And sitteth at the right hand of God the Father almighty

 

Thus much of the second degree of the exaltation of Christ. Now follows the third, in these words: And sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. In the handling whereof, we are first to shew the meaning of the words; secondly the comforts and benefits that redound to GodÕs church; thirdly the duties that we are moved unto.

 

 

I.

For the meaning of the words; if we speak properly, God hath neither right hand nor left, neither can He be said to sit or stand; for God is not a body but a Spirit. The words therefore contain a borrowed speech from earthly kings and potentates, whose manner and custom hath been to place such persons at their right hands, whom they purpose to advance to any special office or dignity. So king Solomon (1 Kin. 2:19), when his mother came to speak with him, rose up from his throne and met her, and caused a seat to be set at his own right hand, and set her upon it, in token, no doubt, of honour which he gave unto her. To the same purpose, David saith (Psa. 45:9), Upon thy right hand did stand the queen in a vesture of gold. And the sons of Zebedee made suit to Christ (Mark 10:37) that one of them might sit at His right hand and the other at His left in His kingdom. Now their request was to have the two special and principal dignities of His kingdom. Thus we see it is manifest that the sitting at the right hand of an earthly prince signifieth advancement into authority and honour; and therefore the same phrase of speech applied to Christ signifieth two things: First, His full and manifest exaltation in dignity, honour and glory; and in this sense it is said (Phil. 2:9,10) that to Him is given a name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. Secondly, it signifieth His full and manifest exaltation into the authority and government of His kingdom, which spreads itself over heaven and earth. So David saith (Psa. 110:1), The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

Which place being alleged by St Paul repeating the words, but changing the phrase, is thus set down (1 Cor. 15:25), He shall reign till he have put all His enemies under His feet. And to speak in brief, the scope of the words is to shew that Christ, God and man, after His ascension is advanced to such an estate in which He hath fullness of glory, power, majesty and authority in the presence of His Father and all the saints and holy angels.

 

Furthermore, in the words, three circumstances must be observed:

 

1. The first, is the place where Christ is thus advanced, noted in the former article: He ascended into heaven, and sits (namely in heaven) at the right hand of God. The place then, where Christ Jesus in both His natures, as He is God and also man, doth rule in full glory, power and majesty, is heaven itself. To which effect Paul saith (Eph. 1:20), God raised Christ from the dead, and put Him at His right hand in the heavenly places. And in the epistle to the Hebrews it is said (Heb. 1:3): At the right hand of the majesty in highest places. This point well considered, serves to discover the oversight of sundry divines which hold and teach that to sit at the right hand of God, is to be everywhere in all places and not in heaven only, that they might hereby lay a foundation for the ubiquity of ChristÕs manhood; which nevertheless the heavens must contain till the time that all things be restored.

 

2. The second circumstance is the time when Christ began to sit at the right hand of God the Father, which is to be gathered by the order of the articles. For first, Christ died and was buried, then He rose again and ascended into heaven, and after His ascension He is said to sit at the right hand of His Father. This order is also noted unto us by St Paul (Rom. 8:34), Who shall condemn? (saith he) It is Christ which is dead, yea or rather risen again, who is also at the right hand of God. And St Mark saith (Mark 16:19), when Christ was risen again He appeared to His disciples, and after He had spoken unto them, He was received into heaven, and set at the right hand of God. But it may be demanded how this can stand with truth, that Christ should not begin to sit at the right hand of His Father before the ascension, considering He is one God with the Father, and therefore an absolute and sovereign King from all eternity? Answer: As Christ is God or the Word of the Father, He is co-equal and co-eternal with Him in the regiment of His kingdom; and hath neither beginning, middle nor ending thereof; yet as Christ is God incarnate, and in one Person God-man or man-God, He began after His ascension, and not before, to sit at the right hand of His Father, as St Peter saith (Acts 2:36), was made Lord; partly because as He was God, He did then manifest Himself to be that which indeed He was before, namely, God and Lord of heaven and earth; and partly because as He was man, He received dominion or lordship from the Father, which He had not before, and thereby was even in His manhood exalted to be King of heaven and earth; and in this sense Christ saith of Himself (Matt. 28:18), All power is given to me in heaven and earth.

