great candles, which burn best and shinewith biggest light. I lay not this down, as I did those reasons before, to show,that when great sinners are converted, they will be encouragement to others, thoughthat is true; but to show, that Christ has a delight to see grace, the grace we receive,to shine. We love to see things that bear a good gloss; yea, we choose to buy suchkind of matter to work upon, as will, if wrought up to what we intend, cast thatlustre that we desire. Candles that burn not bright, we like not; wood that is greenwill rather smother, and sputter, and smoke, and crack, and flounce, than cast abrave light and a pleasant heat; wherefore great folks care not much, not so much,for such kind of things, as for them that will better answer their ends.
Hence Christ desires the biggest sinner; in him there is matter to work by, to wit,a great deal of sin; for as by the tallow of the candle, the first takes occasionto burn the brighter; so, by the sin of the soul, grace takes occasion to shine theclearer. Little candles shine but little, for there wanteth matter for the fire towork upon; but in the great sinner, here is more matter for grace to work by. Faithshines, when it worketh towards Christ, through the sides of many and great transgressions,and so does love, for that much is forgiven. And what matter can be found in thesoul for humility to work by so well, as by a sight that I have been and am an abominablesinner? And the same is to be said of patience, meekness, gentleness, self-denial,or of any other grace. Grace takes occasion, by the vileness of the man, to shinethe more; even as by the ruggedness of a very strong distemper or disease, the virtueof the medicine is best made manifest. 'Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound'(Rom 5:20). A black string makes the neck look whiter; great sins make grace burnclear. Some say, when grace and a good nature meet together, they do make shiningChristians; but I say, when grace and a great sinner meet, and when grace shall subduethat great sinner to itself, and shall operate after its kind in the soul of thatgreat sinner, then we have a shining Christian; witness all those of whom mentionwas made before.
Abraham was among the idolaters when in the land of Assyria, and served idols, withhis kindred, on the other side of the flood (Josh 24:2; Gen 11:31). But who, whencalled, was there in the world, in whom grace shone so bright as in him? The Thessalonianswere idolaters before the Word of God came to them; but when they had received it,they became examples to all that did believe in Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thess 1:6-10).
God the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son, are for having things seen; for havingthe Word of life held forth. They light not a candle that it might be put under abushel, or under a bed, but on a candlestick, that all that come in may see the light(Matt 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; 11:33). and, I say, as I said before, in whom isit, light, like so to shine, as in the souls of great sinners?
When the Jewish Pharisees dallied with the gospel, Christ threatened to take it fromthem, and to give it to the barbarous heathens and idolaters. Why so? For they, saithhe, will bring forth the fruits thereof in their season.  'Therefore say I untoyou, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forththe fruits thereof' (Matt 21:43).
I have often marvelled at our youth, and said in my heart, What should be the reasonthat they should be so generally at this day debauched as they are? For they arenow profane to amazement; and sometimes I have thought one thing, and sometimes another;that is, why God should suffer it so to be? At last I have thought of this: How ifthe God, whose ways are past finding out, should suffer it so to be now, that hemight make of some of them the more glorious saints hereafter. I know sin is of thedevil, but it cannot work in the world without permission: and if it happens to beas I have thought, it will not be the first time that God the Lord hath caught Satanin his own design. For my part, I believe that the time is at hand, that we shallsee better saints in the world than has been seen in it this many a day. And thisvileness, that at present does so much swallow up our youth, is one cause of my thinkingso; for out of them, for from among them, when God sets to his hand, as of old, youshall see what penitent ones, what trembling ones, and what admirers of grace, willbe found to profess the gospel to the glory of God by Christ.
Alas! we are a company of worn-out Christians; our moon is in the wane; we are muchmore black than white, more dark than light; we shine but a little; grace in themost of us is decayed. But I say, when they of these debauched ones that are to besaved shall be brought inwhen these that look more like devils than men shall beconverted to Christ (and I believe several of them will), then will Christ be exalted,grace adored, the Word prized, Zion's path better trodden, and men in the pursuitof their own salvation, to the amazement of them that are left behind.
Just before Christ came into the flesh, the world was degenerated as it is now: thegenerality of the men in Jerusalem were become either high and famous for hypocrisy,or filthy, base in their lives. The devil also was broke loose in hideous manner,and had taken possession of many: yea, I believe, that there was never generationbefore nor since, that could produce so many possessed with devils, deformed, lame,blind, and infected with monstrous diseases, as that generation could. But what wasthe reason thereof, I mean the reason from God? Why, oneand we may sum up more inthat answer that Christ gave to his disciples concerning him that was born blindwas,that 'the works of God should be made manifest' in them, and 'that the Son of Godmight be glorified thereby' (John 9:2,3; 11:4).
Now, if these devils and diseases, as they possessed men then, were to make way andwork for an approaching to Christ in person, and for the declaring of his power,why may we not think that now, even now also, he is ready to come, by his Spiritin the gospel, to heal many of the debaucheries of our age? I cannot believe thatgrace will take them all, for there are but few that are saved; but yet it will takesome, even some of the worst of men, and make blessed ones of them. But, O how theseringleaders in vice will then shine in virtue! They will be the very pillars in churches,they will be as an ensign in the land. 'The Lord their God shall save them in thatday as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, liftedup as an ensign upon his land' (Zech 9:16). But who are these? Even idolatrous Ephraim,and backsliding Judah (verse 13).
I know there is ground to fear, that the iniquity of this generation will be pursuedwith heavy judgments; but that will not hinder that we have supposed. God took hima glorious church out of bloody Jerusalem, yea, out of the chief of the sinners there,and left the rest to be taken and spoiled, and sold, thirty for a penny, in the nationswhere they were captives. The gospel working gloriously in a place, to the seizingupon many of the ringleading sinners thereof, promiseth no security to the rest,but rather threateneth them with the heaviest and smartest judgments; as in the instancenow given, we have a full demonstration; but in defending, the Lord will defend hispeople; and in saving, he will save his inheritance.
Nor does this speak any great comfort to a decayed and backsliding sort of Christian;for the next time God rides post with his gospel, he will leave such Christians behindhim. But, I say, Christ is resolved to set up his light in the world; yea, he isdelighted to see his graces shine; and therefore he commands that his gospel should,to that end, be offered, in the first place, to the biggest sinners; for by greatsins it shineth most; therefore he saith, 'Begin at Jerusalem.'
Eighth , and lastly, Christ Jesus will have mercy to be offered, in the first place,to the biggest sinners, for that by that means the impenitent that are left behindwill be, at the judgment, the more left without excuse .
God's Word has two edges; it can cut back-stroke and fore-stroke. If it doth theeno good, it will do thee hurt; it is 'the savour of life unto life' to those thatreceive it, but of 'death unto death' to them that refuse it (2 Cor 2:15,16). Butthis is not all; the tender of grace to the biggest sinners, in the first place,will not only leave the rest, or those that refuse it, in a deplorable condition,but will also stop their mouths, and cut off all pretence to excuse at that day.'If I had not come and spoken unto them,' saith Christ,' saith Christ, 'they hadnot had sin; but now they have no cloke for their sin'for their sin of perseveringin impenitence (John 15:22). But what did he speak to them? Why, even that whichI have told you; to wit, That he has in special a delight in saving the biggest sinners.He spake this in the way of his doctrine; he spake this in the way of his practice,even to the pouring out of his last breath before them (Luke 23:34).
Now, since this is so, what can the condemned at the judgment say for themselves,why sentence of death should not be passed upon them? I say, what excuse can theymake for themselves, when they shall be asked why they did not in the day of salvationcome to Christ to be saved? Will they have ground to say to the Lord, Thou wast onlyfor saving of little sinners; and, therefore, because they were great ones, theydurst not come unto him; or that thou hadst not compassion for the biggest sinners,therefore I died in despair? Will these be excuses for them, as the case now standethwith them? Is there not everywhere in God's Book a flat contradiction to this, inmultitudes of promises, of invitations, of examples, and the like? Alas! alas! therewill then be there millions of souls to confute this plea; ready, I say, to standup, and say, 'O! deceived world, heaven swarms with such as were, when they werein the world, to the full as bad as you!' Now, this will kill all plea or excuse,why they should not perish in their sins; yea, the text says they shall see themthere. 'There shall be weeping - when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,and all the prophets, in the kingdom of heaven, and you yourselves thrust out. Andthey shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from thesouth, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God' (Luke 13:28,29). Out of which company,it is easy to pick such as sometimes were as bad people as any [that] now breatheon the face of [the] earth. What think you of the first man, by whose sins thereare millions now in hell? And so I may say, What think you of ten thousand more besides?
But if the Word will not stifle and gag them upI speak now for amplification's saketheview of those who are saved shall. There comes an incestuous person to the bar, andpleads, That the bigness of his sins was a bar to his receiving the promise. Butwill not his mouth be stopped as to that, when Lot, and the incestuous Corinthians,shall be set before him (Gen 19:33-37; 1 Cor 5:1,2).
There comes a thief, and says, Lord, my sin of thefts, I thought, was such as couldnot be pardoned by thee! But when he shall see the thief that was saved on the crossstand by, as clothed with beauteous glory, what further can he be able to object?Yea, the Lord will produce ten thousand of his saints at his coming, who shall afterthis manner 'execute judgment upon all, and so convince all that are ungodly amongthem - of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him'(Jude 15). And these are hard speeches against him, to say that he was not able orwilling to save men, because of the greatness of their sins, or to say that theywere discouraged by his Word from repentance, because of the heinousness of theiroffences. These things, I say, shall then be confuted. He comes with ten thousandof his saints to confute them, and to stop their mouths from making objections againsttheir own eternal damnation.
Here is Adam, the destroyer of the world; here is Lot, that lay with both his daughters;here is Abraham, that was sometime an idolater; and Jacob, that was a supplanter;and Reuben, that lay with his father's concubine; and Judah, that lay with his daughter-in-law;and Levi and Simeon, that wickedly slew the Shechemites; and Aaron, that made anidol to be worshipped, and that proclaimed a religious feast unto it. Here is alsoRahab the harlot, and Bathsheba, that bare a bastard to David. Here is Solomon, thatgreat backslider; and Manasseh, that man of blood and a witch. Time would fail totell you of the woman of Canaan's daughter, of Mary Magdalene, of Matthew the publican,and of Gideon and Samson, and many thousands more.
Alas! alas! I say, what will these sinners do, that have, through their unbelief,eclipsed the glorious largeness of the mercy of God, and gave way to despair of salvation,because of the bigness of their sins? For all these, though now glorious saints inlight, were sometimes sinners of the biggest size, who had sins that were of a notorioushue; yet now, I say, they are in their shining and heavenly robes before the throneof God and of the Lamb, blessing for ever and ever that Son of God for their salvation,who died for them upon the tree; admiring that ever it should come into their heartsonce to think of coming to God by Christ; but above all, blessing God for grantingof them light to see those encouragements in his Testament; without which, withoutdoubt, they had been daunted, and sunk down under guilt of sin and despair, as theirfellow-sinners have done. But now they also are witnesses for God, and for his grace,against an unbelieving world; for, as I said, they shall come to convince the worldof their speeches, their hard and unbelieving words, that they have spoken concerningthe mercy of God, and the merits of the passion of his blessed Son, Jesus Christ.
But will it not, think you, strangely put to silence all such thoughts, and words,and reasons of the ungodly before the bar of God? Doubtless it will; yea, and willsend them away from his presence also, with the greatest guilt that possibly canfasten upon the consciences of men.
For what will sting like this?'I have, through mine own foolish, narrow, unworthy,undervaluing thoughts, of the love and ability of Christ to save me, brought myselfto everlasting ruin. It is true, I was a horrible sinner; not one in a hundred didlive so vile a life as I. But this should not have kept me from closing with JesusChrist. I see now that there are abundance in glory that once were as bad as I havebeen; but they were saved by faith, and I am damned by unbelief. Wretch that I am!why did not I give glory to the redeeming blood of Jesus? Why did I not humbly castmy soul at his blessed footstool for mercy? Why did I judge of his ability to saveme by the voice of my shallow reason, and the voice of a guilty conscience? Why betooknot I myself to the holy Word of God? Why did I not read and pray that I might understand,since now I perceive that God said then, He giveth liberally to them that pray, andupbraideth not' (James 1:5).
