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blood of Abel, vengeance must come upon thee. But unto us, who are in Christ, we have a cry which outeries this cry; and speaks better things for our peace, which is our happiness. But as for such men, they are strangers from Christ, and so most miserable. And so at the last, when all the world shall be on a flame, and Christ sitting on the bench, he shall say, as for these men, who would not have me rule over them, bring them forth, bind them hand and foot, and cast them into hell-fire for ever, with the Devil and his angels. Is not this a fair reward for service done the Devil ? to be cast out into such a furnace, for evermore ?
I will not stand upon the use but touch it in a word, because I make haste to the rest. Apply to yourselves; there is no dallying with an Almighty God. Pray then unto him to reveal unto you the misery of this woful estate of nature, more than I or any man are able to express, that so we may run unto the city of refuge.
Now I come to show what is the freedom promised by believing his word, and trusting in him.
As he shows this freedom is a powerful delivery of us from our spiritual enemies, by Christ; wherein he sanctifies us by his truth, to assure us, he will deliver and free us from all our enemies, and settle us in a quiet and sweet secure rest at last. To which effect, he was called Jesus. (saith the text) “ hek shall save his people from their sins.” And so the apostle speaking of Christ, and how he had set him out unto them in preaching, thus describes him: “Even! Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” The like in sum we have “ Untom you first (saith Peter) God having raised up his son Jesus, sent him to bless, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” And so, there this freedom is further expressed what it is; “ To" open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God; that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them, that
Ephes. chap. 2. | 1 Thess. chap. 1. ver. !0. # Acts, chap. 26. ver. 18.
* Matt. chap. 1. ver. 21. m Acts, chap. 3. ver. 26.
are sanctified by faith in his name.” Where all was bound before, he doth now loose, and free us from the bonds of the strong man. As “ the Spirit is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me, to preach good tidings to the meek, he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them, that are bound.” This, as it is cited, in the Gospel, was Christ's first sermon in his country. So that you see what this liberty is. The publishing of the Gospel is a proclamation of a perpetual jubilee, a gaol delivery, wherein all captives are set at liberty. This is the general. But more particularly, wherein consists this freedom ?
In two things, for these two include all.
1. In the grace of justification. 2. In the grace of sanctification.
For the former; 1. There is a liberty proclaimed from our sins thus far, that, whereas for one sin I deserved everlasting death, and servitude for ever, I am freed now from this condemning power of sin. And whereas (though there were no actual sin committed) for original sin he might have condemned me; yet now I am freed from all. Sanctification is another thing; to have grace and strength not to fall, and to fight against sin. But for this freedom of justification, let us inquire, how may this be done. Our justification must stand in imputation. Nothing else can do it. Why? When sin is once done, it is impossible to be undone again. With a holy reverence be it spoken, that which is once done, and ill done, God cannot make it be undone again ; being evil done, it always continues so, an evil act. But this is the freedom ; it shall not be imputed, it shall not be in the account. The papists laugh at this, that we should be justified in this manner, by another, without ourselves, or own merits; but it is certainly true, as the apostle to this purpose writes, “ GodP was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” Hence, therefore, comes our freedom, that
• Isa. chap. 61. ver. 1.
P 2 Cor. chap. 5. ver. 19.
though that, which is done, and ill done, cannot be undone; yet that that, which did deserve death and everlasting condemnation, God will pass by, and not impute it. That is, give unto us a righteousness without ourselves, which brings . us to a wonderful liberty : yea (I may affirm) working hereby a perpetual miracle for us ; which is wonderful indeed; that though our house be continually a fire, yet it burns us not; though poison be in our pottage, yet that it should not work upon us unto death. Even as, amongst other miracles, this was one Christ promiseth the disciples should do, “And if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.” So we all drink deadly things ; and here is the miracle, that they kill us not; so that look how Paul shook off that viper from his hand into the fire without harm', which the barbarians looked should have killed him. Even so it is with us. Though* (as the apostle saith) sin sticks so fast unto us, yet it doth not work unto death. Sin naturally doth work out death, being finished. But here is our comfort by justification. Being in Christ, our sins shall be so covered, that they shall not be found; as Jeremy most excellently speaks.“ In those days, and at that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found; for I will pardon them whom I reserve." So that here is the point of our freedom; in that Christ hath taken away the ground of our accusation, and plea which was against us, causing the suit to cease; yea, and cancelling the bill so as there remains no record against us. read in the Revelation of stars, which fell from heaven; so it is in this thing I speak of. What, did the stars fall then? no; but they are said to fall, when they lose their light, and work not as formerly. So it is with us, when sin doth lose its light, that it cannot work and shine, as formerly, to bind, imprison and condemn us; then it is said to be done away, when it cannot murder us, and hath lost its wonted force. And thus in justification the truth frees us from the condemnation of sin.
