Ambrose Serle.

The church of God: or, Essays on various names and titles, given to the church, in the Holy Scriptures: to which are added, some papers on other subjects .. online

. (page 21 of 33)
Online LibraryAmbrose SerleThe church of God: or, Essays on various names and titles, given to the church, in the Holy Scriptures: to which are added, some papers on other subjects .. → online text (page 21 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the bondage of £gyp^ and who declared for them^lves, .
that th^y were never in bondage to any man. He did .
not therefore mean a temporal, but a spiritual freedonu
Accordingly he explained himself by saying. Whosoever
committeth a/i, is the servant of sin, and so much the .
servant of sin, as to be wholly incapable of delivering '
himself from the bondage ; upon which account he added.
If the Son therefore shall make youfree^ ye shall be freq
indeed. None else could release them ; though he could
do it completely.

Upon this Jgresd£ truth of man's slavery under sin and
Satan, the whole Bible is founded. It.would be absurd,
to speak of the &11 of man, of his entire apostasy from
God, of redemption by a Saviour, and of hope in a
Saviour; if man were free in the use of his powers, or if
indeed he bad powers to assert his freedom, and by his
own strength, either of mind, will, or affections, could
".turn himself unto God." The feet is; he is so " tied
and bound in the chain" both of hb sins and sinfulness^ «

• John vixi. 81, 38.

u3 that

Digitized by VjOOQIC

that be cannot get forth. Nor hath he any inclinatton,
ercept what may arise from the slavish fear of hell, or
fiom tome inconvenienoe to his natund lusts and
paasions. Hence, he is looked upon as dead before God,
dead in treepaeses and sins, without any spiritual life,
and oonsequently without the least natural power to
raise up himself, or the least desire after any such thing.
Like the bones \u the prophecy, he lies in the open valley
of the world, and la^heis very dry.* The Spirit of God
akme could restore life to such bones as these, who
represent the whole house of Israel, ot the whole £aimily
and church of God by nature. And if these were dry
tones in thdr natural state; can we suppose, that there
is more vigor or sense of spiritual life in the rest of the
world? If these had no spirit in them, till God was
pleased to bestow it; where upon eanh may we expect
to iBnd this spirit of life beside ?

The bondage of corruption (as 'tis called) though it
fi^ls upon all men ; yet noi^e of them feel it, tiU they are
quickened with Christ and made oBve unto God. And
this is a further demonstratfon of their ruined state and
helpless misery* When they have life given, they
groaii under it, and lookout for a release: and where
this comes to pass, the release shall surely be found}
because tl^e life was given for that very purpose.

Every natural and moral evil came in by sin. It was
part ofthe curse imposed upon degenerate man, that he
should serve the earth (from which he was taken, and
over which he was otherwise to have ruled) in tilling

*Ssek.xtxviit a.



zed by Google

VftEfi. 966

the ground by severe and constant labor. That cune
fell on his- nature and his ofispring univenaUy* AH
men, it is but too evident, serve the earth, seek it in
the first place, expect nothing but earthly good, cul-
tivate in different modes only a worldly interest, imagine
every blias, but what this earth affords, id«al or &xi
thusiastic, and, though much misery constantly attends
their whole labor and expectation^ are yet able to look
no higher, but dread the veiy thought of la removaL
The devir* cune was to grevel upon the ground, and,
for a stigma of vileness, to eat (as it were) the very dust
of what he had depraved, or (what that food signifies)
to live in perpetual infitmy without the least happiness or
hope. Out of the dust groweth and can grow nothing t
and dust mingled with fire, or ashes made by fire,
serves to convey a very strong idea of the keenest tor*-
ment, helplessness, and Aeapair.