It is rational to think, that by such cogitations as these, the unbelieving worldwill be torn in pieces before the judgment of Christ; especially those that havelived where they did or might have heard the gospel of the grace of God. Oh! thatsaying, 'It shall be more tolerable for Sodom at the judgment than for them,' willbe better understood (Luke 10:8-12). This reason, therefore, standeth fast; namely,that Christ, by offering mercy, in the first place, to the biggest sinners now, willstop all the mouths of the impenitent at the day of judgment, and cut off all excusethat shall be attempted to be made, from the thoughts of the greatness of their sins,why they came not to him.
I have often thought of the day of judgment, and how God will deal with sinners atthat day; and I believe it will be managed with that sweetness, with that equitableness,with that excellent righteousness, as to every sin, and circumstance and aggravationthereof, that men that are damned, shall, before the judgment is over, receive suchconviction of the righteous judgment of God upon them, and of their deserts of hell-fire,that they shall in themselves conclude, that there is all the reason in the worldthat they should be shut out of heaven, and go to hell-fire: 'These shall go awayinto everlasting punishment' (Matt 25:46).
Only this will tear [them,] that they have missed of mercy and glory, and obtainedeverlasting damnation, through their unbelief; but it will tear but themselves, buttheir own souls; they will gnash upon themselves, for that mercy was offered to thechief of them in the first place, and yet they were damned for rejecting of it; theywere damned for forsaking what they had a propriety in; for forsaking their own mercy.
And thus much for the reasons. Second , I will conclude with a word of application.
First , Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners? Then this shows us how to make a right judgment of the heart of Christ tomen. Indeed, we have advantage to guess at the goodness of his heart by many things;as by his taking our nature upon him, his dying for us, his sending his Word andministers to us, and all that we might be saved. But this of beginning to offer mercyto Jerusalem, is that which heightens all the rest; for this doth not only confirmto us, that love was the use of his dying for us, but it shows us yet more the depthof that love. He might have died for us, and yet have extended the benefit of hisdeath to a few, as one might call them, of the best-conditioned sinners, to thosewho, though they were weak, and so could not but sin, yet made not a trade of sinning;to those that sinned not lavishingly. There are in the world, as one may call them,the moderate sinners; the sinners that mix righteousness with their pollutions; thesinners that, though they be sinners, do what on their part liessome that are blindwould think sothat they might be saved. I say, it had been love, great love, if hehad died for none but such, and sent his love to such; but that he should send outconditions of peace to the biggest of sinners; yea, that they should be offered tothem first of all; (for so he means when he says, 'Begin at Jerusalem';) this iswonderful! this shows his heart to purpose, as also the heart of God his Father,who sent him to do thus.
There is nothing more incident to men that are awake in their souls, than to havewrong thoughts of Godthoughts that are narrow, and that pinch and pen up his mercyto scanty and beggarly conclusions, and rigid legal conditions; supposing that itis rude, and an intrenching upon his majesty to come ourselves, or to invite others,until we have scraped and washed, and rubbed off as much of our dirt from us as wethink is convenient, to make us somewhat orderly and handsome in his sight. Suchnever knew what these words meant, 'Begin at Jerusalem.' Yea, such in their heartshave compared the Father and his Son to ... rich men, whose money comes from themlike drops of blood. True, say such, God has mercy, but he is loath to part withit; you must please him well, if you get any from him; he is not so free as manysuppose, nor is he so willing to save as some pretended gospellers imagine. But Iask such, if the Father and Son be not unspeakably free to show mercy, why was thisclause put into our commission to preach the gospel? Yea, why did he say, 'Beginat Jerusalem': for when men, through the weakness of their wits, have attempted toshow other reasons why they would have the first proffer of mercy; yet I can prove,by many undeniable reasons, that they of Jerusalem, to whom the apostles made thefirst offer, according as they were commanded, were the biggest sinners that everdid breathe upon the face of God's earth (set the unpardonable sin aside); upon which[fact] my doctrine stands like a rock, that Jesus the Son of God would have mercy,in the first place, offered to the biggest sinners. And if this doth not show theheart of the Father and the Son to be infinitely free in bestowing forgiveness ofsins, I confess myself mistaken.
Neither is there, set this aside, another argument like it, to show us the willingnessof Christ to save sinners; for, as was said before, all the rest of the signs ofChrist's mercifulness might have been limited to sinners that are so and so qualified;but when he says, 'Begin at Jerusalem,' the line is stretched out to the utmost;no man can imagine beyond it; and it is folly here to pinch and spare, to narrow,and seek to bring it within scanty bounds; for he plainly saith, 'Begin at Jerusalem,'the biggest sinner is the biggest sinner; the biggest is the Jerusalem sinner.
It is true, he saith, that repentance and remission of sins must go together, butyet remission is sent to the chief, the Jerusalem sinner; nor doth repentance lessenat all the Jerusalem sinner's crimes; it diminisheth none of his sins, nor causesthat there should be so much as half an one the fewer; it only puts a stop to theJerusalem sinner's course, and makes him willing to be saved freely by grace; andfor time to come to be governed by that blessed word that has brought the tidingsof good things to him. Besides, no man shows himself willing to be saved that repentethnot of his deeds; for he that goes on still in his trespasses, declares that he isresolved to pursue his own damnation further.
Learn then to judge of the largeness of God's heart, and of the heart of his SonJesus Christ, by the Word; judge not thereof by feeling, nor by the reports of thyconscience; conscience is ofttimes here befooled, and made to go quite beside theWord. It was judging without the Word that made David say, I am cast off from God'seyes, and 'shall perish one day by the hand of Saul' (Psa 31:22; 1 Sam 27:1). TheWord had told him another thing; namely, that he should be king in his stead. Ourtext says also, that Jesus Christ bids preachers, in their preaching repentance andremission of sins, begin first at Jerusalem; thereby declaring most truly the infinitelargeness of the merciful heart of God and his Son, to the sinful children of men.Judge thou, I say, therefore, of the goodness of the heart of God and his Son, bythis text, and by others of the same import; so shalt thou not dishonour the graceof God, nor needlessly fright thyself, nor give away thy faith, nor gratify the devil,nor lose the benefit of God's Word. I speak now to weak believers.
Second , Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners, to the Jerusalem sinners? Then, by this also, you must learn to judge ofthe sufficiency of the merits of Christ ; not that the merits of Christ can be comprehended,for that they are beyond the conceptions of the whole world, being called 'the unsearchableriches of Christ'; but yet they may be apprehended to a considerable degree. Now,the way to apprehend them most, is, to consider what offers, after his resurrection,he makes of his grace to sinners; for to be sure he will not offer beyond the virtueof his merits; because, as grace is the cause of his merits, so his merits are thebasis and bounds upon and by which his grace stands good, and is let out to sinners.Doth he then command that his mercy should be offered, in the first place, to thebiggest sinners? It declares, that there is a sufficiency in his blood to save thebiggest sinners. 'The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.' And again, 'Beit known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [this man'smerits] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believeare justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law ofMoses' (Acts 13:38).
Observe, then, thy rule to make judgment of the sufficiency of the blessed meritsof thy Saviour. If he had not been able to have reconciled the biggest sinners tohis Father by his blood, he would not have sent to them, have sent to them in thefirst place, the doctrine of remission of sins; for remission of sins is throughfaith in his blood. We are justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemptionthat is in the blood of Christ. Upon the square, as I may call it, of the worthinessof the blood of Christ, grace acts, and offers forgiveness of sin to men (Eph 1:7;2:13,14; Col 1:20-22). Hence, therefore, we must gather, that the blood of Christis of infinite value, for that he offereth mercy to the biggest of sinners. Nay,further, since he offereth mercy, in the first place, to the biggest sinners, consideringalso, that this first act of his is that which the world will take notice of, andexpect it should be continued unto the end. Also it is a disparagement to a man thatseeks his own glory in what he undertakes, to do that for a spurt, which he cannotcontinue and hold out in. This is our Lord's own argument, He began to build, saithhe, but was not able to finish (Luke 14:30).
Shouldst thou hear a man say, I am resolved to be kind to the poor, and should beginwith giving handfuls of guineas, you would conclude, that either he is wonderfulrich, or must straiten his hand, or will soon be at the bottom of his riches. Why,this is the case: Christ, at his resurrection, gave it out that he would be goodto the world; and first sends to the biggest sinners, with an intent to have mercyon them. Now, the biggest sinners cannot be saved but by abundance of grace; it isnot a little that will save great sinners (Rom 5:17). And I say again, since theLord Jesus mounts thus high at the first, and sends to the Jerusalem sinners, thatthey may come first to partake of his mercy, it follows, that either he has unsearchableriches of grace and worth in himself, or else he must straiten his hand, or his graceand merits will be spent before the world is at an end. But let it be believed, assurely as spoken, he is still as full as ever. He is not a jot the poorer for allthe forgiveness that he has given away to great sinners. Also he is still as freeas at first; for he never yet called back this word, Begin at the Jerusalem sinners.And, as I said, since his grace is extended according to the worth of his merits.I conclude, that there is the same virtue in his merits to save now, as there wasat the very beginning, Oh! the riches of the grace of Christ! Oh! the riches of theblood of Christ!
Third , Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered in the first place to the biggest sinners?Then here is encouragement for you that think, for wicked hearts and lives, you havenot your fellows in the world, yet to come to him .
There is a people that therefore fear lest they should be rejected of Jesus Christ,because of the greatness of their sins; when, as you see here, such are sent to,sent to by Jesus Christ, to come to him for mercy: 'Begin at Jerusalem.' Never didone thing answer another more fitly in this world, than this text fitteth such akind of sinners. As face answereth face in a glass, so this text answereth the necessitiesof such sinners. What can a man say more, but that he stands in the rank of the biggestsinners? let him stretch himself whither he can, and think of himself to the utmost,he can but conclude himself to be one of the biggest sinners. And what then? Why,the text meets him in the very face, and saith, Christ offereth mercy to the biggestsinners, to the very Jerusalem sinners. What more can be objected? Nay, he doth notonly offer to such his mercy, but to them it is commanded to be offered in the firstplace: 'Begin at Jerusalem.' 'Preach repentance and remission of sins among all nations:beginning at Jerusalem.' Is not here encouragement for those that think, for wickedhearts and lives, they have not their fellows in the world?
Objection . But I have a heart as hard as a rock.
Answer. Well, but this doth but prove thee a biggest sinner.
Objection . But my heart continually frets against the Lord.
Answer . Well, this doth but prove thee a biggest sinner.
Objection. But I have been desperate in sinful courses.
Answer . Well, stand thou with the number of the biggest sinners.
Objection. But my gray head is found in the way of wickedness.
Answer . Well, thou art in the rank of the biggest sinners.
Objection . But I have not only a base heart, but I have lived a debauched life.
Answer . Stand thou also among those that are called the biggest sinners. And whatthen? Why, the text swoops you all; you cannot object yourselves beyond the text.It has a particular message to the biggest sinners. I say, it swoops you all.
Objection . But I am a reprobate.
Answer . Now thou talkest like a fool, and meddlest with what thou understandestnot: no sin, but the sin of final impenitence, can prove a man a reprobate; and Iam sure thou hast not arrived as yet unto that; therefore thou understandest notwhat thou sayest, and makest groundless conclusions against thyself. Say thou arta sinner, and I will hold with thee; say thou art a great sinner, and I will sayso too; yea, say thou art one of the biggest sinners, and spare not; for the textyet is beyond thee, is yet betwixt hell and thee; 'Begin at Jerusalem' has yet asmile upon thee; and thou talkest as if thou wast a reprobate, and that the greatnessof thy sins do prove thee so to be, when yet they of Jerusalem were not such, whosesins, I dare say, were such, both for bigness and heinousness, as thou art not capableof committing beyond them; unless now, after thou hast received conviction that theLord Jesus is the only Saviour of the world, thou shouldst wickedly and despitefullyturn thyself from him, and conclude he is not to be trusted to for life, and so crucifyhim for a cheat afresh. This, I must confess, will bring a man under the black rod,and set him in danger of eternal damnation (Heb 6:7,8; 10:8,9). This is tramplingunder foot the Son of God, and counting his blood an unholy thing. This did theyof Jerusalem; but they did it ignorantly in unbelief, and so were yet capable ofmercy; but to do this against professed light, and to stand to it, puts a man beyondthe text indeed (Acts 3:14-17; 1 Tim 1:13).
