ŇMany will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not by thy name prophesied? And by thy name cast out devils? And by thy name done many great works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity.Ó Matthew 7:22-23.
In these two verses, Christ returns to explain and confirm the first conclusion of the former verse, concerning those professors that shall not be saved. The words contain two parts: First, a description of the persons by their behaviour (v.22). Secondly, a declaration of their condemnation (v.23).
(1) For the first: The number of professors which shall not be saved is great, For many (saith Christ) shall say unto meÉ Indeed we are not able to say how many they be which shall not be saved, for that is a thing proper to God; and yet the Scripture teacheth us that the number of those which shall be condemned is greater than the number of those which shall be saved; for besides that the greatest part of the world in former times did never hear of Christ, here it is plain that among the professors of the name of Christ, many shall be condemned; and (v.13) Many walk in the broad way to destruction, few in the narrow.
Whereby we are taught:
(i) First, that we must not frame our lives according to the example of the multitude, to live and do as the most do, because the most shall be condemned. But we must strive to enter in at the strait gate, and to be of that little flock unto whom the kingdom of heaven is promised.
(ii) Secondly, hence we learn not to content ourselves to live as most men and women do that profess the name of Christ, but we must labour to go beyond the multitude in regard of the truth of our faith and repentance. It was not sufficient for the wise virgins to bear the name of virgins, to have lamps burning and to go forth to meet the bridegroom; for all these things did the foolish virgins also; but one thing more they had, which was the oil of grace, whereby they were enlightened to go with the bridegroom into his chamber; which the foolish virgins lacking, were shut out of the doors and not admitted to come in (Matt. 25).
(2) The second argument whereby these reprobate professors are described, is the circumstance of time when they shall thus plead for themselves why they should not be condemned; to wit, at the last day when they shall come to be arraigned at the tribunal seat of GodŐs judgment. This is a point of great weight and moment, worthy all observation; that men not only in this life and in death, but even at the last day should thus plead for themselves.
Hence we learn that many professing service to Christ, shall conceive in their minds a persuasion that they are the true servants and children of God. They shall live and die in this persuasion, and yet for all this at the last judgment, they shall receive the sentence of condemnation. A thing deeply to be weighed of everyone. And the consideration of it ought to teach us all to take heed of spiritual pride and self-love, whereby men flatter and deceive themselves in their estate, over-weening the good things they have, and falsely thinking they have the blessing of God which indeed they have not. This must move us not only to labour to be purged of this pride, but also teach us to suspect the worst of ourselves, and to judge ourselves severely in regard of unbelief and hollowness of heart. For this will be a means to make us escape the judgment of condemnation at the last day, which Christ shall pronounce against many of those that think themselves to be His servants.
Further, observe where Christ saith, In that day, He singleth out the day of judgment as a most terrible day. And saying, They shall say unto me, He makes Himself the judge of all the world in that day; and further pointing out their particular pleading for themselves, He gives us to understand that He is very God, who knoweth long before, not only the speeches and actions, but the very secret thoughts and imaginations of all men that have been, that are, or shall be, from the beginning to the end of the world.
These things laid together and well considered, must stir up in our hearts a special duty, which the apostle had learned (2 Cor. 5:11), Even to know the terror of the Lord; that is, not only in judgment, but also in heart and affections to be persuaded of the terrible fearfulness of the last judgment; and in this regard not to content ourselves with the gift of knowledge, and with an outward profession, but to labour for soundness and sincerity of faith, of repentance, and new obedience, both in heart and life. This was PaulŐs practice in regard of the resurrection to this judgment, he endeavoured himself to have always a clear conscience toward God and toward man (Acts 24:16). And this duty is most necessary; for such is our ignorance and unbelief, that we little regard the terror of this day, but either think it shall not come, or though it do, we shall escape well enough.
(3) The third argument here used is drawn from the gifts and qualities of the persons which make this plea for themselves. They are such as have prophesied in the name of Christ, cast out devils, and done many great works in His name. To prophecy here signifieth to teach the people of God by expounding the Scripture and applying the same to the consciences for their edification. And this office is called prophecy, to grace and commend the office of a minister, because it was the principal duty of the prophets themselves, thus to handle the Word o God for the instruction and edification of GodŐs people, howsoever at some time they did foretell unto GodŐs people things to come. And therefore he which hath this office, and dischargeth the same with good conscience, doth a work no less honourable than did the ancient holy prophets.
