J. (John) Clowes.

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?elig.ioua__S.oflie_ty._Qf_ friends
17 Jan. 1917









T. & W. Merceio, printers, 93 Gold-street,




THE editors of this little volume feel as if
they could do nothing more likely to promote
the cause of Christianity, or true vital piety,
than to lay before the public the following Dis-
courses. It seemed a matter of serious regret,
that so rich a treasure of heavenly things, in
which every true disciple of Jesus may find in-
struction worthy his attention, should not be
appropriated to general use. These Discourses
cannot have a higher recommendation than their
own intrinsic merits. To praise them simply,
would not be doing them justice ; for, in general,
whether the style or subject matter be taken
into consideration, every candid critic will al-
low, that they must have been the efforts of a
Christian and a scholar, of no common attain-
ments. In the arrangement of the subject, they
are clear and simple : in the exposition of the
text, luminous beyond example. Passing by
points of doctrine, they aim at nothing but to
inculcate pure and vital religion ; and this is


enforced with such a peculiar energy and beau-
ty, as cannot fail to affect the heart, interest the
feelings, and open the understanding of the

The editors have, further, to observe, that the
publication of Sermons is, generally, too much
confined to the particular denomination to which
the writer belongs. But so far as respects the
following Discourses, this never ought to be the
case. There is nothing discoverable in them
of party spirit or sectarian prejudice ; and it is
Confidently believed, that the pious and good of
every denomination, who shall read the follow-
ing Sermons with candour and attention, must
feel their hearts glow in unison with that of the

It may be proper to state to the public, that
these Sermons were not written with a view for
publication, nor have they ever been revised
for that purpose.

JVexv-Tork, September, 1S15.


ON Brotherly Love, considered as a
proof of the Christian's growth in

grace 1

II. Ditto 9

III. Ditto 19

IV. The Lord Jesus Christ the great

Householder 29

V. On the Spiritual Vineyard of the

Lord's planting 39

VI. On the Hedge round the Vineyard . 49

VII. Ditto 61

VIII. On the Wine-Press 71

IX. On the Tower 81

X. On the Letting out the Vineyard . 91
XI. On the Householder's going into a

far Country 105

XII. On the Fruit which the Vineyard

produces 117

XIII. On the Time of the Fruit . . .127

XIV. On the Servants sent to receive the

Fruits of the Vinevard . . .13*^



(Sermon XV.

On the Servants being beaten,


ki led,&c



On the ervants more than the

first .



On (he pei severing Obstinacy of

the unfaithful Husbandmen .



On the Householder's Son



On seizing the Son's Inheritance



On the Fate of the wicked Hus-

bandmen .



On the Marks and Characters of

true Faith



On Casting out Devils . . .



On Speaking with new Tongues



On Taking up Serpents . . .



On Drinking deadly Things . .



On Laying Hands on the Sick .









1 John iii. 14.

We know that we have passed from death unto lift,

because we love the brethren*

It was the blessed privilege of the beloved apostle ana
his fellow-believers, to have this happy testimony in
their own minds, that they were passed from death unto
life. They knew this to be the case, by a conviction
wrought within themselves : they had an indisputable
sign and proof of it, which they could not question :
they were persuaded hereby, that their lot would be
eternally happy ; that they were restored to the favoui
of God i tljat they were one with God, and God with


them; of consequence, that death, misery, and condem-
nation, were no longer 4o be dreaded by them, because
they were passed far away from such things, and born
into another kingdom. Thus their souls were kept in
peace through ail the troubles and disquietudes of this
lower world ; and having hope in God, and being at rest
in him, they rejoiced with joy unspeakable, and full of

Let it not however be supposed, that these blessed
privileges were intended to be confined to St. John and
the first disciples of Christianity. They belong alike to
all those who profess the same holy religion, and obey
its heavenly doctrines. They belong therefore to us, to
you and to me, and to every true believer in Jesus
Christ ; and it is a grace granted to every one of us, if
we are wise enough to discover it, to be enabled to say,
" We know that we have passed from death unto life."

