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

[A Choice Collection: Sermon 44, 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 XLIV.
Being the Author's last Sermon;
Preached at Borrowstonness, January 29th, 1688.

ISAIAH 53.1.

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

THIS Chapter contains a prophecy of Christ, and of the great sufferings he was to undergo, for the redemption of poor sinners. And the prophet begins with a sad complaint, that neither the report which he gave of Christ, would be believed by many, nor yet the report that Christ would give of himself; and that though the arm of the Lord was, and should be revealed wonderfully, yet the same was not, nor would not be taken heed to by the generality.

To explain the words a little, I shall shew you,

I. The various significations the word, believe, hath in scripture: As,

1. It signifies to give credit to God's word, 1 John 5.10, He that believeth not God, hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God hath given of his Son.

2. It signifies to assent barely to gospel truths, Acts 8.13, Then Simon himself believed also: That is, he assented to the truth of the gospel in his mind, but did not give the consent of his will; for he was in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Even so, when the word comes with light, perspicuity, and power, it may so far gain upon the conscience, as to get the assent of the mind and understanding, to the truth and veracity of what is spoken, that it hath nothing to object against it; while yet, neither the heart is broken, the will renewed, nor the affections changed, and so Christ is not embraced as offered in the gospel; so my friends, ye must have more than this, ye must not only give the assent of the mind, but also the consent of the will, to the truth of the gospel.

3. It signifies to know, John 17.23, That the world may know that thou hast sent me. The devils win this length; they know that there is a God; that Christ died for sinners, and {551} that there is salvation through his blood, James 2.19, The devils also believe and tremble.

4. It signifies to be fully persuaded and assured of the certainty of a thing, Luke 1.45, And, blessed is she that believeth, for there shall be a performance of these things, which were told her from the Lord.

5. It signifies to expect, or hope for a thing, Psalm 27.33, I had fainted, unless I had believed, to see the goodness of the Lord, in the land of the living.

6. It signifies to receive, and close with Christ, as he is offered in the gospel, John 1.12, But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. This is, when the soul makes a fiducial application of Christ, and of the promises to itself; this is true saving and justifying faith.

This believing spoken of in the text, may have a relation to all these various significations. The prophet might complain, and ministers may complain, that credit is not given to the word of God; that the assent of the mind, nor consent of the will is not given to the truths of the gospel; that people do not know; that they are not fully persuaded; that they do not hope; that Christ is not received. But the chief thing meant by this, Who hath believed our report? is, that Christ was not received, closed with, and embraced.

II. The word arm, hath also divers significations in scripture. As,

1. It is taken for the natural arm, 2 Sam. 1.10, And I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm.

2. It signifies outward strength, 2 Chron. 32.8,—With him is an arm of flesh. Psalm 10.15, Break thou the arm of the wicked, and the evil man.

3. It signifies the power of God; even the power whereby he made heaven and earth, Jer. 27.5, I have made the earth, the man and the beast, that are upon the ground, by my great power, and by my stretched out arm. See also Jer. 32.17.

4. It signifies the gospel; which signification it hath here in the text. So, the prophet here complains, that although the arm of the Lord was revealed, in the discovery of Christ in the gospel, and of salvation holden forth therein, to be had in and through him, yet the report thereof was not, nor would not be believed as it ought.

Now, I come to the doctrines.

DOCTRINE 1. That ofttimes the ministers of Christ have it, for the matter of their complaint, that the message and charge, which they have in commission from him, is not believed, nor the report thereof credited. {552}
This was the prophet's complaint here, and it hath been the complaint of ministers of the gospel in all ages; and it may be our complaint this day. Alas! the professors of Scotland have not believed the report of that which ministers have had in commission from Christ to tell them; they have not credited it, though they have been in earnest, in telling them the same.

In prosecution of this doctrine, I shall shew you some things, which the ministers in this land have declared unto the people, which they had in commission from him; but, alas! as the report of the same hath not been believed by the generality, though the arm of the Lord hath been revealed, yet the same hath not been taken heed unto, nor what was said credited by the most part.