By thy name.
The name of Christ here signifieth two things:
(i) Appointment and commandment from Christ. Men that preach the Word of God, being rightly called thereunto, teach and preach in the name of Christ; for those whom the church calleth lawfully, Christ Himself calleth, and they preach by virtue of His name.
(ii) Secondly, it signifieth to preach in the room and stead of Christ, to preach that which Christ would preach, and in tha manner also which Christ would use. (2 Cor. 5:20), We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us etc. And here we may see a difference among the kinds of teaching which God requireth of men. Masters teach their servants; parents teach their children; and one neighbour and friend another; but all these differ from the teaching of the minister; for he teacheth being called by Christ, and instead of Christ. But the master teacheth not by like virtue, but only by the right of mastership; the father by virtue of fatherhood; and one friend another by virtue of brotherly charity. And this sheweth the dignity of the calling of a minister, and the weight of his office. No master, no father, or ordinary professor hath the like.
Cast out devils, and done many great works.
For the better understanding hereof, we must entreat something of the working of miracles; and first we are to see what a miracle is. A miracle is not only a strange work done, but such a work as is above the strength of all creatures, and beyond the whole power of created nature, for it is done by the power of God Himself immediately, which is above the strength of all creatures. Such a work was the staying of the sun (Josh. 10:12,13), and the going backward of the shadow of the dial (2 Kin. 20:11). Secondly, the Lord God alone is the author of a miracle, who created heaven and earth, as David saith, Thou art great, and doest wondrous things, thou art God alone (Psa. 86:10). No angel, nor other creature in heaven or earth, no not the manhood of Christ, though exalted above all creatures, is able to work a miracle. How then, will some say, do these men plead their working of miracles? Answer: Not as authors, but as instruments and ministers whom the Lord used in the working of them; for men work miracles by believing, on this manner: First, they receive a special instinct and inward motion that God will use them as instruments in the working of a miracle, if they pray unto Him, and command the work to be done. Upon this instinct, they believe that if they pray to God, and command in His name, it shall be done; and lastly, they pray and command according to this instinct, and so the thing they believed is done. And thus is this speech to be understood, Have we not cast out devils etc.; that is, thou hast put an extraordinary instinct into our minds, that if we prayed unto thee, and commanded the devils in thy name to depart, it should be done. This we have believed and accordingly practised, and so have cast out devils, and done many great wonders by thy name. This gift of miracles doth not now befall the church of God; all that the church now hath (for ought I see) is the gift of prayer, joined with fasting, which also must be conditional, depending on GodŐs glory, the good of GodŐs church, and of the party troubled. They may not pray absolutely for this work of casting out devils, or for the doing of such like miracles, much less may they now give peremptory command for the being of them. If it be said that GodŐs church hath all needful gifts, as well now as in former times, I answer, It hath all gifts needful to their salvation, and therefore prayer in the church serves now either to deliver the party troubled, or else to procure as good a blessing as deliverance is, which is patience and repentance.
And thus we see what manner of persons they be that shall say, Lord, Lord, and make apology for themselves at the last day, and yet be damned; namely, some that have been excellent preachers of the Word, and some that have had extraordinary powers to cast out devils, and lastly, others that have wrought many strange cures and miracles by faith in ChristŐs name.
(i) Now we learn, first, that most excellent gifts will not avail to the salvation of any man or woman, unless they have true faith, sincere repentance and new obedience, whereby they do the will of God; for what an excellent gift it is to be able to teach and preach the Word of God? What a rare thing it is to have heard Christ Himself preach, and to have given Him entertainment? And yet neither of these can save a man. Christ saith here, the apology of preaching can do men no good, and the privilege of eating and drinking with Christ, and of hearing Him teach in their streets, will nothing avail. Christ will say, I never knew you (Luke 13:26,27). It is likewise an excellent earthly privilege to be allied unto Christ; and yet Christ preferreth spiritual kindred by faith and obedience far before it, saying to one that told Him His mother and His brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him, Who (saith He) is my mother? And who are my brethren? And pointing to His disciples He said, Behold my mother and my brethren; for whosoever shall do my FatherŐs will, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother (Matt. 12:47-50). And with reverence it may be truly said of the virgin Mary, that howsoever it was a wonderful privilege unto her to be the mother of Christ Jesus, yet if she had not as well borne Him in her heart by faith, as she did in her body, she had never been saved. And therefore Paul saith, Though we had known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth know we Him no more; but if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (2 Cor. 5:16,17); and, In Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love (Gal. 5:6).
