« PreviousContinue »
fart place, a land that was not fown. Then the church of Ifrael was in its youth, having been lately incorporated into a church by a folemn charter from heaven, and having newly received a body of laws from God at Mount Sinai; and this I take to be the time of their efpoufal to God, which our text refers to. At that time, they were full of zeal and affection to God, and made large profeffions of love and obedience; this was the kindnefs of their youth. They fung his praise, but they foon forgat his works; fo that there was now a great deal of room and reason to upbraid them with their defection and rebellion, after all that mutual kindness and love which God had exprefs'd towards them, and which. they had exprefs'd towards God; as God doth by his Prophet here in our text. I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, &c. I hope it will not be looked upon as a perverting of fcripture, for me to accommodate this paffage, (which has indeed a peculiar reference to the Jews and their circumstances) to the more general use of chriftians; as by applying the metaphor of their efpoufal to God, to the bufinefs of the finners clofing with Christ by faith and by applying that phrase, the kindness of their youth, to an early converfion. The New Teftament will bear me out in fuch an application of this metaphor and allusion in the text; where that fpiritual relation which is contracted betwixt the Lord Jefus Chrift
and a finner that is converted and believes on him, is represented by the marriage relation; and the finners closure with Christ by faith is exprefly stiled, his efpoufal to him, I have efpoused you to one bufband, that I may prefent you a chast virgin unto Chrift, fays the Apostle Paul, 2 Cor. xi. 2. The marriage relation is made, by the fame Apoftle, to be a type, or resemblance of the fpiritual relation betwixt Christ and his church, Ephef. v. 32. The church, in its holiest and happiest state, as it was reprefented to John, in a vifion of the new Jerufalem, is call'd the Bride, the Lamb's wife, Rev. xxi. 9. This metaphor runs thro' the whole book of Canticles, and is frequently to be met with in other parts of fcripture.
Thus, you have the general defign of my discourse from this text, which I fhall divide into four parts.
1. To open to you the nature of the foul's efpoufal to Christ.
II. To confider the kindness and love which muft and will accompany this tranfaction, and especially when it is done in youth; The kindness of thy youth, and the love of thine efpoufals.
III. To fhew you how the bleffed Jefus does and will remember this kindness of our youth, and the love of our efpoufals. IV. To make fome practical application. I. As for the nature of the foul's efpoufal to Christ. In the general, it is that facred tranf
action betwixt the foul and Christ, upon which their mutual relation is founded; or, in confequence of which, there is a ftrict and everlafting league of friendship betwixt them, and they become in a manner united to one another. Their beloved is theirs, and they are bis. It is the fame thing as converfion, or repentance unto life, or believing in, or receiving Chrift Jefus; or rather this one word efpoufal takes in all thofe names, and all the feveral notions which are chouched under them. When a finner truly repents of his fins, and -believes from his heart in the Lord Jefus Chrift and is converted and born again, then, and from that time he is efpoufed to Chrift.
I am fenfible that this metaphor ought to be treated and difcours'd on with a great deal of caution, leaft one fhould furnish occafion to fome distemper'd fancies, to turn this facred allufion into jeft and ridicule, and it may be also nauseate the fober and judicious chriftian. I fhall chufe, therefore, in difcourfing on this head, to mention only fome few things, which are moft plainly and certainly imply'd in the foul's efpoufal to Chrift. As,
1.) The notion of an efpoufal implies, a near relation which is contracted betwixt Chrift and the penitent believer. 'Tis an allufion to the nearest relation in this world, which yet, it feems, is not near enough fully to exprefs the mutual relation betwixt Chrift and his people; for that is exprefs'd in fcrip
ture by stronger metaphors ftill, as by the union of the vine, and the branches in the fame tree, and by the relation of the head and the members in the fame body. There is fcarcely any relation among men, which implies in it any any thing of tenderness and love; but it is made to lend a metaphor to <represent the mutual relation betwixt Chrift and believers. Jefus is their Mafter and Lord, they are his fervants; Jefus is their friend, and he owns them for his friends, John xv. 15. Jefus is their elder brother, they are all the younger children of the fame houfe; his Father is their Father, and his God is their God, John xx. 17. the bufband and wife is the neareft relation of all among creatures, but the relation betwixt Chrift, and those that believe on him, is nearer than all this: he carries 'the matter much higher than any of these metaphors will reach, when he says, John xiv. 20. In that day ye shall know, that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you. The Difciples themselves could not comprehend the meaning of this at prefent, nor would they be able to conceive how near this relation, and how intimate this union is, 'till they had received a much more plentiful effufion of the Spirit, in that day which Christ there refers to. Thus much however we may conceive of the matter, that they are in him, as their furety and reprefentative with God; and he is in them by the influence and
indwelling of his Spirit in their fouls: they are in him, and he is in them, by the ftricktest bonds of mutual friendship and love. How happy a thing than muft it be, to be efpoufed to Chrift! For a poor finner to stand in fo near and dear a relation to the Son of God! Well may we ftand with the Apostle and admire the height, and depth, and length, and breadth, of the love of Chrift which paffeth knowledge. His uniting himfelf to the humane nature was the wonder of both worlds, of heaven and earth too: that was greater love and greater honour than he would ever vouchfafe to Angels; but his love to men would not reft here; as if this was not near enough, he takes every penitent believing finner into the nearest poffible relation, and admits all fuch into a most intimate union with himself. Well, this is the first, and one of the most obvious notions of a foul's efpoufals to Chrift, that by this there is a near relation contracted betwixt them.
2.) The notion of an efpoufal further implies that this is by mutual confent. It should always be fo in the efpoufals of fellow-creatures, for 'tis otherwise unnatural, and promises but little comfort: force and conftraint fhould have no place here; it is certain they can have none in this spiritual espousal of the foul to Chrift; this must be with free confent, or not at all. It is undoubtedly mere grace, and free grace in Chrift to admit the efpoufal