Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?—Proverbs 20.6

[A Choice Collection: Sermon 43, by James Renwick.]
 
A   C H O I C E
C O L L E C T I O N
OF VERY VALUABLE
PREFACES, LECTURES, AND SERMONS

P R E A C H E D

Upon the MOUNTAINS and MUIRS, &c. of SCOTLAND,
In the hottest Time of the late PERSECUTION.

By that faithful Minister and Martyr of Jesus Christ,
The REVEREND MR. JAMES RENWICK.

Carefully collected, and faithfully transcribed, from seve-
ral Manuscripts; and now published by the Owners of
that Cause, which the famous AUTHOR sealed with his
Blood.

MARK i. 2. The Voice of one crying in the Wilderness, Prepare ye
the Way of the Lord, make his Paths straight.

G L A S G O W:
Printed and sold by JOHN BRYCE, Bookseller, Saltmarket.


M,DCC,LXXVI.
 
SERMON XLIII.
Preached in the shire of Fife, January 27th, 1688.

LUKE 12.32.

Fear not little flock;
For it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

OUR blessed Lord Jesus, knowing that his disciples and followers, were to meet with many discouragements in their way to heaven, he labours to comfort them, that they might not faint in the way, by forbidding them to fear, as the words read hold forth.

To explain the words a little, I shall shew,

  1. How the word fear, in scripture, hath divers acceptations.
  2. Shew you several sorts of fear. And then,
  3. Raise some doctrines from the words, and prosecute them a little.
I. For the first of these, the word fear in scripture, hath divers acceptations: As,

1. It is put for God himself, Gen. 31.5, And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac: That is, God, whom his father Isaac feared.

2. It is put for religion and piety. Job 4.6, Is not this thy fear. Heb. 5.7, And was heard in that he feared.

3. It is put for the worship and service of God, Deut. 6.13, Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt sware by his name: That is, serve and worship him, Deut. 10.20.

4. It is put for the doctrine of the word, Psalm 19.9, The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: That is, the doctrine of the Lord is clean and pure. {543}

5. It is put for the thing feared, Prov. 1.26, I will mock when your fear cometh. Isa. 66.4, And will bring their fears upon them.

6. It is put for doubting, Ruth 3.11, And now my daughter fear not, I will do to thee all that thou requirest. That is, doubt not my daughter.

7. It is put for terror, Gen. 34.5, And the terror of God was upon the cities, that were round about them, 1 Sam. 11.7, And the fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.

8. It is put for reverence, Rom. 13.7, Fear to whom fear. Eph. 6.5,—With fear and trembling.

II. The second thing is to shew you that there are several sorts of fear. As,

1. Natural fear; and every man and woman hath something of this: It is not sinful, except it exceed the due bounds: And it is thought that our Saviour Christ had some of this fear, when he did sweat great drops of blood in the garden. And it was no wonder, for he had almighty weight upon him, even the sins of all the elect, that would have crushed millions of worlds of angels and men to nothing.

2. There is a divine fear, whereby the Lord's people fear him, and fear to offend and sin against him.

3. There is a slavish fear; and that is, when man, or any other creature, is feared too much.

4. A civil fear, which is due to magistrates, and other superiors, by their inferiors, Rom. 13.7, Fear to whom fear.

5. There is an idolatrous fear, and that is, when any idol is feared, as if it could do any thing, 2 Kings 17.7,—And had feared other gods.

6. There is a devilish fear, and that is, when people fear the devil, and serve him, as many of the poor Indians do.

Now, I shall come to some doctrines from the words: And the first I lay down in this;

DOCTRINE 1. That believers in Christ are but few. For, in the text, they are called a little flock; Fear not little flock. And,
1. They are few, and little comparatively, or in comparison of the rest of the world; they are but a little flock, in respect of the vast multitudes, body, and bulk of the reprobates, who believe not in him: Yet they are a great flock, a glorious and noble company.