The consideration whereof must move us all to labour to become new creatures, and to get the graces of GodŐs children who are regenerate, even true faith, true repentance and new obedience, and not to rest in other gifts though they be most excellent.
(ii) Again, students that have a great measure of knowledge and other excellent parts, as memory, languages etc., must learn not to be puffed up therewith (for knowledge puffeth up (1 Cor. 8:1)), but withal to get the saving graces before named; for without a repentant and believing heart, all the gifts they have will never save them; nay, rather they must be abased thereby, for without true saving faith, all other gifts be as so many millstones, to press them deeper into the pit of destruction.
(iii) Thirdly, here note that many learned preachers who have soundly handled the Word of God for the conversion of others, shall yet themselves be condemned, like to the carpenters that built NoahŐs ark, and yet were drowned in the flood. The consideration whereof must teach all ministers, according to the counsel of the apostle (Acts 20:28), To take heed, first unto themselves, and then to their flocks. So Paul bids Timothy, Take heed unto thyself and unto learning, continue therein; for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee (1 Tim. 4:16). Secondly, to be followers of Paul in the practice of mortification, who did beat down his body, and bring it into subjection, lest by any means after he had preached to others, he himself should be a reprobate (1 Cor. 9:27). Thirdly, the people of God are here also taught their duty; for seeing this fearful judgment shall befall some ministers of the Word, that notwithstanding their preaching, thy shall be condemned; therefore GodŐs people must not rest upon the example of their ministerŐs lives, but cleave fast unto that wholesome doctrine, which they gather soundly and directly out of the Word of God. His life and practice is no sure rule to follow, further than it agreeth with the Word of God. And therefore Paul saith (1 Cor. 11:1), Be followers of me, as I follow Christ. But the Word is a true rule and square, and as many as walk according to this rule, peace shall be upon them, and mercy (Gal. 6:16).
(iv) Fourthly, seeing some workers of miracles must also be condemned, this teacheth us not to trust them which bring unto us doctrines because they are confirmed by wonders; for such as work wonders may deceive themselves in the matter of their own salvation, and therefore much more may they deceive us in this or that particular point of doctrine. Whereas therefore sundry points of popery, as purgatory pilgrimages, invocations of saints, and such like, are avouched to be confirmed by miracles (which no doubt were but forgeries and lying wonders), yet let it be granted that they were true miracles, that proveth not that we should believe them, because the Word of God doth not condemn the same unto us; for beside that which is revealed and recorded in Scripture, we must receive no doctrine in religion, be it never so miraculously comfirmed.
2. And then will I profess to them I never knew you; depart from me ye workers of iniquity.
Here Christ sets down the just condemnation of those men which make an apology for themselves at the day of judgment, and wonder at their condemnation; and withal He answereth them in that wherein they shall plead for themselves.
The words contain three parts:
(1) A profession made by Christ to these men that He never knew them.
(2) A commandment of Christ unto them, Depart from me.
(3) A reason of the commandment, Ye workers of iniquity.
(1) For the profession of Christ: Then that is in the day of judgment, at that time when men shall wonder at their condemnation; making apologies of their service to God; even then, saith Christ, will I profess etc. In this phrase Christ alludeth to the fact of these hypocrites, for they professed the name of Christ, and did plead service done unto Him; as if He should say, Many in that day which have professed my name in the world, shall plead their service done to me; but I will make another profession unto them, that is, I will make it clear and manifest unto all the world, that I never knew them, and that their profession of me was in vain.
The words of ChristŐs profession are of great weight and moment, containing some difficulty in regard of the sense, which must be searched out. The knowledge of God whereby He knows His creatures is twofold: General and special.