 

3. The third circumstance is concerning the Person at whose right hand Christ sits, noted in the words of the article, of God the Father almighty; whereby is signified that He receives all the honour, power and glory of His kingdom from His Father; as he that is set at the right hand of a prince, receives the honour and authority which he hath, from the prince. Now if it be alleged that by this means Christ shall be inferior to the Father, because he which receiveth honour of another is inferior to him of whom he receiveth it; the answer is that in Christ we must consider His Person and His office. In respect of His Person, as He is the eternal Son of God, He is equal to the Father, and is not here said to sit at His right hand; yet in respect of the office which He bears, namely as He is Mediator, and as He is man, He is inferior to the Father, and receives His kingdom from Him. As He is God, He is our King and Head, and hath no Head more than the Father. As He is Mediator, He is also our Head, yet so as He is under the Father as being His Head (1 Cor. 11:3). And we must not think it strange that one and the same thing should be both equal and inferior to another, divers respects considered.

 

Now in that ChristÕs placing at the right hand of His Father argues inferiority between the Father and Him, hence we learn that they are deceived which from this article gather that in the glorification of Christ there is a transfusion of the properties of the Godhead, as omnipotency, omnipresence etc. into His manhood. For this is to abolish all inferiority, and to make an equality between the creature and the Creator.

 

And whereas again the word Almighty is repeated, it is done upon special reason: because Christ sitting at the right hand of God doth presuppose omnipotence. For in vain was all power in heaven and earth given to Him, unless He was as omnipotent as the Father to execute the same. And therefore the song of the elders was on this manner (Rev. 5:22): Worthy is the Lamb that was killed to receive power and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and praise.

 

 

II.

The benefits which redound unto us by ChristÕs sitting at the right hand of God are two: one concerns His priesthood, the other His kingly office.

 

1.

The benefit rising from His priesthood is His intercession for us; for this is one of the ends why Christ is now exalted in glory, and sits at the right hand of His Father; namely, to make request in the behalf of all that come unto Him, as Paul saith (Rom. 8:34), Christ is risen again, and sitteth at the right hand of God, and maketh request for us.

Now that we may rightly understand what His intercession is, we are to consider these points:

(1) First, to whom it was made.

(2) Secondly, in what manner.

(3) Thirdly, whether it be made by Christ alone or no.

(4) Fourthly, what be the fruits and benefits thereof.

(5) Fifthly, the duties whereunto we are moved thereby.

 

 

(1) For the first, Intercession is to make suit, request or entreaty in someoneÕs behalf to another; and this is done by Christ for us unto God, as Paul saith (1 Tim. 2:5), There is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, which is the man Christ Jesus. Here at the very first ariseth a difficulty; for in every intercession there be three parties: the person offended, the person offending, and the intercessor distinct from them both. Now, if Christ the Son of God makes intercession to God for man, then He maketh intercession to Himself because He is true God, which cannot be. How then shall Christ be a Mediator? Answer: This point hath so troubled the church of Rome, that for the resolving of it, they have devised an error, avouching that Christ is Mediator only as He is man, not as He is God, which is untrue. For as both natures do concur in the work of satisfaction, so likewise do they both concur in the work of intercession; and therefore a more meet and convenient answer is this: Christ Jesus God-man in both natures is directly our Mediator to the first Person, the Father, as St John saith (1 John 2:1), If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just. And thus we have three persons in the work of intercession really distinguished. The party offended is God the Father, the party offending is man, and thirdly, the intercessor distinct from them both is Christ the second Person in Trinity. For howsoever in Godhead He and the Father be one, yet in Person they are really distinguished, and He as it were the middle between the Father and us: for the Father is God and not man; we that believe in Christ are men not God; Christ Himself both man and God. It may be further replied that this answer will not stand because not only the Father is offended, but also the Son and the Holy Ghost; and therefore there must be a Mediator to them also. Answer: The intercession of Christ is directed to the Father the first Person immediately. Now the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost have all one indivisible essence, and by consequence one and the same will; whereupon the Father being appeased by ChristÕs intercession, the Son and the Holy Ghost are also appeased with Him and in Him. Thus then intercession is made to the whole Trinity, but yet immediately and directly to the first Person, and in Him to the rest.

 

 

(2) The second point to be considered is the manner of His intercession unto the Father. We must not imagine that Christ now in heaven kneels down on His knees and utters words and puts up a supplication for all the faithful to God the Father; for that is not beseeming the majesty of Him that sits at the right hand of God. But the manner of His intercession is thus to be conceived: When one is to speak to an earthly prince in the behalf of another, first of all he must come into the presence of the king, and secondly make his request; and both of these Christ performeth for us unto God.

 

(i) For the first, after His ascension He entered into heaven, where He did present unto His Father first of all His own Person in two natures; secondly the invaluable merits of His death and passion, in which He was well pleased. And we must further understand that as on the cross He stood in our room, so in heaven He now appears as a public person in our stead, representing all the elect that shall believe in Him, as the Holy Ghost saith (Heb. 9:24), Christ Jesus ascended up into heaven to appear in the sight of God for us.

