Thomas Wilson.

The works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) online

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governed by His Spirit, and brings forth fruit worthy of such
a favour, he shall still have greater favours conferred upon
him ; but he that is not careful to improve the graces God
gives him, from him shall be taken away, even what was
before bestowed upon him.

Now, if men, notwithstanding this caution given them, will
be making experiments how far they may neglect their duty,
without losing the earnest of God's Spirit; if they will try to
govern themselves by their own reason and wisdom, laying
aside the laws of God ; why then, they may, indeed, take
themselves from under God's oversight and direction; but
servants still they must be, and led they must be, by the
spirit and powers of darkness; they only change masters (for
a master they 7nust have) ; and how much for the worse, sad
experience will soon shew !

It is for this reason that humility, and care, and watchful-
ness, are so much recommended in Scripture ; lest christians
should grow conceited of their own wisdom and ability to
govern themselves ; lest they should neglect the means of
grace which God has already given them; and lest, being
often off their guard, the devil should at last be permitted to
take them into his kingdom and service; from whence they
cannot return to God when they please, no more than a dead
man can return to life b}^ his own power.

And this, by the way, is the true reason why neither
advice, nor authority, neither the hopes of heaven, nor the
fears of hell, can prevail with some sinners to forsake the
evil ways they have taken. They are not their own masters ;
they are servants to one, who will not suffer them to return
to their sober reason ; they have forsaken God, and God has


given them up to a reprobate mind, a mind void of judgment ;
so that they commit all iniquity with greediness, yea, though
they see their ruin attends it.

On the other hand, such as are led by the Spirit of God do
experience His assistance in the whole course of their lives ;
enlightening their understandings, convincing their judg-
ments, awakening their consciences, curing the perverseness
of their nature, and filling their souls with all those graces
and virtues which are necessary to fit men for heaven.
Hence it comes to pass, that men who of themselves are not
able to think one good thought, yet by God's grace and
Spirit do very plainly perceive the excellency of religion and
piety ; the folly and unreasonableness of sin ; the happiness
that attends the one, and the misery that must be the re-
ward of the other.

Hence it comes to pass, that a poor weak creature, assisted
by the Spirit of God, is able to resist the prince of darkness
with all his hosts of evil angels. Hence it is, that man, who
is naturally proud and obstinate, is yet brought to humble
himself before God, acknowledge his own nothingness, con-
fess his sinfulness, and that he merits nothing but misery.
Hence it is, that man, who is naturally blind and ignorant
in the things which most nearly concern his eternal welfare,
yet enlightened by the Spirit of God, can very readily ap-
prehend divine truths, can see the wisdom, and goodness,
and love of God, in all that He has commanded, or requires
of us. And to give no more instances but this one, of the
power of the Spirit of God upon those with whom He dwells,
and who suffer themselves to be led by Him ; hence it is,
that christians are brought to embrace doctrines so very un-
easy to flesh and blood, so very unacceptable to corrupt rea-
son : Blessed are they that mourn ; blessed are the poor in [Matt. 5.
spirit; blessed are they that are persecuted for riyhteousness' ' '^
sake. Love your enemies ; bless them that curse you ,- do good
to them that use you spitefully.

Well ; though all these truths were delivered by the Son
of God Himself; though they were confirmed by infinite
miracles ; yet if God had not sent His Holy Spirit into our
hearts, we might indeed have heard these doctrines, but
receive them, ive never could have done it, much less have


SERM. practised them. But by the assistance of God's good Spirit,
—^ — '— all these things are made easy to the understandings, ac-
ceptable to the wills, and possible in the practice, to all true

Now this great blessing, of the fellowship of the Holy
Ghost, is so far from being given as a reward of any thing we
have done, or can do, that it is bestowed upon us before we
do any thing at all, namely, when we are received into
covenant with God ; for then, that is, at our baptism, we
are made children of God, a new creation, temples of the Holy
Ghost, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. And our life,
after this, be it never so holy, is entirely owing to the con-
stant influence, guidance, and assistance, of this Blessed

And it is for this reason, that christians are so often ad-
monished not to look upon their own works as any thing in
God's account meriting our justification ; since, as God, for
Christ's sake, forgives us our sins, so it is the Spirit of God
alone, which enables us to walk worthy of such a favour all
our days ; shewing our thankfulness for the same, by our
obedience ; and glorifying God for His mercy to us, by an
holy life.