That this is the case, will appear plain from the con-
sideration of these two particulars, to which I could
earnestly wish to engage your present most serious at-

First. The nature of the passage here spoken of by
the apostle, from death unto life.

Secondly. The sign or proof of our having made this
passage, viz. because we love the brethren.

First, then, let us consider the nature of the passage
spoken of by the apostle, from death unto life.

It is a matter little thought of by the generality of
Christians, that there is such a passage from death unta
life, ; and still less is it considered, that {his passage is to


be made by us in this world ; otherwise it never can be
made ; and least of all is it in general apprehended, how
the thoughtless and impenitent never discover this pas-
sage, but abide in the regions of death, whilst the peni-
tent and sincere believer both discovers the passage^
and walks therein, until he arrives at the regions of eter-
nal life and peace.

The generality of Christians therefore think of no
other death but the death of the body, and of no other
passage to life but the passage through the grave of tlie
body; and thus, alas! too many, it is to-be feared, n-
gleet to look for that passage till it is too late to find it.
and never pass from death unto life, because, being blind-
ed by the delusions of sin, they did not believe .such a
thing possible or attainable here below.

But, beloved, that there is a passage from death unto
life, is plain from the concurrent testimony of the Word
of God throughout ; and that this passage is such, as that
we may both discover it, and may make it, during our
abode in this world, is equally plain from the declaration
of the apostle in my text, speaking of himself and oi
other believers, " We know that we have passed from
death unto life."

From this declaration it is manifest, not only that
there is a passage from death vnto life, but that men like
ourselves also had made the passage, and knew that they
had made it, even during their abode in this world.

To the same purpose, but in different words, the apos-
tle Paul bears this testimony, " Giving thanks to the Fa-
ther, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the in


beritance of the saints in light ; who hath delivered ti£
from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into
the kingdom of his dear Son."*

Here St. Paul speaks, both in his own name, and ia
that of his fellow Christians, of a " deliverance from the-
power of darkness, and a translation into the kingdom
of Jesus Christ," which they had experienced, even
whilst they were living in the body here below ; which
is the same thing as what St. John calls the " passing
from death unto life."

The first Christians, therefore, it is most manifest, not
only knew, and were assured, that there was a passage
from death unto life, even to be found in this world ; but
they also discovered this passage, and made it during
their abode here below, and were moreover assured, to
their unspeakable comfort, and by the most incontro-
vertible signs and proofs, that they had made this pas-

And yet these were men like unto ourselves : they
were subject to the same infirmities ; they had the same
corruptions to struggle with ; were exposed to like temp-
tations with ourselves : neither had they any other or
higher helps than we Christians have at this day. The
Almighty did not favour them more than he doth us : his
grace was not stronger or more powerful in their bo-
soms, than we might find it to be in ours : heaven was
not nearer or more open to them, than it is to us ; and
yet we find they were enabled to attain unto this most

*Coloss. i. 12, 13.


happy of all human conditions, to know that they were
passed from death unto life.

What I would therefore here contend for, and wish to
press upon your present most earnest consideration, is
this, that what those first Christians once attained to, i?
still attainable by us, if we will but be as faithful to oui
God and his word, and as true to our own best inter-
ests, as they were. We may therefore pass from death
imto life, even during our abode in this world, as certainly
and fully, as ever St. John, St. Paul, or any other of our
Lord's first disciples did. We may have the same signs
and infallible proofs, which they had, that we are so
passed. We may thus attain, if we be so disposed, unto
the same grounds of heavenly hope, assurance, and com-
fort, in our acceptance with God.