1. This hath been declared unto you, by the faithful ministers of Christ, the sinfulness and misery of your natural estate, and the great danger of continuing in the same. It hath been told you, that ye were born in a miserable estate; in an estate of enmity against God; heirs of hell, and children of wrath; and yet the most part have not, nor do not believe it: Ye do not credit this report, though it hath been often, again and again told you. All ye who are not sensible of, and weighted under the sense of this lamentable and sad state, and seek not the right way out of it; ye have not believed this report; and for this, ye will inevitably perish.

2. This hath been told you, your own impotency, to deliver yourselves out of that miserable estate. Hath it not been told you, that all that ye could do in this case, would be to no purpose, without faith in Christ? For, by nature, ye are not only unable, but unwilling to be delivered out of that estate; so, suppose ye did never so much in your own strength, it would be but as rotten rags, and the spider's web: For, all ye who have not fled to Christ by faith, for deliverance out of this estate, and closed with him; but have gone about to make a Saviour of your duties, and to establish your own righteousness, or put any thing in Christ's room, ye have not believed this report.

3. This hath been shown unto you, that not only ye were unable to deliver yourselves, out of that miserable estate that ye are in by nature, but also unworthy that any should do it for you: It hath been told you how unworthy ye were of salvation, which should have humbled you, and broken you in yourselves. But, all ye who are not humbled under the sense of your sin, and of your unworthiness, and think yourselves worthy of salvation and of heaven, or more worthy than others, ye have not believed this report. O! be convinced of your sin and misery, and let the sense thereof humble you; and look upon yourselves as unworthy of salvation. {553}

4. This hath been declared unto you, by the faithful ambassadors of Christ, that although ye were unable to deliver yourselves out of that sad estate, that by nature ye are in, and the insufficiency of all your duties, or the endeavour of any other creature for that end, and that ye are unworthy to be delivered, yet there was a Saviour and a Redeemer provided, even Jesus Christ the son of God. Hath it not been told you, that faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, 1 Tim. 1.15. And that he is an all-sufficient and well furnished Saviour, able to save to the uttermost, all that come to God through him? Heb. 7.35. But all ye who have not fled out of yourselves, into Jesus Christ, and have not believed in him, nor laid hold upon him for salvation, and to whom he is not precious, have not believed this great report, that hath been often shown unto you, viz. That your eternal salvation dependeth thereon. O! believe this sure report, that Christ is an all-sufficient Saviour. O! therefore believe in him; he is able to save you.

5. It hath been told you the necessity of an actual closing with Christ, in the terms of the gospel, as your Prophet, Priest, and King. It hath been declared unto you, that ye must enter into covenant, close with and embrace him, as your own; and that ye were to give away yourselves to him, to be his and for him, and yet this hath not been believed by many of you: For, all you, who are serving other lords, and have not forsaken your sins, lusts, and idols, have not actually closed with him, in the terms he offereth himself; nor have ye covenanted with him; and have not given away yourselves and all you have unto him, to be his, and for him, and at his disposal: Ye have not given credit to this report.

6. It hath been preached unto you, the necessity of heart holiness, and the need ye had, to have your heart, as well as your ways changed, and cleansed; and that ye should purify your hearts from all your lusts and idols. The want of this hath been provoking unto the Lord. And hath not this been told you? O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved: How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? Jer. 4.14. But the report of this hath not been credited by the most part; for, all ye who have not made it your exercise, to set about the work of mortification, and have not made sanctification and heart holiness your study, ye have not believed this report.

7. Ministers have preached unto you the necessity of a gospel holy conversation, called for at your hands, as well as heart holiness, that ye were to study a holy personal walk, suiting your profession: But, oh! this hath not been believed by the generality; for all ye who are scandalous in your personal walk, ye who have not exercised yourselves, in having a {554} conversation suiting the gospel, ye have not believed the report of this. O! my friends, labour for heart holiness, for heart religion. Let your conversation be as becometh the gospel.