Now, forasmuch as christians are but too apt to fall into
a carnal security, they are to be often called upon to trv
whether they have the Spirit of God dwelling in them, or
whether they have not lost, or are in danger of losing, so
necessary a guide ?

But how must they do this ? Why, they must have such
marks as cannot possibly deceive any, but such as are witling
to be deceived. We do not bid them, for instance, look to
their own inward experiences, since even good men often
lament their want of faith, even when they are supported by
it. And many, with little reason, fancy themselves to have
the Spirit of God, when a worse spirit governs them.

We must therefore tell christians, that they have no way
so sure of knowing whether they have the Spirit of God, as
by considering the fruits the spirit which possesseth them
produceth in them ; namely, whether their great aims and
designs are to be happy in this world, or to please God, and
to secure the fellowship of His Holy vSpirit unto their lives'


end. This every body is capable of knowing, who will be at
the pains of searching the bottom of his own heart. For if
he finds that his thoughts are chiefly upon another world,
and that this so affects his heart, that his endeavours after
holiness are sincere ; then he may be well assured all is well
with him. He has the word of God for it, Rom. viii. 1, 16 :
" There is verily now no condemnation to them which are in
Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the
Spirit. — The same Spirit beareth witness with our spirit (or
consciences), that we are the sons of God." That is, if we
ai-e led by the Spirit of God to walk worthy of Him that hath
called us, we may be satisfied in our minds, that we are
under God's protection, guidance, and favour.

It now remains, that we consider how we may continue so ;
that is, how we may secure the fellowship of the Holy Ghost,
which we receive in baptism, unto our lives' end.

And first ; though we owe all the grace which God has
given us to His Holy Spirit, and must always depend upon
Him for the continuance of it, yet we must still use our best
endeavours in the use of those means which God has or-
dained, in order to fit us for heaven. For certainly men
take the most efi^ectual way to deprive themselves of God's
assistance, when they neglect to do what is already in their
own power, that is, what God has enabled them to do, though
it be never so little ; for when a man does what he can, it is
a sign that he is sincere. And therefore, at the same time
that the Holy Scriptures bid us to depend upon God, they
exhort us " to work out our own salvation ;" that is, on our Phii. 2. 12.
part to do all that God by His preventing grace has con-
vinced us we ought to do, and which by His assisting grace
He will enable us to do, if we sincerely ask His help.

And secondly; that we may secure the presence and assist-
ance of God's Spirit, we must be careful to mind His godly
motions, exciting us to our duty, checking us when we are
doing amiss, and comforting us when we do what pleaseth
God. Not to do this is, as the Apostle speaks, " doing de- Heb. 10, 29.
spite to the Spirit of grace ;" " resisting the Holy Ghost," as Acts 7. b\.
St. Stephen says the Jews and their fathers had done, which
brought destruction upon them.

Lastly ; we must above all things be careful not to grieve


s E R M. and provoke Him to forsake us, by sensuality, by uncleanness,
■ '- — or by living in any known sin ; and even by an undue appli-
cation to, and an affection for, earthly things, which, our
Matt.13.22. Lord assures us, will choke the word, and the Spirit, by
which it becomes a means of grace, and it becometh un-

If to this we add our sincere prayers, out of a true sense of
our own inability, and God's readiness to help us through
the mediation of Jesus Christ ; we shall then be secure of the
assistance of God's Holy Spirit, being assured by our Lord
Luke 11. 13. Himself, that our heavenly Father will give the Spirit to them
that ask Him, as certainly and readily as any father will give
good things to his children that ask him bread, or what is
needful for their life and well being.