But I say, what is this to him that would fain be saved by Christ? His sins did,as to greatness, never yet reach to the nature of the sins that the sinners intendedby the text had made themselves guilty of. He that would be saved by Christ, hasan honourable esteem of him; but they of Jerusalem preferred a murderer before him;and as for him, they cried, Away, away with him, it is not fit that he should live.Perhaps thou wilt object, That thyself hast a thousand times preferred a stinkinglust before him: I answer, Be it so; it is but what is common to men to do; nor doththe Lord Jesus make such a foolish life a bar to thee, to forbid thy coming to him,or a bond to his grace, that it might be kept from thee; but admits of thy repentance,and offereth himself unto thee freely, as thou standest among the Jerusalem sinners.
Take therefore encouragement, man; mercy is, by the text, held forth to the biggestsinners; yea, put thyself into the number of the worst, by reckoning that thou mayestbe one of the first, and mayest not be put off till the biggest sinners are served;for the biggest sinners are first invited; consequently, if they come, they are liketo be the first that shall be served. It was so with Jerusalem; Jerusalem sinnerswere they that were first invited, and those of them that came firstand there camethree thousand of them the first day they were invited; how many came afterwardsnone can tellthey were first served.
Put in thy name, man, among the biggest, lest thou art made to wait till they areserved. You have some men that think themselves very cunning, because they put uptheir names in their prayers among them that feign it, saying, God, I thank theeI am not so bad as the worst. But believe it, if they be saved at all, they shallbe saved in the last place. The first in their own eyes shall be served last; andthe last or worst shall be first. The text insinuates it, 'Begin at Jerusalem'; andreason backs it, for they have most need. Behold ye, therefore, how God's ways areabove ours; we are for serving the worst last, God is for serving the worst first.The man at the pool, that to my thinking was longest in his disease, and most helplessas to his cure, was first healed; yea, he only was healed; for we read that Christhealed him, but we read not then that he healed one more there! (John 5:1-10). Wherefore,if thou wouldst soonest be served, put in thy name among the very worst of sinners.Say, when thou art upon thy knees, Lord, here is a Jerusalem sinner! a sinner ofthe biggest size! one whose burden is of the greatest bulk and heaviest weight! onethat cannot stand long without sinking into hell, without thy supporting hand! 'Benot thou far from me, O Lord! O my strength, haste thee to help me!' (Psa 22:19).
I say, put in thy name with Magdalene, with Manasseh, that thou mayest fare as theMagdalene and the Manasseh sinners do. The man in the gospel made the desperate conditionof his child an argument with Christ to haste his cure: 'Sire, come down,' saithhe, 'ere my child die' (John 4:49), and Christ regarded his haste, saying, 'Go thyway; thy son liveth' (verse 50). Haste requires haste. David was for speed; 'Deliverme speedily'; 'Hear me speedily'; 'Answer me speedily' (Psa 31:2; 69:17; 102:2).But why speedily? I am in 'the net'; 'I am in trouble'; 'My days are consumed likesmoke' (Psa 31:4; 69:17; 102:3). Deep calleth unto deep, necessity calls for help;great necessity for present help. Wherefore, I say, be ruled by me in this matter;feign not thyself another man, if thou hast been a filthy sinner, but go in thy coloursto Jesus Christ, and put thyself among the most vile, and let him alone to 'put theeamong the children' (Jer 3:19). Confess all that thou knowest of thyself; I knowthou wilt find it hard work to do thus: especially if thy mind be legal; but do it,lest thou stay and be deferred with the little sinners, until the great ones havehad their alms. What do you think David intended when he said, his wounds stunk andwere corrupted, but to hasten God to have mercy upon him, and not to defer his cure?'Lord,' says he, 'I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the daylong.' 'I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietnessof my heart' (Psa 38:3-8). David knew what he did by all this; he knew that his makingthe worst of his case, was the way to speedy help, and that a feigning and dissemblingthe matter with God, was the next way to a demur as to his forgiveness.
I have one thing more to offer for thy encouragement, who deemest thyself one ofthe biggest sinners; and that is, thou art as it were called by thy name, in thefirst place, to come in for mercy. Thou man of Jerusalem, hearken to thy call; mendo so in courts of judicature, and presently cry out, 'Here, Sire'; and then theyshoulder and crowd, and say, 'Pray give way, I am called into the court.' Why, thisis thy case, thou great, thou Jerusalem sinner; be of good cheer, he calleth thee(Mark 10:46-49). Why sittest thou still? arise: why standest thou still? come, man,thy call should give thee authority to come. 'Begin at Jerusalem,' is thy call andauthority to come; wherefore up and shoulder it, man; say, 'Stand away, devil, Christcalls me; stand away unbelief, Christ calls me; stand away, all ye my discouragingapprehensions, for my Saviour calls me to him to receive of his mercy.' Men willdo thus, as I said, in courts below; and why shouldst not thou approach thus to thecourt above? The Jerusalem sinner is first in thought, first in commission, firstin the record of names; and therefore should give attendance, with the expectationthat he is first to receive mercy of God.
Is not this an encouragement to the biggest sinners to make their application toChrist for mercy? 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,' doth alsoconfirm this thing; that is, that the biggest sinner, and he that has the biggestburden, is he who is first invited. Christ pointeth over the heads of thousands,as he sits on the throne of grace, directly to such a man; and says, 'Bring in hitherthe maimed, the halt, and the blind; let the Jerusalem sinner that stands there behindcome to me.' Wherefore, since Christ says, 'Come,' to thee, let the angels make alane, and let all men give place, that the Jerusalem sinner may come to Jesus Christfor mercy.
Fourth , Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners? Then come, thou profane wretch, and let me a little enter into an argumentwith thee . Why wilt thou not come to Jesus Christ, since thou art a Jerusalem sinner?How canst thou find in thy heart to set thyself against grace, against such graceas offereth mercy to thee? What spirit possesseth thee, and holds thee back froma sincere closure with thy Saviour? Behold, God groaningly complains of thee, saying,'But Israel would none of me.' 'When I called, none did answer' (Psa 81:11; Isa 66:4).
Shall God enter this complaint against thee? Why dost thou put him off? Why dostthou stop thine ear? Canst thou defend thyself? When thou art called to an accountfor thy neglects of so great salvation, what canst thou answer? or dost thou thinkthat thou shalt escape the judgment? (Heb 2:3). No more such Christs! There willbe no more such Christs, sinner! Oh, put not the day, the day of grace, away fromthee! if it be once gone, it will never come again, sinner.
But what is it that has got thy heart, and that keeps it from thy Saviour? 'Who inthe heaven can be compared unto the Lord? who among the sons of the mighty can belikened unto the Lord?' (Psa 89:6). Hast thou, thinkest thou, found anything so goodas Jesus Christ? Is there any among thy sins, thy companions, and foolish delights,that, like Christ, can help thee in the day of thy distress? Behold, the greatnessof thy sins cannot hinder; let not the stubbornness of thy heart hinder thee, sinner.
Objection . I am ashamed.
Answer. Oh! don't be ashamed to be saved, sinner.
Objection . But my old companions will mock me.
Answer . Oh! don't be mocked out of eternal life, sinner.
Thy stubbornness affects, afflicts the heart of thy Saviour. Carest thou not forthis? Of old, 'he beheld the city, and wept over it.' Canst thou hear this, and notbe concerned? (Luke 19:41,42). Shall Christ weep to see thy soul going on to destruction,and will though sport thyself in that way? Yea, shall Christ, that can be eternallyhappy without thee, be more afflicted at the thoughts of the loss of thy soul, thanthyself, who art certainly eternally miserable if thou neglectest to come to him.Those things that keep thee and thy Saviour, on thy part, asunder, are but bubbles;the least prick of an affliction will let out, as to thee, what now thou thinkestis worth the venture of heaven to enjoy.
Hast thou not reason? Canst thou not so much as once soberly think of thy dying hour,or of whither thy sinful life will drive thee then? Hast thou no conscience? or havingone, is it rocked so fast asleep by sin, or made so weary with an unsuccessful callingupon thee, that it is laid down, and cares for thee no more? Poor man! thy stateis to be lamented. Hast no judgment? Art not able to conclude, that to be saved isbetter than to burn in hell? and that eternal life with God's favour, is better thana temporal life in God's displeasure? Hast no affection but what is brutish? what,none at all? No affection for the God that made thee? What! none for his loving Sonthat has showed his love, and died for thee? Is not heaven worth thy affection? Opoor man! which is strongest, thinkest thou, God or thee? If thou art not able toovercome him, thou art a fool for standing out against him (Matt 5:25,26). 'It isa fearful thing to fall into the hand of the living God' (Heb 10:29-31). He willgripe hard; his fist is stronger than a lion's paw; take heed of him, he will beangry if you despise his Son; and will you stand guilty in your trespasses, whenhe offereth you his grace and favour? (Exo 34:6,7).
Now we come to the text, 'Beginning at Jerusalem.' This text, though it be now oneof the brightest stars that shineth in the Bible, because there is in it, as full,if not the fullest offer of grace that can be imagined, to the sons of men; yet,to them that shall perish from under this word, even this text will be to such oneof the hottest coals in hell. This text, therefore, will save thee or sink thee:there is no shifting of it; if it saves thee, it will set thee high; if it sinksthee, it will set thee low.
But, I say, why so unconcerned? Hast no soul? or dost think thou mayest lose thysoul, and save thyself? Is it not pity, had it otherwise been the will of God, thatever thou wast made a man, for that thou settest so little by thy soul? Sinner, takethe invitation; thou art called upon to come to Christ: nor art thou called uponbut by order from the Son of God, though thou shouldst happen to come of the biggestsinners; for he has bid us offer mercy, as to all the world in general, so, in thefirst place, to the sinners of Jerusalem, or to the biggest sinners.
Fifth , Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners? Then, this shows how unreasonable a thing it is for men to despair of mercy; for those that presume, I shall say something to them afterward.
I now speak to them that despair. There are four sorts of despair. There is the despairof devils; there is the despair of souls in hell; there is the despair that is groundedupon men's deficiency; and there is the despair that they are perplexed with thatare willing to be saved, but are too strongly borne down with the burden of theirsins.
The despair of devils, the damned's despair, and that despair that a man has of attainingof life because of his own deficiency, are all reasonable. Why should not devilsand damned souls despair? yea, why should not man despair of getting to heaven byhis own abilities? I, therefore, am concerned only with the fourth sort of despair,to wit, with the despair of those that would be saved, but are too strongly bornedown with the burden of their sins. I say, therefore, to thee that art thus, Andwhy despair? Thy despair, if it was reasonable, should flow from thee, because foundin the land that is beyond the grave; or because thou certainly knowest that Christwill not, or cannot save thee.
But, for the first, thou art yet in the land of the living; and, for the second,thou hast ground to believe the quite contrary; Christ is able to save to the uttermostthem that come to God by him; and if he were not willing, he would not have commandedthat mercy, in the first place, should be offered to the biggest sinners. Besides,he hath said, 'And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him takethe water of life freely'; that is, with all my heart . What ground now is here fordespair? If thou sayest, The number and burden of my sins; I answer, Nay; that israther a ground for faith; because such an one, above all others, is invited by Christto come unto him, yea, promised rest and forgiveness if they come (Matt 11:28). Whatground then to despair? Verily, none at all. Thy despair, then, is a thing unreasonable,and without footing in the Word.
But I have no experience of God's love; God hath given me no comfort, or ground ofhope, though I have waited upon him for it many a day. Thou hast experience of God'slove, for that he has opened thine eyes to see thy sins: and for that he has giventhee desires to be saved by Jesus Christ. For by thy sense of sin thou art made tosee thy poverty of spirit, and that has laid under thee a sure ground to hope thatheaven shall be thine hereafter.