For the religion of the blessed Jesus, let it be well
noted, is the same religion at this day, that it was seven-
teen or eighteen hundred years ago. The minds of
men, as to their belief in it, and their reception of it, m$y
indeed be changed, but itself cannot change. Its doc-
trines are still the same, and will remain so to eternity.
Its power upon the human soul, if it be rightly received,
is also still the same. It is capable, therefore, of ef-
fecting now, what it effected in old time. It can still open
heaven to the true beJiever ; it can still transform man
from earthly to heavenly ; it can still deliver from the
power of darkness, and translate us into the kingdom of
its divine Author : it can, in short, still enable us to say,
if we are not wanting to ourselves, what was Sefidl to


their unspeakable bliss, by them of old time, ft We know
that we have passed from death unto life."

I am well aware, however, that this will hardly be
believed by the carnal and the careless. All such are
unwilling to allow, that the powers of heaven are so
near them, or that as much fruit of those powers will be
expected from them, as from the saints of old. Thus
they set limits to the operations of God, which God him-
self hath not set, and which he hath declared he never
will set. They say, for instance, " Apostles might look
for extraordinary advancements in divine grace ; they
might overcome the world and the flesh ; they might be-
come the sons of God ; they might, by the purity oi
their lives and the power of their faith, pass from death
unto life ; but this is not to be expected in our days :
it was never intended we should experience such in-
fluences of divine grace, or bring forth such fruits there-
of in our hearts and lives."

Thus do the carnal and the careless labour to reason
themselves out of the real excellency of their religion,
and all its benefits, by supposing those benefits to be
confined to those few who first received the gospel of
Christ. But, beloved, permit me, by way of conclu-
sion to this part of my present subject, to caution you
most earnestly against suffering your minds to be betray-
ed into such unworthy, false, and dangerous sentiments
of your religion and its divine Author. For this pur-
pose, ponder well with yourselves the genuine design of
the Gospel of Christ, and the unchangeableness thereof.
Its intention is, and needs must be the same now, that H


was at its Jirst preaching and establishment. The pow-
ers and privileges which it presents to the true believer,
are also the same. As, therefore, it formerly operated
on the minds of apostles, confessors, martyrs, and thou-
sands of other holy disciples, to convert them to Jesus
Christ, to turn them from sin and vanity, to transform
them from earthly to heavenly, to purify, change, re-
deem, and renew their sinful natures, and thus to make
them pass from, death unto life ; even so also it would
operate at this day, if men's minds were but in a like
state to admit and comply with its operation.

Believe then this to be the real truth, and that of con-
sequence you are now called, and every believer in the
Gospel is called, to experience the same blessed effects
from it, that the apostles themselves experienced. I do
not say that you are to look for the gift of working mira-
cles, as they did ; nor to go about the world to convert it
by your preaching, like St. Peter or St. Paul : but this
you are certainly to look for, viz. to believe in and to
love Jesus Christ, the incarnate God and Saviour, as they
believed in and loved him ; and in this belief and love
to your brethren, as St. Peter and St. Paul loved their
brethren ; and thus to be meek, humble, patient, con-
tented, and charitable, as you read the Lord's first disci-
pes were ; and to overcome the devil, the world, and
tht flesh, as they did ; and hereby to pass from death
unt life. For, search and consult your own minds, and
see vhether you can discover there any reason why you
shoul be less holy than St. John, or any other of the
Lord first disciples, were. Is it not in your power t


love God, and your ne ; ghbour, as they did '? Cannol
you repent and believe in Jesus Christ, as well as they 1
Cannot you, therefore, grow alike in the divine grace,
and attain unto a like measure of true Christian virtues 1
Make but the experiment, and make it with sincerity,
and believe me, or rather believe God, you will soon be
fully convinced, that the measure of holiness to which
the saints of old were called, and attained, is the very
same to which you also are called, and may attain.

