TIMES OF PERSECUTION IN SCOTLAND,
SUFFERERS FOR THE ROYAL PREROGATIVES OF JESUS CHRIST.
Sermons & Lectures by Donald Cargill.
WE may say of these words, before we begin to speak upon them, the Lord make them like Christ's box of ointment, wherewith He was anointed unto His burial. We may say, Oh how great alterations does death make upon nature! It makes its aversion its great desire. And what is nature's greatest aversion? Is it not DEATH? yet through grace it becomes the greatest and most solid desire of man. But this is not the first work of grace upon man's soul. There must be divers works prior to this. The soul will not be made willing to step off the stage of time except it see what it is to step unto. But there are several things in these words that hold out unto us what precedes or begets this desire:
- For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
- Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also has given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
- Therefore we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.
- (For we walk by faith, not by sight.)
- We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
- Wherefore we labour, that whether present or absent we may be accepted of him.
- For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
- Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God, and I trust also, are made manifest in your consciences.2 Cor. 5.4-11.
1. There is preparation. Now, in a word, a soul that hath a right desire of death, is a wrought soul (so to speak). And who hath been the worker? The Spirit of God. "Now he that hath wrought the selfsame thing for us is God." Now the preparation is wrought in the soul, and the worker is God. And what hath He been doing with it? Just like a piece of clay in the hand of the potter, He hath been beating and working it, and then forming it after His own image and likeness; and now it is thus a prepared and wrought soul. The worker is God. The thing He is working them to is His own image, and so the Lord is working an image to Himself in every soul to which He hath given a desire of death. Now we may say, What working is there yet amongst you? Death is working with some, but we know not if life be working with it; and woe unto that soul that finds not death and life working together!
2. As there is preparation, so there is mortification, which must be the second thing prior to this desire of death. We have now been for a long time withered, but now something of experiences and somewhat of religion let us see the vanity of all temporary things, and we begin to esteem them as little as they esteem us. A soul that esteems worldly things little must be a soul that is making for heaven. In a word, every man hath waited upon a vain heart, and upon vain expectations. Now, this is here discovered unto the apostle, and this discovery begets an aversion in him to them, and so he begins to turn himself another way. And how long will an immortal soul follow a vain and a foolish heart? We may say that there is a certain point of eminence, and till a soul arrive at that where it may get a view of the world's vanity, as the devil gave Christ of its glory (and that is mortification)I say, until we come at that sight of the vanity of the world, that will beget an aversion and detestation of it in us, and until we have been on that mount, we never can set our hearts and affections upon heaven as we ought. You are not climbing up this mount yet, perhaps, but you must fall about it, and be dead unto sin, before you get a view that will mortify your hearts fully: "For we walk by faith, not by sight."
3. There is a third thing, which is some assurance of eternal life. "For we are confident, I say, and willing." A soul will never loose the one foot, until assured where to set down or fix the other. We will not say but that crosses and afflictions beget passionate wishes in many, but they will soon retract these. But the solid desire that the soul abides at is in consequence of the assurance of eternal life. In this case the soul desires to be transported. We may say that the assured Christian is as sorry to go back again as you are to go forward. And how is it that some are, as it were, dragged away to eternity, and others go off willingly and triumphantly? There is a dying man, but yet he is as a bridegroom going out of his chamber, as it were, to be espoused unto the Queen of Heaven. Assurance, we say, should then be had, and it is no wisdom to venture upon eternity, until we be in some measure sure about the things of eternity. We may say this one word, and we dare not come below it, that we should scarcely leap off the stage of time into eternity, until once assured that we have our peace made up with God.2 But more particular, we may observe from these words:
1st, There is a Christian affection, a great Christian affection shown to eternity, and the reason of it is given, "And willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." He is a man subject and submissive unto God, and he dare not well tell his mind until first he hear some intimation from Him, and if once he hear God say it, he will run before, as ye know it is said of Christ, that after He told His disciples that He was going up to Jerusalem, "that he set his face stedfastly to go up to Jerusalem," and was the foremost, we may suppose, in all the company. Ye know, he was going up there never to return back unto the world again.