(i) GodŐs general knowledge is that whereby He understands and sees all things, both past, present and to come; and in regard of this it is said, All things are naked and open before His eyes with whom we have to do (Heb. 4:13). And by virtue of this, Christ here foretelleth what shall be the apology of some wicked men at the last day. And in regard of this general knowledge, all men are known unto God, and the most secret actions of wicked wretches. (Jer. 32:19), His eyes are open unto all the ways of the sons of men, to give unto them according to their ways, and according to the fruit of their works.
(ii) The special knowledge of God is that whereby He acknowledgeth, approveth and accepteth of His creature to be His, vouchsafing unto it His special favour. Now this enlargeth not itself to all and every man; for some there be on whom He will shew His favour, and of them it is said, The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous (Psa. 1:6). Others there be on whom He will not shew forth His mercy, and on them it is said, The way of the wicked shall perish. Which opposition sheweth what is meant by GodŐs knowledge of the godly. So likewise (Rom. 11:2), Will the Lord destroy His people whom He knew before? That is, whom He approved and loved. And of this special knowledge He speaketh in this place.
This word excludeth all time, as if he should say, I do not now, neither ever did approve and accept you for mine own; yea, even in that time when you professed me, preached and wrought wonders in my name; even then I say, I did not accept and approve of you.
From this form of confession, we are to learn sundry points of doctrine:
(i) First, hereby is plainly confuted and overthrown the opinion of some Protestants who hold that Christ shed His blood for all and every man without exception, and that in regard of GodŐs purpose and will He died for all men; for Cain as well as Abel, for Judas as well as for Peter, and for them which shall be condemned, as well as for them which shall be saved. But mark what Christ saith here to them that shall be condemned: I never knew you, nor approved of you for mine. But if Christ died effectually for all and every man in the world without exception, then He bought all and every man without exception, with the price of His blood; and if that, then everyone without exception is ChristŐs; and those which are truly His, Christ will undoubtedly acknowledge for His own. But here we see Christ will not acknowledge all and every man to be His, and therefore undoubtedly He did not purchase by the price of His blood, all and every man to be His without exception. I deny not but that Christ died for all men in the sense of Scripture; but the Word of God never saith that on GodŐs part, and in regard of the purpose of His will, Christ died for every man without exception. And whereas it is thought to be an hard speech, to say that God would have some particular men deprived of grace and redemption by Christ, let us well consider this one thing, and it will not seem strange, no not in manŐs reason. God created man in His own image, in righteousness and true holiness, and he gave unto him a blessed estate in an earthly paradise, and that not only for himself, but for all his posterity. For whatsoever he received by creation, he received not only for himself, but for his posterity, being then a public man, and bearing the person of whole mankind, both in the state of his innocency, and in his fall. Whereupon Adam falling from that happy estate, all mankind being in him, fell with him, and so lost GodŐs image and that good estate which they enjoyed by creation in Adam. Now consider this well, if God had never endued man with grace, nor given him means to come by happiness, and yet had excluded him from all means of grace and happiness, this indeed might have seemed hard; but considering that by creation he gave man happiness, and likewise ability to persevere in the same, if he would; is it any marvel, seeing all men have of themselves lost their own felicity, that some should be deprived of it forever? Nay, rather it is a wonder that all are not condemned which come of Adam; for God in His justice without all cruelty might have condemned every man; and indeed it is His endless mercy, that He hath given Christ to be a Saviour unto some, and that any are made partakers of this salvation by Jesus Christ.
(ii) Secondly, Christ here saith of some, I never knew you. Yet speaking of others, He saith, I know my sheep (John 10:14), and again, I know whom I have chosen (John 13:18). And Paul saith, The Lord knoweth who are His (2 Tim. 2:19). Now from these places we may gather that there is an eternal work of God, whereby He puts a difference and distinction between man and man, angel and angel, acknowledging some to be His own, and denying the same of others. If God Himself had not avouched this in the Word, no man might have taught it; but being here plainly propounded, it is with all reverence to be acknowledged and received. And that it may be the better conceived, two points are here to be handled: First, upon what ground and reason God doth know some to be His, and doth not know nor acknowledge others for His own. Secondly, what is the fruit of this knowledge of God in man.