If this depravity of man be true; and true it is, if the
word of God be true ; what.becomes of all those equally
ignorant and arrogant pretences, which many b^ve set
up,.of free will, free agency, spontaneity of determina*
tion, and the essential right and powers, in spiritual
things, of human nature ? If we believe God^ rather than
royan, we must account them to be but idle dreams at
the best, if not noxious speculations, or rather rebel*
lious declarations against the truth of God. They may /
indeed be adorned with the greatest show of carnal and
corrupt reason, and with all the splendors of style, or
learning, or metaphysical reverie s but, like the garnished
sepulchres of the dead, they have only an outward glare
of unprofitable pomp, covering at the same time filthy
V 4 wd


zed by Google

tQ6 F|t£& "

and rottenness^ and what no Btomadi can endim to
examine,, within**

* This frame of mind it described in lively colors by the pro«
phet. Isa. Uv. 3, j&c. The words are spoken of Israel (Rom. x. SI.)
God's professing people. These walked (i. e. the carnal among
them) in a vtfjr ft0t good, because it was aftet their atmtkoughis^ '
theirown corrupt .and carnal reason, and not after the truth iti
^the word. ' They provoked the Lord to anger egnti^uaUy to htM
faccj day by day when they came up to his sanctuary. They
sacrificed in gardens^ 1. e. followed the heathen or wicked worid
in the spirit of those lusts and tempers, which were indulged
openly in'idolaitrous ceremppies ; they Imriied inceme upon altars
^ brick, i.e. pretended to oflFer prayer and wprship, not upon
Christ the true altar upon which no human tool, no mortal aid, '
was to be. lifted up, but upon altars of their own making and
devising (as bricks are .the fabrications of man) imagining their
own loillftixfrihip and righ^epusne^ would procure ^ acceptance, .
And yet these remained among the graves and lodged in thp
fnonumewts, i.e. they were not brought out from spiritual deaths
but remained therein as they were bom, and they lodge or rest
among the dead in sin and in the places of their abode. They
eat swineU Jleih, and broth of abominable things is in their
vessels: not literally but spiritually, for no Jew did this, or, if
lie had, could not have made the pre^nce in the next verse conr
cerning superior sanctity: they lived upon ^e abomiqab|e: tmsh
and i^ ^e ^boijun^ble spirit of thfs world : it wv their food ^o
wallow at least secretly in sin, and their feast to eat of such things
as please the. worid, the flesh, and the devil. And yet, because
of some formal attentions, lip-service, and corporal ceremonies^
they blindly presnptied upon their own nghteo^ne^ and.arro*
gantiy could say to other men. Stand by thyself^, come not near
• to me, for I am holier than Mou «— But God's judgement of them
is hr otherwise— TAe^e are a smoke, an offensive vapor, in my
nose; kindling r, continual fire of anger agaii^st them in all tbc|r.
^ay or do. And ^e Lord 4eclared his purpose to reject all these^
and to give his blessing to others, as in v. 9. I will bring forth Or
seed out of Jacob, and out ofjudah an inheritor of my mountains;
snd mine elect shall inherit it^ and my servants sh^ dwell thtre^ .
. . It


zed by Google

. T^-

FftSE* S97

This » man-^tiie natural man. What a miserable .
CDortal in his exterdal frame ; and, inwardly, what a
hideous wretch ! Dark, stupid^ senseless^ bound,
enervated, and, to all spiritual hope and goodness, lost
and dead!

In this common condition, the mercy of God, arising
firom motives and counsels all his own, isl vouchsafed to
his chosen. As brands from the. Ifuming, consuming,
and in. the way to be consumed, *lie plucks them from
thii helpless state, and marks them for his property by
an act of hb sovereign will. ' He causes them to know
and to feel, that he only had power enough to redeem
tiemfrwn ail eviL Indeed, he only was rich enough to
provide a ransom; but it cost him dearer than the
creation of a thousand worlds; for it cost him the life
and sufferings of his Son, whom yet he did not sp(xre,
and who would not be spared. Such was the grace of
our Lord Jesus Christ, that though Ite ims rich, yet for
tlteir sokes he became poor, that they through his poverty