2ndly, We must have resolution; and what is that? Why, it is just to carry well until we come unto God, even labouring; and for what? For this"That whether present or absent we may be accepted of him"that is, that when we come home to God we may get the welcome of "good and faithful servant." As long as we stay here, it is the Christian's resolution to carry well until he get there. And further, Paul gives the reasons of his resolution(1.) In regard to himself; and (2.) In respect of others. And
1. With regard to himself: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." He shall then take and examine all our works, like a schoolmaster who comes in at night and takes an account of all his scholars. "Let me see," says he, "how ye have learned; how ye have performed your task?" or like a mistress with her maid who says, "How have ye wrought to-day?" In a word, we must everyone give an account unto Him of what we have done in the body. But we may say that it will be a long account with many; but grace will make it short unto some and will end it all in a word, "I freely forgive it all:" yea, "I have done it already."
2. There is another reason, and it is in respect of others. "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." When we think upon this we would gladly have others with us, and we know not if they shall be discharged before God who have not been useful or helpful in bringing in others unto Him. But this we are sure of, that the more ye can be instrumental to bring others to God ye shall be the more welcome unto Him. It is a wonder that any who have the least impression of the terrors of God upon them are not more earnest in their dealing with Him on the behalf of others. But we shall speak a word further upon these words. And
First, "For we in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened." Now, all groan, but they groan differently and on different accounts. All groan both good and bad, but if your ears were at their heart you would hear a great variety of reasons. (1.) Some groan; but why? Because the world is not more full and successful unto them; (2.) Because it is not free of all affliction; and (3.) Because it is not of longer continuance; for ere ever they are aware of it age is upon them.
1st, We say that some groan, because the world is not more full, free, and of longer continuance unto them. Such folk evidence clearly that they have no right to anything, at least their heart believes it so. Again, we may say that there are some, on the other hand, who rejoice that the world is no fuller, freer, or of longer continuance unto them. They say that all this is needful. And, indeed, if the world wanted its crosses it would be worse for us, and it is also well that it is of no longer continuance.
2ndly, We would say that, though they be groaning under various wants and on different accounts, yet there is another thing here. There are some put between two great straits, or as ye used sometimes to say, "Between the devil and the deep sea." They are both afraid to die, and they cannot live with pleasure, even as they would. They are afraid of dying, like children that are afraid to go in the dark, because they know not what may be there. We shall say this one word unto you: either make more haste to be holy, or else pray for a long life. But what will long life do to you? It shall soon be expired.
3rdly. Here is another kind of groaning, and this is a great cause of it. The words seem emphatical, importing, as was said before, that we believe and rejoice, and we groan and mourn too, and, therefore, there are these three things that make us do so:
1. The believer's crosses and trials make him mourn, and why so? Even because every cross hath a temptation in it. Indeed, we said a word before which seems to contradict this, but they agree well together. Believers may be content with these crosses in the world, and yet many groan under them. They may groan when they find their sorrows, and rejoice when they find their profit therein; and so both joy and mourning may be contained therein together.
2. They groan because of the bondage and thralldom they are under; and what are they like? They lie low, and they are, as it were, under the devil's foot, so to say. Oh, this thralldom of sin! When shall we see an end of it? We think that every soul of you should be essaying to have this yoke broken in pieces. Oh, when will it be taken off never to be put on again? And when will it be said, "Henceforth thou shalt be free from all temptations to sin, and shall be no longer in thralldom unto it"?
