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tribes, to the whole sum of a hundred forty four thousand, were designed to Salvation.
(3.) But the chief use of the seal is for Certainty and Assurance. So Jezebel, to make sure work with the elders of Jezreel for the dispatch of Naboth, sealed it with Ahab's scal; i Kings xxi. 8. S the Jewish Princes, Priests, and Levites, when they had made their corenant, sealed it with their seals; Neh. ix. 38. Hence Haman's order for the destruction of the Jews was sealed with the king's seal; Esth. iii. 12: and the countermand for their preservation so sealed also; Esth. viji. 8. So Jeremiah, for his land at Anathoth, wrote and sealed, Jer. xxxii. 10.' So the gravestone of Christ's tomb was sealed; Matth. xxvii. 66. And still this is our practice: that, which we would make sure and past all question, we give not under our hand only, but our seal also.
2. In ALL THESE THREE REGARDS of Secrecy, Peculiar Designation, and Certainty, THE CHURCH IS FONS OBSIGNATUS, a well sealed up; Cant. iv. 12: and she justly prays, Set me as a Seal upon thine heart, and a Seal upon thine arm ; Cant. vii. 6.
Let us take them severally into our thoughts: and
(1.) For the Secrecy. It is a sure word, which the Spirit of God hath, 2 Tim. ii. 19. The foundation of God remaineth sure, haring this seal; The Lord knoweth who are his. The Lord knoweth, and none but he; neither man, nor angel: it is sealed, on purpose that it may be concealed, and reserved only in the counsel of the Most High. It is, therefore, a most high and dangerous presumption in any man, to pass a judgment upon the firal estate of another, especially to the worse part. This is no other, than to rush into the closet of the Highest; and to break open his cabinet; and to tear up the Privy Seal of Heaven: an insolence, that God will not pass over unrevenged.
It was a good answer, that the servant gave in the story, who, carrying a covered dish through the street, and being asked what it was, answered, “ It is therefore covered that thou mayest not know:” and so it is here; the final estate of every soul is sealed, that it may be known only to the God of Heaven; and, if any man dare to pry into this Ark of God, with the men of Bethshemesh, let him fear to be struck dead as they were; 1 Sam. vi. 19.
- The Romanists have taken too much boldness this way. There is one of their Saints, St. Matilda, or St. Maude, a prophetess of theirs, which, in her revelations, professeth that she would needs know of God what became of the souls of four men; Sampson, Solomon, (whom I must tell you the greatest part of the Romish Doctors give out for a cast-away; very injuriously and uncharitably, since that, besides his being a type of Christ and a penman of some part of Holy Scripture, his Ecclesiastes is a plain publication to all the world, of his penance for his former miscarriages,) Origen, and Trajan: and received this answer; “What my pity hath done with Sampson, I will not have known; that men may not be encouraged to take revenge on their enemies: what my mercy hath done with Solomon, I will not have known; lest men should take too much
liberty to carnal sins: what my bounty hath done with Origen, I would not have known; lest men should put too much confidence in their knowledge: what my liberality hath done with Trajan, I would not have known; for the advaucement of the Catholic Faith, lest men should slight the Sacrament of Baptism.”. A presumptuous question, and an answer answerable. So they have not stuck
to tell us, that the same day that their St. Thomas Becket died, *li there died in all the world three thousand thirty and three: whereof
three thousand went to hell; thirty to purgatory; and three, whereof their Saint was one, to heaven: sure I think much alike. I will
not weary you with their frenzies of this kind. They have bragged á Es of some of their Saints, who have had this deep insight into the * hearts of men and counsels of God, that they could tell, by the view,
who should be saved, who condemned: and some fanatic spirits in Per party our Church have gone so far, as to take upon them (as some vain
Palmesters by the sight of the hand to judge of fortunes) by the beste face, and words, and garb, and carriage of men to pass sentence of
reprobation upon other men's souls.
What a horrible insolence is this in any creature under heaven, or in it! There may be, pe:haps, grounds to judge of a man's present condition. God doth not call any man to stupidity, or unreasouableness. If I see a man live debauchedly, in drunkenness, in whoring, in professed profaneness; if I hear him, in his ordinary
speeches, to tear God's name in pieces with oaths and blasphemies; 1971 comment
I may safely say that man is in a damnable condition, and must demean myself to him accordingly; forbearing an entire conversation with him; with such a one eat not, saith the Apostle: but, if I shall presume to judge of his final estate, I may incur my own condemnation, in pronouncing his. Judge not, that ye be not judged. Perhaps that man, whom thou sentencest, is, in the secret counsel of God, sealed to life; and shall go before thee to heaven.