It hath indeed lAen frequently seen, that thoee who have laid
the jgteitcst stress upon mere holiness, as a virtue to be found or
raised in man and urged it from natural principles, have, in the
first instance, been genei^y unacquainted wherein true holiness
coAsists, making it up in a punctilious and ceremonious atten-
tion to putward duties, or in sanctimonious appearances, with- *
out a weaning of the heart from the world or winning it to God;
and, in the next instance^ have been frequently left to fall into
'soibe gross misconduct or other, to their own reproach and to
the reproach of religion through them. Indeed, this is by no
means wonderful; for, when a man presumes upon his own
powers, it may be expected, as no effect can rise above its cause, ,
that he will nm into evil; corrupt nature being able of itself to

produce nothing better.



zed by Google

i09 Fli«ls*

migfit be ricA.* The full price of their n6emfikmm9B
paid ; and ia oonaeqaenoe of k a ghfwui liberty was
bestowed. The sum is far beyond human or created
eomputation: and therefore the purchased possession^
bis own dear-bought people and portion, is valued by
him accordingly. •

The Hberty, which the Lord bestows^ is really life
ffY>m the dead ; and he himself is tbe life of that liberty.
He exercises, augments, carries it on, and supports it,
from day to day. Insomuch that his people catinot so
properly say of themselves, that they lioe, as that their
Lord liveih in thenu When they want the vigor of this
divine life, they look by faith to him for a supply : and
fafth itself, which is the channel of this life, and the root
of all other Christian virtues, was given to them for this
purpose. Thus they hoe by faith, and walk by faith :
that is, through faith they receive all their spiritual life^
and are enabled to proceed in it and to use it As the
iTQtional life flows from the union of the soul with die
body, but so as chiefly to arise from the soul itself; so
spiritual Hfe flows from (he union of the Spirit, of Christ
vith the soul, the Spirit being the first and chief prin^i
ciple <rf it For, what the soul is to the human frame»
that Christ is, by his Spirit, to thesoul.f In this way,
through infinite wisdom and mercy, the children of
God find all tlieir life, liberty, holiness, peiseverance«
' and peace.

But say some, who understand not these spiritual and
experjmenlal trutlis ; *' are we then but mere maichines^

'*2Cor. viii.9. comp. withZecluix. 9. Luke ix. 58, Phil.ii^T.
t W IT8II Diss, Epift. ad Hubenim, § 68.



zed by Google

v;us^ ego

aeting only as we are acted tsftm, without aay propet
volition or determination of our own ?"

Nobody asb this queftion in relation to our bodies, in
wbich the principles of action are iar more apparent to
eur senses; and yet surely they cannot be supposed to be
greater objects of divine direction tban are our souls. We
see, we taste, wesineU, we feel, we digest our food, or
Kathtf our food is digested in us, our blood circulates^
our lungs vibrate, and an inscrutible diemistry ismo^
mentarily cariying on throughout our frame; and all
tbb confessedly by the action of God, through the me*
dium of material agents, without any appeal to our
will, and generally as mudi without our attention, as
the mode of operation is above our knowledge. This is
kept up when we sleep, not less than in our waking bourse
in abstraction of thought from the ideal world, as in the
most intense applications of our faculties to the sub-
stances of matter; when we are engaged in a variety of.
afiairs about us, as when we direct our closest reflections
imoiediately uponourselves,. But wiH any man say, that
he has any diare in ordering and supporting this wonder*
ful mechanism, or that it is an automaton raised by hirp^
9elf ? The divine power ordained the. Acuity, and gives
the consciousness, of nght: our wills were not coin
suited, whether we should have this sense; or, now we
have it, whether it shall be affected or not We taste
our food ; but can we, if we would, reject the organ, by
which we taste, or alter the mode of its sensation ? We
heor the sounds about us i but, is not the impression from
without, and is not the perception within, entirely in-
dependent of our voUtioQ ? We feel a variety of motion?