Away then with all vain reasonings. Repent, and be-
lieve the Gospel. Turn unto Jesus Christ, the mani-
fested Jehovah, and keep his commandments ; and you
will then soon experience, that heaven is still open. God
is still near and powerful, and his grace still operative
as in old time ; whereby you will, sooner or later, be
enabled, to your unspeakable bliss, to say with the
apostle, "We know that we have passed from death
unto life.^


1 John iii. 14.

We know that we have passed from death unto lift
because we love the brethren*

IN the foregoing discourse we endeavoured to point out
the nature of the passage/rom death unto life here spoken
of, as being a passage to be performed during our abode
in this world, and to which all Christians are alike called

We shall now proceed further to shew the nature of
this passage, and then consider the sign or proof here
mentioned by the apostle, of our having made this pas-
sage, viz. because rve love the brethren.

It must be very plain to every considerate person, that
by passing from death unto life, is not meant any bodily
passage, or any change of place or situation with respect
to the body.

For if the body was to move ever so far in any direc-
tion, upwards or downwards, it would not be possible for
us to depart further from death, or to approach nearer w-
o life than we were before ■,


The case is, the terms life and death, as used in holy
scripture, are applied to denote, not any particular state
of the body, but particular states of the soul or spirit,
with respect to God and the things of his eternal king-

According to this application of the terms life and
death, to pass from death unto life, denotes a change
wrought in the internal state of the soul or spirit, so tha*
whereas it before lived in a state of spiritual death, it now
begins to live in a state of spiritual life.

As for example. It is written in holy scripture, " man
doth not li-ve by bread only, but by every word that pro-
eeedeth out of the mouth of the Lord, doth man live."*
And in another place " If thou wilt enter into life, keep
the commandments. "t By which words we are plainly
taught this truth, that not to partake of the word of the
Lord, or not to keep his commandments, is a state of spiri-
tual death ; but, on the contrary, that to partake of the
•word of the Lord, or to keep his commandments, is a state
of spiritual life. Whensoever then the soul or spirit of
man, which heretofore had no knowledge and love of the
Lord and of his Word, begins now to perceive an inward
sense of love and regard thereto, and takes delight in the
ways of God, and the keeping of his commandments, such
a soul or spirit is said to pass from death unto life.

So again. The apostle speaks of being " dead in tres-
passes and sins."j; To live therefore in trespasses and
sins against God is a state of spiritual death ; of conse*

* Deut. viii. 3. Mat. iv\ 4. Luke iv. 4.
fMat. six. 17. 4Epbecii. !.


quence to cease from trespasses and sins, and to begin to
lead a new life, is a state of spiritual life ; and this change
wrought in the soul from a state of trespasses and sins to
a contrary state of purity and holiness, is therefore a pas-
sing from death unto life.

So again. " She that liveth in -pleasure (saith the
apostle) is dead while she liveth ;"* that is, the soul or
spirit, which indulgeth in the mere pleasures of the car-
nal, worldly, and sensual life, and knoweth no better and
higher enjoyments than these, is in a state of death ; to
come out of this state then, so as to begin to be made
sensible of other and superior pleasures to those of flesh
and blood, viz. the eternal pleasures of righteousness,
w r hich flow from the knowledge and love of God, this is to
begin truly to live ; and the change wrought hereby in the
state of the soul or spirit, is a real passage from death unto

To mention one other instance, which may serve to
set this matter in a still clearer light. When the repent-
ing prodigal returns unto his father, we are informed of
the glad and welcome reception which his father gives
him, how he ordered the fatted calf to be killed, saying,
let us eat and be merry ; for which he gives this very ex-
traordinary reason, " This my son was dead, and is alive
again. "t Here every enlightened person may plainly
see what is meant in holy scripture by being dead and
being alive, or by death and life. When the prodigal
had no regard to his father, or his father's house, and feK

» 1 Tim. :>. 6. t Luke x. v. 24. 32.


no desire of returning thereto, " but was wasting his sub*
stance in riotous living," he is then said to be dead,
though he was living at the same time in all the gratifi-
cations and enjoyments of riot and luxury, of this world
and the flesh : but as soon as ever he is weary of these
wretched satisfactions, and begins to feel a warmth of
penitent affection kindled towards his father, with a desire
to return to him and to his house, he is then said to be
alive, though at the same time he ceased to live to his
former bodily and carnal enjoyments.