 

(ii) And for the second, Christ makes request for us in that He willeth according to both His natures, and desireth, as He is man, that the Father would accept His satisfaction in the behalf of all that are given unto Him. And that He makes request on this manner, I prove it thus: Look what was His request in our behalf when He was here upon earth, the same for substance it continues still in heaven. But here on earth the substance of His request was that He willed and desired that His Father would be well pleased with us for His merits, as appears by His prayer in St John (John 17:24), Father, I will that those which thou hast given me be with me even where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. Therefore He still continues to make request for us, by willing and desiring that His Father would accept His merits in our behalf. If it be alleged that Christ in this solemn prayer used speech and prostration of His body, the answer is that these actions were no essential part of His prayer. The prostrating of His body served only as a token of submission to God, as Christ was a creature; and the speech which he used, served only to utter and express His request. Furthermore, a difference here must be marked between ChristÕs passion and His intercession. The passion serves for the working and causing of a satisfaction to GodÕs justice for us, and it is, as it were, the tempering of the plaister. The intercession goes further; for it applies the satisfaction made, and lays the salve to the very sore. And therefore Christ makes request not only for the elect generally, but for particular men, as Paul, James, John, and that particularly, as He testifieth of Himself, saying (Luke 22:32), I have prayed for thee Peter, that thy faith fail not. If any shall say that ChristÕs willing and desiring of a thing cannot be a request or intercession, the answer is that in virtue and efficacy it countervails all the prayers in the world. For whatsoever Christ willeth, the same also the Father being well pleased with Him, willeth; and therefore whatsoever Christ as Mediator willeth for us at the hands of His Father, in effect or substance is a request or prayer.

 

 

(3) The third point is that Christ alone, and none with Him, makes intercession for us. And this I prove by induction of particulars: First of all, this office appertains not to the angels. They are indeed ministering spirits for the good of GodÕs chosen; they rejoice when a sinner is converted; and when he dieth, they are ready to carry his soul to AbrahamÕs bosom. And God otherwhiles uses them as messengers to reveal His will. Thus the angel Gabriel brings a message to Zechariah the priest that God had heard his prayer (Luke 1:13); but it is not once said in all the Scriptures that they make intercession to God for us. As for the saints departed, they cannot make intercession for us because they know not our particular estates here on earth, neither can they hear our requests. And therefore if we should pray to them to pray for us, we should substitute them into the room of God because we ascribe that to them which is proper to Him, namely, the searching of the heart and the knowledge of all things done upon earth; though withal we should say that they do this not by themselves but of God. As for the faithful here on earth, indeed they have warrant, yea commandment to pray for one another; yet can they not make intercession for us. For first, he that makes intercession must bring something of his own that may be of value and price with God to procure the grant of his request. Secondly, he must do it in his own name; but the faithful on earth make request to God one for another, not in their own names, nor for their own merits, but in the name and for the merits of Christ. It is a prerogative belonging to Christ alone to make a request in His own name and for His own merits. We therefore conclude that the work of intercession is the sole work of Christ, God and man, not belonging to any creature beside in heaven or in earth. And whereas the papists cannot content themselves with His intercession alone, as being most sufficient; it argues plainly that they doubt either of His power or of His will; whereupon their prayers turn to sin.

 

 

(4) The fruits and benefits of ChristÕs intercession are these:

 

(i) First, by means of it we are assured that those which are repentant sinners shall stand and appear righteous before God for ever; at what time soever Christ, being now in heaven and there presenting Himself and His merits before His Father, shews Himself desirous and willing, and they whosoever they are being sinners, should be accepted of God for the same, even then immediately at that very instant that His will is done and they are accepted as righteous before God indeed. When a man looks upon things directly through the air, they appear in their proper forms and colours as they are, but if they be looked upon through a green glass, they all appear green; so likewise if God beholds us as we are in ourselves, we appear as vile and damnable sinners; but if He looks upon us as we are presented before His throne in heaven in the Person of our Mediator Christ Jesus, willing that we should be approved for His merits; then we appear without all spot and wrinkle before Him. And this is the use Paul makes hereof (Rom. 8:33,34), It is God (saith he) that justifieth; and the reason is rendered: for it is Christ that is dead, yea or rather which is risen again, who is also at the right hand of God, and makes request for us.