2. They are little in the world's estimation; the world despiseth and thinks little of them; the world thinks religion but a fancy, and counts the professors thereof fools: But they are far beguiled, for religion is a real thing, and the true professors are only wise. {544}

3. They are little in their own eyes; the sight of sin, and of their own unworthiness in themselves, keeps them humble in their own eyes.

But for application. Since it is so, that Christ's followers are few, it may teach us,

1. Not to stumble at religion, nor offend at the way and cause of God, though the same be despised and lightly esteemed, and the owners of it but few. O! stumble not at the way of God; though the wicked hate it, offend not at his cause, though these that own it be but few, and these few very mean [low, worthless] and despicable in the world's eyes, and in their own eyes also; and though they be persecuted at this day, yet the cause is the Lord's. Religion is no fancy, but a real thing, though Christ's flock be but a little flock.

2. It should teach us humility, we ought not to be high-minded: As Christ's followers are little in the world's eyes, so should they be in their own: If ye be humble, then ye are right; and if ye would be right, then ye should be humble. O! be not proud; humble yourselves, and in due time the Lord will exalt you, and lift you up.

DOCTRINE 2. That believers in Christ, that are his little flock, have a kingdom given them.
For so says the text, It is your father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. And, O! it is a noble and glorious kingdom; because it is a purchased kingdom; Christ paid no less for it, than the price of his precious blood: I say, he hath purchased, provided, and prepared it for them, John 14.2, In my Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you: I go to prepare a place for you.

For Use then. Seeing that it is so, that the Lord's people have such a glorious kingdom to look for, then,

1. They should not be carnal and worldly-minded; they should not be taken up with the things of the world, that are perishing; their affections should be set on things above, and not on things in the earth: That which is seen is temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. Let your thoughts be often in heaven, and your conversation much with heaven. O my friends! Believers should be of so noble spirits, that seeing they are all kings, and have a crown and a kingdom to look to, they should disdain to be taken up excessively with time-things, and to be encumbered with that which is so perishing; but be heavenly-minded. A king's son will think it below him, to be taken up with trifles, when he hath greater things to look to.

2. Seeing believers have a kingdom prepared for them, then they should long to be out of the vale of sin and misery, and from this miserable world, that they may be possessed of such a glorious kingdom; yet they should not desire to be gone, {545} because of the afflictions, trials, and troubles, that attend them while here, but they may lawfully desire to die, when ready; and the same flows only from a desire to be freed from a body of sin and death: Or from a longing to have the full and free enjoyment of Christ without intermission; and to behold his face without interruption, distraction, or fear of sinning: For, while in the body, they are absent from the Lord; and so, sometimes they would rather desire to be out of the body, that they may be present with the Lord.

DOCTRINE 3. That though believers have a kingdom provided for them, yet it is only the Father's good pleasure that he gives them it.
There is nothing in them that merits the same, or moves him to give it: The text says, It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. So that it doth not depend upon the creature's will and pleasure, whether he may get heaven or not, Eph. 1.5, Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

Now for Use. This may reprove,

1. Papists and Arminians. It reproves Papists, who seek justification by works, and think to merit heaven by their own good works. O! such would remember, that it is only of the Father's good pleasure that any get the kingdom: So then, free grace only must be exalted, and proud nature laid low. And it reproves Arminians, who exalt the will of man, above the will and pleasure of God; who say that the getting of heaven depends upon the will of man, and not upon the will and pleasure of God: And that it depends upon their own will, and not upon the good pleasure of the Father. O! what a great iniquity is this, thus to exalt the will of the poor creature, and to abase the will of the great Creator? Such should remember, that the text says, It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom, and that the will of man, by nature, is crooked and perverse, and only inclined to evil, and so cannot will that which is spiritually good.

2. It reproves these who go about to establish their own righteousness, and think to get heaven that way; many who will not be called Papists do this; yet they rest upon their duties, upon their prayers, and upon their sufferings, and seek to have the kingdom this way: But, this is not the way. O! remember, that it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom: Quit your own righteousness; be denied to yourselves; come to Christ, and rest upon him only, and alone for salvation, and let him have all the glory.