Also thy desires to be saved by Christ, has put thee under another promise, so thereis two to hold thee up in hope, though thy present burden be never so heavy (Matt5:3,6). As for what thou sayest as to God's silence to thee, perhaps he has spokento thee once or twice already, but thou hast not perceived it (Job 33:14,15). However,thou hast Christ crucified set forth before thine eyes in the Bible, and an invitationto come unto him, though thou be a Jerusalem sinner, though thou be a biggest sinner;and so no ground to despair. What if God will be silent to thee, is that ground ofdespair? Not at all, so long as there is a promise in the Bible, that God will inno wise cast away the coming sinner, and so long as he invites the Jerusalem sinnerto come unto him (John 6:37).
Build not, therefore, despair upon these things; they are no sufficient foundationfor it, such plenty of promises being in the Bible, and such a discovery of his mercyto great sinners of old; especially since we have withal a clause in the commissiongiven to ministers to preach, that they should begin with the Jerusalem sinners intheir offering of mercy to the world. Besides, God says, 'They that wait upon theLord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles'; but,perhaps, it may be long first. I waited long, saith David, and did seek the Lord;and, at length, his cry was heard: wherefore he bids his soul wait on God, and says,For it is good so to do before thy saints (Psa 40:1; 62:5; 52:9).
And what if thou waitest upon God all thy days? Is it below thee? And what if Godwill cross his book, and blot out the handwriting that is against thee, and not letthee know it as yet? Is it fit to say unto God, Thou art hard-hearted? Despair not;thou hast no ground to despair, so long as thou livest in this world. 'Tis a sinto begin to despair before one sets his foot over the threshold of hell-gates. Forthem that are there, let them despair and spare not; but as for thee, thou hast noground to do it. What! despair of bread in a land that is full of corn! despair ofmercy when our God is full of mercy! despair of mercy, when God goes about, by hisministers, beseeching of sinners to be reconciled unto him! (2 Cor 5:18-20). Thouscrupulous fool, where canst thou find that God was ever false to his promise, orthat he ever deceived the soul that ventured itself upon him? He often calls uponsinners to trust him, though they walk in darkness, and have no light (Isa 50:10).They have his promise and oath for their salvation, that flee for refuge to the hopeset before them (Heb 6:17,18).
Despair! when we have a God of mercy, and a redeeming Christ alive! For shame, forbear;let them despair that dwell where there is no God, and that are confined to thosechambers of death which can be reached by no redemption. A living man despair whenhe is chid for murmuring and complaining! (Lam 3:39). Oh! so long as we are wherepromises swarm, where mercy is proclaimed, where grace reigns, and where Jerusalemsinners are privileged with the first offer of mercy, it is a base thing to despair.Despair undervalues the promise, undervalues the invitation, undervalues the profferof grace. Despair undervalues the ability of God the Father, and the redeeming bloodof Christ his Son. Oh unreasonable despair! Despair makes man God's judge; it isa controller of the promise, a contradictor of Christ in his large offers of mercy:and one that undertakes to make unbelief the great manager of our reason and judgment,in determining about what God can and will do for sinners. Despair! It is the devil'sfellow, the devil's master; yea, the chains with which he is captivated and heldunder darkness for ever: and to give way thereto in a land, in a state and time thatflows with milk and honey, is an uncomely thing.
I would say to my soul, 'O my soul! this is not the place of despair; this is notthe time to despair in; as long as mine eyes can find a promise in the Bible, aslong as there is the least mention of grace, as long as there is a moment left meof breath or life in this world, so long will I wait or look for mercy, so long willI fight against unbelief and despair.' This is the way to honour God and Christ;this is the way to set the crown on the promise; this is the way to welcome the invitationand inviter; and this is the way to thrust thyself under the shelter and protectionof the word of grace. Never despair so long as our text is alive, for that doth soundit outthat mercy by Christ is offered, in the first place, to the biggest sinner.
Despair is an unprofitable thing; it will make a man weary of waiting upon God (2Kings 6:33). It will make a man forsake God, and seek his heaven in the good thingsof this world (Gen 4:13-18). It will make a man his own tormentor, and flounce andfling like 'a wild bull in a net' (Isa 51:20). Despair! it drives a man to the studyof his own ruin, and brings him at last to be his own executioner (2 Sam 17:23; Matt27:3-5).
Besides, I am persuaded also, that despair is the cause that there are so many thatwould fain be Atheists in the world. For, because, they have entertained a conceitthat God will never be merciful to them, therefore they labour to persuade themselvesthat there is no God at all, as if their misbelief would kill God, or cause him tocease to be. A poor shift for an immortal soul, for a soul who liketh not to retainGod in its knowledge! If this be the best that despair can do, let it go, man, andbetake thyself to faith, to prayer, to wait for God, and to hope, in despite of tenthousand doubts. And for thy encouragement, take yet, as an addition to what hasalready been said, the following Scripture: 'The Lord taketh pleasure in them thatfear him, in those that hope in his mercy' (Psa 147:11). Whence note, They fear notGod, that hope not in his mercy; also, God is angry with them that hope not in hismercy; for he only taketh pleasure in them that hope. 'He that believeth,' or 'hathreceived his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true' (John 3:33). But hethat receiveth it not, 'hath made him a liar,' and that is a very unworthy thing(1 John 5:10,11). 'Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts:and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God,for he will abundantly' multiply 'pardon' (Isa 55:7). Perhaps thou art weary of thyways, but art not weary of thy thoughts; of thy unbelieving and despairing thoughts;now, God also would have thee cast away these thoughts, as such which he deservethnot at thy hands; for 'he will have mercy upon thee, and he will abundantly pardon.'
'O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!' (Luke24:25). Mark you, here, slowness to believe is a piece of folly. Ay! but sayest thou,I do believe some, and I believe what can make against me. Ay, but sinner, ChristJesus here calls thee fool for not believing all. Believe all, and despair if thoucanst! He that believes all, believes that text that saith, Christ would have mercypreached first to the Jerusalem sinners. He that believeth all, believeth all thepromises and consolations of the Word; and the promises and consolations of the Wordweigh heavier than do all the curses and threatenings of the law; and mercy rejoicethagainst judgment. Wherefore believe all, and mercy will, to thy conscience, weighjudgment down, and so minister comfort to thy soul. The Lord take the yoke from offthy jaws, since he has set meat before thee (Hosea 11:4). And help thee to rememberthat he is pleased, in the first place, to offer mercy to the biggest sinners.
Sixth , Since Jesus Christ would have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners, let souls see that they lay right hold thereof, lest they, notwithstanding,indeed , come short thereof . Faith only knows how to deal with mercy; wherefore,put not in the place thereof presumption. I have observed, that, as there are herbsand flowers in our gardens, so there are their counterfeits in the field; only theyare distinguished from the other by the name of wild ones. Why, there is faith, andwild faith; and wild faith is this presumption. I call it wild faith, because Godnever placed it in his gardenhis church; 'tis only to be found in the fieldthe world.I also call it wild faith, because it only grows up and is nourished where otherwild notions abound. Wherefore, take heed of this, and all may be well; for thispresumptuousness is a very heinous thing in the eyes of God. 'The soul,' saith he,'that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger,the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people'(Num 15:30).
The thoughts of this made David tremble, and pray that God would hold him back frompresumptuous sins, and not suffer them to have dominion over him (Psa 19:13). Now,this presumption, then, puts itself in the place of faith, when it tampereth withthe promise for life, while the soul is a stranger to repentance. Wherefore, youhave in the text, to prevent doing thus, both repentance and remission of sins tobe offered to Jerusalem; not remission without repentance, for all that repent notshall perish, let them presume on grace and the promise while they will (Luke 13:1-3).
Presumption, then, is that which severeth faith and repentance; concluding that thesoul shall be saved by grace, though the man was never made sorry for his sins, northe love of the heart turned therefrom. This is to be self-willed, as Peter has it;and this is a despising the Word of the Lord, for that has put repentance and faithtogether (Mark 1:15). And 'because he hath despised the Word of the Lord, and hathbroken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off: his iniquity shall beupon him' (Num 15:31). Let such, therefore, look to it who yet are, and abide, intheir sins; for such, if they hope, as they are, to be saved, presume upon the graceof God. Wherefore, presumption and not hearkening to God's Word are put together(Deu 17:12).
Again, THEN men presume, when they are resolved to abide in their sins, and yet expectto be saved by God's grace through Christ. This is as much as to say, God likethof sin as well as I do, and careth not how men live, if so be they lean upon hisSon. Of this sort are they 'that build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity';that 'judge for reward, and - teach for hire, and - divine for money, and lean uponthe Lord' (Micah 3:10,11). This is doing things, with an high hand, against the Lordour God, and a taking him, as it were, at the catch. This is, as we say amongmen, to seek to put a trick upon God; as if he had not sufficiently fortified hisproposals of grace, by his holy Word, against all such kind of fools as these. Butlook to it! Such will be found at the day of God, not among that great company ofJerusalem sinners that shall be saved by grace, but among those that have been thegreat abusers of the grace of God in the world. Those that say, Let us sin that gracemay abound, and let us do evil that good may come, their damnation is just. And ifso, they are a great way off of that salvation that is, by Jesus Christ, presentedto the Jerusalem sinners.
I have, therefore, these things to propound to that Jerusalem sinner that would know,if he may be so bold [as] to venture himself upon this grace. 1. Dost thou see thysins? 2. Art thou weary of them? 3. Wouldst thou, with all thy heart, be saved byJesus Christ? I dare say no less; I dare say no more. But if it be truly thus withthee, how great soever thy sins have been, how bad soever thou feelest thy heart,how far soever thou art from thinking that God has mercy for thee, thou art the man,the Jerusalem sinner, that the Word of God has conquered, and to whom it offerethfree remission of sins, by the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.
When the jailor cried out, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' the answer was, 'Believeon the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.' He that sees his sins aright,is brought to his wit's end by them; and he that is so, is willing to part from them,and to be saved by the grace of God. If this be thy case, fear not, give no way todespair; thou presumest not, if thou believest to life everlasting in Jesus Christ;yea, Christ is prepared for such as thou art. Therefore, take good courage, and believe.The design of Satan is, to tell the presumptuous that their presuming on mercy isgood; but to persuade the believer, that his believing is impudent, bold dealingwith God. I never heard a presumptuous man, in my life, say that he was afraid thathe presumed; but I have heard many an honest humble soul say, that they have beenafraid that their faith has been presumption. Why should Satan molest those whoseways he knows will bring them to him? And who can think that he should be quiet,when men take the right course to escape his hellish snares? This, therefore, isthe reason why the truly humbled is opposed, while the presumptuous goes on by windand tide. The truly humble, Satan hates; but he laughs to see the foolery of theother.
Does thy hand and heart tremble? Upon thee the promise smiles. 'To this man willI look,' says God, 'even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and tremblethat my word' (Isa 66:2). What, therefore, I have said of presumption, concerns notthe humble in spirit at all. I therefore am for gathering up the stones, and fortaking the stumbling-blocks out of the way of God's people; and forewarning of them,that they lay the stumbling-block of their iniquity before their faces; and [of those]that are for presuming upon God's mercy; and let them look to themselves (Eze 14:6-8).
Also, our text stands firm as ever it did, and our observation is still of force,that Jesus Christ would have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggest sinners.So them, let none despair, let none presume; let none despair that are sorry fortheir sins, and would be saved by Jesus Christ; let none presume that abide in theliking of their sins, though they seem to know the exceeding grace of Christ; forthough the door stands wide open for the reception of the penitent, yet it is fastenough barred and bolted against the presumptuous sinner. Be not deceived, God isnot mocked; whatsoever a man sows, that he shall reap. It cannot be that God shouldbe wheedled out of his mercy, or prevailed upon by lips of dissimulation; he knowsthem that trust on him, and that sincerely come to him, by Christ, for mercy (Nahum1:7).
It is, then, not the abundance of sins committed, but the not coming heartily toGod, by Christ, for mercy, that shuts men out of doors. And though their not comingheartily may be said to be but a sin, yet it is such a sin as causeth that all thyother sins abide upon thee unforgiven. God complains of this. 'They have not criedunto me with their heart - they return, but not to the most High.' They turned 'feignedly'(Jer 3:10; Hosea 7:14,16). Thus doing, his soul hates [them]; but the penitent, humble,broken-hearted sinner, be his transgressions red as scarlet, red like crimson, innumber as the sand; though his transgressions cry to heaven against him for vengeance,and seem there to cry louder than do his prayers, or tears, or groans for mercy;yet he is safe. To this man God will look (Isa 1:18; 66:2).