 

(ii) Secondly, ChristÕs intercession serves to preserve all repentant sinners in the estate of grace; that being once justified and sanctified, they may so continue to the end. For when any servant of God is overtaken by the corruption of his own nature and falls into any particular sin, then ChristÕs intercession is made as a blessed hand to apply the salve of His death to that particular sore. For He continually appeareth before God and shews Himself to be willing that God the Father should accept His one only sacrifice for the daily and particular sins of this or that particular man; and this is done that a man being justified before God, may not fall away quite from grace, but for every particular sin may be humbled, and receive pardon. If this were not so, our estate should be most miserable, considering that for every sin committed by us after our repentance, we deserve to be cast out of the favour of God.

 

(iii) Thirdly, ChristÕs intercession serveth to make our good works acceptable to God. For even in the best works that a man can do, there are two wants: First, they are good only in part; secondly, they are mingled with sin. For as a man is partly spirit or grace and partly flesh; so are his works partly gracious and partly fleshly. And because grace is only begun in this life, therefore all the works of grace in this life are sinful and imperfect. Now by ChristÕs intercession, His satisfaction is applied to our persons; and by consequence, the defect of our works is covered and removed, and they are approved of God the Father. In a vision, St John saw (Rev. 8:3) an angel standing before the altar with a golden censer full of sweet odours to offer up with the prayers of the saints upon the same. And this signifies that Christ presents our works before the throne of God, and by His intercession sanctifies them that they may be acceptable to God. And therefore we must remember that when we do anything that is accepted of God, it is not for our sakes, but by reason of the value and vigour of Christ His merit.

 

(iv) Fourthly, the intercession of Christ made in heaven, breedeth and causeth in the hearts of men upon earth that believe, another intercession of the Spirit, as St Paul saith (Rom. 8:26,27), He giveth us His Spirit which helpeth our infirmities and maketh request for us with sighs which cannot be expressed, but He which searcheth the heart, knoweth what is the meaning of the Spirit, for He maketh request for the saints, according to the will of God. Now the Spirit is said to make request in that He stirs and moves every contrite heart to pray with sighs and groans unspeakable to God for things needful; and this grace is a fruit derived from the intercession of Christ in heaven by the operation of the Spirit. For as the sun through the body of it abide in the heavens, yet the beams of it descend to us that are here on the earth; so the intercession of Christ made in heaven is tied as it were to His Person alone, yet the groans and desires of the touched heart, as the beams thereof, are here on earth among the faithful. And therefore if we desire to know whether Christ make intercession for us or no, we need not to ascend up into the heavens to learn the truth; but we must descend into our own hearts and look whether Christ has given us His Spirit, which makes us cry unto God, and make request of Him with groans and sighs that cannot be expressed; and if we find this in our hearts, it is an evident and infallible sign that Christ continually makes intercession for us in heaven. He that would know whether the sun shine in the firmament, must not climb up into the clouds to look, but search for the beams thereof upon the earth; which when he sees, he may conclude that the sun shines in the firmament. And if we would know whether Christ in heaven makes intercession for us, let us ransack our own consciences, and there make search whether we feel the Spirit of Christ crying in us, Abba, Father. As for those that never feel this work of GodÕs Spirit in them, their case is miserable, whatsoever they be. For Christ as yet makes no intercession for them, considering these two always go together: His intercession in heaven, and the work of His Spirit in the hearts of men, moving them to bewail their own sins with sighs and groans that cannot be expressed, and to cry and to pray unto God for grace. And therefore all such, whether they be young or old, that never could pray, but mumble up a few words for fashionÕs sake, cannot assure themselves to have any part in ChristÕs intercession in heaven.

 

 

(5) The duties to be learned hence are these:

 

(i) First, whereas Christ makes intercession for us, it teacheth all men to be most careful to love and like this blessed Mediator, and to be ready and willing to become His servants and disciples, and that not for form and fashionÕs sake only, but in all truth and sincerity of heart. For He ascended to heaven and there sits at the right hand of His Father to make request for us, that we might be delivered from hell and come to eternal life. Wicked Haman procured letters from Ahasuerus for the destruction of all the Jews, men, women and children in his dominions; this done, Esther the queen makes request to the king that her people might be saved and the letters of Haman revoked. She obtains her request and freedom was given, and contrary letters of joyful deliverance were sent in post-haste to all provinces where the Jews were. Whereupon arose a wonderful joy and gladness among the Jews, and it is said (Esth. 8:17) that thereupon many of the people of the land became Jews. Well now, behold a greater matter among us than this; for there is the handwriting of condemnation, the law; and therein the sentence of a double death, of body and soul, and Satan, as wicked Haman, accuseth us and seeks by all means our condemnation. But yet behold, not any earthly Esther, but Christ Jesus the Son of God is come down from heaven, and hath taken away this handwriting of condemnation and cancelled it upon the cross, and is now ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of His Father, and makes request for us; and in Him His Father is well pleased and yieldeth to His request in our behalf. Now then, what must we do in this case? Surely, look as the Persians became Jews when they heard of their safety; so we in life and conversation must become Christians, turn to Christ, embrace His doctrine and practise the same unfeignedly. And we must not content ourselves with a formal profession of religion, but search our own hearts and flee unto Christ for the pardon of our sins, and that earnestly, as for life and death, as the thief doth at the bar when the judge is giving sentence against him. When we shall thus humble ourselves, then Christ Jesus that sits at the right hand of God will plead our cause and be our attorney unto His Father, and His Father again will accept of His request in our behalf. Then shall we of Persians become Jews, and of the children of this world become the sons of God.

