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Richard Sibbes :: The Third Sermon - Isaiah 25:6-7

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THE GLORIOUS FEAST OF THE GOSPEL
The Marriage Feast
Between
Christ and His Church

 


The Third Sermon — Isaiah 25:6-7

 

And in this Mountain shall the LORD of Hosts make unto all people a Feast…And he will destroy in this Mountain: the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all Nations.

I have heretofore spoken of the Feast that God makes to his Church, specially in the later times, which was specially performed at the first coming of Christ, when the Gentiles came in. But the consummation and perfection of all will be at the day of judgment, then God will spread a Table for his to all eternity.

 

We have spoken heretofore at large of the resemblance of spiritual good things, by this comparison of a Feast. God sets out spiritual things by outward because we cannot otherwise conceive of them; the best things in grace, by the best, and sweetest things in nature. And thus God enters into our souls by our senses, as we see in the Sacrament.

The Spirit of God must work us to a relish of spiritual things

 

But we have spoken at large of this. Our care must be to have a special taste, a spiritual appetite, to relish this Feast that God provides. Naturally we are distasteful, we relish not spiritual and heavenly things, we savor not the things of God. And the Spirit of God must alter our favor and taste as he doth; wheresoever there is spiritual life, there is spiritual relish of heavenly truths.

We must bring something to the Feast though not of our own

 

Now let me add this further, that though it be made by God, yet we must bring something to this Feast. Christ Feasts with us, as ye have he sups with us (Revelation 3:20), not that we have grace from ourselves or can bring any thing, he brings his own provision with him when he sups with us. But yet by the Covenant of grace whereby he enters into terms of friendship with us, we must sup with him, we must have grace to entertain him; though it is at his own cost, yet we must have something. He doth not require us to pay our debts, but he gives us wherewith, secretly he bids us come, but gives a secret Messenger too draw us. He sends his Spirit certainly; certainly he will have us bring something when we come to Feast, but it is of his own giving.

We must bring empty souls, and a Spirit of faith, and a Spirit of love

 

And that we are to bring is humble and empty souls, (wherein we are to delight ourselves in sense of our unworthiness) and the Spirit of faith to believe his promises that pleases him when we can honour him with a Spirit of Faith, and then a Spirit of Love, and new Obedience, springing from a Spirit of Faith and Love. These be the things Christ requires we should have. Our souls must be thus furnished that Christ may delight to dwell with us. And therefore it is a good importuning of God. Lord I desire thou shouldest dwell in me and prepare my soul as a fit temple, vouchsafe me the graces thou delightest in, and delightest to dwell in. So we may beg of God his Holy Spirit to furnish our souls, so as he may dwell and delight in us.

 

But we have spoken largely of the former verse, I will now speak of the next that follows.

 

And I will destroy in this Mountain the face of covering cast over all people, and the veil spread over all nations, to swallow up death in victory, the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces, and the rebukes of his people shall be taken from the earth, for the Lord hath spoken it.

The services of the Feast

 

These depend one upon another, being the several Services of the Feast. He promises a Feast in the sixth verse. And what be the several services. He will destroy in this mountain, this Church, the face of covering cast over all people, et cetera. He will take away the veil of ignorance and unbelief that they may have special sight of heavenly things, without which they cannot relish heavenly things, they can take no joy at this Feast.

 

And then because there can be no Feast where there is the greatest enemy in force and power, he swallows up death in victory. Death keeps us in fear all our life time, that that swallows up all Kings and Monarchs; the terror of the word death shall be and is, swallowed up by our Head, Christ, and shall be swallowed up by us in victory. In the meantime we are subject to many sorrows which cause tears, for tears are but drops that issue from that cloud of sorrow. And sorrow we have always in this world, either from our sins, or miseries, or empathy in tears of that kind. Well, the time will come that tears shall be wiped away and the cause of tears, all sorrow for our own sins, for our own misery, and for empathizing with the times wherein we live. Our time shall be hereafter at the day of the resurrection, when all tears shall be wiped from our eyes. God will perform that office of a mother to wipe the children’s eyes, or of a nurse to take away all cause of grief whatsoever, else it cannot be a perfect Feast.

 

But there is reproach cast upon religion, and religious persons. It goes under a veil of reproach and the best things are not seen in their own colours, nor the worst things, they go under vizards [disguises] here.

 

But the time will come, that the rebukes of his people shall be taken away. The good things as they are best, so shall they be known to be so. And sin and base courses, as they are bad and as they are from Hell, so they shall be known to be. Everything shall appear in its own colours, things shall not go masked any longer. And what is the seal of all this? The seal of it is, The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it; truth itself hath spoken it, and therefore it must needs be, Jehovah that can give a being to all things, he hath said it.

 

We have heard why the Church is called a Mountain. He will destroy or swallow up as the Word may signify, the face of covering or the covering of the face, the veil which is the covering of the face, and particularly expressed in that term, always, the veil that is spread over all nations.

 

God will take away the spiritual veil that covers the souls of his people that is between them and divine truths. It hath allusion to that of (Exodus 34:33-35) about Moses when he came from the Mount, he had a veil, for the people could not behold him. He had a glory put upon his face that they could not look upon him with a direct eye, and therefore he was fain to put a veil upon his face, to show that the Jews could not see. As Paul interprets it (2 Corinthians 3:15), To this day, saith he, when Moses is read, there is a veil put upon their hearts. They could not see that the Law was a School-master to bring to Christ, the Ceremonial Law, and the Moral Law. God had a blessed end by the curse of it, to bring them to Christ. They rested in the veil, their sight was terminated in the veil, they could not see through to the end and scope of it. Nevertheless, when they shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.

 

1. From the words consider first of all, that naturally there is a veil of ignorance upon the soul.

 

2. Secondly, God doth take away his veil, and God by his Spirit only can do it.

 

3. Thirdly, that this is only in his Church. And where this veil of ignorance is taken off, there is Feasting with God and spiritual joy and delight in the best order. And where it is taken off, there is none of it.

There is a veil over all mens’ spirits by nature, a two-folded veil of things themselves

 

First of all by nature there is a veil of covering over all men’s spirits. To understand this better, let us unfold the terms of veil a little. There is a veil either upon the things themselves that are to be seen, or upon the soul which should behold them. The veil of things themselves is when they be hidden altogether, or in part, when we know part and are ignorant of part. And this veil upon the things arises from the weak apprehension of them, when they are not represented in clear expressions but in obscurity of words, or in types. When we see them only in types or obscure phrases, which hides sometime the sight of the thing itself, the manner of speech sometimes casts a veil on things. For our Saviour Christ spake in parables, which were like the cloud dark on the one side light on the other, dark towards the Egyptians, light towards the Israelites. So some expressions of Scripture have a light side that only the godly see, and a dark side, that other men of good wit (as natural men) see not.

Of the souls not seeing or not believing

 

Again, there is a veil upon the soul, and upon the sight. If the things be veiled, or the sight veiled, there is no sight. Now the soul is veiled, when we be ignorant and unbelieving, when we are ignorant of what is spoken and revealed or when we know the terms of it, and yet believe it not.

There must be a light to make things visible

 

Now this veil of ignorance and unbelief, continues in all unregenerate men, until grace takes away the veil. Besides, before a thing can be seen, the object must not only be made clean and the eyesight too, but there must be Lumen deferens, a light to carry the object to the eye. If that be not we cannot see. As the Egyptians in the three days of darkness had their eyes, but there wanted light to represent the object. And therefore they could not go near one to another; it is the light and not sight. If there be sight and no light to carry and convey the object, we cannot say there is light.

 

That which answers to this veil, is the veil of Scripture, whereby heavenly things are set out by a mystery. A mystery is when something is openly shown and something hidden.

All things in religion are mysterious

 

When something is concealed, as in the Sacrament, they be mysteries. We see the bread, we see the wine; but under the bread and wine other things are intended. The breaking of the body of Christ and the shedding of his blood, and in that the love and mercy of God in Christ, in giving him to death for us, and Christ’s love to give himself to satisfy Divine Justice. These be the things intended, which only the soul sees and apprehends. And so all things in the Church indeed are mysteries: the incarnation of Christ, the union of both natures, that Christ should save the world by such a way as he did, that he should bring us to glory by shame, to life by death, to blessing and happiness, by being a curse for us. It is a mystery to bring contrary out of contrary, that so glorious a person as God should be covered with our weak and sinful nature. It was a mystery, the Jews stumbled at it; light came, and the darkness could not comprehend the light. And as Christ was a mystery himself, so the Church is a mystery that God should so much delight in a company of poor men, the off-scouring of the world, to make them temples of his Holy Spirit, and heirs of heaven, men that were under the scorn of the world, this is a mystery. So all is mystical: the Head, the members, the body, the Church, and every particular point of religion. There is a mystery in repentance. No man knows what sorrow for sin is but the true gracious person. No man knows what it is to believe, but he that hath a heart to believe. No man knows what peace of conscience and joy of the Holy Ghost is but those that feel it. So that is a mystery and therefore “great is the mystery of godliness,” saith the Apostle (1 Timothy 3:16), not only in the points themselves, but even the practice of religion is a mystery too. Repentance and Faith, and new obedience, and love, and the comforts of religion are all mysteries. There is a veil upon them in all these points that a carnal man cannot see them.

 

You see then in what sense there is a veil of the things and in what sense there is a veil on men’s hearts; that is, either the things themselves are hid, or if the things be open, they want sight and light of knowledge, and they want faith to believe. Beloved, we live in times that the object is clear to us, the things themselves are made clear. As who knows not what Christ is and the notion of the incarnation, and of the union with him, we know them notionally, they be opened and revealed to us very clearly, all the articles of faith, and mysteries of religion. So that there is no obscurity in the object, the things are clear, specially in these places of knowledge. But yet notwithstanding there is a veil upon the soul. The soul of every man that is not graciously wrought upon by the Spirit of God, hath a veil of ignorance and unbelief.

There is a veil of ignorance on all natural men

 

First of all, of ignorance. There is a veil of ignorance in many, and in all men naturally a veil of ignorance of spiritual things; for unless they be revealed, they can never be known to angels themselves. The angels themselves know not the Gospel till it be opened and therefore they be students in it continually. And the best men in the world know nothing in the Gospel further than it is revealed.

Natural men know not spiritual things in their proper species

 

But there is a veil of ignorance upon them that know these things notionally because they do not know them as they should know them; they do not know them in propria specie, spiritual and heavenly things as spiritual and heavenly things. They do not know spiritual things as spiritual things, they have a human knowledge of spiritual things. Those that want grace, they know the grammar of the Scripture and Divinity, and they know how to discourse as schoolmen do, from one thing to another, and to argue. They know the logic and rhetoric of the Scripture, but they stick in the style. There is something they are ignorant of, that is, they have not an eye of knowledge, as we call it. They do not see things themselves, but only they see things by another body’s spirit, and they have no light of their own. And so no man knows naturally but the children of God what original sin is, what corruption of nature is, nor knows sin in its own odious colours to be filthy and to be dangerous as it is to draw the cursed vengeance of God upon it. This is not known, but by the Spirit revealing the odiousness of sin that the soul may apprehend it, as Christ did when he suffered for it, and as God doth. A gracious man sees it as God sees it because by the Spirit of God he sees the filthiness and odiousness of it, and the danger it draws after it.

 

And so in any points of religion naturally, a man sees not them spiritually, as they are and as God sees them, but he sees them by a human light; he sees heavenly things by a human light, notionally, and merely to discourse of them, he sees not intuitively into the things themselves, he sees them sub aliena specie, under another representation than their own.

A godly man sees spiritual things intrinsically

 

Only a godly man sees spiritual things as the Spirit of God and sees them as they are, knows sin as it is, knows grace to be as it is, and knows faith, what it is to believe, what it is to have peace of conscience, and the pardon of sins. He knows these things in some sense intrinsically, though not so as he shall do when he shall see these things in heaven, when he shall see face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). There is a great difference in it, he sees them intrinsically, in respect of the knowledge of other men, though he sees but in a glass, in regard of the knowledge he shall have in heaven. As Saint Paul saith, for we see but as in a glass (1 Corinthians 13:12); but he that sees in a glass sees more life, than he that sees the dead picture of a man. So though we see but in a glass heavenly things, yet we see them better than those that see them in a dead notion; though it be nothing to the knowledge we shall have in heaven, yet it is incomparable above the knowledge of any carnal natural man upon the earth.

 

Again, naturally men have veils of ignorance upon the most divine things; of spiritual things, such as is union and as is the communion between Christ and us, and the mystery of regeneration in the new creature, such as is the joy in the Holy Ghost, the inward peace of conscience. I will not name the particulars to insist on them, but give you only an instance; though they know the notion of these things, yet they are altogether ignorant of them. Their knowledge is a mere outward light, it is a light radicated in the soul. It is not as the light of the moon, which receives light from the sun, but it is a light radicated and incorporated into the soul, as the light of the sun is by the Spirit, it is in the soul. It is not only upon the soul, but in the soul; the heart sees and feels, and knows divine truths. There is a power and virtue in the sight and knowledge of a gracious man, there is none in the knowledge of a carnal man.

The light of the godly is a light with influence, the light of the wicked is without it

 

The light of a candle hath a light in it, but no virtue at all goes with it. But the light of the sun and the light of the stars, they have a special virtue; they have heat with them and they have an influence in a special kind on inferior bodies working, together with the light. So it is with heavenly apprehension and knowledge, it actually conveys light; but with the light there is a blessed and gracious influence, there is heat and efficacy with that light. But though a carnal man know all the body of divinity, yet it is a mere light without heat, a light without influence. It is not experimental. As a blind man can talk of colours if he be a scholar and describe them better then he that hath eyes. He being not a scholar, but he that hath his eyes can judge of colours a great deal better. Often times by book a scholar can tell you foreign countries, better than he that hath traveled, yet the traveler that hath been there, can tell them more distinctly. So he that is experienced in that kind, though a stranger, can measure another man’s ground better than himself, he can tell you here is so many acres. But he that possesses them knows the goodness of them, the worth of them, and improves them to his own good. And so it is with many, they can measure the points of religion and define and divide them; but the poor Christian can taste, can feel them, can relish and improve them. His knowledge is a knowledge with interest, but other men’s knowledge is a knowledge with no interest or experience at all. So that there is naturally a veil of ignorance on the heart of every natural man.

 

Christianity is a mystery; till conversion there is a mystery in every point of religion. None know what repentance is but a repentant sinner. All the books in the world cannot inform the heart what sin is or what sorrow is. A sick man knows what a disease is better than all physicians, for he feels it. No man knows what faith is but the true believer. There is a mystery also in love. Godliness is called a mystery, not only for the notional, but the practical part of it. Why do not men more solace themselves in the transcendent things of religion, which may ravish angels. Alas, there is a veil over their soul that they do not know them, or not experimentally, they have no taste or feeling of them.

There is a veil of unbelief over the unregenerate

 

And so there is a veil of unbelief; there is no man without grace that believes truly what he knows, but he believes in the general only. He believes things so far forth, as they cross not his lusts. But when particular truths are enforced on a carnal man, his lusts do overbear all his knowledge, and he hath a secret scorn arising in his heart, whereby he derides those truths, and goes against them, and makes him think certainly these be not true, and therefore he believes them not. If a man by nature believed the truths he saith he knows, he would not go directly against them. But the ground of this is, there is a mist of sinful lusts that are raised out of the soul, that darkens the soul, that at the present time the soul is atheistical, and full of unbelief. For there is no sin but ignorance, and unbelief breathes it into the soul and makes way for it. For if a man knew what he were about, and apprehended that God saw him, and the danger of it, he would never sin.

Ignorance and unbelief act in all sins

 

There is no sin without an error in judgment, there is a veil of ignorance and unbelief. What creature will run into a pit when he sees it open? What creature will run into the fire, the most dull creature? Man will not run into that danger that is open to the eye of the soul, if there were not a veil of ignorance, at least unbelief, at that time upon the soul. All sin supposes error.

 

And this should make us hate sin the more whensoever we sin, specially against our conscience; there is atheism in the soul at that time, and there is unbelief. We believe not truth itself; no sinner but calls truth into question. When he sins, he denies it or questions it; and therefore there is a veil on every man naturally over his heart by ignorance and unbelief. The truths themselves are clear, God is clear, and the Gospel is light, Mens, Lux. You know they know things in the object, but in us there is darkness in our understandings; and therefore the Scripture saith not, we are dark only, but darkness itself. The clouds that arise are like the mists that do interpose between our souls and divine things, arising from our own hearts. And the love of sinful things raise such a cloud that we know not, or else believe not what is spoken.

God only can take off the veil of ignorance and unbelief because of the unsuitableness between the soul and spiritual things

 

To proceed, God only can reveal and take away the veil of ignorance and unbelief from off the soul. I will speak specially of this veil. The reason is, there is such a natural unsuitableness between the soul and heavenly light and heavenly truths that unless God opens the eye of the soul and puts a new eye into the soul, it can never know or discern of heavenly things. There must be an eye suitable to the light, else there will never be sight of it. Now God can create a new spiritual eye to discern of spiritual things, which a natural eye cannot. Who can see things invisible? Divine things are invisible to natural eyes, there is no suitableness. He that must reveal these and take away the veil, must create new light within, as well as a light without. Now God and only God that created light out of darkness, can create light in the soul. Let there be light (Genesis 1:3). He only can create a spiritual eye, to see the things that to nature are visible.

Four things required in sight

 

1. The object to be beheld.

 

2. The light that conveys it.

 

3. The organ that receives it.

 

4. And the light of the eye to meet the light without.

 

So it is in the soul together with divine truths, there must be light to discover them; for light is the first visible thing that discovers itself, and all things else. And then there must be a light in the soul to judge of them, and this light must be suitable. A carnal-base spirit judges of spiritual things carnally like himself because he hath not light in his own spirit. The things are spiritual, his eye is carnal; he hath not a light in his eye suitable to the object, and therefore he cannot judge of them. For the Scripture saith plainly, they are spiritually discerned. Therefore a carnal person hath carnal conceptions of spiritual things, as a holy man doth spiritualize things by a spiritual conception of them.

Four degrees of discerning things

 

There be degrees of discerning things. The highest degree is to see things face to face, as they be in heaven.The next to that is to see them in a glass, for there I see the motion and true species of a man, though not so clearly as when I see him face to face. Therefore we soon forget the species of it in a glass (1 Corinthians 13:12). We have more fixedness of the other because there is more reality. We see things put into water and that is less; but then there is a light of man in pictures, which is less than the rest because we see not the motion. It is even so, a carnal man scarce sees the dead resemblance of things. In Moses time, they saw things in water as it were blindly, though true. But we see things in a glass of truth, as clearly as possibly we can in this world. In heaven we shall see face to face, shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2). And then will be the joy of this excellent Feast, and the consummation of all sweet promises, which here we can but have a taste of.

 

So that is the first reason of it that God is only the taker away of the veil, which arises from the unsuitableness between the soul, and divine truths. There is nothing in the heart of man, but a contrarity to divine light. The very natural knowledge that is contrary, natural conscience that only check for gross sins, but not for spiritual sins: obedience and civil life that makes a man full of pride and arms him against self-denial, and against the righteousness of Christ, and justification. There is nothing in the soul, but (without grace) rises against the soul in divine things.

And a disproportion also

 

Again, there is such disproportion between the soul being full of sin and guiltiness, and heavenly things that are so great, that the heart of man will not believe unless God convinces the soul that God is so good and gracious. Though they be great and excellent, yet God will bestow them upon our souls and therefore he sends the Spirit, that over-powers the soul; though it be full of fear and guilt that sin contracts.

 

Though we be never so unworthy, he will magnify his grace to poor sinners and without that, the soul will never believe. There is such an infinite disproportion between the soul and the things, between the sinful soul and the Spirit, so that God must over-power the soul to make it believe.

 

The Scripture is full of this, as we are naturally ignorant and full of unbelief. So God only can over-power the soul, and take away the veil of ignorance.

No creature, angels or men, can bring light into the soul

 

All the angels in heaven and all the creatures in the world, the most skillful men in the world cannot bring light into the soul, they cannot bring light into the heart. They can speak of divine things, but they understand them little; but to bring light into the heart that the heart may talk of them and yield obedience to believe, that they cannot do. And therefore all God’s children they be Theodidactoi, taught of God. God only hath the privilege to teach the heart, to bend and bow the heart to believe.

 

So that God only by his Spirit takes away the veil of ignorance and unbelief.

It’s peculiar to the Church to have the veil taken away

 

Now the third thing is that this is peculiar to the Church and to the children of God, to have the veil taken off. In this Mountain, saith the Scriptures, the veil of all faces shall be swallowed up, or taken away.

 

I partly showed in the former point, that it is peculiar to God’s children to have the veil taken off. In this Mountain, saith the Scripture, the veil of all faces shall be swallowed up, or taken away. There is a veil in all things, either the things be hid from them as amongst the Gentiles, or if the things be revealed, there is a veil upon the heart. Their lusts raise up a cloud, which until God subdue by the Holy Spirit, they be dark, yea darkness itself. Goshen was only light, when all Egypt was in darkness. So there is light only in the Church and all other parts in the world are in darkness.

 

And amongst men in the Church there is a darkness upon the soul of unregenerate men that be not sanctified and subdued by the Spirit of God. And all godly men are lightsome, nay they be lights in the world. As wicked men are darkness, so gracious men by the Spirit of God are made lights of the world from him that is the True Light (John 8:12), Christ himself.

It’s peculiar to the Church to know the greatest good and greatest evil

 

It is peculiar to the Church to know the greatest good and the greatest evil. It is nowhere but in the Church, who are the people of God. None but God’s elect can know the greatest evil that is sin, which the Spirit of God revealeth, and the greatest good, that is God’s mercy in Christ and sanctifying grace. The same Spirit doth both. As light doth discover foul things, as well as faire; so the same Spirit of God discovers the loathsomeness of sin and the sweetness of grace. Where the one is, there is never the other; where there is not truly a deep discerning of sin, there is never knowledge of grace. There is none but in the Church, those that have the Spirit of illumination, they have sanctification likewise.

 

We shall make use of all together. You see then what naturally we are and that God’s grace must take away the veil, and this is from all them within the Church, and in the Church those whom God is pleased to sanctify.

Where the veil is taken away, there is spiritual joy and feasting. The same Spirit is a Spirit of revelation and consolation.

 

In the fourth place, where this veil is taken off from any, there is with it spiritual joy and feasting, as here he joins them both together. I will make a Feast of fat things, and will take away the veil.

 

The reason of the connection of this is that same Spirit, that is a Spirit of Revelations, is a Spirit of Comfort. And the same Spirit that is the Spirit of Comfort, is a Spirit of Revelation. All sweetness that the soul relishes, comes from light, and all light that is spiritual conveys sweetness both together. Beloved, there is a marvelous sweetness in divine truths, in Christ is all marrow. And in religion forgiveness of sins, and inward peace, and joy, and grace, fitting us to be like to Christ and for heaven. They be incredibly sweet, they be all marrow, but they are only so to them that know them. Now God’s Spirit that reveals these things to us, doth breed a taste in the soul. The Spirit of illumination to God’s children is a Spirit of sanctification likewise. And that sanctification alters the taste and relish of the will and affections, that with discovery of these things, there is a taste and relish of them. It is sapida Scientia, a savory knowledge they have. And therefore where he makes a Feast, he takes away the veil; and where he takes away the veil he makes a Feast. What a wonderful satisfaction hath the soul, when the veil is taken off, to see God in Christ reconciled, to see sin pardoned, to see the beginnings of grace, which shall be finished, and accomplished in glory, to discern that peace which passes understanding… (Philippians 4:7). What a marvelous sweetness are in these things.

 

They cannot be revealed to the knowledge spiritually, but there is a Feast in the soul, wherein the soul doth solace itself; so both these go together.

 

And therefore we should not rest in that revealing that doth not bring a savor with it to the soul. Undoubtedly, that knowledge hath no solace and comfort for the soul that is not by divine revelation of heavenly truths.

 

We see the dependence of these one upon another, then let us make this use of all.

Labour to have this veil taken off

 

Since there is a veil over all men by nature, the work of ignorance and unbelief, and since God only takes it away by his Holy Spirit, and since that only those that be godly and sanctified have this taken off, while this is, there is a spiritual Feast, joy, and comfort, and strength. Then let us labour to have this veil taken off, let us labour to have the eyes of our understandings enlightened (Ephesians 1:18), to have our hearts subdued to believe; let us take notice of our natural condition. We are drowned and enwrapt in darkness, the best of us all. It is not having knowledge what we are by nature; it is not any knowledge that can bring us to heaven, there must be a revelation, a taking away of the veil. How many content themselves with common light of education and traditionary knowledge; so they were bred and catechized, and under such a Ministry, but for spiritual knowledge of spiritual things, how little is it cared for, and yet this is necessary to salvation. There is great occasion to press this, that we rest not in common knowledge. If religion be not known to purpose, it’s like lightning, which directs not a man in his way, but dazzles him and puts him quite out of his way. Many have flashes of knowledge that affect them a little, but this affection is soon gone, and directs them not a whit in the ways of life; and therefore labour that the will and affections may be subject. Beg of God a fleshly heart, a heart yielding to the truth. We know ear-truths will harden; as none is harder than a common formal Christian. A man had better fall into the hands of Papists, than into the hands of a formal hypocritical Christian. Why? They pride themselves in their profession. No persecutors worse than the Scribes and Pharisees that stood in their own light. They were more cruel than Pilate. And therefore if we be informed, but not truly transformed to love the truth we know and hate the evil we know, it makes us worse.

 

And then it enrages men the more. The more they know, the more they be enraged. Men when truths be pressed, which they purpose not to obey, they fret against the ordinance and cast stones, as it were in the face of truth. When physical doth raise humors, but is not strong enough to carry them away, they endanger the body. And where light is not strong enough to dispel corruption when it raises corruption, it enrages it. When men know Truth, and are not molded into it, they first rage against it, and then by little and little fall from it, and grow extreme enemies to it. It’s a dangerous thing therefore to rest in naked knowledge. Beg then of God that he would take away the veil of ignorance and unbelief, that light and life may go together, and so we shall be fit to Feast with the Lord.

 

Now that we may have true saving knowledge, first we must attend meekly upon God’s ordinances, which he sanctified to this end to let in light to the soul.

For this we must attend on Ordinances

 

Will we know sin and our state by nature and how to come out of it, then together with this Revelation must come a heavenly strength into the soul, a heavenly taste and relish and therefore attend upon the Ordinances. And labour for a humble soul, empty of ourselves, and do not think to break into heavenly things with strength of parts, God must reveal, God must take away the veil only by his Holy Spirit in the Ordinance. The veil is taken away from the objects in opening of truths, but the veil must be taken away from the object, and from the heart too. There must be knowledge of the object, as well as an object. The object must be sanctified and fitted to the persons else divine truths will never be understood divinely, nor spiritual truths spiritually. Labour to be emptied of yourselves. In what measure we are emptied of our self-conceitedness and understanding, we be filled in divine things. In what measure we are emptied of ourselves, we are filled with the Spirit of God, and knowledge, and grace. As a vessel in what measure it is emptied, in that measure it is fit to be filled with more supervenient liquor. So in what measure we grow in self-denial and humility, in that measure we are filled likewise with knowledge. He will teach a humble soul that stands not in its own light, what it is to repent, to believe, to love; what it is to be patient under the cross; what it is to live holily and die comfortably. The Spirit of God will teach a humble, self-denying soul all these things, and therefore labour for a humble, empty soul and not to cast ourselves too much into the sins, and fashions of the times. As the Apostle says, Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).

Fashion not ourselves after the times

 

When a man casts himself into the mould of the times, and will live as the rest do, he shall never understand the secrets of God and the good pleasure of God, for the world must be condemned. The world goes the broad way. And therefore we must not consider what others do, but what God teaches us to do.

Be careful to practice what we know

 

And add to this: What we know, let us labour to practice. But he that cloth the will of my Father, shall know of every doctrine whether it be of God or not (John 7:17). We must do, and we shall know; but can we do before we know? The meaning is this, that we have first breeding and education, and source light of the Spirit turns it presently to practice, by obedience to that knowledge and then you shall know more. He that doth these things, he shall know all. They shall know that do practice what they know already; To him that hath shall be given (Matthew 13:12). That is, to him that hath some knowledge and puts in practice what he hath, God will increase the talent of his knowledge. He shall know more and more till God reveals himself fully in the world to come.

Love what we know

 

And therefore be faithful to ourselves and true to the knowledge we have; love it and put it into practice when divine truths are discovered. Let the heart affect them, lest God gives us up to believe lies (2 Thessalonians 2:11). We have many given up to this sin because when truths are revealed, they give way to their own proud scornful hearts, they know not the love of the truth. God knows what a Jewel the Truth is and since they despise it, God gives them up to believe lies (2 Thessalonians 2:11). And take heed, practice what we know and love what we know, entertain it with a loving affection.

 

A loving affection is the Casket of this Jewel. If we entertain it not in love, it removes from us its station and being gone, God will remove us into darkness.

Make our studies and closets oratories for the getting of knowledge

 

And remember it is God that takes away the veil of ignorance and unbelief. And therefore make this use of it, to make our studies and closets oratories, not to come to Divine Truths to out-wrestle the excellency of them with our own wits, but to pray to God, as you have. Open mine eyes, and reveal thy truth (Psalm 119:18). And St. Paul prays for the Spirit of Revelation (Ephesians 1:17). And so desire God to reveal and take away the veil from us that he will open Divine Truths to our souls; that since he hath the Key of David that opens and no man shuts, that he would open our understandings to conceive things and our hearts to believe.

We can shut but not open our hearts to divine truths

 

He hath the only key of the soul, we can shut our souls, but cannot open them again. So we can shut our hearts to Divine Truths; we can naturally do this, but open them without the help of the Spirit we cannot. He can open our understandings, as he did the Disciples. He can open our hearts to believe, he can do it and will do it. If we seek him, he will not put back the humble desires of them that fear him. And therefore, for heavenly light and heavenly revelation, all the teaching of the men of the world cannot do it. If we know no more than we can have by books and men that teach us, we shall never come to heaven; but we must have God teach the heart, as well as the brain. He must teach not only the truths themselves, as they be discovered, but the love of them, the faith in them, the practice of them, and he only can do this. He only can teach the heart, he only can discover the bent of the heart, and Satan’s wiles that call a cloud upon the understanding. The Spirit only can do it, and therefore in all our endeavours, labour to get knowledge, and join holiness and divine grace, and pray to God that he would reveal the mystery of salvation to us.

How shall we know that we have heavenly light

 

But how shall we know whether we have this heavenly light and revelation or not? Whether the veil be yet upon our hearts or not? I will not be long in the point. We may know it by this: The Apostle Peter saith to express the virtue of God’s power, he hath called us out of darkness to his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

By a marveling at the things of faith, and the goodness of God in revealing them to us

 

The soul that hath the veil taken from it, there is a marveling at the goodness of God, a wondering at the things of faith. And the soul sees such a price upon divine things that all is dung and dross in comparison of the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ. Wherefore is it that thou wilt reveal thyself to us, and not unto the world as admiring the goodness of God? What are we? What am I that God should reveal these things to me, and not to the world that many perish in darkness and shadow of death, though they hear of divine things; yet they teaching rebellion and unbelief, are not molded to them and so perish eternally. There is a secret admiration of the goodness of God to the poor soul, and a wonderment at spiritual things. O how sweet is thy law saith David (Psalm 119:103). And teach me the wonders of thy law, and joy unspeakable and glorious (1 Peter 1:8), and peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7).

By being carried with desire to know more and more

 

These things be high to the soul; by the taste of what they have, they wonder at that little and at that they look for and are carried with desire still further and further, which is a farther evidence. They that have any spiritual knowledge, they be carried to grow more and more, and to enter further and further into the Kingdom. Where there is not a desire still till they come to the full measure that is to be had in Jesus Christ, there is no knowledge at all. Certainly a gracious soul when once it sees, it desires still to feel the power and virtue of Christ in it; as Paul counted all dung in comparison of this knowledge to know myself in Christ (Philippians 3:8), and feel the power of his death in dying to sin, and virtue of his resurrection in raising him to newness of life. It was Saint Paul’s study to walk still to the high price of God’s calling, and where that is not, no grace is begun.

When the veil is taken off by sanctification means, which we can justify by our own experience of them

 

And again, where divine light is and the veil taken away, it is the sanctified means for God works by his own instruments and means and they be able to justify all courses of wisdom. Wisdom is justified of her children (Matthew 11:19). By experience they be able to say the Word is the Word; I have found it casting me down, and raising, me up, and searching the hidden corners of my heart. I have found God’s Ordinances powerful, the Word and Sacrament. I have found my hope, faith, strength, and spiritual comfort, and therefore I can justify them. For I have found, tasted, and relished of these things; which works that upon the soul which Christ did on the body. I find mine eyes, I find my deaf ears opened. I can hear with another relish than before. I find a life and quickening to good things, though it be weak, I had no life at all to them before. I find a relish which I knew not before; so that there be spiritual senses whereby I am able to justify that these things be the things of God. So that they that have divine truths, can justify all the ordinances of God, by their own experience. As Peter answered when Christ asked him, will you be also gone? Be gone, said Peter, whether should we go, thou hast the words of eternal life (John 6:67-68).

 

I have found thy words efficacious to comfort and strengthen, and raise, and shall I depart from thee, who hast the words of eternal life? And so take a soul that the Spirit of God hath wrought upon, ask whether they will be careless of means of salvation, not to pray, or hear, or receive the Sacrament; by these have I eternal life conveyed. God hath let in by these, comfort and strength and joy, and shall I leave these things? No, I will not; whether shall I go, thou hast the words of eternal life? Are we able to justify these things by the sweetness we have found in them? Then certainly God hath shined upon the soul, and together with strength and light conveyed sweetness to the soul.

When our knowledge worketh upon us

 

A godly man sees things with life, his sight works upon him; it is a transforming sight, as the Apostle saith, we all behold the glory of God and are changed (2 Corinthians 3:18). Sight of light and life goes together with a Christian; as Christ saith, he is the light of the world (John 8:12), and the life of the world. First light, for life comes with light, and light conveys life. All grace is dropped into the will through the understanding; and wheresoever Christ is life, he is light because true knowledge is a transforming knowledge. But if religion be not known to purpose, it hardens and makes work.

Application of this to the Sacrament

 

We are now by God’s good providence come to farther business, to partake of these mysteries; yet it should be the desire of our souls that our eyes may be opened, that in these divine and precious mysteries he would discover hidden love, which is not seen with the eyes of the body. They may see and taste, and relish his love and goodness in Jesus Christ; that as the outward man is refreshed with the elements, so the inward man may be refreshed with his Spirit that they may be effectual to us; that we may justify the course God takes so far, as to come charitably and joyfully to them.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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