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DOCTRINE. Our Lord Jesus Christ has kindly intimated to all that have business at the court of heaven the necessity of so managing themselves that they still hang on there, and not faint, whatever entertainment they meet with during the dependence of their process.
In this doctrine there are three heads to be considered.
II. The way of the court of heaven, in trysting petitioners with some hardships during the dependence of their process.
III. The duty of the petitioners, to hang on and not faint whatever they meet with.
I. The first thing to be considered, is, our Lord's kind intimation of this way of his Father's court. And here we would shew, 1. The import of Christ's making this intimation to petitioners there; and, 2. The weight and moment of this intimation.
First, I shall shew the import of Christ's making this intimation to petitioners at his Father's court. 1. The darkness that is naturally on the minds of poor
sinners, with respect to heaven's management about them. We may say, as Jer. v. 4, “Surely these are poor, they are foolish: for they know not the way of the Lord, nor the judgment of their God.” The obscurest shepherd from the remotest corner, would know more of the king's court, if he had business there, than the wisest mortals naturally know of the way of the court of heaven. Dark clouds are about the sovereign manager to us : “ His way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known." Even Job, that had been a long hanger-on about the court of heaven, knew little of the way of it, and behoved to have a new lesson of it, Job xxxviii. 1, 2, “ Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge ?"
2. Christ's good-will to the sinner's business going right there : Exod. xxviii. 29, “ And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breast-plate of judgment, upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually." He shews it by his concern for their right managing it: he knows they are unacquainted with the manner of the court of heaven, and so are in hazard of marring their own business; and therefore he is concerned to set them on the road to get a good answer. The poor soul that is sometimes at the brink of groaning and giving it over, is moved to start back from that precipice, and
groan and look up again. Whence is that, but from Christ's secret making of this intimation to them by his Spirit ? Rom. viii. 26, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities : for we know not what we should pray for as we onght: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
3. That our Lord sees sinners are in hazard of fainting from the entertainment they may meet with during the dependence of their process, Heb. xii. 3. He knows their frame, the hastiness of their spirits, John vii. 6, how apt they are to take delays for denials, and be discouraged with what is designed only for their trial. Therefore he opens and forewarns them of the manner of the court, Is. xxviij. 16, “ He that believeth shall not make haste."
4. That they that shall hang on, and not faint, shall certainly come speed at length. Luke xviii. 6, 7, 8, " And the Lord suid, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night anto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.” It is not possible that the soul, continuing resolute to go to no other door, but hanging on at his door, to make its grave there, if it be not let in, can be shut out always, John vi. 37, “ Him that cometh to I will in no wise cast out.” Wilful faith, that will be forward in face of " killing” and “slaying,” Job xiii. 15, will get all its will at length, Matth. xv. 28, “ Then Jesus answered, and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith : be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”
Secondly, The weight and moment of this intimation. This will appear, if it is considered in a fourfold light.
1. Jesus Christ, who makes it, has experienced it in his own case. The man Christ, the head of the church, had the most important business at the court of heaven that ever came before it; viz., for through-bearing in a work on which his Father's glory, and the salvation of an elect world depended. And he was often in prayer : he spent a whole night in it, Luke vi. 12. But see his experience of this manner of the court, Psal. xxii. 1, 2, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the
Ι day-time, but thou hearest not; and in the night-season, and am not silent.” And lxix. 1—3, “ Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing : I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow
I am weary of my crying, my throat is dried ; mine eyes fail while I wait for my God." Now, if this was the manner with the great Petitioner, how can we expect it should fare otherwise with us? Nay, God, in his dealing with Christ the Head,
set down a pattern to be followed thereafter in his dealing with the members, Rom. viii. 29, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that lie might be the first-born among many brethren.” Compare ver. 28, " And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
2. He is the great Prophet of heaven, whose office it is to reveal the manner of the court to poor sinners. He is fitted for it, as being on all the secrets of it, which the most favourite angel cannot dive into, John i. 18. Therefore we may be very sure this is the manner of the court; and that those who will manage their business at it otherwise will be sure to mar it.
3. He is the only Intercessor there, the Father's Secretary, the Solicitor for poor sinners there. There is never a petition received at the throne of grace, but what is presented by him; nor graciously granted there, but through his intercession, Rev. viii. 3, 4; nor an answer graciously returned, or an order issued out for the sinner's relief, but it comes through his hand, John v. 22, “ For the Father judgeth no man; but bath committed all judgment unto the Son." Who then can doubt of the necessity by him intimated ? and who must not see the kind aspect that the intercessor's hinting this to the petitioners has on their business?