 

(ii) Secondly, when we pray to God, we must not do as the blind world doeth, as it were, rush upon God in praying to Him without consideration had to the Mediator between us and Him, but we always must direct our prayers to God in the name of Christ, for He is advanced to power and glory in heaven that He might be a fit patron for us, who might prefer and present our prayers to God the Father that thereby they might be accepted and we might obtain our request. So likewise we must give thanks to God in the name of Christ; for in Him and for His sake, God doth bestow on us His blessings.

 

 

2.

Thus much of ChristÕs intercession. The other benefit, which concerns ChristÕs kingly office, is that He sits at the right hand of His Father for the administration of that special kingdom which is committed to Him. I say special, because He is our King, not only by right of creation governing all things created, together with the Father and the Holy Ghost, but also more especially by the right of redemption in respect of another kingdom, not of this world but eternal and spiritual, respecting the very conscience of man. In the administration whereof, He hath absolute power to command and forbid, to condemn and absolve, and therefore hath the keys of heaven and hell to open and shut, which power no creature beside, no not the angels in heaven, can have. For the better understanding of this which I say, we are to consider, first, the dealing of Christ with His own church; secondly, His dealing in respect of His enemies.

 

 

(1) And His dealing toward His own church stands in four things:

 

(i) The first is the collecting or gathering of it; and this is a special end of His sitting at the right hand of His Father. Christ said to His disciples (John 15:19), I have chosen you out of this world; and the same may truly be said of all the elect, that Christ in His good time will gather them all to Himself that they may be a peculiar people to God. And this action of His in collecting the church, is nothing else but a translation of those whom He hath ordained to life everlasting out of the kingdom of darkness, in which they have served sin and Satan, into His own kingdom of grace, that they may be ruled and guided by Him eternally. And this He doth two ways:

 

(a) First, by preaching of the Word, for it is a powerful outward means whereby He singleth and sorteth His own servants from the blind and wicked world, as Paul saith (Eph. 4:11,12), He gave some to be apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the gathering together of the saints. And hence we learn two things:

 

i. The first, that every minister of GodÕs Word and everyone that intendeth to take upon him that calling, must propound unto himself principally this end: to single out man from man, and gather out of this world such as belong to the church of Christ. And, as Jeremiah saith (Jer. 15:19), to separate the precious from the vile.

 

ii. The second, that all those which will be good hearers of GodÕs Word, must shew themselves so far forth conformable unto it that it may gather them out of the world, and that it may work a change in them and make them the servants of Christ; and if the preaching of the Word do not work this good in our hearts, then the end will be a separation from the presence of God. Christ when He came near Jerusalem, and considered their rebellion whereby they refused to be gathered unto Him, wept over it, and said (Matt. 23:37), O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou which stonest the prophets and killest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not. And by this He teacheth that if the preaching of the Word turn not us unto Christ, it turns to our destruction.

 

(b) The other means of gathering the church, and that most principal, is the inward operation of the Spirit whereby the mind is enlightened, the heart is mollified, and the whole man is converted to God. And this ordinarily is joined with the ministry or preaching of the Word, as appears by the example of Lydia. St Luke saith (Acts 16:14), God opened her heart to be attentive to the doctrine of the apostles. And by the example of Paul, when Christ saith (Acts 9:4), Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? At this very speech he is converted, and saith (vv. 5,6), Who art thou, Lord? What wilt thou that I do? And this is manifest also by experience. There is nothing in the world more contrary to the nature of man than the preaching of the Word; for it is the wisdom of God, to which the flesh is enmity. Here then it may be demanded, how it can be in force to turn any man to God? Answer: The Word preached is the sceptre of ChristÕs kingdom; which against the nature of man, by the operation of the Holy Ghost joined therewith, doth bend and bow the heart, will and affections of man to the will of Christ.