zed by Google

9P0, VREE.

tbroiigli all our animal frame, not asking our leav^e or .
our wisdom to move ; some circulating the pleasures of
health and strength, and others con^pelling us to endure
the sad reverse : and do we consider ourselves as absolute
and unlotelligent machines, notwithstanding these im-
pressions of a superior power? or is it rather pro(>er to a
senseless machine, than to a living creature, not to be
independent of a supreme agent, or not to be capable of
resisting bis supreme operations? But if, in the Acuities
o^the body,* we are thus acted upon, as we undoubtedly
are, by the medium or instrumentality of the gross sub-
stances about us, as often without and above, as with
our consent; and if God perform all this in us and in
others, for the final accomplishment of his providential
ilesigns:* who can presume to say, that, in the moi^

*Itw&8a great concession for a man bf Ab^.Tilhtson's^er*
suasion, and extorted no doubt by the force of truth, to say,
^ God is the fountain and original of all power, from whom it is
derived and upon whom it depends,, and to whom it is perfectly
subject and subordinate. He can do all things at once, and in an
instant, and with the gitatest ease; and no created power can
put any di£&culty in his way, much less make any effectual re-
sistance; because omnipotence can checlT, and countermand, and
bear down before it all other powers.*^ And again, ** The true
reason of these things lies much deeper, in the secret providence
of Almighty God, who when he pleaseth can so goyem and over-
rule both the understandings and the wills of men, as shall best
serve his own wise purpose and design/ Serm. before the King
and Sueen, ix. and x. p. p. 12, and 6. Salomon says, tAe kin^s
heart ii in the hand of the Lordf as the rivers of vater: he
iurneth it xphithersoever he wilL Prov. xxL 1. If the heart of
kings be thus in the hand of the Lord, ^ ruled and governed, dis-
posed sjxi turned, as it seemeth best to Jiis godly wisdom;*' it
implies most stroqlgly, that no other man's heart can be out of it^



zed by Google

F11E& 901

wbliroe and spiritual properties of the mind, which are so
much more congenial with himself than matter can be«
th^ same Almighty agent doth not begin, sustsun, and
carry on those mental impressions and activities, which^
under the name o( grace, constitute the very life, peace,
wisdom, strength, experience, and ultimate expectatbii
of the soul? Who can venture to deny, that God is the
Alpha tod Omega of his people's fiiith and salvation,
wrought in them and for them; when h^ himself, who
can neither deceive nor be deceived, hath been pleased
to affirm, that he is? Hoto he doeth this, is'another
question, which we can no more define than we can
define the mode of his operation upon those gross did>-
stances our bodies : It is sufficient for us to know, that
ii is done^ and that He doeth it; or, in other words
which are his own, that »n Aim we /we, and move (or,
ore moved J and have at^r being. Were it otherwise, we
could not be a part of his creation, either natural or
divine. But will any one presume to say, that all this
is mailing us, or the angeb above us, dull machineiy
without life or consciousness ?

Moreover; his Providence hath established natural
means, put them within our natural reach, and given
us natural powers to use them. By this Providence, we
can read ^nd hear his word ; attend his ordinances, and
wait at thfe gates of wisdom. We can be in the tcdy,
like Abraham's servant; and, being there, may expect,
with him, that the Lord will meet us. Out of the way,
we have assurances of nothing but evil.