Here then, if we be so disposed, we may all see clear-
ly what is meant in holy scripture by death and life, and
by passing from one to the other. Death is to live with-
out God and his Word, or, what is the same thing, to have
no love towards God, and no delight in him and in his
commandments. Life on the contrary is to live with God,
and to partake of his Word, that is, to have love towards
God, and to find delight to our souls in the way of his
commandments. To pass from death unto life then, in
this particular instance, is to come out of a -state of tie
love towards God, and no delight in his Word, into a
state wherein we both love and delight in God, and in
the purities of his Word and commandment.

Again. Death is a state of wilful sin and impeni-
tence ; life therefore is a state of repentance of ceasing
from sin. Death again is a state of false pleasures and
Satisfactions, such as are those of this world and the
flesh, when separated from the pleasures of righteousness.
Life therefore on the other hand is a state of real plea-
sures- and satisfactions, such as are those arising from


Uie love of God. In these instances, therefore, to pass
from death unto life, is to pass through repentance, from
the vain and false gratifications of the corrupt part of our
nature, which is carnal and worldly minded, to be made
sensible within ourselves of the pure and eternal delights
flowing from the love of God, and the communications of
his peace to our minds and consciences.

And would we know, beloved, the real, deep, and
scriptural ground of all this, it is as follows. There is
but one true and real life, and one true and real fountain
of life, and that is God, and his Word and kingdom.
Whatever then is not connected with God, his Word,
and kingdom, this, in the language of holy scripture, is
said to be dead, or in a state of death. Devils, therefore,
or infernal spirits, though living in a state of most exqui-
site feeling and sensibility, are still said to be dead, and
to dwell in the regions of death ; the reason is, because
by love they have no conjunction with God, his Word,
-and kingdom, from whence alone life cometh. In like
manner impenitent and ungodly men are said to be dead,
and to dwell in the regions of the shadow of deaths
though possibly they may be living at the same time in
the highest state of worldly gratification and fleshly sen-
sibilities, ami the reason is the same, viz. because by the
impenitence and impurity of their lives, they separate
"themselves from conjunction with God and his life. We
talk indeed of other life besides the life which is of God,
and of other death besides that which consists in separation
-of the love from God. Thus we talk of the life of vega-
• tables, and of the life of animals, which are incapable of


loving God, and of being thus conjoined with him. We
say also of men that they are living, or alive, when we see
them alive and active in the love and pursuit of the things
of this world, animated with the prospects of ambition,
gain, glory, or sensuality. We say also of the same
men, that they are dead, when we see them cease to
live in the body, notwithstanding their beginning to
live instantly in another world, in a state of feeling and
perception far superior to what they experienced here
below. It is however well to be attended to, that
though in common language we apply the terms of life
and death, in these subordinate 'and lower senses, yet, as
used in holy scripture, they have a higher and infinitely
more important signification. What man therefore fre-
quently calls life, God calls death, and what man calls
death, God, on the contrary, calls life. The reason is,
God calls nothing life, and allows nothing to be alive,
but what is connected with himself, the only life, by a
living principle of love and understanding ; and there-
fore in his sight, and according to his language, the mere
natural, animal, and unregenerate life of man, let its
feelings, perceptions, and delights seem ever so exqui-
site, it is but death, or the shadow and image of true life,
as having no conjunction by love and wisdom with the
eternal and only source of the true life, according as it
is written, " To be carnally minded is death, but to be
spiritually minded is life."*

* Rom. viii. 6.


The continual call of God therefore unto man, in his
Word, is to come and enter by repentance, by faith and
obedience, or, in other words, with his life's love, and
understanding, and operation, into conjunction with him-
self, the fountain of life, that so he may live for ever ;
this conjunction alone being true life, and worthy of the
name.- In his natural state, we know, man has no such
conjunction, for in his natural state, by reason of heredi-

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Online LibraryJ. (John) ClowesSermons on various subjects → online text (page 1 of 15)