« PreviousContinue »
if the same power
it is a contingent, necessitous being : For his pleasure they are,
it a being did not every moment preserve it. Would you have a joyful view of heaven and earth ? Look on all as in our Lord's hand. Why do the heavens keep their course? Why doth the sun shine so gloriously, move so regularly, and influence the earth so virtuously with his light and heat? It is because Christ upholds all things by the word of his power. He is before all things, and by him all things consist: all things were created by him, and for him, Col. i. 16, 17. Mariy are without Christ in the world, Eph. ii. 12. Many see daily the works of creation and providence, and never think on Christ as the head of all.
But it is no wonder, that men that have no eyes to see Christ in the new creation of grace, cannot see him in the old creation of nature. We, as creatures, are needy of God's helping grace and favour : for in him we live, and move, and have our being, Acts xvii. 28. In his hand our breath is, and his all our ways are, Dan, v. 23,
2. Our need of God's grace appears yet more, as we are such creatures, men.
We are, through the bounty of God, the most considerable part of this lower creation. Of man some understand that elegant phrase, Prov. viii. 26. The highest part of the dust of the world. But there is no earthly creature needy of God's grace but man, even in his natural frame,
abstract from his sinful state. The great former of all things hath given to all a being, and to many of his creatures no
To some of his creatures he hath given life, a nobler sort of being. But to all living creatures, but man, he gives no more, and they need no more; they have not, they need not eternal life. When the breath of the other living creatures goes downward, as the word is Eccl. ii. 21. there is an end of them. But man is created in that state, that he must be for ever, and therefore be eternally happy or miserable. This state he is made in, makes him vastly needy of God's grace
3. We grow yet more needy as sinners. Sinners are creatures, with this great blemish, of guilt, sin, and corruption. A sinner is needy of a Mediator to deal for him with God; for he cannot deal with God for himself. A sinner is needy of the righteousness of another to recommend him to God's acceptance; for he hath none of his own. The righteousness of a sinner is a plain contradiction. And unless the power of sin had blinded men in the right knowledge of God, and of themselves, and unless it had puffed up their hearts in this darkness, there had never been any pretence made by fallen men to self-righteousness. But now nothing is more common, more groundless, and yet more rooted in mens hearts, than that a sinner can, and may, if he will, bring or do somewhat that may have some interest in, and influence on his acceptance with God. A sinner is needy of a right to eternal life : and this must be bought by another; for he can never purchase it for himself. He is needy of safety from the wrath to come, which is so wofully well deserved by him; and the man can do nothing of himself, but what deserves it more and further.
4. We are needy of the help of grace as Christians, as new creatures. A Christian is a creature, by nature a human crear ture, a sinful creature ; but made a new creature by grace. Yet there are some springs of constant need of grace, in this new creature, the Christian.
Ist, The necessary and constant dependance of the new creature on its fountain and author, makes a Christian to be a very needy creature. The dependance of the beams on the sun is not more necessary, than the dependance of a Christian
on Christ : Without me (or separate from me) ye can do nothing, John xv. 5. The Christian's life is by a continual efflux from Christ; and is to be sought and maintained by a constant dependance on him, as light from the sun. Never was there, nor can there be a room so full of light from the sun-beams, but if either the sun withdraw his light, or if you exclude its light, by closing doors and windows, it immediately becomes dark, and that necessarily. It is so with all Christians. If it were not that the new covenant hath assured us, that there shall be no final and total separating of the fountain from the stream, there would soon be an expiring of all that good that is in the best of saints.
2dly, A Christian is always a needy creature ; because he hath much work to do, and most necessary work, and all above his strength. He that hath most work, and least strength, is most needy of help: Phil. ii. 12, 13. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. If the exhortation or command had been without the argument, it had been discouraging. What can a man do about his own salvation? It is God that begun a good work in them, and will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ, Phil. i. 6. Put hand to your work; for help is near. As the exhortation, Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, hath the height of duty in it; so the argument, For it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure, doth deeply debase man's sufficiency, and highly advance both the sovereignty and effi. cacy of his assisting grace. And happy is that Christian, who can lay the weight of the command on his conscience, and can at the same time improve the encouragement for believing obeying. Whoever is void of sense of his need of God's assisting grace, looks not rightly on the great work lying before him, and seeth not the great weakness that is in him : 2 Cor. iii. 5. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is of God.
3dly, In this great work above his strength, the Christian meets with much opposition, both from within, and from withont : not always in the same measure ; but some always, Special measures of opposition, make times of special need;
of which I shall speak. But there is somewhat of opposition that is constant : Gal. v. 17. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye
would. This flesh and this spirit is in all Christians. If a man were all flesh, he were no Christian ; if he were all spirit, he would be perfect, as the saints glorified be. This flesh and spirit lust and strive one against the other : and so they must do ; for they are contrary the one to the other. The effect of this lusting and contrariety is, that the Christian cannot do the things that he would. He cannot do all the flesh lusts to, because of the spirit's opposition ; he cannot do all the spirit lusts after, because of the opposition of the flesh. Of this combat the apostle speaks largely from his own experience, Rom. vii. And the more opposition a Christian meets with, and I have named but one head of it), the more needy is he of helping grace.
4.thly, The Christian's state of absence from the Lord, renders him a needy creature. He is made for the Lord; framed so, that, as a Christian, nothing short of being for ever and immediately with the Lord reigns in his heart as his prize and mark, 2 Cor. v. 2, 4. In this we groan earnestly, desiring to be clothed
upon with our house which is from heuven. We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. What ails a believer to groan so oft and so deeply? It is to be in heaven with the Lord. And the more heavenly and holy a Christian be, the more frequent and earnest are these groanings. He hath the most healthy soul, who is sick of love : whose heart is sick with desires of being present the Lard. The believer that is most assured of heaven, groans deepest. Unbelievers run on in sin, and sing to hell; while hell groans for them: and sad will the meeting be. We find Paul groaning for himself, only for two things; the body of sin and death, its dwelling in him, Rom. vii. 24. and his dwelling in the body. We do not, nor can we know the vast difference that is betwixt the happy state of the saints in heaven, and the best state of believers on earth. We do but guess in the dark ; and our guesses are but negative ; that they are removed from all the evils we find here; no sin, no clouds, no death, no
crying, nor any thing to complain of. But these negatives
But, besides these springs of constant need, there are spe-
Of such times of need, I would speak to six of them, 1. The time of temptation. 2. Of a spiritual decay. 3. Of high enjoyments and attainments. 4. Of affliction. 5. Of special duty and service. 6. Of dying. These are all seasons and times of special need of God's grace. And how such render Christians needy of grace, and how helpful his grace is in such times, is all I mind to say on this scripture.
I. The first time of need, is the time of temptation : An hour of temptation, Rev. iii. 10. A time of temptation, Luke viii. 13. A day of temptation, Psal. xcv. 8. But because temptation is of large signification, and of sundry sorts, and from various quarters, I shall confine myself to that sort that is from Satan. And on this head would confine myself to these three: 1. What temptation is. 2. What need of grace to the tempted. 3. How grace helps in time of temptation.
1. What is temptation? As we are concerned in it, three things are in a temptation. An outward object, the occasion; inward corruption, that is as fuel for the temptation; and Satan's motion to sin, and his working on these two, to hatch sin. He is but twice called the tempter; first, when he came to Christ, Matth. iv. 3.; and again, when he comes to Christians, 1 Thess. iii. 5. These three are not necessarily in all temptations. In his tempting the first and second Adam, there was only an outward object, and a motion of Satan,