DOCTRINE 4. That these would have a right to, and expect to be possessors of that glorious kingdom; which is the Father's good pleasure to give to the little flock; they must be his children, by being true believers, otherwise they cannot win there. The {546} text says, It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom:
So he must be their father, and they must be his children, if ever they expect to be inhabitants of that glorious kingdom.

1. They must be his children by adoption; they must be brought and taken into his family; for there are none born children in it by nature; for, all are by nature heirs of hell, and children of wrath; and when they are made his children, he adopts, and brings them into his family, making them his own: This is an act of his free grace.

2. They must be his children by regeneration, John 3.3, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. They must be changed and renewed; all the faculties of the soul must be changed and renewed, as to their qualifications, and the members of their body as to their use. Their understanding must be savingly enlightened and renewed, which before was darkened, so that now they can discern things in a spiritual manner; and they get a sight of, and take up Christ aright, as he is offered in the gospel: Their affections must be renewed; their love which formerly went out after vanities, sin, and the world, is now changed and made to run out after Christ, after holiness, and after heaven. Their will, which by nature, is perverse and rebellious, must be likewise changed, and made to delight in the ways of God, and willingly to close with Christ, and cheerfully to obey his commandments. As also, all the members of the body are renewed, as to their use, formerly they served sin and Satan: But being changed they serve the Lord; they desire to be for him, and to live to his glory. His name is now precious, and his concerns savoury to them.

Now, for Use. My friends, let it be your study to be his children: O labour to be his children, both by adoption and regeneration; for thereby your blessings shall be great, and your privileges many: As,

1. If ye be the children of God, ye shall get protection from your father; O! is not this a great privilege? Ye shall get protection from all evil, both of sin and misery.

2. Ye shall have the privilege of provision from him: He will provide both for soul and body; ye shall not want any good thing.

3. If ye be his children, ye shall get fatherly correction from him: He will chastise you for your faults, for your good, that he may not suffer you to go on in sin, which is a great privilege.

4. Ye shall have the privilege of having your prayers heard.

5. If ye be the children of God, ye shall have the privilege of a right and title to the kingdom of heaven: And, O! what a great privilege is that? {547}

Here it may be enquired, what are the marks of the children of God? Or, how shall one know whether they be one of the children of God or not?

Answer. There might be many marks of this given from scripture; but I shall only give you these few at the time.

1. These who are the children of God, it will be their aim and endeavour, to yield universal obedience to all their father's commands; not baulking any, because unpleasant to their nature; or obeying some, and slighting the rest: But as it is their desire to mourn for, hate, and forsake every sin, so it will be their endeavour to obey all the Lord's commands. The Psalmist says, Psalm 66.18, If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. This says that he did not regard iniquity in his heart, but was an obedient son who obeyed all his father's commands.

2. These who are the children of God, they will honour their father: They will greatly reverence him, and fear before him: It will be their great desire to glorify him, and to have him exalted, Mal. 1.6, A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: If then I be a father, where is mine honour?

3. These who are the children of God, will have a high estimation of their elder brother Christ; he will be lovely in their eyes, and altogether desirable to their souls, according to that word, 1 Pet. 2.7, Unto you therefore which believe, he is precious.

4. They put a high estimation upon the state of the reconciliation with God: They count this state of his children, to be among the only blessed and happiest of conditions: As the Psalmist says, Psalm 32.1,2, Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

5. These who are the children of God, subject their spirit unto their father, endeavouring to be for him, and at his disposal; putting a blank in his hand, cheerfully acquiescing to what he carves out to be their lot; and with patience and submission to embrace it, though hard to flesh and blood, without murmuring at his way of dealing with them, or their hearts rising against his sovereignty, or quarreling with his way of procedure with them.

