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and another to give in mercy; but a child of God hath his mercies in mercy, as tokens and testimonies of special favour, which adds an accent and emphasis to every mercy, and makes it come doubly laden with peculiar interest; shall I call it double gilt? Nay, it is gold throughout as Xenophon relates of Cyrus's gifts, he gave a cup of gold to Artabanus, and a kiss to Chrysantas, the former complained that his cup was not such good gold as the other's kiss, because the latter was a sign of special favour. So truly, God's favour to his people hath more real worth in it, than wicked men's golden comforts which are but gilded outsides of empty boxes, but every comfort a Christian hath is full charged with blessing, and whatever it be in point of quantity, yet in point of quality it is like Benjamin's mess, five times larger than the men of the world's.
4. A life of glory and salvation doth proceed from God's favour: John X. 28, “ I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” So that this eternal life in heaven, which only deserves the name of life, is God's special gift, the gift of his favour and peculiar love, Rom. vi. 23. God freely gave Christ, Christ freely gave himself for us, and accordingly God gives eternal life to all his members. * It was dear to Christ, but free to us; the manner of God's procuring it for us, and conveying it to us, is something wonderful indeed, yet doth not lessen, but rather augments the favour, as so much must be done and suffered, which makes it so costly' a thing to bring our souls to heaven. Well may we write this word favour in capital letters upon all the steps we take towards glory, and upon every link of that golden chain that draws us from earth
* John iii. 16. Heb. ix. 15. 2 Tim. i. 10. 1 Pet. i. 3, 4. Tit. iii. 7. 1 John iii. 1, 2.
heaven, from the dungeon of our natural state into the paradise of God's immediate presence. “ Thou wilt guide me by thy counsel,” saith David, “and afterwards receive me to glory.”—Psalm lxxiii. 23, 24.
“ Fear not little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”—Luke xii. 32. If ever we come to heaven, we must be carried thither in the bosom of God's distinguishing favour; no man that ever entered those pearly gates could say, I have paid a valuable price for this heavenly city. It is an inheritance which comes by favour, not by purchase. Let the proud Papist say, I will not have heaven at free cost, * we, for our parts, must with the four and twenty elders cast down our crowns before the throne, saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power.”—Rev. iv. 10, 11. v. 12.
Secondly, A word or two may be advanced in answer to the inquiry, Why Christians esteem God's favour to be their life? I shall not need to enlarge here. It may be so,
1. Because they have enlightened minds to see the difference betwixt God and the creature. There is such an excellency in God, and such vanity in the creature, that they must needs think highly of God, and lowly of the world; God is the chief good, others are inferior good, inconsiderable, or false and flattering: a Christian through grace is able to judge of things aright, and as they are. The difference betwixt a pious man's judging, and a sinner's, Dr. Ames sets forth thus : “ An infant is much affected with a picture or image of meat and drink, or an apple, or any thing desirable, but a wise man knows how to distinguish betwixt the mere picture and the substance, especially having tasted the goodness of those things.” Thus the believing Christian
• Cælum gratis non accipiam.
hath tasted that the Lord is gracious,* and hence longs for more of him, and this is that whereby he lives, so that it is death to be without God or his grace.
2. Because the gracious soul hath a sanctified will and affections. These are changed from what they were originally by nature; the heart by nature savoureth not the things that be of God, but those that be of men;t but a sincere Christian is born from above, and hath a noble principle, a heaven-born soul. Those heavenly courtiers in the palace above, the holy angels and glorified saints, take little notice of crowns, sceptres, mitres, or treasures; one smile of God's face is of more worth than all the monarchies, glittering pageantries, or honours of the earth. So the saints' hearts are transformed into their likeness, have the same grace for quality, though not for quantity, with the saints in heaven, and have the like thoughts (so far as spiritualized) with those above, for they are clothed with the sun, and have the moon under their feet. Rev. xii. 1.
3. Because the true Christian hath felt the bitterness of sin, and God's displeasure for it, and the impossibility of other things quieting his conscience, without God's favour. A poor guilty malefactor at the bar may have many persuasives to put off his grief, but nothing will tranquilize him, when condemned, but his prince's favour and pardon : just thus it is with the converted sinner, that was lost in himself, and lay under the curse of the law, † dead in himself, || and perceiving that nothing could compose his spirit, and quiet his heart but God's favour in Christ. Tell the guilty conscience of honours, pleasures, or treasures of the world, you sing songs to a heavy heart; these things make the Christian more sad, rather than still * 1 Peter ii. 3. + Matt. xvi. 23. # Gal. iii. 10. || Rom. vii. 9.
the clamours of conscience : no, no, nothing will serve but God's favour.
4. Because the sincere Christian is a genuine believer, he views things with the eye of faith ; with Paul's perspective, 2 Cor. iv. 18; like Moses, Heb. xi. 26, 27. The eye
of faith can throw obscurity upon all the world's glory, and lay its honours in the dust: it can draw a veil over the world's painted face, and withdraw the world's veil from before heavenly objects, and represent them in their native lustre. Faith can realize the things of God, and set them off with some advantage to sense: it can overlook present objects, and obtain a view of God's countenance. Faith can take the dimensions of heavenly and earthly things, and engage the soul to a proportionable valuation. A Christian's life is a life of faith, we walk by faith, not by sense : faith quickly discerns how little sense, or objects of sense can help him in straits; the hope of heavenly things springing from God's favour, must bring him relief, and cheer his drooping spirits : faith fetcheth all down from God to the soul, and accordingly begets a high valuation of his favour as the only source of life. Thus much for the doctrinal part.
INFORMATION DERIVED FROM THE SUBJECT
The subsequent particulars may be detailed as conveying information :
1. It follows that life is a rich mercy. Why so ?
Because it is the proper result of God's favour, “in his favour is life.” It is also that good which David takes and makes use of to illustrate and exemplify God's favour: he doth not say in God's favour is wisdom, learning, riches, health or relations, though these are mercies, yet they are but such as are produced under God by the tree of life. Natural life is a foundationmercy; if life be gone, all the comforts of life cease: hence nature desires a perpetuating of its being, and abhors a dissolution. The devil was orthodox in the doctrine, though perverting it in the use ; Job ii. 4, “ Skin for skin, all that a man þath will he give for his life.” Divines dispute whether a miserable being, or no being be better? It is true, no being is better than a being in misery, in respect of the individual person : hence Christ said of Judas, “ It had been better he had never been born :"* but yet in respect of the whole creation, of which this miserable being is a part and branch, and in respect of God's will and glory, such a miserable being is better than none at all ; it is a favour from God that we have any being with any mercy attached to it, and we should praise God while he continues it, Psalm civ. 33. A wretched being in the lowest rank of God's creatures, is a favour God doth not owe us, and we owe him praise and service for it.
2. That outward comforts of life are fruits of God's favour. If God's favour is life, it is also our livelihood, it is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed, and it is also rich favour that his mercies are new every morning,t even every moment; God's favour is the life of our mercies, and the mercy of our lives; our outward comforts depend on divine pleasure, and God's special favour. When David was blessing God for his * Mark xiv. 21.
+ Lam. iii. 22, 23.