And now, good christians, you see the necessity of Chris-
tian baptism, by which we have the Spirit given unto us ;
without which Spirit it is impossible for any man to work
out his salvation. You see the reason why very many,
though they have received the earnest of God's Spirit in
baptism, are yet as wicked as those that never heard whether
there was any Holy Ghost or not. They have neglected His
motions ; they have grieved Him by their evil deeds ; they
have forced Him from them, and are become servants of
another master, whose delight is in wickedness. You see
therefore the necessity there is of walking warily, lest by
adding one siu to another we provoke God to leave us to
ourselves ; for then you have heard who it is that imme-
diately takes possession of us.

You see of what little use it is to be convinced of the
truth of the (Christian religion, if we do not seriously apply
to the Spirit for grace to live as becomes the Gospel of
Christ. Lastly ; you see the danger of neglecting the means
of grace which the providence of God affords us : it is the
ready way to be forsaken of God and left to ourselves.

To conclude then. Do we desire the satisfaction of know-
ing whether we are under the government of the Spirit of
God? Why, we are to consider whether we are led by the
Spirit of God ; that is, whether the fruits and effects of that
Holy Spirit appear in our lives and conversations. If, for
instance, we love God, and endeavour to please Him to the


best of our power ; if we love our neighbour in deed, and in
truth ; that is, doing good as well as giving good words ; if
we are just in all our dealings, doing to others as we would
be dealt with ourselves ; if we deny our own wills, and
resolve never to please ourselves by displeasing God ; if we
are afraid of sin, and keep at a distance from it ; if we apply
to God in all our necessities, and willingly submit to what
His providence shall order for us ; why then, we are sure
these are the fruits of the Spirit ; that He abideth with us,
and will be with us, while we continue to walk in this way.

On the other hand : if a man has cast off the fear of God ;
runs headlong into temptations; lives in the practice of
known sins; is fond of every thing that may divert his
thoughts from the care of his soul ; why then, he may be
sure of it, he is led by the devil, and is in the way of

Let us therefore not flatter ourselves in a concern of so
great moment. A wicked life is a sure mark that men do
not belong to God. The Apostle speaks plain to this pur-
pose : "In this the children of God are manifest, and the iJohn 3.10.
children of the devil; whosoever does not righteousness is
not of God."

In one word : if we would secure the friendship and
fellowship of the Holy Ghost, we must listen to Him, and
obey His godly motions ; we must keep a conscience void of
offence towards God, and towards man. We must pray daily
for His gracious assistance, and commit ourselves entirely to
His guidance and blessing. And that we may not believe
every spirit, we must still have an eye to the Word of God,
established by miracles ; by which we shall easily distinguish
His will from the suggestions of our own corrupt hearts ; we
shall see the truth, be governed by it, and shall be secure
from the fear of evil.

Now unto Him who sanctifies us, and to Jesus who has
redeemed us, and to God our Creator, be all honour and
glory for ever. Amen.




O Deus, fons misericordiae, illumina amore tuo oculos meos, ut charitatem
tuam erga nos immensam ego ipse agnoscam, et gratis tuee delicias adeo
degustem, ut mirabilia tui amoris ex verbis meis reluceant, ut ego, et
populus qui me audiunt, hoc amore impleti, omnia ea, quae tibi displi-
cent, abnegemus, et in imaginem tuam magis magisque transformemur.
Concede hsec propter Jesum Christum amoris tui filium. Amen.

1 John iv. 9.

See John In tJiis was manifested the love of God towards us, because that

2 Cor.' 5. 18. ^^'^ '^^'^^ ^'^ ^''^h begotten Son into the world, that we might

live through Him, [that is^ through faith in Him.']