Seventh , Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners? Then here is ground for those that, as to practice, have not been such,to come to him for mercy.
Although there is no sin little of itself, because it is a contradiction of the natureand majesty of God, yet we must admit of divers numbers, and, also, of aggravations.Two sins are not so many as three; nor are three that are done in ignorance so bigas one that is done against light, against knowledge and conscience. Also, thereis the child in sin, and a man in sin that has his hairs gray and his skin wrinkledfor very age. And we must put a difference betwixt these sinners also; for can itbe that a child of seven, or ten, or sixteen years old, should be such a sinnerasinner so vile in the eyes of the law as he is who has walked according to the courseof this world, forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years? Now, the youth, this stripling,though he is a sinner, is but a little sinner, when compared with such. Now, I say,if there be room for the first sort, for those of the biggest size, certainly thereis room for the lesser size. If there be a door wide enough for a giant to go inat, there is certainly room for a dwarf. If Christ Jesus has grace enough to savegreat sinners, he has surely grace enough to save little ones. If he can forgivefive hundred pence, for certain he can forgive fifty (Luke 7:41,42).
But you said before, that the little sinners must stand by until the great ones havereceived their grace, and that is discouraging! I answer, there are two sorts oflittle sinnerssuch as are so, and such as feign themselves so. There are those thatfeign themselves so, that I intended there, and not those that are, indeed, comparativelyso. Such as feign themselves so, may wait long enough before they obtain forgiveness.
But again, a sinner may be comparatively a little sinner, and sensibly a great one.There are, then, two sorts of greatness in singreatness by reason of number; greatnessby reason of thoroughness of conviction of the horrible nature of sin. In this lastsense, he that has but one sin, if such an one could be found, may, in his own eyes,find himself the biggest sinner in the world. Let this man or this child, therefore,put himself among the great sinners, and plead with God as great sinners do, andexpect to be saved with the great sinners, and as soon and as heartily as they. Yea,a little sinner, that, comparatively, is truly so, if he shall graciously give wayto conviction, and shall, in God's light, diligently weigh the horrible nature ofhis own sin, may yet sooner obtain forgiveness for them at the hands of the heavenlyFather, than he that has ten times his sins, and so cause to cry ten times harderto God for mercy.
For the grievousness of the cry is a great thing with God; for if he will hear thewidow, if she cries at all, how much more if she cries most grievously? (Exo 22:22,23).It is not the number, but the true sense of the abominable nature of sin, that makesthe cry for pardon lamentable.  He, as I said, that has many sins, may not cryso loud in the ears of God as he that has far fewer; he, in our present sense, thatis in his own eyes the biggest sinner, is he that soonest findeth mercy. The offer,then, is to the biggest sinner; to the biggest sinner first, and the mercy is firstobtained by him that first confesseth himself to be such an one.
There are men that strive at the throne of grace for mercy, by pleading the greatnessof their necessity. Now their plea, as to the prevalency of it, lieth not in theircounting up of the number, but in the sense of the greatness of their sins, and inthe vehemency of their cry for pardon. And it is observable, that though the birthrightwas Reuben's, and, for his foolishness, given to the sons of Joseph, yet Judah prevailedabove his brethren, and of him came the Messiah (1 Chron 5:1,2). There is a heavenlysubtilty to be managed in this matter. 'Thy brother came with subtilty, and hathtaken away thy blessing.' The blessing belonged to Esau, but Jacob by his diligencemade it his own (Gen 27:35). The offer is to the biggest sinner, to the biggest sinnerfirst; but if he forbear to cry, the sinner that is a sinner less by far than he,both as to number and the nature of transgression, may get the blessing first, ifhe shall have grace to bestir himself well; for the loudest cry is heard furthest,and the most lamentable pierces soonest.
I therefore urge this head, not because I would have little sinners go and tell Godthat they are little sinners, thereby to think to obtain his mercy; for, verily,so they are never like to have it; for such words declare, that such an one hathno true sense at all of the nature of his sins. Sin, as I said, in the nature ofit, is horrible, though it be but one single sin as to act; yea, though it be buta sinful thought; and so worthily calls for the damnation of the soul. The comparison,then, of little and great sinners, is to go for good sense among men. But to pleadthe fewness of thy sins, or the comparative harmlessness of their quantity beforeGod, argueth no sound knowledge of the nature of thy sin, and so no true sense ofthe nature or need of mercy.
Little sinner! when therefore thou goest to God, though thou knowest in thy consciencethat thou, as to acts, art no thief, no murderer, no whore, no liar, no false swearer,or the like, and in reason must needs understand that thus thou art not so profanelyvile as others; yet when thou goest to God for mercy, know no man's sins but thineown, make mention of no man's sins but thine own. Also labour not to lessen thy own,but magnify and greaten them by all just circumstances, and be as if there was nevera sinner in the world but thyself. Also cry out, as if thou wast but the only undoneman; and that is the way to obtain God's mercy.
It is one of the comeliest sights in the world to see a little sinner commentingupon the greatness of his sins, multiplying and multiplying them to himself, tillhe makes them in his own eyes bigger and higher than he seeth any other man's sinsto be in the world; and as base a thing it is to see a man do otherwise, and as baselywill come on it (Luke 18:10-14). As, therefore, I said to the great sinner before,let him take heed lest he presume; I say now to the little sinner, let him take heedthat he do not dissemble; for there is as great an aptness in the little sinner todissemble, as there is in the great one. 'He that hideth his sins shall not prosper,'be he a sinner little or great (Prov 28:13).
Eighth , Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners? Then this shows the true cause why Satan makes such head as he doth againsthim .
The Father and the Holy Spirit are well spoken of by all deluders and deceived persons;Christ only is the rock of offence. 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling-stone androck of offence' (Rom 9:33). Not that Satan careth for the Father or the Spirit morethan he careth for the Son; but he can let men alone with their notions of the Fatherand the Spirit, for he knows they shall never enjoy the Father or the Spirit, ifindeed they receive not the merits of the Son. 'He that hath the Son, hath life;he that hath not the Son of God hath not life,' however they may boast themselvesof the Father and the Spirit (1 John 5:12). Again, 'Whosoever transgresseth, andabideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrineof Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son' (2 John 9). Christ, and Christ only,is he that can make us capable to enjoy God with life and joy to all eternity. Hencehe calls himself the way to the Father, the true and living way (John 14:6). Forwe cannot come to the Father but by him (Heb 10:19,20). Satan knows this, thereforehe hates him. Deluded persons are ignorant of this, and therefore, they are so ledup and down by Satan by the nose as they are.
There are many things by which Satan has taken occasion to greaten his rage againstJesus Christ. As, first, His love to man, and then, the many expressions of thatlove. He hath taken man's nature upon him; he hath in that nature fulfilled the lawto bring in righteousness for man; and hath spilt his blood for the reconciling ofman to God; he hath broke the neck of death, put away sin, destroyed the works ofthe devil, and got into his own hands the keys of death; and all these are heinousthings to Satan. He cannot abide Christ for this. Besides, He hath eternal life inhimself, and that to bestow upon us; and we in all likelihood are to possess thevery places from which the Satans by transgression fell, if not places more glorious.Wherefore he must needs be angry. And is it not a vexatious thing to him, that weshould be admitted to the throne of grace by Christ, while he stands bound over inchains of darkness, to answer for his rebellions against God and his Son, at theterrible day of judgment. Yea, we poor dust and ashes must become his judges, andtriumph over him for ever: and all this long of Jesus Christ; for he is the meritoriouscause of all this.
Now though Satan seeks to be revenged for this, yet he knows it is in vain to attackthe person of Christ; He [Christ] has overcome him; therefore he [Satan] tamperswith a company of silly men; that he may vilify him by them. And they, bold foolsas they are, will not spare to spit in his face. They will rail at his person, anddeny the very being of it; they will rail at his blood, and deny the merit and worthof it. They will deny the very end why he accomplished the law, and by jiggs, andtricks, and quirks, which he helpeth them to, they set up fond names and images inhis place, and give the glory of a Saviour to them. Thus Satan worketh under thename of Christ; and his ministers under the name of the ministers of righteousness.
And by his wiles and stratagems he undoes a world of men; but there is a seed, andthey shall serve him, and it shall be counted to the Lord for a generation. Theseshall see their sins, and that Christ is the way to happiness. These shall venturethemselves, both body and soul, upon his worthiness. All this Satan knows, and thereforehis rage is kindled the more. Wherefore, according to his ability and allowance,he assaulteth, tempteth, abuseth, and stirs up what he can to be hurtful to thesepoor people, that he may, while his time shall last, make it as hard and difficultfor them to go to eternal glory as he can. Ofttimes he abuses them with wrong apprehensionsof God, and with wrong apprehensions of Christ. He also casts them into the mire,to the reproach of religion, the shame of their brethren, the derision of the world,and dishonour of God. He holds our hands while the world buffets us; he puts bear-skinsupon us, and then sets the dogs at us. He bedaubeth us with his own foam, and thentempts us to believe that that bedaubing comes from ourselves.
Oh! the rage and the roaring of this lion, and the hatred that he manifests againstthe Lord Jesus, and against them that are purchased with his blood! But yet, in themidst of all this, the Lord Jesus sends forth his herald to proclaim in the nationshis love to the world, and to invite them to come in to him for life. Yea, his invitationis so large, that it offereth his mercy in the first place to the biggest sinnersof every age, which augments the devil's rage the more. Wherefore, as I said before,fret he, fume he, the Lord Jesus will 'divide the spoil' with this great one; yea,he shall divide the spoil with the strong, 'because he hath poured out his soul untodeath, and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, andmade intercession for the transgressors' (Isa 53:12).
Ninth , Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners? Let the tempted harp upon this string for their help and consolation .
The tempted, wherever he dwells, always thinks himself the biggest sinner, one mostunworthy of eternal life. This is Satan's master argument; thou art a horrible sinner,a hypocrite, one that has a profane heart, and one that is an utter stranger to awork of grace. I say this is his maul, his club,  his masterpiece; he doth withthis as some do with their most enchanting songs, sings them everywhere. I believethere are but few saints in the world that have not had this temptation soundingin their ears. But were they but aware, Satan by all this does but drive them tothe gap out at which they should go, and so escape his roaring. Saith he, thou arta great sinner, a horrible sinner, a profane-hearted wretch, one that cannot be matchedfor a vile one in the country. And all this while Christ says to his ministers, offermercy, in the first place, to the biggest sinners. So that this temptation drivesthee directly into the arms of Jesus Christ.
Were therefore the tempted but aware, he might say, 'Ay, Satan, so I am, I am a sinnerof the biggest size, and therefore have most need of Jesus Christ; yea, because Iam such a wretch, therefore Jesus Christ calls me; yea, he calls me first; the firstproffer of the gospel is to be made to the Jerusalem sinner; I am he, wherefore standback, Satan; make a lane, my right is first to come to Jesus Christ.' This now wouldbe like for like. This would foil the devil; this would make him say, I must notdeal with this man thus; for then I put a sword into his hand to cut off my head.
And this is the meaning of Peter, when he saith, 'Resist him steadfast in the faith'(1 Peter 5:9). And of Paul, when he saith, 'Take the shield of faith, wherewith yeshall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked' (Eph 6:16). Whereforeis it said, Begin at Jerusalem, if the Jerusalem sinner is not to have the benefitof it? And if I am to have the benefit of it, let me call it to mind when Satan hauntsme with continual remembrance of my sins, of my Jerusalem sins. Satan and my consciencesay I am the biggest sinner:Christ offereth mercy, in the first place, to the biggestsinners! Nor is the manner of the offer other but such as suiteth with my mind. Iam sorry for my sin; yea, sorry at my heart that ever sinful thought did enter, orfind the least entertainment in my wicked mind: and might I obtain my wish, I wouldnever more that my heart should be a place for ought but the grace, and spirit, andfaith of the Lord Jesus. I speak not this to lessen my wickedness; I would not forall the world but be placed by mine own conscience in the very front of the biggestsinners, that I might be one of the first that are beckoned, by the gracious handof Jesus the Saviour, to come to him for mercy.