(a) For the first, why God should know some to be His, and not others, no other reason can be given but GodŐs good pleasure alone (Matt. 11:25,26). Christ setteth down this distinction between man and man saying, My Father hath hid the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven from some, and revealed the same to others. Now what is the cause hereof? It is even so, O Father (saith he), because it so pleaseth thee. So (Rom. 9:13-18) in Jacob and Esau, Paul shews this distinction of mankind: I have loved Jacob and hated Esau, saith the Lord. Neither did this difference come from their works, either good or evil; for this difference God put between them before either of them had done good or evil; but it is wholly ascribed to the will of God, who will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. This must not seem strange unto us. We permit unto men to use their own discretion in their own affairs, and this is a sufficient reason to stop any manŐs mouth; It is mine own, may I not do with mine own what I will? (Matt. 20:15). Again, in princesŐ proclamations, we submit ourselves to this clause: it is our pleasure; so likewise, a man having a flock of sheep, may send some of them to the fatting for the slaughter, and others keep for breeding; this God permitteth unto man, and it is not counted cruelty amongst men. Now if we give this liberty unto man over the creature, why should we not much more give it to the creator Himself over man, seeing the basest and least creature is something in regard of man, but man is nothing unto God? And therefore, though these mysteries cannot be comprehended by reason, yet even in reason we may see some resemblance of the truth and equity of them, which must move us with reverence to submit ourselves unto the sovereign will and pleasure of God herein.
Upon this ground of difference and distinction between man and man, we may well be admonished to beware of the error of some divines, who thus define of GodŐs will touching manŐs estate. They say it is the first will of God that every man in the world should be saved, if they would; and therefore (say they), He ministers unto them all helps both of nature and grace, whereby they may repent and believe if they will. And having laid down this His first will, He then (say they) foresees that some men will not believe, nor persevere in the faith; and hereupon it is (in their conceit) that He will not know some men for His own. Again, foreseeing that others will believe, and persevere in faith, them He knows and acknowledgeth to be His; dealing herein like unto a good father that hath many sons, who would have them all to do well, and to have each one a good portion; but seeing that some will not become frugal and obedient, he changeth his mind, and doth disinherit them. Or like unto a good prince, who would have all his subjects to do well; but seeing some to be rebels, he is of another mind, and willeth their death. Answer: But this opinion is a mere invention of manŐs brain; for whereas they say that God by a second act of His will acknowledgeth some for His own, and not others, upon the foresight of their faith and unbelief, whereas by His first will He would have all men to be saved, it is not true; for the first will of God is to know some, and not to know others; the ground whereof is His good pleasure alone, and no foreseen works in them. And therefore it cannot be that He should will all men to be saved equally, Cain as well as Abel, Judas as well as Peter. Again, their opinion confutes itself, for God foresees menŐs faith and unbelief, because He hath decreed the same, and His decree depends upon His own will alone; and therefore unless we make the same thing in the same respect, both the cause and the effect, we cannot make foreseen works the ground of difference between man and man. Then their comparisons are not fit. A father would have all his children to do well, and to enjoy his portion. True, and more than that, he would make all his children to do well if it lay in his power to make them good. The change of his purpose in disinheriting his son, ariseth from the impotency of his will, that cannot do that he would. And the same must be said of the will of princes toward their subjects. But if there should be such a will in God to have all men saved, if He could save them; then undoubtedly all men should be saved, for who hath resisted His will? (Rom. 9:19). Nay, whatsoever the Lord willeth, that doth he in heaven, in earth and everywhere (Psa. 135:6; Dan. 4:30).
(b) A second point to be considered in the distinction of men, whereby God knoweth some to be His and doth not acknowledge some others for His, is the fruit of this knowledge of God. It is an effectual and powerful knowledge, working mutual and strange effects in manŐs heart, towards God; for from this, that God knoweth some to be His, there followeth another knowledge in manŐs heart, whereby he knoweth God to be his God. So Christ saith (John 10:14), I know my sheep, and am known of mine. Look as the sun casts down his beams upon us, by means whereof we again see the body of the sun; even so the knowledge of God, whereby He knoweth us for His, worketh in our hearts a knowledge of God in us, whereby we know Him for our God. So (Gal. 4:9), Seeing ye know God, or rather are known of God; so that the knowledge of God whereby He knoweth us to be His, is the ground of our knowledge of Him to be our God. Again, in this knowledge of God, whereby He knoweth His elect, is contained His love towards them; for He knoweth and accepteth of man, and therefore loveth him; and this brings forth in men love to God again. We love God because He hath loved us first (1 John 4:19). So likewise God by His knowledge chooseth us to be His peculiar people; and hence comes our choosing of God to be our God; for look as the seal sets a print in the wax like unto itself, so the knowledge of God bringeth forth such fruits in us to Godward, as therewith God beareth and manifesteth towards us.