4. He is himself the hearer of prayer. The angels are called to worship him, Heb. i. 6. Stephen, in his most serious moments, when he was nearest heaven, prays to him, Acts vii. 59; a plain evidence that he is true God, the Father's equal, the Supreme, the most high God : for it is written, Deut. x. 20, “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.” Compare Matth. iv. 10, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." Psal. Ixxxiii. 18, “That men may know, that thou whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth." And the Scripture condemns serving those that are not by nature gods, Gal. iv. 8. Therefore Christ is God by nature, true God, necessarily existent, independent, God of himself, though not a Son of himself : but the divine essence being eternally and necessarily communicated from the Father to the Son, the Father's communicating it, and the Son's receiving it, are equally glorious. Since then he is the hearer of prayer that makes this intimation, it is equivalent to a promise that prayers so managed shall certainly come speed at length; as appears from Is. xlv. 19," I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.”
II. The Second thing to be considered, is, The way of the court of heaven, in trysting petitioners with some hardships, during the de
pendence of their process. Here I shall give you, 1. A swatch of that way; and, 2. Some reasons of that way, whereby to account for it in a suitableness to the divine perfections.
First, A swatch of that way in a few particulars. Though the Lord sometimes gives his people very quick dispatch, (Is. lxv. 24, “ And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will hear”); yet it is very usual to try them another way.
1. Oft-times there is deep silence from the throne, Matth. xv. 23; and that even when the petitioner is crying with the greatest earnestness, and crying incessantly, Psal. xxii. 1, 2, and is at the point of being overwhelmed for want of help, Psal. cxliii. 7; yet no voice to be perceived, no motion appearing towards the petitioner's relief,
2. Oft-times they get a very angry-like answer. The woman of Canaan got a couple of them, one on the back of another, Matth. xv. 24, 26, “ But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.-It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.” It is very ordinary for Heaven's petitioners to hear some Sinai thunders when they are on Mount Zion; to come in a low and heavy case to the throne, and to go away laid lower then they came. So going with their petitions to the throne of grace, they are teazed there to purpose, and many a foul ply of their heart and life is opened out to them, and they come back with a breast full of convictions, Judges x. 10–14.
3. Many a time, at the sight of the King on the throne, they falter, and their speech fails, that they cannot get words to tell what they would be at, Psal. lxxvii. 3, 4. Hence many broken sentences in their petitions, which yet are understood well enough in heaven, the blanks being filled up with groans, Psal. vi. 3; Rom. viii. 26, 27.
4. Disappointed expectations are a piece of very ordinary entertainment there, Jer. viii. 15, “ We looked for peace, but no good came : and for a time of health, and behold trouble.” Hope may be raised, and yet be deferred, till it make a sick heart. These disappointments may meet the petitioner over and over again ; Cant, iii. 1, 2, “By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth : I sought him but I found him not.” If ye ask how long the course of them may last? I know of no term fixed for them but one, and that one is enough for faith, Psal. ix. 18, “For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation
of the poor shall not perish for ever." And if ye go to another door than the Lord's, the course of your disappointments will have no end.
5. Many a time, looking for an answer, providence drives a course apparently just contrary to the granting of their petition; so is fulfilled that Psal. lxv. 5, "By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation." And it may be so stunning, as to require much faith not to take that for the final answer, as if God had said, speak no more to me of that matter : and yet the wheel of providence may be but fetching a compass to come to the point desired. Thus the sunk spirits of the Israelites were raised in hope, Exod. iv. 31, “And the people believed : and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.” But the very first thing that comes after that, chap. v., is, that they are in a worse condition than ever, their bondage is more intolerable; which made Moses' faith stagger; vers. 22, 23, “And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people ? why is it that thou hast sent me ? for since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people ; peither hast thon delivered the people at all.
6. Lastly, Oft-times the Lord, instead of easing the petitioner, lays new burdens on him, Jer. viii. 15, “We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble.” Instead of curing the old wound, there are new ones given. So that sometimes the waters come in on every side, and compass the poor sou): and yet the Lord, though he see it meet to give the sinner such a gliff, may have no mind he should drown for all that; Psal. cxvi. 3, " The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow." Ver. 6, “The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me :” and lxxxviii. 17, “They came round about me daily like water, they compassed me about together.” So it was in Job's
USE 1. Whosoever of you would manage your business successfully at the court of heaven, on this occasion, put on resoluteness to hang on about the Lord's hand, and not to faint, till ye get it to a happy issue. And,
1st, Lay the great business of salvation close to heart, let it be your main business; the securing of your saving interest in Christ, now when you have this solemn occasion of both the word of the covenant, and the seal of the covenant together; not knowing if