Well, sinner, thou now speakest like a Christian; but say thus, in a strong spirit,in the hour of temptation, and then thou wilt, to thy commendation and comfort, quitthyself well. This improving of Christ, in dark hours, is the life , though the hardestpart of our Christianity. We should neither stop at darkness nor at the raging ofour lusts, but go on in a way of venturing, and casting the whole of our affairsfor the next world at the foot of Jesus Christ. This is the way to make the darknesslight, and also to allay the raging of corruption.
The first time the Passover was eaten was in the night; and when Israel took courageto go forward, though the sea stood in their way like a devouring gulf, and the hostof the Egyptians follow them at the heels; yet the sea gives place, and their enemieswere as still as a stone till they were gone over (Exo 12:8; 14:13,14,21,22; 15:16).
There is nothing like faith to help at a pinch; faith dissolves doubts as the sundrives away the mists. And that you may not be put out, know your time, as I said,of believing is always. There are times when some graces may be out of use, but thereis no time wherein faith can be said to be so. Wherefore, faith must be always inexercise. Faith is the eye, is the mouth, is the hand, and one of these is of useall day long. Faith is to see, to receive, to work, or to eat; and a Christian shouldbe seeing, or receiving, or working, or feeding all day long. Let it rain, let itblow, let it thunder, let it lighten, a Christian must still believe. At 'what time,'said the good man, 'I am afraid, I will trust in thee' (Psa 56:2,3).
Nor can we have a better encouragement to do this than is, by the text, set beforeus; even an open heart for a Jerusalem sinner. And if for a Jerusalem sinner to come,then for such an one when come. If for such an one to be saved, then for such anone that is saved. If for such an one to be pardoned his great transgressions, thenfor such an one who is pardoned these to come daily to Jesus Christ too, to be cleansedand set free from his common infirmities, and from the iniquities of his holy things.Therefore, let the poor sinner that would be saved labour for skill to make the bestimprovement of the grace of Christ to help him against the temptations of the deviland his sins.
Tenth , Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners? Let those men consider this that have, or may, in a day of trial, spokenor done what their profession or conscience told them they should not, and that havethe guilt and burden thereof upon their consciences.
Whether a thing be wrong or right, guilt may pursue him that doth contrary to hisconscience. But suppose a man should deny his God, or his Christ, or relinquish agood profession, and be under the real guilt thereof, shall he, therefore, concludehe is gone for ever? Let him come again with Peter's tears, and no doubt but he shallobtain Peter's forgiveness; for the text includes the biggest sinners. And it isobservable, that before this clause was put into this commission, Peter was pardonedhis horrible revolt from his Master. He that revolteth in the day of trial, if heis not shot quite dead upon the place, but is sensible of his wound, and calls outfor a chirurgeon, shall find his Lord at hand to pour wine and oil into his wounds,that he may again be healed, and to encourage him to think that there may be mercyfor him; besides what we find recorded of Peter, you read in the Acts, some were,through the violence of their trials, compelled to blaspheme, and yet are calledsaints (Acts 26:9-11).
Hence you have a promise or two that speak concerning such kind of men, to encourageus to think that, at least, some of them shall come back to the Lord their God. 'Shallthey fall,' saith he, 'and not arise? Shall he turn away, and not return?' (Jer 8:4).'and in that day will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that isdriven out, and her that I have afflicted. And I will make her that halted a remnant,and her that was cast far off a strong nation; and the Lord shall reign over themin Mount Zion - for ever.' What we are to understand by her that halteth, is bestexpressed by the prophet Elijah (Micah 4:6,7; Zeph 3:19; 1 Kings 18:21).
I will conclude, then, that for them that have halted, or may halt, the Lord hasmercy in the bank, and is willing to accept them if they return to him again.Perhaps they may never be after that of any great esteem in the house of God, butif the Lord will admit them to favour and forgivenessO exceeding and undeserved mercy!(See Ezekiel 44:10-14). Thou, then, that mayest be the man, remember this, that thereis mercy also for thee. Return, therefore, to God, and to his Son, who hath yet instore for thee, and who will do thee good.
But, perhaps, thou wilt say, He doth not save all revolters, and, therefore, perhapsnot me. Answer. Art thou returning to God? If thou art returning, thou art the man;'Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings' (Jer 3:22).
Some, as I said, that revolt, are shot dead upon the place; and for them, who canhelp them? But for them that cry out of their wounds it is a sign that they are yetalive, and, if they use the means in time, doubtless they may be healed.
Christ Jesus has bags of mercy that were never yet broken up or unsealed. Hence itis said, he has goodness laid up; things reserved in heaven for his. And if he breaksup one of these bags, who can tell what he can do? Hence his love is said to be suchas passeth knowledge, and that his riches are unsearchable. He has, nobody knowswhat; for nobody knows who! He has by him, in store, for such as seem, in the viewof all men, to be gone beyond recovery. For this, the text is plain. What man orangel could have thought that the Jerusalem sinners had been yet on this side ofan impossibility of enjoying life and mercy? Hadst thou seen their actions, and whathorrible things they did to the Son of God; yea, how stoutly they backed what theydid with resolves and endeavours to persevere, when they had killed his person, againsthis name and doctrine; and that there was not found among them all that while, aswe read of, the least remorse or regret for these their doings; couldest though haveimagined that mercy would ever have took hold of them, at least so soon! Nay, thatthey should, of all the world, be counted those only meet to have it offered to themin the very first place! For so my text commands, saying, Preach repentance and remissionof sins among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
I tell you the thing is a wonder, and must for ever stand for a wonder among thesons of men. It stands, also, for an everlasting invitation and allurement to thebiggest sinners to come to Christ for mercy. Now since, in the opinion of all men,the revolter is such an one; if he has, as I said before, any life in him, let himtake encouragement to come again, that he may live by Christ.
Eleventh , Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners? Then let God's ministers tell them so .
There is an incidence in us, I know not how it doth come about, when we are converted,to contemn them that are left behind. Poor fools as we are, we forget that we ourselveswere so (Titus 3:2,3).
But would it not become us better, since we have tasted that the Lord is gracious,to carry it towards them so, that we may give them convincing ground to believe thatwe have found that mercy which also sets open the door for them to come and partakewith us. Ministers, I say, should do thus, both by their doctrine, and in all otherrespects. Austerity doth not become us, neither in doctrine nor in conversation.We ourselves live by grace; let us give as we receive, and labour to persuade ourfellow-sinners, which God has left behind us, to follow after, that they may partakewith us of grace. We are saved by grace; let us live like them that are gracious.Let all our things, to the world, be done in charity towards them; pity them, prayfor them, be familiar with them, for their good. Let us lay aside our foolish, worldly,carnal grandeur; let us not walk the streets, and have such behaviours as signifywe are scarce for touching of the poor ones that are left behind; no, not with apair of tongs. It becomes not ministers thus to do.
[A gentle reproof.]
Remember your Lord, he was familiar with publicans and sinners to a proverb: 'Beholda man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners' (Matt 11:19).The first part, concerning his gluttonous eating and drinking, to be sure, was anhorrible slander; but for the other, nothing was ever spoke truer of him by the world.Now, why should we lay hands cross on this text; that is, choose good victuals, andlove the sweet wine better than the salvation of the poor publican? Why not familiarwith sinners, provided we hate their spots and blemishes, and seek that they maybe healed of them? Why not fellowly with our carnal neighbours? If we do take occasionto do so, that we may drop, and be yet distilling some good doctrine upon their souls?Why not go to the poor man's house, and give him a penny, and a Scripture to thinkupon? Why not send for the poor to fetch away, at least, the fragments of thy table,that the bowels of thy fellow- sinner may be refreshed as well as thine?
Ministers should be exemplary; but I am an inferior man, and must take heed of toomuch meddling. But might I, I would meddle with them, with their wives, and withtheir children too. I mean not this of all, but of them that deserve it, though Imay not name them. But, I say, let ministers follow the steps of their blessed Lord,who, by word and deed, showed his love to the salvation of the world, in such a carriageas declared him to prefer their salvation before his own private concern. For weare commanded to follow his steps, 'who did no sin, neither was guile found in hismouth.'
And as I have said concerning ministers, so I say to all the brethren, Carry it so,that all the world may see, that indeed you are the sons of love. Love your Saviour;yea, show one to another that you love him, not only by a seeming love of affection,but with the love of duty. Practical love is best. Many love Christ with nothingbut the lick of the tongue. Alas! Christ Jesus the Lord must not be put off thus;'He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them,' saith he, 'he it is that lovethme' (John 14:21). Practical love, which stands in self-denial, in charity to my neighbour,and a patient enduring of affliction for his name; this is counted love. Right loveto Christ is that which carries in it a provoking argument to others of the brethren(Heb 10:24). Should a man ask me how he should know that he loveth the children ofGod? the best answer I could give him, would be in the words of the apostle John;'By this,' saith he, 'we know that we love the children of God, when we love God,and keep his commandments' (1 John 5:2). Love to God and Christ is then shown, whenwe are tender of his name; and then we show ourselves tender of his name, when weare afraid to break any, the least of his commandments. And when we are here, thendo we show our love to our brother also.
Now, we have obligation sufficient thus to do, for that our Lord loved us, and gavehimself for us, to deliver us from death, that we might live through him. The world,when they hear the doctrine that I have asserted and handled in this little book;to wit, that Jesus Christ would have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggestsinners, will be apt, because themselves are unbelievers, to think that this is adoctrine that leads to looseness, and that gives liberty to the flesh; but if youthat believe love your brethren and your neighbours truly, and as you should, youwill put to silence the ignorance of such foolish men, and stop their mouths fromspeaking evil of you. And, I say, let the love of Christ constrain us to this. Whodeserveth our heart, our mouth, our life, our goods, so much as Jesus Christ, whohas bought us to himself by his blood, to this very end, that we should be a peculiarpeople, zealous of good works?
There is nothing more seemly in the world than to see a Christian walk as becomesthe gospel; nor anything more unbecoming a reasonable creature, than to hear a mansay, 'I believe in Christ,' and yet see in his life debauchery and profaneness. MightI, such men should be counted the basest of men; such men should be counted by allunworthy of the name of a Christian, and should be shunned by every good man, assuch who are the very plague of profession. For so it is written, we should carryit towards them. Whoso have a form of godliness, and deny the power thereof, fromsuch we must turn away.
It has ofttimes come into my mind to ask, By what means it is that the gospel professionshould be so tainted with loose and carnal gospellers? and I could never arriveto better satisfaction in the matter than thissuch men are made professors by thedevil, and so by him put among the rest of the godly. A certain man had a fruitlessfig tree planted in his vineyard; but by whom was it planted there? even by him thatsowed the tares, his own children, among the wheat (Luke 13:6; Matt 13:37-40). Andthat was the devil. But why doth the devil do thus? Not of love to them, but to makeof them offences and stumbling-blocks to others. For he knows that a loose professorin the church does more mischief to religion than ten can do to it that are in theworld. Was it not, think you, the devil that stirred up the damsel that you readof in Acts 16 to cry out, 'These men are the servants of the most high God, whichshow unto us the way of salvation?' Yes it was, as is evident, for Paul was grievedto hear it. But why did the devil stir up her to cry so, but because that was theway to blemish the gospel, and to make the world think that it came from the samehand as did her soothsaying and witchery? (verse 16-18). 'Holiness, O Lord, becomesthy house for ever.' Let, therefore, whoever they be that profess the name of Christ,take heed that they scandal not that profession which they make of him, since hehas so graciously offered us, as we are sinners of the biggest size, in the firstplace, his grace to save us.
[Answers to Objections.]
Having thus far spoken of the riches of the grace of Christ, and of the freenessof his heart to embrace the Jerusalem sinners, it may not be amiss to give you yet,as a caution, an intimation of one thing, namely, that this grace and freeness ofhis heart, is limited to time and day; the which, whoso overstandeth, shall perishnotwithstanding. For, as a king, who, of grace, sendeth out to his rebellious peoplean offer of pardon, if they accept thereof by such a day, yet beheadeth or hangeththose that come not in for mercy until the day or time be past; so Christ Jesus hasset the sinner a day, a day of salvation, an acceptable time; but he who standethout, or goeth on in rebellion beyond that time, is like to come off with the lossof his soul (2 Cor 6:2; Heb 3:13-19; 4:7; Luke 19:41,42). Since, therefore, thingsare thus, it may be convenient here to touch a little upon these particulars.