Who, that had seen Manasseh revelling in his idolatry, magic, murder; worshipping all the host of heaven; polluting the house of God, with his abominable altars; using sorceries and enchantments; filling the streets of Jerusalem with innocent blood; 2 Kings xxi: would not have said, There is a cast-away? Yet, howsoever the history of the Kings leaves him in his sin and dishonour; yet, in the 2 Chron. xxxiii. you find his conversion, his acceptation, his prayer, and how God was entreated of him ; verse 19. So as, for ought we know, he lived a Devil and died a Saint.
Who, that had seen and heard Saul breathing out threatenings, and executing his bloody cruelties upon the Church of God; dragging poor Christians to their judgments and executions; would not have given him for a man branded for hell? yet behold him a Chosen Vessel: the most glorious instrument of God's name, that hath been since Christ left the earth.
As thou lovest thy soul therefore, meddle not with God's seal: leave that to himself. Thou mayest read the superscription of a man, if thou wilt; and judge of his outside: but take heed of going deeper. Look well to the seal, that God hath set upon thine own soul: look for that new name, which none can read, but he, that
hath it. This is worth thine enquiry into: and God hath giren thee the Characters, whereby to decypher it; Whom he did predotinate, them also he called; and whom he called, them also he justit. ed; and whom he justified, them also he glorified; that is, they are as sure to be glorified, as if they were glorified already; Rom. viii 30. Read thive own name in the book of life, and thou art happy: as for others, let thy rule be the judgment of charity; and let God's seal alone. Secret things belong to God; and things revealed, to us and our children. But, if thou wilt needs be searching into God's counsel, remember that of Solomon, as the Vulgate reads it, Prov. xxv. 27. Scrutator Majestatis opprimetur à gloriá; He; that pries into Majesty, shall be overwhelmed with glory.
(2.) Now, that, from the secrecy, we may descend to the Pe. culiarity of Designation: you know it in common practice, in your trades and merchandise, that, when a man hath bought a parcel of commodities, he sets his mark upon them, to distinguish them from the rest in the warehouse : so doth our God. He sets a mark upon his own, whereby they are plainly differenced from others. And this mark, besides the stamp of his eternal decree, is true sanctiscation. By this then it is, that we are known from the world: as upon some large plain, where there are several Alocks and herds feeding together, every one knows his own by his mark. So the man with the writer's inkhorn set a mark upon those, which mowned for their own sins, and the sins of the people ; Ezek. ix. 4.
It is, therefore, so far from truth, that our sanctification is no certain proof of our sonship and of our interest in the covenant of grace; as, that there is no other besides it. And, indeed, what other can we insist upon? Outward profession will not do it: many a one shall say, Lord, Lord, with a zealous reduplication; which yet shall be excluded. And, for pretended revelations, they are no less deceitful: Satan oftentimes transforming himself into an Angel of Light: a Zidkijah thinks he hath the Spirit, as well as any Micaiah of them all: our books are full of the reports of dangerous delusions of this kind; whereby it hath come to pass, that many a one, instead of the true David, hath found nothing but an image of clouts laid upon a bolster stuffed with goat's hair; 1 Sam. xix. 16. But this mark of real sanctification cannot fail us. It will ever hold good, that which St. Paul hath; Rom. viii, 14: So many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,
Nothing in this world can so highly concern us, as this, to see and know whether we be sealed to the day of redemption. Would we know how it may be evidenced to us? look upon the impres sion, that God's Spirit hath made upon our hearts and lives. If he have renewed us in the inner man; and wrought us unto true holiness, to a lively faith, to a sincere love of God, to a conscionable care of all our actions, and to all other his good graces; doubtless, we are so sealed, that all the powers of hell cannot deface and obliterate this blessed impression,
(3.) But the principal and main use of this seal is for Certainty of Perforinance,
If we have the word of an honest man, we believe it; but if we
have his hand, we make ourselves more sure: but if we have both his hand and seal, we rest secure of the accomplishing of what is given or undertaken. How much more assurance may we have, when we have the word of a God, whose very title is AMEX; Rev. iii. 14: and whose Promises are like himself, yea and Amen; 2 Cor. i. 20! Alas, the best man is deceitful upon the balance; and his true style is, Omnis homo mendax, “Every man is a liar:" but, for this God of Truth, heaven and earth shall pass away, before one tittle of his word shall fail. But, when that promise is seconded by his Seal, what a transcendent assurance is here!