I have said all this to obviate a common cavil, wliich,
after all, can only be fully answered to a man's mind by



zed by Google


llie insbruciion /of him, who worieth in ev^ betiettf
both to will and do ofhi$ own good pleasure. WheA tfa^
toui is converted to God» the wisdom aftd expeiietice^
obtained in that conveision* will teach and convinoo
more in one momettt, than the ablest human lessons in
IhewcMid* And, unkas such conversion do take place«
eould the mind be oonvitided by any arguments or refire-
ientations, they would be but of little weight or ccMM*
quence to the peraon's present peace or oondncit, and
atUl less to his everlasCuig weifiuie«
- God woijceth upon his people's soub by his wisdom^
and truth, which in them are ever accompanied by the
energies of his mighty power.* In ike day or time of
(kbpoweTf they are made tmlling, or willingness itsdfi
ki the abstract, as the original implies.t Not by brutal
force (as some have taHsed) nor yet by mere moral suarion
(as others have dreamed;) but by ghnng life to the deai^
by hfinging • the prisoners <nU of Ifte prisonrhonse, by
hestoimnjg sight upon the bHnd, and, in a word^ by
creating all things new.

In this new creation, there is no bondage, because theie
ii no SID, which is the prindple of bondage. So ikr as a
man lives in and partakes of this creatim, he is free. la
the old creation, the present seat of sin, there is little eke
but darkness, and slavery, and woe. While we are in the
body, we are (as believers) affected by these advene cir«
^mstances. But the more we live in the new creation^
so much the more we walk in the Uberty wheretoith Gmst
hath made us free : the more we are occupied and en*
grossed by the old creatira^ so much the more we ars



zed by Google

dUangted by the yke vfbontk^e. Beibg ia Cbnat^ wt^
k the head of the new creation, and the author of all
liberty; we partake of his free SpirU^ and become ha
Jreemen.* When we get into the elemeuii of the worid^
we lose this sweet sense of freedom, and hear, if not feel,
the rattling chains of our old Egyptian servitude. Our
spirits sink; and we are taught iA«di^«ftce between our
aiaslei^s service, which ^ is perfect freedom/' and the
aervice of him who is at once the king and theslave of

Ab oar persons are made free by Christ, so are our
4aties. They are wrought from life, and, according
to thedegreeof grace, with liveliness. They are th^i^
lore called, and are, in that true sense, tbrougk the
merit of Christ and the power of the Diirine Spkit^^fis^
^fnU efferk^^ ingenuous and liberal privi^es m &ea»*
sdvcs, and graciously acceptid^le to the Father of mercies.

We ate freed not only from the ruling domination of
sin, through the power of the Holy One energizing in
us; but also from its fearful consequences. Christ hath
delivered ns from death by dying. He redeemed us
from slavery, and for this end (O wonderful method and
mystery of mercy !) was sold himself at the price, and
died iihe death, of a slave. By this, he abolished death
itself, and the slavery of sin which leads to it, and made
UM free indeed! — ^Free, ev^n now, from the condemna-
tion of the law^ and free unto holiness, the end of which
is eveiiasting life; and, e'^ long, perfectly free from
the bemg of sm and the most distant approaches of eviL

X It was an excellent saying for an Heathen; Deoparere,li^cria9
est; <* It 18 liberty itself to serve God," Sskec, de vit. &eat, c, xv.



by Google

304 r&Et*

When a Cbimdan's body dies, there b an end of dcsectb
to him, and to all the cause of death, which is sin:
from henceforth he can die no more, but lives, yea,
being one with Christ, is sweetly involved in the essence
of life, which endureth forever.

O what a precious Saviour b this! how can ye bu(r
love the Lfordy ye thai he his saintsf how isitpoasibW
for you to foi^t him, who hath done so much for your
souls? O seek his face continually; seek hb &ce ever-
more. In the light ofhb countenance, there b life—
pui«, animated, blissful life— and at hb right*hand
there are joys undefited and everlasting. Let us prove
thenour^eedom of access mth confidence unto God, and
our deliverance from the hateful bondage of corruption
in the world, by living and walking according to hb
holy will, and by possessing a constant preparjition of ^
spirit for departure hence, and for the perpetual fellow-
ship and enjoyment of the Lord and lib Christ !


