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Matth. i. 18, 19, 20, where, while Mary was yet but espoused to Joseph, he is called her husband, and she his wife: and therefore, if a betrothed virgin was defiled in the city, both the man and woman were to be stoned to death : “the damsel because she cried not, being in the city,” (and therefore held consenting)," and the man because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife,” Deut. xxii. 23, 24. So they were reputed and punished as adulterers.
Thus you see the covenant our God proposeth is a marriage-covenant, that our Maker may be our Husband. However men, in the height of their corrupt wisdom, may think it unbecoming the gravity and weight of the matter, to speak of the great transaction betwixt a Saviour and lost sinners, under the notion of a marriage; it is sufficient to us, that the infinitely wise God has not thought it unbecoming, but sees it to be a condescension necessary for our weakpess. And it must needs be dangerous to mock at that manner of speaking the Lord's word warrants the use of; “I will betroth thee unto me," saith the Lord in our text.
The parties in this marriage-covenant, are Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the captive daughter of Zion, lost sinners. The Father hath made this marriage for his Son, Matth. xxii. 2. And the apostle tells us, it is Christ whom sinners are espoused to;
" I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ,” 2 Cor. xi. 2. It is the glorions Bridegroom bimself that proposeth, advauceth, and effectuateth the marriage-treaty; “I will betroth thee." It is the peculiar quality of this marriagecovenant, that it is for ever. The Lord brought Israel into a visible church state by the Sinai covenant; but that covenant did not last, Israel was put away: here he promiseth to bring them back by the new covenant, the gospel-covenant from Mount Zion; and that this covenant shall be perpetual, to continue while the world stands. But, as these words look to the spiritual Israel, the elect ones both of Jews and Gentiles, the covenant is declared to be everlasting, scorning to be confined within the narrow boundaries of time, but reaching forward through all the ages of eternity.
Doct. I. The way laid down in the wisdom of God, and pursued in the gospel, for reinstating lost sinners in the favour of God, is the espousing of them to Jesus Christ.
I bave already spoken to this doctrine at large, and therein explained the nature of a sinner's espousals to Jesus Christ in several particulars. There are two points yet remaining, which I shall propose together in a second doctrine.
DOCTRINE II. As sinners may be espoused to Christ, so whomsoever he espouseth to himself, he espouseth for ever, never to part with them.
In handling this doctrine,
II. I shall consider the perpetuity and everlastingness of this marriage-covenant; and then apply it.
But, before I enter on these things, it will be necessary to resume some particulars touching the nature of the espousals betwixt Christ and sinners : to give you a view thereof in few words.
Our Lord Jesus Christ comes, by his messengers, into the bride's mother's house, (the public ordinances), and courts her consent: but words alone will never prevail in that case; he comes forward, by his Spirit, into the inner chamber of her heart, and there proposeth the marriage-treaty, and brings it to a happy issue. We may take up this in three things; (1.) Christ, by his Spirit, enters the inner room of the heart, with the fiery law goiug before him as his harbinger; and so terrible is the sight, that the sinner begins exceedingly to fear and quake; but yet has no kindness for the bridegroom, no heart to the match. So a tribunal is erected within his own breast; he is accused, convicted, and condemned as a breaker of the law, and then beholds his absolute need of a Saviour, Acts xvi. 29, 30. (2.) God reveals his Son in the broken, bruised, sensible sinner, by the light of the gospel shining into his heart, Gal. i. 16. The royal bridegroom is manifested unto the soul in his glorious excellencies, and absolute suitableness to its case; and withal, in his willingness to betroth the wretched creature to himself. (3.) The Spirit of Christ powerfully touches the heart of the sinner, who is thereby made willing to embrace Christ and join hands with him in the marriage-covenant, Psalm cx. 3. Thus the treaty of espousals comes to be concluded, which we may sum up in these three particulars.
First, The parties are pleased with one another; Christ is pleased with the sinner, and the sinner is pleased with him. And then the language of the bride's heart is, 1st, I am pleased with his person. I have been long seeking a match for this soul of mine, a rest to this restless heart; but, whatever I cast mine eyes upon, I still perceived something about it that was shocking; something it had, I could never love; something it lacked, which I could not want: but here is a covering of mine eyes; "he is altogether lovely," Cant. v. 16. 2dly, I am pleased with all his offices. There is a glorious suitableness in each of them to my case, 1 Cor. i. 24, 30. I am weak, foolish, and ignorant; it is good he is a Prophet. I am la
den with guilt, I cannot remove it; it is good he is a Priest: the sight of his precious blood revives my fainting soul. My lusts are strong, too strong for me; it is good he is “a King mighty in battle,” Psalm xxiv. 8. 3dly, I am pleased with the marriage covenant; it is well drawn; there is nothing to be added to it, nothing to be altered in it, 2 Sam. xxii. 5. 4thly, I am pleased with the mariage duties; the laws of the royal bridegroom, Psalm cxix. 128. Lastly, I am pleased with the cross, content to take part with him in all conditions, to cleave to him for better and worse, Luke xiv. 26.
Secondly, As Christ left his Father's house for her, she gives up with her own people and her father's house for him. Her heart parts with all other lovers, that she may be his only. She renounceth the first husband, namely, the law, as a covenant of works, never to look for her living by it, nor her comfort from it any more, Rom. vii. 4. She renounceth all her lusts and idols, gives up with them for ever; and sets a particular mark of disgrace on the beloved lust she had a particular fondness for, Job xxxiv. 32.