On the other side there be some whom God never knew, and the fruits hereof in them be the fruits of justice. God not knowing them, they know not God; and the fruits of this knowledge, as love, and giving their hearts unto God, they have not. Indeed the sins which men commit, come not from this, that God knoweth them not, but from the corrupt will of man; and yet these wants of knowledge, of love, and faith to God, as they are punishments, come from this, that God doth not know, nor acknowledge men for His.
Now whereas this knowledge of God is powerful in His elect, to produce from them true knowledge, affiance, and love of God again; we are to be admonished to labour to feel in our hearts these graces, which are the impressions and fruits of GodŐs knowledge of us, that by them we may be able to say, I know God to be my God, and Christ my redeemer. Let us therefore labour to know God aright, and to love God in Christ, and in His members, by true love; and to choose the true God to be our God, bestowing our hearts and affections on Him; for by these graces we shall know certainly that God knoweth us, loveth, and chooseth us for His sons and daughters in Christ; because these graces in us are the proper fruits of the knowledge and love of God toward us; even as we may know the princeŐs broad seal by the form of it in wax, though we never see the seal itself. And on the contrary, we must take heed of that heavy judgment of God, whereby men go on without knowledge, love, and affiance in God; for these are fearful tokens of His wrath, befalling those whom He never knew.
Whereas God knoweth some men for His own, and will not acknowledge the same of others, and that only upon His will and pleasure, we may see here a wonderful and unsearchable mystery; which first of all ought to stir us up, not to plead with God, but in an holy reverence to wonder at, and to admire His unspeakable power and sovereignty over His creature. (Rom. 11:32), God hath shut up all under unbelief, that he might have mercy on all, saith the apostle. Now he doth not reason the case further, but there stayeth himself, with an admiration of GodŐs wonderful power and wisdom, crying out (v.33), O the deepness of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out.
This must strike out hearts with fear and trembling towards God in regard of His judgments. The apostle Paul speaking to the Gentiles of GodŐs ancient people, saith, The Jews are cut off through unbelief, and thou standest by faith; and thereupon makes this use unto the Gentiles: Be not highminded but fear (Rom. 11:20).
Hence we are taught not to sooth up ourselves (as usually we do) on hope of mercy in the death of Christ, without some ground hereof through true grace; but rather with fear and trembling, so long as we have time, to labour in the means of salvation, which is GodŐs Word, prayer and sacraments, to become true members of Christ, because we may deceive ourselves with a vain profession; for though GodŐs mercy be endless in itself, yet it admits restraint to usward; and indeed shall never be extended to all, nay, not to many that in their lifetime made full account thereof in their vain persuasions.
(c) A third point here to be observed is this: that such as professed ChristŐs name here on earth, and yet after shall be condemned, never had true faith, nor true repentance, sound love, nor hope; they might have some kind of faith, I confess, and many other excellent gifts; but if they had had true faith, thereby they should have pleased God, and been approved of Christ, and so at some time also, have been accepted and acknowledged of Him for His own. For this we must learn and hold as the truth of God: that where true faith, love and hope are truly wrought, there they remain forever, at least in the root. They may seem for a time to be lost, but yet never can be quite extinct, For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Rom. 11:29).
(d) Fourthly, here it is plain that those whom Christ will not save, He never knew. Hence it follows that whom He knows to be His, them He will know to be His forever. This point must be remembered, because it is the true foundation and ground of the salvation of menŐs souls. We are said to be saved by faith, and by the Word of God, yet only as by means, not as causes. But the only cause of our salvation, and of the means that bring us thereto, is this knowledge of God, whereby He accepteth and approveth us to be His own.