3. A third thing is "hope deferred that makes the heart sick." The great and vast disproportion between what they are entitled to and their condition makes them groan. What is their right? Why, for as low as I sit here, I have a patent right in my bosom unto a kingdom. It is well hid there, and if it is not there it is not well. So I say there is a vast disproportion betwixt their rights and their present condition. Why, they are under the feet of men, and the vilest of men, under devils, and the malice of devils; but they never get all their will about them, so that hope deferred makes the heart sick, and makes it groan. Oh, when shall we be fully freed from this? A
Second thing that we may speak a word here unto is, that this groaning is the effect of sin. It began with the body, and it will end with the body; for so long as the body continues here, sin and it will be together. Sin began with the body in the womb. We never heard of a babe that leaped in the womb for joy but one. [John BaptistLuke 1.41.] Others may do it, but it is on another account. I say, we never read of any but one who leaped upon this consideration, viz., that of the hope that the soul had of its eternal freedom through its Mediator. So I say, this may help to diminish your affections to the world. You must be kept groaning. That is the first thing that makes us content to quit the body, for we groan while we keep it. So choose whether ye will dwell with it, or be divorced from it in your affections, or be content with these groanings ye shall have while in the body. But we say, they are great fools who have great expectations of freedom while in this tabernacle. Ye have been disappointed, and yet ye will set it up. But set it up when ye will, ye will find it shaken, and sometimes the soul drooping and full of fears. But we may say that it shall always groan while here, until it groan out its last; and then it shall have its freedom; "For we that are in this tabernacle do groan." It is not without cause that we groan. For we sit beside ill neighbours, and we have great taxes laid upon us. We are like a people in slavery, whose rents are all taken from them by reason of bondage, and burdens laid upon them. So that there is cause of groaning; and this one thing, that there will be still a burden on every soul so long as it is in this tabernacle. If there were no more but this body of death it would be a great burden. It is true, it is not become the burden of some, I may say, of many. But the worse is their case. But
Thirdly, We come more particularly to show the cause. And 1st, Negatively. "Not that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon." Grace hath brought all the terrors of death unto this. It is but just like one putting off a worn suit of clothes, and putting on a suit of new apparel. O death, who wast so dreadful, thou art now but like the putting off old rags and on new apparel! Did ye never see the fondness of a child in putting on new garments? Though there be no such fondness here, yet there is as great a resolution and desire in every true Christian to be thus clothed upon. So says the true Christian, "I would see how it would fit me. I would gladly see how this clothing would set me." So first Paul lets you see negatively, "Not that we should be unclothed," that is, "We have no pleasure in thinking that we shall be annihilated, or reduced to nought." The passionate wishes of the worldly man look no further than "Oh, if I were dead!" But if dead, what would then become of you? Before ye wish for that, see better unto it. Where there is not suitable preparation for death, life is better; but where there is preparation for it, say, not passionately, but calmly, "Lord, send it when Thou wilt," or "let thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation," "Not to be unclothed." What is that? Not to be brought to nothing, but to have my body taken away. But
2ndly, Positively. "I desire to be clothed upon." I am like a man that hath a rich marriage to consummate. I would have both my wedding, and my wedding clothes on. And in effect death will both bring me unto my marriage, and the putting on of my rich suit of wedding garments. "So that I desire," says the believer, "to be clothed upon." He would be braw, and he cannot be braw enough, for his Bridegroom. But the bride, or believer, knows that the Bridegroom will prepare a suit for him. And in a word, some folk say of their clothes that they were never well since they put them on. But we are sure that we shall be for ever well after we have put this heavenly clothing on. The witness of the Spirit continues with them. They shall continue and last through all eternity so. Oh, happy soul that never rests till it come to look upon the terrors of death, like one just putting off his old clothes, and putting on a suit of new robes or apparel, to meet the blessed Bridegroom of souls, "that mortality might be swallowed up of life." "I would be through death," says the believer, "and I must be through it. I would have mortality swallowed up of life, and I would die once and never die more. My dying shows me to be mortal, but I shall be immortal after that. I would have it once over for all." Only these desires are with great submission. He submits unto the disposal of God, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
Now in the next verse there are sweet things:"He that hath wrought us unto the selfsame thing is God, who hath also given unto us the earnest of the Spirit." This shows that he makes no more haste than good-speed, as we sometimes say; for all desires without these things are foolish. They are sinful desires, till these experiences take place I am wrought to it, and have the earnest of it. We shall not speak further on this preparation, having noticed somewhat anent it already; but we think that right preparation hath:
1. An interest in Christ.
2. Blessedness. "Blessed is that servant that, when his master comes, shall find him so doing;" that is, the great preparation. And the thing we should look well to is, to have an interest in Christ and to be diligent in the work of mortification and holiness. "He that hath wrought us unto this selfsame thing is God." And there are these three things included in it:
First, It is God that hath in effect wrought that in us. Secondly, It is that same God that hath wrought that fitness in us for that kingdom and glorious inheritance above, "with the saints in light and glory." And
Lastly, He hath given the earnest of the Spirit, and that makes all sure. We have fitness, and we have aptness, and we have the earnest of the Spirit; and that ensures all unto us.
1. The MS. bears that this lecture and the following sermon were delivered at Partick-lone (I suppose that near Glasgow), Nov. 3, 1678.
2. Mr. Cargill in his last speech upon the scaffold, said, "I bless the Lord, that these thirty years and more, I have been at peace with God, and was never shaken loose of it; and now I am as sure of my interest in Christ and peace with God as all within this Bible and the Spirit of God can make me."