Lastly, The glorious bridegroom's consent to be her head and husband she finds in the word, which the Spirit applies to her, and she by faith applies to herself. Her soul consents to take him as he offers himself: so Christ gives himself to her, she receives bim, and gives herself to him, John i. 12: 2 Cor. viii. 5, and from that blessed moment she may say, “My beloved is mine, and I am his,” Cant. ii. 16.
Thus she is unite 1 to Christ, joined unto the Lord, and made one spirit with him, 1 Cor. vi. 17. And from this union results a communion betwixt the parties, agreeable to the nature of the spiritual marriage.
Now having given this short account of the nature of the espousals,
I. I shall evince, that sinners may be espoused to the Son of God. “Behold, we bring you glad tidings of great joy;" if ye be willing to be espoused to Christ, he is willing; all is ready to the bride's consent. To clear this, consider these following particulars, which may be as so many motives to stir you up to accept of Christ in the marriage-covenant.
First, This match was from eternity projected and concluded, in the cabinet council of the Trinity, Jer. xxxi. 3, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” God, from eternity, foreseeing that all mankind would be ruined by the fall of Adam, and not willing that the whole kind should be lost, set on foot this project, a proper project for recovering lost sinners, and securing them when recovered.
Man being joined to God at first in a simple covenant of friendship, that covenant was found too slender a bond for such an unstable creature: wherefore a marriage covenant is devised; for that will separate betwixt friends, under the strictest bonds of friendship, which cannot separate betwixt husband and wife. Now, the King's friend turning to be his enemy by the breach of the first covenant; to bring the criminal out of prison to court again, and restore her to favour, it is concluded, that she be espoused to the King's Son, and so united to him in such sort, as there should never be such a fatal breach betwixt God and the sinner again.
Secondly, The bridegroom and all his relations are well pleased with the match. We have his own mind in the text, “I will betroth thee unto me for ever.” But will he indeed betroth me? may the sinner say. “ Yea, I will betroth thee,” saith our Lord in the following words, twice in one verse, and a third time again in the verse immediately following. Why, truly, it is hard for sensible sinners to believe it; yea, this speaks him to be peremptory in it, he will not be diverted from it. If ye would know how it agrees with his Father's mind, Isaiah will tell you, « The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake,” Isa. xlii. 21. Yea, he becomes a suitor to you in favour of his Son, he solicits for him, Matth. xvii. 5, " This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” It is very agreeable to the mind of his Spirit; for the words he puts in the mouths of all his servants, in reference to it, are full of good-will to the match ; “ All things are ready: come unto the marriage,” Matth. xxii. 4. The angels, these glorious inhabitants of the upper house, when first the bridegroom came in person into the bride's country, in pursuance of the blessed project, sung to his arrival, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men,” Luke ii. 13, 14. Yea, there is a full satisfaction with it through all the bridegroom's country: joy appears there in every face, upon the success of it. "Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth,” Luke xv. 7.
I might here tell you, that the mighty stir made about this match in the bride's country, to hinder it, is a plain evidence of the reality of it. All her relations are against it. When the royal Bridegroom was going forth to pursue his design of love to lost sinners, their father, the devil, addressed him, and offered him “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,” if he would give over the suit, Matth. iv. 8, 9. When that did not take, he assaulted him and murdered him, by bis hellish agents, that so the designed match might be marred: but the blessed Jesus baving overcome death and the grave, and sat down at the right hand of the Father,
so that he can reach him no more; he turns his rage against the bride, and employs his power to the utmost against her to stop it. No sooner does she begin to lay to heart the offered espousals, than she finds her own people and her father's house violently set against it, and must lay her account with vehement tossing she was not acquainted with before. Her father, the devil, misrepresents Christ, as a husband she can never have a comfortable lifo with : if that prevail not to make her lay aside the thoughts of it, he rages and threatens : if she will proceed in it, he shall cause her repent that ever she entertained the motion, and bring her back again from her new husband, to her great confusion; and that therefore it is better for her to draw back in time, and take second thoughts of the offers made her by other hands. Her friends, even the world that lieth in wickedness, use all methods to discourage her: they cry out, she will stain the reputation of their family, and disgrace them all: and, be sure, they will make her the fool of the company at least, if their hands be bound that they cannot imbrue them in her blood. And, to crown the difficulty, the hungry children she was wont to feed, (namely), her lusts, and in a special manner, the fondling, the beloved lust, hang about her weeping, because they must be starved if the match go on. All this evidenceth, that sinners may be espoused to Christ.
Thirdly, The lawful impediments of this match are all removed, at the Bridegroom's expenses and pains. When the purpose of this match was declared, there stood up to object against it, parties concerned, whose mouths could not be stopt with fair words. Justice says, The bride is my debtor, and I will not forgive her; and, forasmuch as she hath not to pay, she must be sold into the hand of vengeance, to satisfy the debt, Matth. xviii. 25. She is my criminal, saith the law, and I will not pardon her; sentence of death is passed on her, Gal. iji. 10.; and whithersoever one may go to pick out a spouse for himself, he must not go into a prison, and bring forth at his pleasure a condemned woman to be espoused to him; for though marriage break term of service, it must not break law : therefore there must be an execution-day before there can be a marriage-day. She is my lawful prisoner, says the devil, and I will not give her up: “ Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captivo delivered ?" Is. xlix. 24. These were lawful impediments indeed, which, unremoved, would have put an effectual stop for ever to the marriage betwixt Christ and sinners; but his heart was intent upon the match, and therefore he set himself to remove them out of the way. Accordingly, he became surety to justice for her debt, and paid it to the last farthing ; laid down his own life for the criminal: