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peace. No gifts draw out that thankfulness, and raise up to that fruitfulness, as the gifts that Jesus Christ gives. And so mueh for that third head, the excellency of those gifts that Christ gives, above all other gifts whatsoever.
4. I come now to the fourth head, that is the reasons why God gives his best gifts to his dearest ones.
I shall give you only these six ;—
1. Because he loves them with the dearest, with the choicest, and with the strongest love; therefore he gives them the best gifts.
Christ does not love believers with two low, flat, dull, common love; with such a love as most men love one another with, but with a love that is like himself. Now men will give as they love. And Elkanah gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and daughters, portions, but unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion, for he loved her, 1 Sam. i. 4, 5. In the Hebrew it is, He gave her a gift of the face; that is, a great and honourable gift. Men look upon great and honourable gifts with two sweet and chearful countenance; so the gifts, that Jesus Christ gives to believers, are gifts of the face; that is, they are the greatest gifts, the most honourable gifts, the choicest gifts, gifts fit for none but it king to give.
Augustus, in his solemn feasts, gave trifles to some, but gold to others. The Lord Jesus scatters the trifles of this world up and down; as Luther well says, 'The whole Turkish empire is but a crust that God throws to a Dog.' God scatters giftless gifts, the honours, riches and favours ofthis world, up and down among the worst of men; but as for his gold, his Spirit, his grace, his Son, his favour, these are jewels that he only casts into the bosoms of saints, and that because he dearly loves them.
2. Christ gives the best gifts to his people, because they are best principled and fitted to make a divine improvement of them.
There are no men on earth that are principled and fitted for the improvement of the special gifts that Christ gives, but his own people. None have such principles of wisdom, love, holiness, and faithfulness, to make an improvement of the joy, the peace, the comfort, that the Lord gives, as his people. Abraham gave unto the sonsofthe concubines gifts, and sent them away ; but unto Isaac, he gave all that he had. Gen. xxv. 5. As Isaac was better beloved than the concubines' sons, so Isaac was better principled to improve love, than they were. The application is easy.
3. He does it upon this account, that he may the more endear the hearts of his people to him.
The greatest design of Christ in this world is mightily to endear the hearts of his people; and indeed it was that which was in his eye and upon his heart from all eternity. It was this design that caused him to lay down his crown, and to take up our cross; to put off his robes, and te put on our rags; to be condemned, that we might be justified; to undergo the wrath of the Almighty, that 'we might for ever be in the arms of his mercy, He gives his Spirit, his grace, yea, and his very self, and all to endear the hearts of his people to himself. When Isaac would endear the heart ofRebekah, then the bracelets, the jewels, and the earrings are cast into her bosom; so the Lord Jesus casts his heavenly bracelets, jewels, and ear-rings, into the bosoms, into the laps of his people, out of a design to endear himself unto them. A gift is a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it; whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth. Prov. xvii. 8. In the Hebrew it is thus, A gift is as a stone of grace; that is, it makes a man very acceptable and gracious in the eyes of others. A gift is like that precious stone pantarbe, that has a marvellous conciliating property in it; or like the wonder-working load-stone, which as some writers pretend has among other properties this, that it makes those who have it, well-spoken men, and well-accepted of princes. Certainly the gifts that Jesus Christ gives to his people, render him very acceptable and precious in their eyes. Christ to them is the crown of crowns, the heaven of heavens, the glory of glories; he is the most sparkling diamond in the ring of glory. A mans gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men. Prov. xviii. 16. The gifts that Jesus Christ gives widen the heart, and enlarge the soul of a believer, to take in more of himself. Naturally we are narrow-mouthed heaven-ward, and widemouthed earth-ward; but the Lord Jesus by casting in his Jewels, his pearls, his precious gifts into the soul, doth widen the soul, and enlarge the soul, and make it more capacious to entertain himself. Christ by his gifts causes all doors to stand open, that the King of glory may enter in.
4. Now the fourth reason of the point is—because Christ expects more from his people, than he does from all the world besides; therefore he gives them the best gifts.
Where the Lord expects and looks for most, there he gives most. Though believers are but a little, little flock, though they are but a remnant, though they are but a fountain sealed, a spring shut up, a garden inclosed; yet Christ looks for more from them, than from all the world besides. He looks for more love from them, than from all the world besides; and he expects more service from them, than from all the world besides; and he looks for more honour from them, than from all the world besides. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if I am your Father, where is my honour? And if I am your Master, where is my fear''. Mai. i. 6. He looks for more fear from them, than from all the world besides; and for more honour from them, than from all the world besides; and for more prayers and praises from them, than from all the world besides.
5. Fifthly; the Lord Jesus gives the best gifts to his own people, that he may fence and strengthen them against the worst temptations.
There are no men on earth that lie so open to temptations, as the saints. The best men have been always the most tempted. The more excellent any man is in grace and holiness, the more shall that man be followed with temptations, as you may see in David, who was tempted "by Satan to number the people; and Job, to curse God and die; and Peter, to deny Christ, and so Paul was buffeted; yea, and Christ himself most grievously assaulted. The Lord knows well enough, that Satan has a cruel eye, an envious eye, a malicious eye upon his beloved ones, and therefore he is pleased by his precious gifts, to strengthen them against his assaults. What Paul once said concerning bonds and afflictions, that they attended him in every place, the same may believers say concerning temptations, that they attend them in every place, in every calling, in every condition, in every company, in every service. That the hearts of his people and temptations may not meet, the Lord is pleased to give them the best and choicest gifts. Austin thanked God for this, that his heart and the temptations did not meet. The Lord has given these glorious gifts into the hearts of his saints on purpose, that their souls and temptations may be kept asunder; that though they are tempted, they may not be conquered; that though, they be assaulted, yet they may not be vanquished. Basil. Luther, Vincentius, and that famous marquis Galiasius, met with very strange and strong temptations, but the precious gifts that the Lord had cast into their bosoms, made them triumph over all. O that grace, that peace, that life, that love, that communion, with which the Lord had'crowned them, made them too great, too noble, and too glorious, to yield to any temptations with which they were beset. It was their pleasure to overcome offered pleasure, their honour to overcome offered honour, their greatness to overcome offered greatness. When one of them was tempted with money and preferment, be scorned the offers, saying,' Give me money that may last for ever, and glory that may eternally flourish.'
Jerome tells a story of a Christian soldier, whom when the Prsetor could not by any torments remove from Christianity, he commanded to be laid on a bed in a pleasant garden among the flourishing and fragrant flowers; which done,' all others withdrawing, a most beautiful harlot came to him, and used all art to destroy his soul; but the Christian soldier, being filled with the royal gifts of the Spirit, bit off his tongue with his teeth, and spat it in her face as she was tempting him, and so got the victory over all her temptations.
The precious favours God confers upon his people, make them temptation-proof; they make believers trample upon the most amiable baits. How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? says Joseph. Joseph's sense of Potiphar's favours heaped upon him, strengthened him against the impudent solicitations of his wanton mistress; . and shall not the singular favours that God confers upon his dearest ones, strengthen them against Satan's assaults? Surely gracious hearts are wrought more upon, and bettered and strengthened more by spirituals, than by temporals; by eternals, than by externals; and if Satan do not find it so, I am much mistaken.
Well, remember this, Satan's overcoming the saints gives him the greatest advantage to boast and triumph over Christ. Ambrose brings in the devil boasting against Christ, and challenging Judas as his own. 'He is not thine, Lord Jesus,' says he,' he is mine; his thoughts beat for me; he eats with thee, but he is fed by me; he takes bread from thee, but money from me; he drinks with thee, but sells thy blood to me.' So when Satan prevails over the saints,' Look, O Christ,' says he,' are these the price of thy blood? are these the objects of thy love? are these the delight of thy soul? What, are these thy jewels? are these the apple of thy eye? are these thy pleasant portion? Why, lo, how I lead them! Lo, how I triumph over them! They seem rather to be mine, then thine.' Ah Christians, resist as for life, that Satan may never have occasion thus to insult and triumph over Christ.
6. Christ gives the best gifts to his dearest ones, that they may be an honour and a praise unto him in the glorious day of his owning them, and marriage to them before all the world.
Believers in this life are but betrothed to Christ; I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, lios. n. 19, 20. Their marriage-day is put off till the glorious day of Christ's appearing; the great day of his glory, will be the day of solemnity, Rev. xxi. 2,9, 10. It would not be for the honour and glory of Christ, that his spouse in that day should be clothed with rags; therefore he has given her the bracelets, the ear-rings, and the jewels before-hand, that they may be a praise and an honour to him in the marriage-day. O when the saints shall appear with all those glorious jewels about them, that Christ has bequeathed to them, how will their resplendent glory darken all other glory, and make the very Sun to hide its face! This is our betrothing-day, that will be our marriage-day. The good things of eternal life are so many, that they exceed number; so. great, that they exceed measure; so precious, that they are above all estimation.
Bishop Ridley, the night before he suffered, invited his hostess and the rest at table to his marriage; 'for,' said he,' to-morrow I must be married.' So several other martyrs went as merrily to die, as to dine; knowing that their dying day did but make way for their marriage day. The Lord does by his rich and royal favours, trick and trim up
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