 

 

(ii) The second work of Christ is, after the church is gathered, to guide it in the way to life everlasting. He is the Shepherd of His church, which guideth His flock in and out, and therefore Paul saith (Rom. 8:14), They that are ChristÕs, are guided by His Spirit. And by Isaiah the Lord saith (Isa. 30:25), those His servants which are turned from idolatry, He will guide in the way, and their ears shall hear a voice behind them saying, This is the way, walk in it, when thou turnest to the right hand and to the left. Which voice is nothing else but the voice of the Holy Ghost in the mouth of the ministers, directing them in the ways of God. The children of Israel were travelling from Egypt to the land of Canaan full forty years, whereas they might have gone the journey in forty days. Their way was through the wilderness of Arabia, their guides were (Exod. 40:36-38) a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. The manner of their journey was this: when the pillar moved, they moved; when the pillar stood, they stood still; and so long as the pillar either moved or stood still, they likewise moved or stood still. And by all this a further matter, namely, the regiment of Christ over His church, was signified. Every one of us are as passengers and travellers, not to any earthly Canaan, but to the heavenly Jerusalem; and in this journey we are to pass through the wild and desert wilderness of this world; our guide is Christ Himself, figured by the pillar of fire and the cloud (Isa. 4:5), because by His Word and Spirit He sheweth us how far we may go in every action and where we must stand, and He goes before us as our guide to life everlasting.

 

 

(iii) The third work of Christ is to exercise His church unto spiritual obedience by manifold troubles, crosses, temptations and afflictions in this world, as earthly kings use to train and exercise their subjects. When our Saviour Christ was with His disciples in a ship, there arose a great tempest upon the sea, so as the ship was almost covered with waves; but He was asleep; and His disciples came and awoke Him (Matt. 8:25), saying, Save us master, we perish. Behold here a lively picture of the dealing of Christ with His servants in this life. His manner is to place them upon the sea of this world, and to raise up against them bleak storms and flays of contrary winds by their enemies, the flesh, the devil, the world. And further, in the midst of all these dangers, He for His own part maketh as though He lay asleep for a time, that He may the better make trial of their patience, faith and obedience. And the ends for which He useth this spiritual exercise are these:

 

(a) The first, to make all His subjects to humble themselves, and as it were to go crooked and buckle under their offences committed against His majesty in times past. Thus Job after the Lord had long afflicted him, and laid His hand sore upon him, saith (Job 40:4; 42:6), Behold I am vile; and again, I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes. In the same manner we being His subjects and people, must look to be exercised with temptations and afflictions which shall make us bend and bow for our sins past, as the old man goeth crooked and doubles to the earth by reason of age.

 

(b) The second, is to prevent sins in the time to come. A father when he sees his child too bold and venturous about fire and water, takes it and holds it over the fire or over water, as though he would burn or drown it, whereas his purpose indeed is nothing else but to prevent danger in time to come. In like manner ChristÕs subjects are bold to sin by nature, and therefore to prevent a mischief He doth exercise them with afflictions, and seems for a season as though He would quite forsake His church; but His meaning is only to prevent offences in times to come.

 

(c) The third end is to continue His subjects in obedience unto His commandments. So the Lord saith when He would bring His church from idolatry (Hos. 2:6), Behold, I will stop thy way with thorns, and make an hedge, that she shall not find her paths. The Holy Ghost here borrows a comparison from beasts, which going in the way, see green pastures and desire to enter in, and therefore go to the hedge, but feeling the sharpness of the thorns dare not adventure to go in. So GodÕs people like unto wild beasts in respect of sin, viewing the green pastures of this world, which are the pleasures thereof, are greatly affected therewith; and if it were not for the sharpness of crosses and temptations, which are GodÕs spiritual hedge by which He keepeth them in, they would range out of the way, and rush into sin, as the horse into the battle.

 

 

(iv) The fourth and last work of Christ in respect of His church is that He sits at the right hand of His Father to defend the same against the rage of all His enemies whatsoever they are. And this He doth two ways:

 

(a) First, by giving to His servants sufficient strength to bear all the assaults of their enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil. For Paul saith (Phil. 1:29), those to whom the Lord hath given the gift of faith, to them also He hath given this gift: to suffer afflictions. And the same apostle also prayeth for the Colossians (Col. 1:11) that they may be strengthened with all might through His glorious power unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness. The evidence hereof we may more plainly see in the most constant deaths of the martyrs of Christ, recorded both in the Word of God and in the church histories. It is wonderful to see their courage and constancy. For at such times as they have been brought to execution, they refused to be bound or chained, willingly suffering most cruel torments, without shrinking or fear; such courage and strength the Lord gave them to withstand the violent rage of all their adversaries.