Hence we may gather that those who are elect unto salvation, shall never perish; for whom God once knows to be His, them He knows to be His forever. And therefore (Matt. 24:24) it is made a thing impossible that the elect should perish. And the apostle takes it for granted that the election of God is unchangeable (Rom. 9:11), remaining ever, according to His purpose. This knowledge of God is that foundation which remaineth sure (2 Tim. 2:19). The first grace of all is GodŐs favour, choosing some men to be His of His mere good will; and this first grace, to whomsoever it is vouchsafed, remaineth for ever, admitting no change or alteration, nor interruption. This doctrine must be remembered, as the stay of our faith, and a sure foundation of sound comfort in any distress; for true believers in time of affliction find in themselves much unbelief, and great proneness to fall away from God. Yet here they have a sure stay whereon to rest, they must go out of themselves, and fasten their faith on GodŐs election, knowing hence, that though they be frail and subject to fall away of themselves, yet their salvation remains fast, grounded on the knowledge and election of God. So the apostle Paul comforts himself and the godly (Rom. 8:33,34), It is God that justifies, who shall condemn? And v. 35, Who shall sever us from the love of God in Christ, whereby He loveth us? And indeed, if a man have received true assurance of GodŐs favour, though but once in all his life; yet by that one sign he may assure himself of his salvation, upon the ground that GodŐs love is unchangeable, though ever after he live in temptation, For whom God loveth, He loveth to the end (John 13:1).
2. Depart from me
This is ChristŐs commandment to those whom He never knew, though they professed His name; and it is a most fearful commandment, being all one with that (Matt. 25:41), Go ye cursed into everlasting fire.
Now hence we may gather that the second death is properly a separation from the comfortable fellowship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and withal, a sense and feeling of GodŐs wrath in that separation. This appears by the contrary, for life everlasting stands in fellowship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Now here a question may be asked concerning the suffering of Christ; for our doctrine is that He suffered the second death. Whether then was He severed from God in His suffering? Answer: Christ our Saviour on the cross stood in our room and stead, He bore upon Him the sins of His elect, and for substance, the whole punishment due to the same, which was both the first and second death. But yet concerning the suffering of the second death, there remains some difficulty. Touching it therefore we must hold this ground: that our Saviour Christ suffered the second death, so far forth as the suffering thereof might stand with the union of His two natures, and with the holiness and dignity of His person. And here these caveats must be marked:
(1) That in His manhood He endured a very true separation from the Godhead, and from His Father; yet not in regard of subsisting and being, but of sense and feeling only. And therefore He cried, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Psa. 22:1), having for a time no sense of GodŐs favour, but only the feeling of His wrath and displeasure.
(2) In His passion He did endure the sorrows of the second death. He did not die the second death, for then He should have been overcome and utterly separated from His Father in subsisting and being. But He suffered the second death, and in suffering overcame it; as a man may be at the point of death, and feel the pains of the first death, and yet recover.
(3) Christ endured the pains of the damned, yet not in that manner which the damned do; for He endured them on the cross, they in the place of the damned. Christ suffered them for a while, they endured them for ever. Christ suffered the second death, yet so as it prevailed not against Him; but the damned are overwhelmed of it, it prevails over them, and causeth them to blaspheme God. Now their blasphemy increaseth their sin, and their sin causeth their torments to be multiplied for ever. This doctrine is suitable to the Word of God, and to reason; for in manŐs reason, the death of the body could not be a remedy to such persons as are condemned to a double death, both of body and soul.
Use 1. Seeing the second death is a separation of man from God for ever, we must labour in this life to have some true fellowship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; that having it once, we may enjoy the same for ever. This fellowship we shall come unto in the right use of the Word, sacraments and prayer; for in the Word and sacraments, God condescends to speak unto us, and to deal familiarly with us, and in prayer we talk with God.
Use 2. Note also to whom this commandment is spoken: Depart from me; namely, to such as come near unto God with their lips, but yet keep their hearts far from Him. In consideration whereof, we must not content ourselves to profess the name of Christ outwardly, but we must draw near to God with all our affections, our love, joy, fear and confidence, and yield obedience to His commandments. So shall we escape this fearful commandment of final departure from Him.
