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from the spirit of faith. The marriage covenant betwixt the son of God, and a vile unworthy sinful creature, is such a great thing, so very unlike to our condition, that it is a great matter to believe it. And truly nothing but the testimony of God himself, and “the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead,” will make a sensible sinner really believe it, Eph. i. 16, 20. If a prince should send a writ to a beggar womau, wherein, having heard of her miserable condition, he appoints her a free house, and a few pence weekly, to maintain her while she lives, there would be no great difficulty in believing this, it is so like her condition, being but a small thing: but, suppose him to send an ambassador to espouse her unto him ; in this case, if she were so frantic and mad, as to believe her lodge to be a palace, her nasty covering a cloth of gold, and her rags precious jewels, it is likely she would have little or no difficulty to believe the reality of the great proposal made to her ; but if she were truly sober, she would hang down her head, and say, Do not mock a poor woman. And if, upon the producing the marriage contract, confirmed with the prince's oath and seal, she began to believe it, and rose up to subscribe it; it would be no great marvel, if, looking to her rags and nastiness, she suddenly halted, and said, I am a fool to believe this; till considering the words of grace in the marriage contract, the nature of the prince's oath and seal, her heart were overcome into a belief of it. The application is easy; there is great need of the seal of the marriage covenant betwixt Christ and sinners, and it is ready for you.
Tenthly, Here are witnesses enow. Here are the friends of the bridegroom, to bear witness to the espousals. Ye may be witnesses each one for another; yea, as Joshua saith, Josh. xxiv. 27, " Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us." And they will surely witness som hing in this case, either for us, or against us. They will at least bear witness to the offer of the espousals made here this day.
Lastly, Here is the bridegroom, and here is the bride ; the eternal Son of God, and a company of wretched lost sinners gathered together in this place. He has given his consent already in the words of the text read in your hearing, “I will betroth thee unto me for ever.” What would you have more ? would ye have him to declare it by a voice from heaven? Nay, but this is a more sure word of prophecy, 2 Pet. i. 19. Bear witness then, ye friends of the bridegroom; witness all, and every one of you here present; witness ye stones of the place, that the eternal purpose of this match is declared, the bridegroom and all his relations are pleased with it, the lawful
impediments of it are removed, the contract is drawn up, the proxies for the bridegroom are sent forth; he hath put on his marriagerobes, and the wedding-garment for the bride is ready, the tent for the espousals is set up, the feast and the seal are ready, the bridegroom
and the bride are both present: and, as for the bridegroom he hath given his consent already; and therefore there is nothing wanting to make up the espousals betwixt the Son of God and sinners here present, hut their consent.
And shall it be wanting ? 0! are not ye saying, ye friends of the bridegrom, ye neighbours, ye stones of the place, bear witness for me, that my heart is overcome, and I consent to take him as he offers himself in the marriage covenant, for my head and husband; renouncing the first husband, the law, as a covenant of works; renouncing all my lusts; giving up myself, soul and body, to be his, and for him; to be his wholly, his only, and his for ever ?
II. We proceed now to speak of the perpetuity and everlastingness of this marriage-covenant. And here I shall only enquire, in what respects the espousals betwixt Christ and the soul are for ever.
First, They are for ever in design.
FIRST, They are for ever in the design of parties. In espousals amongst men it is not so: the design is only for term of life ; for the parties know one another to be mortal, and that death will separate them if nothing else do it. But in the spiritual espousals the parties join hands never to part; they both look upon it as a contract for eternity.
First, Christ takes the sinner with a design to be that sinner's husband from the moment of the espousals for ever; and his designs are immoveable as mountains of brass ; they cannot be broken; he knows perfectly before the espousals, whatsoever will fall out betwixt him and his spouse in the course of the marriage ; and with a full view of all future events, he takes her for ever with a fised purpose, 1st, Never to put her away while she desires to abide with him. Nay, 2dly, Never to part with her, though she should desire to go away; never to put her away, never to let her go, Jer. xxxii. 40, " And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.”
Secondly, The soul consenting to the espousals, takes Christ, with a design to be his spouse for ever, never to separate. Howsoever hypocrites deal with him, whatsoever secret reserves they have in
their pretended embracing of the marriage covenant, the believer takes Christ with a sincere purpose never to leave him, never to part with him.
1. The believer takes Christ with a sincere purpose never to leave him, nor go away from him, whatsoever hardships he may meet with in the world for cleaving to him, and following of him : his resolution is, “ So will not we go back from thee,” Psalm lxxx. 18. He may indeed fear that he will leave Christ; nevertheless be can appeal to God's omniscience, he has no such design, but his soul loathes it. He has counted the cost, he has weighed in the balance father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also ; and finds that the royal Bridegroom downweighs them all; they are all light in comparison with Christ; and therefore he is peremptorily resolved, whatever becomes of them, he will never leave him, Luke xiv. 26.
2. The believer takes Christ with a sincere purpose, never to part with him, nor to be put away, howsoever unkindly his Lord may seem to carry himself towards him; “ Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him," Job xiii. 15. This is his design, although he may be very hardly bestead in keeping his ground in a time of trial : but in the day of espousals, the soul sees there is no help in any other, therefore says, Lord, to whom shall I go,” but unto thee? and resolves, that if it die, it shall die at his door.