 

(b) Secondly, He defends His church by limiting the power and rage of all enemies. And hence it is that although the power of the church of God on earth can be weak and slender in itself, and contrariwise the power of the devil exceeding great, yet can he not so much as touch the people of God. And he more prevails by inward suggestions and temptations than by outward violence. And if it were not that the power of Christ doth bridle his rage, there could be no abode for the church of Christ in this world.

 

 

 

Thus we have seen what are the works of Christ in governing His church; and we for our parts that profess ourselves to be members thereof, must shew ourselves to be so indeed, by an experience of these works of His in our own hearts. And we must suffer Him to gather us under His own wing, and to guide us by His Word and Spirit; and we are to acquaint ourselves with those spiritual exercises whereby His good pleasure is to nurture us to all obedience. Lastly, we must depend on His aide and protection in all estates. And seeing we in this land have had peace and rest with the gospel of Christ among us a long time, by GodÕs especial goodness, we must now after these days of peace look for days of tribulation. We must not imagine that our ease and liberty will continue always. For look as the day and night do follow another; so likewise in the administration of the church here upon earth, Christ suffereth a continual intercourse between peace and persecution. Thus He hath done from the beginning hitherto, and we may resolve ourselves that so it will continue till the end; and therefore it shall be good for us in these our days of peace, to prepare ourselves for troubles and afflictions; and when troubles come, we must still remember the fourth work of Christ in the government of His church, namely that in all dangers He will defend us against the rage of our enemies, as well by giving us power and strength to bear with patience and joy whatsoever shall be laid upon us, as also bridle the rage of the world, the flesh and the devil, so as they shall not be able to exercise their power and malice to the full against us.

 

 

(2) Thus much of the dealings Christ towards His own church and people. Now followeth the second point, namely, His dealing toward His enemies; and here by enemies I understand all creatures, but especially men, which as they are by nature enemies to Christ and His kingdom, so they persevere in the same enmity unto the end. Now His dealing towards them is in His good time to work their confusion, as He Himself saith (Luke 19:27), Those mine enemies that would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me. And David saith (Psa. 2:9), the Lord will bruise His enemies with a rod of iron, and break them in pieces like a potterÕs vessel. And again (Psa. 110:1), I will make thine enemies thy footstool. As Joshua (Josh. 10:24) dealt with the five kings that were hid in the cave; he first makes a slaughter of their armies; then he brings them forth and makes the people to set their feet on their necks, and to hang them on five trees; so Christ deals with His enemies; He treads them under His feet and maketh a slaughter not so much of their bodies as of their souls. And this the church of God finds to be true by experience as well as it finds the love of Christ towards itself.

 

Now He confounds His enemies two ways:

 

(i) The first is by hardness of heart, which ariseth when God withdraweth His grace from man, and leaveth him to himself, so as he goeth on forward from sin to sin and never repenteth to the last gasp. And we must esteem of it a most fearful and terrible judgment of God; for when the heart is possessed therewith, it becomes so flinty and rebellious, that a man will never relent or turn to God. This is manifest in Pharoah, for though God sent most grievous plagues both upon him and all the land of Egypt, yet would he not submit himself, save only for a fit, while the hand of God was upon him; for after, he returned to the former obstinacy, in which he continued till he was drowned in the sea. And this judgment of God is the more fearful, because when a man is in the midst of all his misery, he feels no misery. And as in some kind of sickness a man may die languishing; so where hardness of heart reigns wholly and finally, a man may descend to the pit of hell triumphing and rejoicing. And to come near to ourselves, it is to be feared lest this judgment of all judgments be among us in our days. For where is any turning to God by repentance? Still men go forward in sin without remorse. We have had the Word preached among us a long time, but it taketh no place in menÕs hearts. They are not softened with the hammer of GodÕs Word; nay, they are like the smithÕs stithy or anvil, which the more it is beat with the hammer, the harder it is. But in the fear of God, let us seek to be changed and take heed; the deceitfulness of sin is wonderful. Let us not be carried away with an overweening of ourselves. A man may have good gifts of God, as the gift of knowledge, the gift of prophecy, the gift of conceiving a prayer (I say not of praying truly); and hereupon think himself in good case; and yet for all this have nothing but an impenitent and flinty heart. For this cause it standeth every man upon to look unto it, lest this judgment of God take hold on him. And that we may avoid the same, we must labour for two things:

 

(a) To feel the heavy burden of our sins and to be touched in conscience for them, even as we are troubled in our bodies with the aches and pains thereof. This is a token of grace.