8. The faithful ministers of Christ have preached and declared unto you, the sinfulness of the time's abominations, and of the land's defections; and the sad compliance with enemies, that the generality have been involved in. Have they not declared unto you, the sinfulness of hearing the curates? &c. But all ye who have countenanced them, have not believed this report. Hath not the sinfulness of paying the cess and locality been preached unto you, and yet all ye who have paid it, have not believed this report. Hath not the sinfulness of the wicked oaths and bonds, imposed upon the conscience of poor people, been declared unto you? yet all ye who have sworn, or taken any of them, have not believed this report. Likewise, hath not the sin, snare, and danger of this Antichristian toleration, been declared unto many of you? yet all ye who go on to countenance the same, ye do not believe this report. And now, this night, I give you warning of the sin, snare, and danger, of it, so that ye would have nothing to do with it: For, a toleration is always of evil, seeing that which is good cannot be tolerated, but ought freely to be owned and countenanced as such. A toleration is expressly contrary to scripture. To give toleration to idolatry is a great iniquity. Israel was commanded to destroy their altars, break down their images, cut down their groves, and to burn their graven images with fire, Deut. 7.5. This was far from tolerating of them. A toleration is contrary to the acts and constitution of this church, and to the faithful warnings of the general assemblies thereof; and it is contrary to our covenants, which, alas! are now like to be buried, by the accepters of this toleration. And, as tolerations in general are evil, so this present toleration is evil and sinful. The foundation thereof is absolute power, which the granter blasphemously arrogates to himself: It runs through such a channel, as disables and suspends our laws against idolatry. The restrictions are such, as a minister cannot accept of, if he would resolve to give the people faithful warning of the sin and duty of the day. And these who are accepters of this liberty, they change the holding of their ministry, and depend for it, upon the courts of men. And the design of granting it is wicked, even no less than to introduce idolatry. So my friends, I would give you warning, not to countenance it: Have nothing to do with it: do not countenance nor hear them, who have embraced and accepted it, as ye would be free of its sin and not share in the judgment wherewith it is to be pursued.

Now, I shall answer some objections concerning it. {555}

Objection 1. Some of you will say, "They are good men who have accepted and embraced this toleration, and why may not we then hear them?"

Answer. I grant that many of them are godly and gracious men, but their accepting of this Antichristian liberty, is no part of their godliness. They must not be countenanced in their sin, tho' they were never so godly; for their being so, makes their sin the more heinous: I shall say that word, 1 Cor. 3.12,15, Now, if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, and precious stone, wood, hay, stubble: If any man's work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. Though the Lord may pardon their iniquities, and give them their soul for a prey, yet he will take vengeance on their inventions.

Objection 2. Some may say, "It is a great mercy to have liberty to preach the gospel; and having such a liberty, should we not make use of it?"

Answer. I grant it is a great mercy to have the gospel preached with freedom: and when we have it so, we ought rightly to improve it; but, I deny that the present liberty is such, for, by it the gospel is in greater bondage, and truth in more thralldom than before it was granted, though the persons of such men as accept it, have some more liberty; for it is such a liberty as comes from the fountain of absolute power, which is the alone incommunicable prerogative of JEHOVAH; yet the granter of this liberty takes this to himself, and requires all his subjects to observe it without reserve: And the accepters of this liberty do recognosce such a power in him who grants it, by accepting this liberty; yea, it is such a liberty, that it disables all our penal laws against papists, and takes off the legal bulwark, which our religion hath: And it is such a liberty, as restricts ministers in their doctrine; for, they are thereby enjoined, that they preach nothing, that may any ways tend to alienate the hearts of the people from the granter, or his government. It is such a liberty, that those who accept of it, do change the holding of their ministry, which they professed they had from Christ, and make it to have its dependency upon the courts of men; for, suppose a minister be orderly called and ordained, and have never so good qualifications, and also the call of the people, yet he cannot preach in any place, unless he give up his name to some of the counsellors or sheriffs, &c. and they be pleased with him. It is such a liberty, which hath, for the design of its granting, the bringing in of idolatry into the land again; and the accepters and embracers of it do co-operate with the design of granting it, by their accepting thereof. And it is such a liberty, as hardens enemies in their wickedness, and backsliders in their defection; and so it offends many of the godly at home, and {556} proves offensive and stumbling to the churches abroad, who cannot but think, by this, that Scotland, who was once so famous for its zeal against Antichrist, is now in a fair way of reconciliation with him, when it hath embraced a liberty granted by his vassal, the design whereof, is to introduce idolatry into the land again. Now, in consideration of these things, ye may see, it is sinful to accept of, or countenance such a sinful liberty.