And thus, in the spiritual espousals, the voice of the bride, like an echo, sweetly answers the voice of the bridegroom; “I will betroth thee," saith he, unto me for ever." Amen," says the bride, “ for ever, ever, ever.”
Allow me here to distinguish this eternity, this “ for ever" of the bride, in three parts, each of which she has in view, in her closing with the marriage covenant. In the espousals,
1. She has in view the beginning of that eternity, which is from the very moment wherein she is espoused. So she is to be altogether his, from that moment, thenceforth not to go back. Christ says, To-day if ye will hear my voice ;” she dare not, she will not say, to-morrow; no, not the next hour; for that would be a day or an hour kept back of that eternity, covenanted away to him, and now no more her own.
2. She has in view the remaining time-piece (if I may call it so) of that eternity, which lies on this side death, Psalm cxix. 112, “I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes always, even unto the end.” She foresees there will be many difficult steps in her way through that piece of it: but now, that we have once met, saith her soul, on this side death, we shall never part. What Ruth said
to Naomi, is the soul's language here to the Lord Christ, “ Whither thou goest, I will go," (as long as I am going on the earth); "and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God, Ruth i. 16. The consideration of these difficulties stirs up the soul to take hold of Christ for that part of the ever, Psalm xlviii. 14, " This God is our God for ever and ever : he will be our guide even unto death."
3. In the espousals the soul has a view to death, the entrance of proper eternity, and so forward for ever and over. The work we we have in hand is weighty work indeed : it is work for eternity. I think I may say, there will not be a soul espoused to Christ, nor a worthy communicant at the table of the Lord, in this place this day, who will not do their death-bed work here, as really as if they were fully persuaded they should never go from the place they sit upon, but in their coffins. If they take Christ, surely they take him for ever.
There are two things, which, how long soever men may shift and put off, yet they will find necessary to do them on their death-beds, when they perceive they must quickly leave the world ; one is, to dispose of their souls for eternity; the other is, to dispose of their effects, whatsoever they have in world : both these will be done by the worthy communicant at the Lord's table, or wheresoever any shall be espoused to Christ this day.
(1.) Whosoever shall here be espoused to Christ, will dispose of his soul for eternity here, as if he were on his death-bed. Observe how the Psalmist, resigning himself to the Lord, speaks, as if he had been about to draw his last breath, Psalm xxxi. 5, “Into thine hand I commit my spirit.” So consenting to the covenant now, is but doing our death-bed work betimes. And there is good reason to do it now; for we know not at what hour our Lord will come; and whether we shall ever rise up from our seats, or not. They who manage this work aright, will surely act for eternity, which they have in their view.
(2.) Whosoever shall here be espoused to Christ, will here dispose of all that he has, as if he were lying on his death-bed. And indeed, the soul's joining with Christ, in the marriage covenant, is a dying after a sort: therefore it is very natural the man make his will, seeing he is a-dying. It is a dying unto sin; and so he will solemnly give up with sin, leaving all his guilt to be cast into the depths of the sea of the Redeemer's blood; leaving all his lusts to be broken and destroyed by the Redeemer's sanctifying Spirit. It is a dying to the world; and so he will give up all his earthly comforts and enjoyments to Jesus Christ, to be disposed of at his
pleasure, pleading no more right to dispose of them himself hereafter, than a dead man can claim to. Whoso give themselves to the Lord, will make a tender of their relations to him also, that they likewise may be his ; and will lay down at his feet their houses and lands, liberty and life, and whatsoever is dear to them in the world.
Thus, in the espousals, the believer disposeth of his all, as on a death-bed, leaving all to the Lord, or upon him; taking him for all, and instead of all, as he offers himself, for ever. For the espousals are for ever in design, in the design of both parties.
Secondly, The espousals betwixt Christ and the soul are for ever in fact. As this match is designed to be everlasting, so it is everlasting indeed. It shall never end, but last it shall, from the moment it is made, through all the ages of eternity.
1. It is everlasting, without interruption. 2. It is everlasting, without expiring.
First, It is everlasting, without interruption: it shall never be broken. The marriage covenant betwixt Christ and his spouse, is not like Adam's covenant, where man might be in this day, and out to-morrow; to-day the friend of God, to-morrow his enemy: nay, it is a bond of peace with God, which the believer shall never be shaken out of, though devils do their worst. The spouse of Christ receives a kingdom which cannot be moved, Heb. xii. 28. Marriage covenants amongst men may be broken, yea, and made null on just grounds, before the time come wherein they would expire of course : but the marriage-covenant betwixt Christ and believers is not liable to such uncertainties. If it could be broken, or the relation become extinct in any case, it would certainly come to pass in one or all of these four; 1. In the case of the adversity of either party. 2. Ia the case of the advancement of either party. 3. In the case of desertion. Or, 4. In the case of the spouse's unchastity. But in none of these cases is the covenant broken, or the relation extinguished; in all of them the fatal breach is still avoided.
1st, The espousals betwixt Christ and the believer stands firm, the covenant remains sure, in the case of the adversity of either party. This case is fatal to many covenants among men, of whom there are many who, as Nineveh's captains, Nah. iii. 17, are like the “great grashoppers which camp in the hedges in the cold day: but when the sun ariseth, they fly away." They stick close in a time of prosperity, but adversity drives them off; and they remember not, but renounce the brotherly covenant. But, in this covenant, the parties will never break with one another, how low soever either of them be brought.
(1.) Christ will not break with his spouse, though she be brought