Digitized by




S3y the JTall of Adam, the generations descended froni
him became wanderers in -every sense ; not properly ai .
home or in rest^ but scattered, hither and thither^ far .
from God as from peace, over the fiice of the earth,. ,
From that time there was no immutable settlement for.
man below; and yet every man by nature is in search^
of it For this he traverses the globe, mixes in all
companies and affairs, is continually looking round him
(ox another step or removal ; but, after all, when he
would lie down, finds no easy pillow, where he caa^
safely rest an unquiet and distempered bead^ no shelter,
that can save him frpm the dread or approach of that
fatal storm, which hang's over him all his days, and
which at last by falling finishes them. Every thing is
(as it were) upon the waves, subject to unceasing agi^«
tion and trouble : and his own heart is as disquieted, as
all the world about him.

From this scattered and peieled state, Chrbt, who is
the great spiritual Asaph or gatherer, collects his r^
deemed out of the lands, from the east and from the westi
frim the north and from the south.' He gathers together
in one, and sometimes (in respect of the fewness of their
uumber) one by one,* those, who were single or atone^

* Isa. xxvii. i^


zed by Google


in the worst sense ; wanderers in a solitary way^ fimSng
no city to dwell in. They are hungry and thirsty too m
• this wilderness, and their soul fainting in them; till Jesus-
leads tliem forth by the right way, that they might go to^
c city of habitation.*' >,

Of thisgatheFingofthe people ta Christ, and by him
and his gracious Spirit, the ScriptuFesare fulUf It wa*
one of the outward signs of this blessed Shiloh's appear-
ing, that fd him should the gathering of the people be,t
Jut, in the inwnrd sense, he gathered them, from the
very foundation of the world. Be always had a people »
created and ordained for his praise, a* his first-bom or
ieirs among the nations, a* his first-fruits and portion
flrora a spared worid. These he hath ever been gather-
ftig like tcheaiinto hisgarner; and when he hath gathered
Ae whole, according to their appointed timesy% the
diaff and stubbte will he burn with unquenchable fire.

He selected the nation of the Jews, by whom he
preached this very thing.|| Their ancients were among;
an idolatrous heathen { and they themselves were com-
inanded ever to confess, that a Syrian ready to perish
i/ias their father.. The selection was of the Lords free

• Ps. evil. 3, &c.
t Isa. xl. 11. xliii. 6. lvL8. Jer. xxii. 8. et aL
J Gen. xlix. lOi §The times of God's people are all in hi^

%ani. There is Ao stich false or Modish principle, as chance^ with
him. It is to be regretted,, therefore, that EccL ix. 1 1, is so^
perversely rendered, as k ia^ The wise man is showing, thAt
nothing succeeds according to human abilities, but thsitt/te^t'
Reason, and the concafemUion of opportune cipcumsiances are pi«/
lo^f^ier (as b^ams in a bttilding)/ar«//«r€9i; i, e, by a special
and particular providence.

-II Deut..viL 5u



zed by Google

ihoiee.. The motives were all ia himself; unless their
misery, unrighteousness, weakness, and repugnance,
could be thought inducements to his love. Tliey were
once not a people; but, by his own power and provi-
dence, became the people of the Lord. The selection
o* the Jews proves, that all was of his own free grace;
and the calling of tile Gentiles, that not even believers
ha^e any claim or right for their own posterity.

Blessed be their Saviour, he doth collect his redeemed
from among the heathen; and with loving^kindnessand
mercy he gathers them. They are by nature amongst
the multitude, in no respect differing from*othciB.
Equally lost, equally undone and depraved, they neither
seek his favour, nor know it Rather, they oppocfe it
with every corruption of their bodies and souls; fill the
sceptre of his love, reached out to their very hearts,

Online LibraryAmbrose SerleThe church of God: or, Essays on various names and titles, given to the church, in the Holy Scriptures: to which are added, some papers on other subjects .. → online text (page 21 of 33)