DOCTRINE 5. That these who are believers in Christ, his little flock, should not be possessed with slavish fear. Fear not little flock.
There are some things that the Lord's people are readily feared for [afraid of], which yet they have no ground for. As,

1. They fear the loss of the things of the world; but this they should not fear, Psalm 34.10, The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that fear the Lord shall not want any good thing. O! let not the fear of the loss of the world {548} fear you; for, these who fear the Lord, shall not want any good thing.

2. They fear the revolutions and overturnings that fall out in the world; we have seen some of these already: But, O! we may expect more, and greater revolutions, than we have either seen or heard: Sad days we may fear are coming. But yet, here is no ground for believers in Christ, to be possessed with slavish fear. For, though the earth be removed, and the mountains be cast into the midst of the sea; yet they should not fear, for God is their refuge; a present help in the time of trouble, Psalm 46.1,2. O! they may sit, Noah-like, in the midst of the flood, and be safe; because they are in the ark, where there is no fear of drowning.

3. They ofttimes fear man, and this brings a snare: As, alas! it hath done this day. Many of you, through the slavish fear of man, have complied with the enemies, so as to hear the curates, pay the enemies wicked impositions, and swear, and subscribe sinful oaths and bonds. O! mourn for these things, and turn unto the Lord. Let not this slavish fear of man possess your hearts. Fear no man: Fear not him that can kill the body; but rather fear him, who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

4. They fear death: This is a terror to them; but this they should not fear; for, if they looked rightly upon it, they would welcome it, when it comes, as a desirable messenger; for, it is a chariot to carry them out of this miserable world, unto their father's kingdom; where they shall enjoy their beloved fully and freely. They should invert Ahab's words, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And say unto death, Hast thou found me, O my friend?

There are several disadvantages, that the true believer hath, when this slavish fear predominates. As,

(1.) It is a tormenting thing; for where this fear is great, there is always torment. It is better to have the boots [a device of torture used during the times of persecution in which this sermon was preached] without this fear, than to have this fear without the boots.

(2.) It weakens the soul in going about duties, Zeph. 3.16, In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: And to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. From which we may see, that this slavish fear, and a slack-handedness in duties, go together: As when the Lord promises it should be said to his people, fear not; so it should be said to them, let not thine hands be slack.

(3.) Where this fear predominates, it is an evidence of little grace. I shall not say, but where this fear is, the person may have grace, but it is evident, that at that time, it is not very strong and lively, Matth. 8.26, And he saith unto them, why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? These in whom this fear so far predominates, as to make them fall from a general profession {549} of the Lord, and to fall totally and finally away from him; it is a mark that they never had grace: But in whom it predominates for a time, trough a violent fit of temptation, so as to make them to fall into some sins, if they repent, it evidences that grace in them is but weak.

In the next place, I shall shew you some helps, to help you to guard against this fear.

1. Labour to be more and more denied to the things of the world; loose your affections from the things thereof; let it be your study to be like the woman, as she is nobly portrayed; being clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, Rev. 12.1. O! labour to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ; and to get the moon, and the vain and changeable world, under your feet. O! fear not the loss of the world's trifles, or your through-bearing in it.

2. Labour to get faith, and to keep it in exercise, and this will help to guard against this slavish fear; for it will help you to read dispensations, though cross and angry-like, aright: It will let you see the inside of the cloud to be white, though the outside be black: It will prove a stay to you in all your tribulations. O therefore get it, and keep it lively and in exercise!

3. Labour also for the grace of love, and have it also in exercise. Labour to have it shed abroad in your hearts, and your souls filled with it, 1 John 4.18, There is no fear in love: But perfect love casteth out fear.

Now, my friends, guard against this slavish fear; let it not have the possession of your hearts: And to press you to this consider,

(1.) It is the command of Christ, that ye should not let your hearts be possessed with it: Fear not little flock: And let that have weight with you, to guard against it.

(2.) Let the disadvantages that are in it, make you to guard against it: It is a tormenting thing and it weakens your hands in duty.