Objection 3. Some may say, "What shall we do then? Better that we hear these who have accepted this liberty, than to hear none."

Answer. It is greatly your duty to hear any faithful minister, whenever you can have the opportunity; but it doth not follow, that ye should hear the accepters of this woeful liberty; for in the circumstances that we stand in, we cannot do it without sin: For we are commanded to cease to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge, Prov. 19.27. And when we cannot get a faithful minister to hear, we should make use of the means the Lord hath left us, we should mourn and lament for this want, and long to have it again. If ye would abstain from countenancing the accepters of this liberty, one of these two should follow: either seek that they should be convinced of such a sinful course, and forsake it; or else, that the Lord would raise up faithful ministers, whom ye might hear, and whom he would countenance.

Objection 4. Some may say, "Is it not better to take a part, than to want all? If we were assaulted by a robber for our purse, is it not better to give him a part, than to let him take all? Though enemies will not suffer ministers to make application of their doctrine, yet they give them liberty to preach, should we not then be content with that?"

Answer. I shall not debate, what a man may do when assaulted by a robber for his purse, &c. seeing, in many cases, a man may do with his own what he pleaseth; but he may not do so in the matters of God: He must not come and go in the matters of God; for in these we should hold fast, and let nothing go, seeing they are not our own. And a minister, that would be faithful to his Master, and free of the blood of souls, should, and must make particular application of his doctrine, to the sins, snares, duties, and dangers of the time, whoever be offended. For oftentimes the life of preaching lies in the application of the doctrine.

Objection 5. Some may say, "Should we not hear them, that we may be edified thereby?"

Answer. It is a matter of sorrow and regret, that so few are edified, even by these, who desire to keep their garments clean to keep the way of God, and to be found faithful to the master, in the day of trial and temptation. And, however, some {557} by hearing the ministers who have accepted of this toleration may be edified in providence, yet they have not a promise for it; for, there is not a promise in all the scripture, that God will countenance and bless such a wicked course. And, if any get edification, in his holy providence, it will be these who come in the sincerity of their soul, not knowing nor seeing the evil of this liberty; or who are, in a great measure, ignorant of the controversy of the day: But these who see something of the sins and snares of it, and are not ignorant of the controversy of the time, may expect but little benefit by them.

9. The faithful ministers of Christ have declared unto you and given you warning, that wrath and desolations are coming upon the land: Have not such told you, that judgments were coming and hastening? Have they not preached unto you that the Lord's wrath was kindled against the land, for the many heinous sins, and wicked abominations committed therein? But the report of this hath not been believed, nor credited by the most part: For, all ye who have not been searching out the causes of his anger, both in yourselves and others, or have not been mourning over, and forsaking the same, have not believed the report. And all you who have not been preparing for wrath, by entering into your chambers, and shutting the doors about you, by fleeing into Christ, the city of refuge, ye have not believed this report.

But now I come to a second doctrine, which is this:

DOCTRINE 2. That it is matter of sorrow and grief to faithful ministers, when the report of what they preach is not believed.
This was the matter of the prophet's sorrow here; and it was Jeremiah's grief, Jer. 13.17, But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eyes shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord's flock is carried away captive. So their sorrow is great upon these accounts.

1. Because Christ whom they have preached, is not embraced and believed in.

2. Because the report of the scripture is not believed by people: And it is a sure token of sad wrath and desolation approaching, when preaching hath little, or no other effect, than to make the hearts of people more fat, their ears heavy, and to shut their eyes, that they neither see, hear, nor understand, for then may we look for dreadful desolations; as it is in Isaiah 6.9-12. O! this is the great sin of Scotland. That the report of the gospel hath not been believed, by the generality of the people; that that which the faithful ministers of Christ, have had in commission from him to tell them, hath not been credited as it should: And what doth this say, but that desolation and wrath is approaching? And happy are they who are preparing for the same.


THE END OF THE SERMONS.