Ye workers of iniquity
This is the reason of the commandment; for the better understanding whereof, this question must be handled: How these men, that make such profession, can be called workers of iniquity; many of them whom undoubtedly live in a civil and unblameable life outwardly, and could not be charged with any horrible capital sins? Answer: There be many great sins for which men may be called workers of iniquity, and be as vile in the sight of God as the murderer and adulterer, though for outward life they be unblameable.
As first, hypocrisy, which is proper to the professors of religion, whenas they content themselves to hold religion outwardly, but yet do not bring their hearts, nor conform their lives to their outward profession.
Secondly, to profess love and worship to God, and yet not to perform duties of love and mercy unto men; for we must love and serve God in the works of brotherly love.
Thirdly, to have the heart addicted to this or that sin or sins; whether secret or open, in regard of the world, it skilleth not; for this is to be a worker of iniquity in GodŐs sight: when the heart taketh a settled delight in any sin. And they are not so called because their iniquity is always outward and seen to the world.
Lastly, all the sins of the first table, especially the sins against the two first commandments, as not to know God, nor to love God, or to trust in Him above all, not to worship Him in heart and life together; these are all works of iniquity, greater than the sins of the second table in their kind. And in regard of these also, professors are called workers of iniquity.
Use 1. Whereas Christ calleth those professors, workers of iniquity, whose profession covered their sins from menŐs sight; we may note that Christ is a very strict observer of menŐs ways, even of the most secret sins, which appear not to the world. Though men may be deceived by professors in this world, yet Christ cannot be deceived, but at the last day of judgment, He will find them out what they be. Many deceive themselves with a persuasion of mercy, because Christ is a Saviour, and so presume to go on in sin; but they must know that Christ is also a severe judge, who doth straitly observe menŐs sins, and will condemn the workers of iniquity, as well as pardon them that repent; and therefore we must not flatter ourselves to live in sin because He is a Saviour; but rather fear to sin because He is a severe judge against all iniquity.
Use 2. This shews that Christ prefers an honest and godly life above most worthy gifts, even before the gifts of prophecy and miracles; and therefore our principal care must be to frame our hearts and lives to true obedience unto our God in all His commandments.
Use 3. This must stir us up to true and unfeigned repentance. If we have not yet repented, it must move us to begin it. If we have repented, we must do it more; for Christ will pronounce a fearful sentence of condemnation upon many professors, because they live in sin, though they have prophesied in His name, and cast out devils, and done many great works; yet because they have been in heart addicted to some sins, He shall say unto them at the last day, Depart from me, and, Go ye cursed into everlasting fire. The horror whereof, seeing Christ hath so long before made it known unto us, ought to move us to humble ourselves, to turn unto God, and to break off the course of our sins, even in the purpose of our hearts. And if we will not now tremble and turn, the day will come when we shall hear a faithful commandment, and obey it, and not be able to turn from it. But if we shall now turn to God by true repentance and new obedience, we shall in that day hear the blessed voice of absolution upon ourselves, whenas the fearful sentence of condemnation shall be pronounced upon others.
Use 4. Whereas many men shall be condemned because in heart they have been addicted to some open or secret sins, we must in the fear of God labour to purge our hearts from all sin, so as we be not addicted to any one sin, with purpose to live therein. Yea, we must labour to turn ourselves from every evil way, from sins in thought, in affections, in behaviour and actions. The purpose of our heart must be not to live in any one sin, so as if we fall, we may yet truly say, it was against our purpose and intent. And therefore, we must labour to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, even in the most secret part of our souls. It is not enough to leave sin when it leaves us, by reason of weakness, or want of opportunity. Thus doth many an aged man, who having lived in hardness and lust all his youth, doth at length, by reason of weakness in old age, leave those sins in practice; but yet his heart is still addicted to them, and therefore even then, when he cannot go without a staff, will he take great delight in rehearsing and remembering the tricks of his youth. Now this man hath no repentance; for his delight in the remembrance of sin past, is all one before God, as if he had lived still in the practice thereof. Our prayer therefore must be with David, to the Lord continually, that He would incline our hearts unto His commandments, and not to covetousness, or any other sin (Psa. 119:36).