First , That this day, or time thus limited, when it is considered with referenceto this or that man, is ofttimes undiscerned by the person concerned therein, andalways is kept secret as to the shutting up thereof.
And this, in the wisdom of God is thus, to the end no man, when called upon, shouldput off turning to God to another time. Now, and TODAY, is that and only that whichis revealed in holy Writ (Psa 50:22; Eccl 12:1; Heb 3:13,15). And this shows us thedesperate hazards which those men run, who, when invitation or conviction attendsthem, put off turning to God to be saved till another, and, as they think, a morefit season and time. For many, by so doing, defer this to do till the day of God'spatience and long-suffering is ended; and then, for their prayers and cries aftermercy, they receive nothing but mocks, and are laughed at by the God of heaven (Prov1:20-30; Isa 65:12-16; 66:4; Zech 7:11-13).
Secondly , Another thing to be considered is this, namely, That the day of God'sgrace with some men begins sooner, and also sooner ends, than it doth with others.Those at the first hour of the day, had their call sooner than they who were calledupon to turn to God at the sixth hour of the day; yea, and they who were hired atthe third hour, had their call sooner than they who were called at the eleventh (Matt20:1-6).
1. The day of God's patience began with Ishmael, and also ended before he was twentyyears old. At thirteen years of age he was circumcised; the next year after, Isaacwas born; and then Ishmael was fourteen years old. Now, that day that Isaac was weaned,that day was Ishmael rejected; and suppose that Isaac was three years old beforehe was weaned, that was but the seventeenth year of Ishmael; wherefore the day ofGod's grace was ended with him betimes (Gen 17:25; 21:2-11; Gal 4:30).
2. Cain's day ended with him betimes; for, after God had rejected him, he lived tobeget many children, and build a city, and to do many other things. But, alas! allthat while he was a fugitive and a vagabond. Nor carried he anything with him afterthe day of his rejection was come, but this doleful language in his conscience. 'FromGod's face shall I be hid' (Gen 4:10-15).
3. Esau, through his extravagancies, would needs go sell his birthright, not fearing,as other confident fools, but that yet the blessing would still be his. After which,he lived many years; but all of them under the wrath of God, as was, when time came,made to appear to his destruction; for, 'when he would have inherited the blessing,he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefullywith tears' (Heb 12:16,17).
Many instances might be given as to such tokens of the displeasure of God againstsuch as fool away, as the wise man has it, the prize which is put into their hand(Prov 17:16).
Let these things, therefore, be a further caution to those that sit under the glorioussound of the gospel, and hear of the riches of the grace of God in Christ to poorsinners. To slight grace, to despise mercy, and to stop the ear when God speaks,when he speaks such great things, so much to our profit, is a great provocation.He offereth, he calls, he woos, he invites, he prays, he beseeches us in this dayof his grace to be reconciled to him; yea, and has provided for us the means of reconciliationhimself. Now, this despised must needs be provoking; and it is a fearful thing tofall into the hands of the living God.
Objection . But some man may say unto me, 'Fain I would be saved, fain I would besaved by Christ; but I fear this day of grace is past, and that I shall perish, notwithstandingthe exceeding riches of the grace of God.'
Answer . To this doubt I would answer several things. 1. With respect to this day.2. With respect to thy desires. 3. With respect to thy fears.
1. With respect to this day; that is, whether it be ended with a man or no.
(1.) Art thou jogged, and shaken, and molested at the hearing of the Word? Is thyconscience awakened and convinced then, that thou art at present in a perishing state,and that thou hast need to cry to God for mercy? This is a hopeful sign that thisday of grace is not past with thee. For, usually, they that are past grace, are also,in their conscience, 'past feeling,' being 'seared with a hot iron' (Eph 4:18,19;1 Tim 4:1,2). Consequently, those past grace must be such as are denied the awakeningfruits of the Word preached. The dead that hear, says Christ, shall live; at leastwise,  Christ has not quite done with them; the day of God's patience is notat an end with them (John 5:25).
(2.) Is there, in thy more retired condition, arguings, strugglings, and strivingswith thy spirit to persuade thee of the vanity of what vain things thou lovest, andto win thee in thy soul to a choice of Christ Jesus and his heavenly things? Takeheed and rebel not, for the day of God's grace and patience will not be past withthee till he saith, his 'Spirit shall strive no more' with thee; for then the woecomes, when he shall depart from them; and when he says to the means of grace, Letthem alone (Hosea 4:17; 9:12).
(3.) Art thou visited in the night seasons with dreams about thy state, and thatthou art in danger of being lost? Hast thou heart- shaken apprehensions when deepsleep is upon thee, of hell, death, and judgment to come? These are signs that Godhas not wholly left thee, or cast thee behind his back for ever. 'For God speakethonce, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night,when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then he openeth theears of men, and sealeth their instruction, that he may withdraw man from his purpose,'his sinful purposes, 'and hide pride from man' (Job 33:14-17). All this while Godhas not left the sinner, nor is come to the end of his patience towards him, butstands, at least, with the door of grace ajar in his hand, as being loath, as yet,to bolt it against him.
(4.) Art thou followed with affliction, and dost thou hear God's angry voice in thyafflictions? Doth he send with the affliction an interpreter, to show thee thy vileness;and why, or wherefore, that hand of God is upon thee, and upon what thou hast; towit, that it is for thy sinning against him, and that thou mightest be turned tohim? If so, thy summer is not quite ended; thy harvest is not yet quite over andgone. Take heed, stand out no longer, lest he cause darkness, and lest thy feet stumbleupon the dark mountains; and lest, while you look for light, he turn it into theshadow of death, and make it gross darkness (Jer 8:20; 13:15-17).
(5.) Art thou crossed, disappointed, and waylaid, and overthrown in all thy foolishways and doings? This is a sign God has not quite left thee, but that he still waitsupon thee to turn thee. Consider, I say, has he made a hedge and a wall to stop thee?Has he crossed thee in all thou puttest thy hand unto? Take it as a call to turnto him; for, by his thus doing, he shows he has a mind to give thee a better portion.For usually, when God gives up men, and resolves to let them alone in the broad way,he gives them rope, and lets them have their desires in all hurtful things (Hosea2:6-15; Psa 73:3-13; Rom 11:9). Therefore take heed to this also, that thou strivenot against this hand of God; but betake thyself to a serious inquiry into the causesof this hand of God upon thee, and incline to think, it is because the Lord wouldhave thee look to that, which is better than what thou wouldst satisfy thyself withal.When God had a mind to make the prodigal go home to his father, he sent a famineupon him, and denied him a bellyful of the husks which the swine did eat. And observeit, now he was in a strait, he betook him to consideration of the good that therewas in his father's house; yea, he resolved to go home to his father, and his fatherdealt well with him; he received him with music and dancing, because he had receivedhim safe and sound (Luke 15:14-32).
(6.) Hast thou any enticing touches of the Word of God upon thy mind? Doth, as itwere, some holy word of God give a glance upon thee, cast a smile upon thee, letfall, though it be but one drop of its savour upon thy spirit; yea, though it staysbut one moment with thee? O then the day of grace is not past! The gate of heavenis not shut! nor God's heart and bowels withdrawn from thee as yet. Take heed, therefore,and beware that thou make much of the heavenly gift, and of that good word of Godof the which he has made thee taste. Beware, I say, and take heed; there may be afalling away for all this; but, I say, as yet God has not left thee, as yet he hasnot cast thee off (Heb 6:1-9).
2. With respect to thy desires, what are they? Wouldst thou be saved? Wouldst thoube saved with a thorough salvation? Wouldst thou be saved from guilt and filth too?Wouldst thou be the servant of thy Saviour? Art thou indeed weary of the serviceof thy old master the devil, sin, and the world? And have these desires put thy soulto the flight? Hast thou, through desires, betaken thyself to thy heels? Dost flyto him that is a Saviour from the wrath to come, for life? If these be thy desires,and if they be unfeigned, fear not! Thou are one of those runaways which God hascommanded our Lord to receive, and not to send thee back to the devil thy masteragain, but to give thee a place in his house, even the place which liketh thee best.'Thou shalt not deliver unto his master,' says he, 'the servant which is escapedfrom his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that placewhich he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt notoppress him' (Deu 23:15,16).
This is a command to the church, consequently to the Head of the church; for allcommands from God come to her through her Head. Whence I conclude, that as Israelof old was to receive the runaway servant who escaped from a heathen master to them,and should not dare to send him back to his master again; so Christ's church now,and consequently Christ himself, may not, will not, refuse that soul that has madehis escape from sin, Satan, the world, and hell, unto him, but will certainly lethim dwell in his house, among his saints, in that place which he shall choose, evenwhere it liketh him best. For he says, in another place, 'And him that cometh tome, I will in no wise cast out.' In no wise, let his crimes be what they will, eitherfor nature, multitude, or the attendance of aggravating circumstances. Wherefore,if thy desires be firm, sound, and unfeigned to become the saved of Christ, and hisservant, fear not, he will not, he will in no wise put thee away, or turn thee overto thy old master again.
3. As to thy fears, whatever they are, let that be supposed which is supposed before,and they are groundless, and so of no weight.
Objection . But I am afraid I am not [of the] elect, or chosen to salvation, thoughyou called me fool a little before for so fearing.
Answer . Though election is, in order, before calling, as to God, yet the knowledgeof calling must go before the belief of my election, as to myself. Wherefore, soulsthat doubt of the truth of their effectual calling, do but plunge themselves intoa deeper labyrinth of confusion that concern themselves with their election; I mean,while they labour to know it before they prove their calling. 'Make your calling,and so your election sure' (2 Peter 1:4-10).
Wherefore, at present, lay the thoughts of thy election by, and ask thyself thesequestions: Do I see my lost condition? Do I see salvation is nowhere but in Christ?Would I share in this salvation by faith in him? And would I, as was said before,be thoroughly saved, to wit, from the filth as from the guilt? Do I love Christ,his Father, his saints, his words, and ways? This is the way to prove we are elect.Wherefore, sinner, when Satan, or thine own heart, seeks to puzzle thee with election,say thou, I cannot attend to talk of this point now, but stay till I know that Iam called of God to the fellowship of his Son, and then I will show you that I amelect, and that my name is written in the book of life.
If poor distressed souls would observe this order, they might save themselves thetrouble of an unprofitable labour under these unseasonable and soul-sinking doubts.
Let us, therefore, upon the sight of our wretchedness, fly and venturously leap intothe arms of Christ, which are now as open to receive us into his bosom as they werewhen nailed to the cross. This is coming to Christ for life aright; this is rightrunning away from thy [old] master to him, as was said before. And for this we havemultitudes of Scriptures to support, encourage, and comfort us in our so doing.
But now, let him that doth thus be sure to look for it, for Satan will be with himtomorrow, to see if he can get him again to his old service; and if he cannot dothat, then will he enter into dispute with him, to wit, about whether he be electto life, and called indeed to partake of this Christ, to whom he is fled for succour,or whether he comes to him of his own presumptuous mind. Therefore we are bid, asto come, so to arm ourselves with that armour which God has provided; that we mayresist, quench, stand against, and withstand all the fiery darts of the devil (Eph6:11-18). If, therefore, thou findest Satan in this order to march against thee,remember that thou hadst this item about it; and betake thyself to faith and goodcourage, and be sober, and hope to the end.
Objection . But how if I should have sinned the sin unpardonable, or that calledthe sin against the Holy Ghost?
Answer . If thou hast, thou art lost for ever; but yet before it is concluded bythee that thou hast so sinned, know that they that would be saved by Jesus Christ,through faith in his blood, cannot be counted for such.
1. Because of the promise, for that must not be frustrate: and that says, 'And himthat cometh to Christ, he will in no wise cast out.' And again, 'Whoso will, lethim take of the water of life freely' (John 6:37; Rev 21:6; 22:17).