 

(b) We must labour to feel in our souls the want of Christ. We say indeed that we feel it, but it is a very great matter to have an heart that doth open itself and as it were gape after Christ, as the dry and thirsty land where no water is.

 

Though we have knowledge and learning never so much, and many other gifts of God, yet if we have not broken hearts that feel the burden of our sins and the want of Christ, and that we stand in need of every drop of His blood for the washing away of all these our sins, our case is miserable. And the rather we must prevent this hardness of heart, because Christ Jesus in heaven sits at the right hand of His Father in full power and authority, to kill and confound all those that be His enemies, and will not submit themselves to bear His yoke.

 

(ii) The second way is by final desperation, I say final, because all kinds of desperation is not evil. For when a man despaireth of himself and of his own power in the matter of his salvation, it tends to his eternal comfort. But final desperation is when a man utterly despairs of pardon of his own sins and of life everlasting. Examples hereof we have in Saul that slew himself, and in Ahithophel and Judas that hanged themselves. This sin is caused thus: So many sins as a man committeth without repentance, so many most bloody wounds he giveth to his own soul; and either in death or life God makes him feel the smart and the huge weight of them all; whereby the soul sinks down to the gulf of despair without recovery. God said to Cain (Gen. 4:7), If thou do amiss, sin lieth at the door. Where he useth a borrowed speech from wild beasts who, so long as they are sleeping, stir not; but being awakened they fly in a manÕs face and rend out his throat. In like manner the sins which thou committest lie at the door of thine heart, though thou feel them not; and if thou do not prevent the danger by speedy repentance, God will make thee to feel them once before thou die, and raise up such terrors in thy conscience that thou shalt think thyself to be in hell before thou art in hell; and therefore it is good for every man to take heed how he continues an enemy to Christ. The best course is to turn betime from our sins, and become the friends of Christ, that so we may escape these fearful judgments.

 

 

III.

And whereas Christ in this manner governs all things in heaven and earth, we are bound to perform unto Him three duties: reverence, obedience and thankfulness.

 

1. For the first, Paul saith (Phil. 2:9,10), God hath exalted Him and given Him a name above all names, that at the name of Jesus (which name is His exaltation in heaven in full power and glory) should every knee bow. We dare not so much as speak of an earthly king irreverently; what reverence then do we owe unto Christ the king of heaven and earth? DavidÕs heart was touched in that he had cut off but the lap of SaulÕs garment when he might have slain him, because he was the LordÕs anointed (1 Sam. 24:6). Oh then, how much more ought our hearts to be touched if we shall in the least measure dishonour Christ Jesus our Lord and King?

 

2. Secondly, we are here taught to perform obedience unto Him and do Him all the homage we can. The master of his family in all his lawful commandments must be obeyed. Now the church of Christ is a family, and we are members thereof; therefore we must yield obedience to Him in all things; for all His commandments are just. When Saul was chosen king over Israel (1 Sam. 10:26,27), certain men which feared God, whose hearts God had touched, followed him to Gibeah, and brought him presents; but the wicked despised him. The same is much more to be verified in us toward Christ our Lord. We must have our hearts touched with desire to perform obedience unto Him; if not, we are men of Belial that despise Him. If this obedience were put in practice, the gospel would have better success in the hearts of the people, and the LordÕs Sabbath would be better kept, and men would bear greater love both to God and to their neighbours than now they do.

 

3. The third duty which we owe unto Him is thankfulness for the endless care which He shews in the governing and preserving of us. When David waxed old and had made Solomon his son king in his stead, all the people shouted and cried (1 Kin. 1:39,40), God save king Solomon, God save king Solomon, so as the earth rang again. Shall the people of Israel thus rejoice at the crowning of Solomon, and shall not we much more rejoice when as Christ Jesus is placed in heaven at the right hand of His Father, and hath the everlasting sceptre of His kingdom put into His hand? And we are to shew this thankfulness unto Him by doing anything in this world that may tend to His honour and glory, though it be with the adventure of our lives. When David desired to drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem (2 Sam. 23:15,16), three of his mighty men went and brake into the host of the Philistines and brought him water. Thus they ventured their lives for DavidÕs sake; and shall not we much more willingly venture our lives to do ChristÕs service in token of thankfulness for His continual preserving of us?