9 Mark, chap. 16. ver. 18.
r Acts, chap. 28. ver. 5.
Yea, (in the second place, which is a great benefit,) we are delivered also from the guilt of sin : to wit, from the condemning power of sin ; to bind and imprison us, in re. spect of that affection, we carry naturally unto it; and the guilt and the shame of the fault committed; that, howsoever this only were sufficient to make us miserable ; yet herein is our freedom also. We have heard how every sin binds a man, as it were, with strong cords ; yet thus only we are bound being in Christ; that, as Sampson“, being bound with new ropes, when the enemies were upon him, he brake them off his arms like thread, and escaped. So it is with us now.
Our sins hold us fast, bind us sure; but when our enemies do think us fastest bound; in our danger, our cords vanish and burst as the flax, when it smells the fire; so that our sins have no power to keep us bound.
How is this done?
By the grace of faith laying hold immediately on Christ Jesus, which makes the soul (as it were) in a sudden fit leap out of itself, in this oppressing danger, and fly unto the place of refuge, making haste to array itself with the righteousness of Christ Jesus. For we must understand, there is no more required of us, in this act, but the laying hold of Christ, with a bare and empty hand, so to take out the acquittance, where the debt is fully paid. God would not have this clogged with any thing of ours.
It is a free gift, as freely given as ever any thing in this world can be. The argument therefore to plead for justification is this; as though the party should say: Lord, thou hast freely offered and given Christ unto me, and with him all things in him and with him; and I have taken thee at thy word, and received him, which I know to be true: because I have set myself to yield obedience unto him in all things. If I have received Christ, then I have life.
Many are scrupulous and say: May 1 lay hold of Christ, being so miserable and sinful ? Never think of sanctification, if thou do not think of this first, how the guilt of sin is taken away by Christ, as well as the condemning power of it, the binding power of it also : and thou must know this, and believe it. There is a law of faithx. Faith is not a thing arbitrary at our pleasure. You may say as well, may I pray ? may I do any good work? I tell thee thou must, and thou sinnest else. So it is, in the receiving of Christ : God hath commanded thee, to come and believe, to receive Christ. It is the law of faith: for faith doth thus present itself before God: Lord, thou hast commanded me to receive Christ, and to do it with a bare, and empty hand, looking for all things in him: now make me feel the fruit of it, since at thy commandment it is done. As Rom. chap. 4. ver. 16. It must be so (saith the apostle) that the promise may be sure.
u Judges, chap. 16. ver. 12.
First he shows: Therefore it is of faith, that it might be of grace. Otherwise it might seem to us to be by purchase or exchange. Thou must believe : therefore it is a law of faith : thou hast a warrant; abridge not his liberty. It stands thee on thy life and salvation to believe. See for this, John, chap. 1 ver. 12. “ But as many as received him, to them
power become the sons of God, even to them, that believe on his name.”
The second thing (saith the apostle) is, that the promise might be sure. If any thing else, on our part, were mingled with justification, save the bare receiving of Christ with an empty hand, the promises would never be sure. There could nothing come from us so perfect, but the Devil would pick a hole in it. Therefore hold this, thy sins are done away by him, in whom the Devil could find nothing : and he received, apprehended, and believed in, is thy life; for then thou art become a member of his, and canst not perish. The ignorance of many on this point is the cause why the Devil keeps men so long in sorrow, because they clog the matter of faith in justification with their own inventions, to be worthy, to be fitted first with such and such measures of humiliation : when indeed our greatest worthiness is, to see ourselves altogether unworthy, and so
* Rom. chap. 3. ver. 27.