It is the charge of the Apostle Peter; Give diligence to make your calling and election sure; 2 Pet. i. 10. Sure, not in respect of God; whom no changes can reach ; whose word is, I am Jehovah ; my counsel shall stand: but, in respect of our apprehension; not in regard of the object only, which cannot fail, but even of the subject also; which if it were not feasible, sure the Spirit of God would not have enjoined it, or imposed it upon us.
The Vulgate reads, per bona opera, by good works: and, indeed, it is granted by Beza and Chamier, that, in some Greek copies, it is die nehav égžūv: whereupon Bellarmin would fain take an advantage to prove his conjectural assurance: a strange inatch of words merely contradictory! for if but conjectural, how can it be assurance? and, if it be assurance, how only conjectural? we may as well talk of a false truth, as a conjectural assurance. But that implication of Bellarmin is easily blown over, if we consider, that these good works do not only comprehend external works, as almsdeeds, prayer, attendance on God's ordinances, and the like; but also the internal acts of the soul: the acts of believing, the acts of the love of God, the acts of that hope which shall never make us ashamed. These will evidence, as our calling and election, so the certainty of both; and therefore are the seal of our redemption.
Let foolish men have leave to improve their wits to their own wrong; in pleading for the uncertainty of their right to heaven: but, for us, let us not suffer our souls to take any rest, till we have this blessed seal put upon us, to the assuring of our redemption and salvation; that we may be able to say, with the Chosen Vessel, God hath sealed us, and given us the earnest of his Spirit in our hearts; 2 Cor. i. 22.
If we have the grant of some lease, or some goodly manor, made to us by word of mouth, we stay not, till we have gotten it under black and white; and not then, till we have it under seal; nor then, if it be a perpetuity, till we have livery and seizin given us of it; and, when all this is done, we make account securely to enjoy our hopes : and shall we be less careful of the main-chance, even of the eternal inheritance of Heaven? Lo here all these are done for us! Here is the Word, preaching peace and salvation to all that believe: here are his Scriptures, the internal monuments of his writ. ten word, confirming it: here is the Seal added to it: here is the Livery and Seizin given, in the earnest of his Spirit: and here is sufficient Witness to all; even God's Spirit, witnessing with our
spirits, that we are the sons of God. Let us find this in our boson. and we are happy: neither let our hearts be quiet, till we can say, with the Chosen Vessel, I am persuaded, that neither life, nor dealh, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any creature can be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord; Rom viii. 38. 39. Lo, this is not a guess, but an assurance; RÉTEILL
.: neither doth the Apostle speak of his own special revelation, as the Popish Doetors would pretend; but he takes all believers into the partnership of this comfortable unfailableness; nothing shall separate us. Thus happy are we, if we be sealed unto the day of redemption.
III. Having now handled the parts severally, let us, if you please, put them together; and see the power of this INFERENCE or ARGUMENT. Ye are, by the Spirit of God, sealed to the day of redemption; Oh, therefore, grieve not that Spirit of God, by uchom Ye are thus sealed. The Spirit of God hath infinitely merited of you; hath done so much for you, as ye are not capable to conceive, much less to answer, in so heavenly an obsignation: oh, then, be you tender of giving any offence to that Gond Spirit. Do not you dare to do ought, that might displease that Loving and Beneficent Spirit. Be not you so much your own enemies, as to give just distaste to your good God.
So as the force of the argument, as we intimated at the first, lies upon an action of unkindness; a fording us this instruction, that the ground of God's childrens' fear to offend must be out of love and thankfulness. Great is thy mercy, that thou mayest be feared; saith the Psalmist: he doth not say, “Great is thy mercy, that thou mayest be loved;” nor, “Great is thy majesty, that thou mayest be feared ;” but, Great is thy mercy, that thou mayest be feared. Base, servile natures are kept in fear with stripes; but the ingenuous disposition of God's dear ones is wrought upon, by tender respect to the goodness and mercy of that God, who hath so infinitely blessed it.
It is an emphatical expression, that of St. Paul, For the love of Christ constraineth us; 2 Cor. v. 14. Lo, here is a kind of force and violence offered to the soul; but it is the force of love, than which nothing can be more pleasing. Neither will God offer any other: it can be no will, that is forced: God will not break in upon the soul; but wins it, with those sweet solicitations, that are more powerful than those of fear.
Men commonly run in a full career towards hell: it were happy, that any thing in the world could stay them. But are there any of us, that find a restraint upon ourselves, in the midst of our evil ways; so as we make a stop in this pernicious course of our sinning whence is it?
Is it out of a mere fear of the pains of hell; of those eternal torments, that abide for sinners? This is little thank to them. Na. ture, even in brute creatures, will teach them to affect their own preservation; and to avoid those things, which will necessarily