But, I say, how can these Scriptures be fulfilled, if he that would indeed be saved,as before said, has sinned the sin unpardonable? The Scripture must not be made void,nor their truth be cast to the ground. Here is a promise, and here is a sinner; apromise that says he shall not be cast out that comes; and the sinner comes, whereforehe must be received: consequently, he that comes to Christ for life, has not, cannothave sinned that sin for which there is no forgiveness. And this might suffice foran answer to any coming soul, that fears, though he comes, that he has sinned thesin against the Holy Ghost.
2. But, again, he that has sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost cannot come, hasno heart to come, can by no means be made willing to come to Jesus Christ for life;for that he has received such an opinion of him, and of his things, as deters andholds him back.
(1.) He counteth this blessed person, this Son of God, a magician, a conjuror, awitch, or one that did, when he was in the world, what he did, by the power and spiritof the devil (Matt 9:34; 12:24,25,&c.; Mark 3:22-30). Now he that has this opinionof this Jesus, cannot be willing to cast himself at his feet for life, or to cometo him as the only way to God and to salvation. And hence it is said again, thatsuch an one puts him to open shame, and treadeth him under foot; that is, by contemning,reproaching, vilifying, and despising of him, as if he were the vilest one, or thegreatest cheat in the world; and has, therefore, as to his esteem of him, calledhim accursed, crucified him to himself, or counted him one hanged, as one of theworst of malefactors (Heb 6:6; 10:29; 1 Cor 12:3).
(2.) His blood, which is the meritorious cause of man's redemption, even the bloodof the everlasting covenant, he counteth 'an unholy thing,' or that which has nomore virtue in it to save a soul from sin than has the blood of a dog (Heb 10:29).For when the apostle says, 'he counts it an unholy thing,' he means, he makes itof less value than that of a sheep or cow, which were clean according to the law;and, therefore, must mean, that his blood was of no more worth to him, in his account,than was the blood of a dog, an ass, or a swine, which always was, as to sacrifices,rejected by the God of heaven, as unholy or unclean. Now he who has no better esteemof Jesus Christ, and of his death and blood, will not be persuaded to come to himfor life, or to trust in him for salvation.
(3.) But further, all this must be done against manifest tokens to prove the contrary,or after the shining of gospel light upon the soul, or some considerable professionof him as the Messiah, or that he was the Saviour of the world.
(a.) It must be done against manifest tokens to prove the contrary; and thus thereprobate Jews committed it when they saw the works of God, which put forth themselvesin him, and called them the works of the devil and Beelzebub.
(b.) It must be done against some shining light of the gospel upon them. And thusit was with Judas, and with those who, after they were enlightened, and had tasted,and had felt something of the powers of the world to come, fell away from the faithof him, and put him to open shame and disgrace
(c.) It must also be done after, and in opposition to one's own open profession ofhim. For if, after they have escaped the pollution of the world, through the knowledgeof our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome,the latter end is worse with them than the beginning; for it had been better forthem not to have know the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, toturn from the holy commandment, which is the word of faith delivered unto them.
(d.) All this must be done openly, before witnesses, in the face, sight, and viewof the world, by word and act. This is the sin that is unpardonable; and he thathath thus done, can never, it is impossible he ever should, be renewed again to repentance,and that for a double reason; first, such an one doth say, he will not; and [second]of him God says, he shall not have the benefit of salvation by him.
Objection . But if this be the sin unpardonable, why is it called the sin againstthe Holy Ghost, and not rather the sin against the Son of God?
Answer . It is called 'the sin against the Holy Ghost,' because such count the workshe did, which were done by the Spirit of God, the works of the spirit of the devil.Also because all such as so reject Christ Jesus the Lord, they do it in despite ofthat testimony which the Holy Ghost has given of him in the holy Scriptures; forthe Scriptures are the breathings of the Holy Ghost, as in all other things, so inthat testimony they bear of the person, of the works, sufferings, resurrection, andascension of Jesus Christ.
Sinner, this is the sin against the Holy Ghost. What sayest thou? Hast thou committedit? Nay, I know thou hast not, if thou wouldst be saved by Christ. Yea, it is impossiblethat thou shouldst have done it, if indeed thou wouldst be saved by him. No man candesire to be saved by him, who he yet judgeth to be an impostor, a magician, a witch.No man can hope for redemption by that blood which he yet counteth an unholy thing.Nor will God ever suffer such an one to repent, who has, after light and professionof him, thus horribly, and devil-like, contemned and trampled upon him.
True, words, and wars, and blasphemies, against this Son of man, are pardonable;but then they must be done 'ignorantly, and in unbelief.' Also, all blasphemous thoughtsare likewise such as may be passed by, if the soul afflicted with them, indeed issorry for them (1 Tim 1:13-15; Mark 3:28).
All but this, sinner, all but this! If God had said, he will forgive one sin, ithad been undeserved grace; but when he says he will pardon all but one, this is graceto the height. Nor is that one unpardonable otherwise, but because the Saviour thatshould save them is rejected and put away. Jacob's ladder; Christ is Jacob's ladderthat reacheth up to heaven; and he that refuseth to go by this ladder thither, willscarce by other means get up so high. There is none other name given under heaven,among men, whereby we must be saved. There is none other sacrifice for sin than this;he also, and he only, is the Mediator that reconcileth men to God. And, sinner, ifthou wouldst be saved by him, his benefits are thine; yea, though thou art a greatand Jerusalem transgressor.
 Having preached many times, and from various texts, upon this subject, the wholesubstance of many sermons is here published. Ed.
 The Jews, and their sacred city, are standing monuments of God's dreadful vengeanceagainst unbelief in rejecting the Lord Christ, in whom alone is salvation. The Lordgive us grace to prize and improve gospel privileges, lest we also be cut off, throughunbelief. Mason.
 The higher a people rise under the means, the lower will be their fall if theyslight them. O highly-favoured England! Tyre and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah, willhave a milder hell than thy carnal, hypocritical, Christless children. Mason.
 All the objections are on the sinner's side, through unbelief. Christ answersthem all in one word, 'Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of lifefreely'; and, 'Whosoever cometh, I will in no wise cast out.' Lord, put forth thypower, and give the will. Mason.
 In this quotation, Bunyan has followed the reading in the Genevan or Puritanversion. Ed.
 An arrow, dipped in the blood of Jesus, will subdue the most obdurate heart itreaches, even those bitter enemies to Christ, the priests. Mason.
 This quotation is from the Genevan or Puritan version. Ed.
 'Death was swallowing of them down.' How very striking and full of truth is thisexpression! For, in proportion as the sinner violates the Divine law, so he rushesinto the jaws of death and destruction. Obedience to the Divine law preserves health,bestows happiness, and prolongs life. Ed.
 'Rowl in his bowels'; intense affection: see Philemon 12. Ed.
 'Wheals'; pimples, or small swellings filled with matter. Ed.
 'As physicians do' can now hardly be understood. In Bunyan's days, all physiciansput forth their bills of 'wonderful cures.' Ed.
 'Hedge-creepers'; footpads. Ed.
 O sinner, beseech the Lord to enable you to welcome the grace that is welcomingyou; then you shall find it, in the Lord's time, that you shall be made as kindlywelcome as ever a sinner was that is now a glorified saint. Mason.
 This idea is most ingeniously and admirably displayed in Bunyan's beautifulallegory, 'The Holy War.' Ed.
 'A muse'; deep thought. Vulgo ` vocatum , 'a brown study.' Bunyan used thisword in the same sense in the first edition of 'The Pilgrim's Progress,' at the Interpreter'shouse: 'Now was Christian somewhat in a muse.' It was afterwards altered, but notimproved, by substituting the words, 'in a maze.' Ed.
 Among all the wondrous sights that angels witness, one gives them peculiar joyitis the poor penitent prodigal returning to God, Luke 15:10. Ed.
 This was printed in the first edition, 'the biggest sin.' Ed.
 How strongly does this dialogue bring to our recollection that between Christianand Apollyon in the 'The Pilgrim's Progress?' Ed.
 'I stunck,' in the original edition, probably meant, 'I stuck'; but all thelater editions have, 'I stunk.' Ed.
 'Clouts'; patches, Joshua 9:5
 I cannot discover in what book Bunyan read this legend; it is not in the "GoldenLegend ," or any of my monkish authors. It was a generally received opinion,among the ancients, that Mary Magdalene was sister to Lazarus; but the means of herconversion is not known. The story here related is possible, and even probable; butit has no foundation in the inspired writings, nor in ancient authors. Ed.
 Thus Zaccheus said: 'Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor;and if I have taken anything from any man, by false accusation, I restore fourfold.'The law of God requires us, dim- sighted as we are, to see our sins in their realmagnitude, but the perversity of man turns the telescope to diminish them. Ed.
 'The friends thereof in their reason' were the words used in the first threeeditions by Bunyan. After his decease, they were altered, in 1697, in a second thirdedition, and this correction has been continued in every subsequent impression. Ed.
 Bunyan has some striking observations upon this word Go, in his work on theday of judgment. Those who refused the invitation to 'come' and receive life, whenin the world, now irresistibly obey the awful mandate, 'Go,' and rush into eternalwoe. Ed.
 How pointed and faithful are these words? How natural it is for a poor sinnerto compare himself with his fellow-worm, and say, 'Lord, I thank thee that I am notas this publican,' or as that murdererinstead of viewing himself in the gospel glass,in the presence of infinite holiness, and feeling that in his flesh there is no goodthing, but putrefying sores, that he is vile and hell- deserving, and must fall intothe arms of Divine mercy, crying, Lord, save, or I perish. Ed.
 'Swoop'; to seize as a hawk does his prey. Ed.
 The convinced sinner is not content with the cry, 'Deliver me from the wrathto come,' but, feeling sin to be his greatest enemy, he earnestly cries for deliverancefrom its dominion in this world (Psa 143). Ed.
 'At the catch.' See the dialogue between Faithful and Talkative in 'The Pilgrim'sProgress.' Ed.
 Printed, 'far,' in the first and second editions; altered to 'fast,' in thirdand subsequent editions. Ed.
 The blind men, who implored the mercy of Jesus, would not be checked even bythe multitude, but cried so much the more. When a true sense of misery urges, neithermen nor devils can stop the cry for mercy, till Jesus has compassion and heals theirspiritual maladies. Mason.
 Quoted from the Puritan or Genevan version of the Bible; our translation has,'He that covereth.' Ed.
 'Long of Jesus Christ'; a provincial expression, meaning 'all this belongs tous by Jesus Christ.' Ed.
 How admirable an illustration is this of the Slough of Despond, into which Christianand Pliable fell in 'The Pilgrim's Progress.' Ed.
 This illustrates Bunyan's meaning of the Giant of Sophistry, named Maul, whosehead was cut off by Great-heart, in the Second Part of 'The Pilgrim's Progress.'Ed.
 The treasures of this bank are inexhaustible and unsearchable. Oh for faith,that we may draw largely upon its infinite riches! Ed.
 'Incidence'; the direction with which one body strikes another; now obsolete.Ed.
 A sour, crabbed Christian, is a contradiction in terms. The precept is, 'Beye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ'ssake, hath forgiven you' (Eph 4:31). Mason.
 The true branches in Christ, the heavenly vine, are made fruitful in love, joy,peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Bythese it will appear that Christ is formed within us. Mere 'lick of the tongue' love,without these, is an unsubstantial shadow. Ed.
 'Be so taunted'; in editions previous to 1697. Ed.
 'At least wise'; to say the least. Ed.
 This is the proper test for a perplexed soul, when troubled about his election.If I love Christ, and am desirous to obey him, it is because he first loved me; andthis is the surest proof of election. Hear the voice of God, 'Whosoever believethin me shall not perish, but have eternal life'; and so Paul, 'As many as were ordainedto eternal life believed' (Acts 13:48). Ed.
 How very forcible is this appeal to those who profess to believe the inspirationof the Bible, but yet reject the atonement of Christ. It is to make the typical sacrificeof the clean beasts, under the law, of greater value than that of the great antitypetheSon of God. Ed.
 The reason why those who are guilty of the blasphemy against the Holy Ghostare never forgiven, is not for want of any sufficiency in the blood of Christ, orin the pardoning mercy of God, but because they never repent of that sin, and neverseek to God for mercy through Christ, but continue obstinate till death. Mason.