Every tliouglitful man has two things much at heart :
how he may appease God, and how he maij please Him. First ;
how he may appease God ; for every man for himself knows,
that he has done many things to offend Him. Secondly;
how he may live so as to please God ; for we know by expe-
rience, that if men were left to their own inventions, they
would take such ways to gain the favour of God, as would
rather jorouoA;e His displeasure.

Now, God has made these two things known to us by
Jesus Christ, whom He sent into the world for these very
purposes, — to reconcile us to God, and to make known to us
the will of God; that is, how we may live so as to please
Him. Or, as Zacharias expresses both these blessings.

OF god's love in sending his son into the would. 255

" That we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies," Luke i. 74.
(and which had made us enemies to God,) "might serve
Him without fear," (because we serve Him as He has ap-
pointed us,) " in holiness and righteousness before Him, all
the days of our life."

In this (saith St. John) was manifested " the love of God"
(of God who did humble Himself to behold such a sinful
generation of creatures) "towards us,-" that is, the whole
race of mankind, who had no reason to expect such a favour,
or that God should send to visit them, except for their

And yet, such was the love of God, that He sent — not an
Angel, but — His Son, His only begotten Son, His beloved Son,
into the world; that ive, that is, the world to which He was
sent ; or, as St. John elsewhere expresseth it, all that believe John 3. ic.
in Hira might have everlasting life ; — might be enabled to at-
tain eternal life through faith in Him.

Every serious christian, who shall be convinced of this,
will have reason to rejoice that God sent His Son into the
world ; and no reasonable body will blame him for it. But
for people to rejoice they know not why; to be extremely
pleased with the return of this season [Christmas], without
knowing, and without valuing, the blessing of a Redeemer;
this is what makes many thoughtful christians sad, when
others are full of mirth and jollity.

To prevent this, I will set before you a short and plain
account of these following things :

First; The reason of God's sending His Son into the
w orld ; namely, that we might live through Him.

Secondly ; We shall consider the extent of God's love in
sending His Son, that we might live, — that as many as believe
in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Lastly ; We shall consider, what obligations this love of
God lays upon christians.

I. Let us first seriously consider, The reasons of God's
sending His Son into the ivorld. The text says, in general,
that it was, that toe might live through Him ; that is, that we
might not only escape those punishments of which our con-
sciences were afraid ; but also that we might be made happy
beyond w^hat we could either desire or deserve.

256 OF cod's lovk in skndtno

SERM. To aive 5fou a short, but plain account of this matter : vou
XXIII . . *.
'-— are to consider, that God made man upright, that is, holy like

29.f ^^' ' Himself; that while man continued so, he was happy, both
in the favour of God, and in the peace of conscience which
he enjoyed ; but at last, through the malice of the devil, and
the disobedience of Adam, sin entered into the world, which
has been the occasion of all the mischiefs and miseries that
we meet with, or hear of. Particularly, there is one most
miserable effect of sin, that all mankind are sensible of, and
that is, the fear of jmnishment. It being most natural for
every man who knows he has done amiss, to expect to hear

[Ps. 38. 4.] of it again. So that when the Psalmist saith, " My sorrow
is continually before me ; mine iniquities are gone over my
head, and as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me ; "
he speaks not his own sense only, but the sense of every
man living, whose conscience is awake, and under the guilt
of sin.

And this is the very true reason why all mankind, ever
since the fall, have been seeking out the ways of appeasing
God, and, if possible, of making their minds easy under the
fears of His displeasure for the sins they had committed, and
were daily liable to.

Now God, who foresaw all this disorder even before the
fall, designed, from the beginning, to redeem man from this
sad condition of blindness, fear, and uncertainty.

And first ; Christ was promised to the fathers, to whom
also the law was given, to the end that knowing their sin by
the law, and how unable they were to keep that law which
their consciences told them was holy, just, and good; they
might with more impatience desire the coming of Christ.

[Luke2.32.] And because he was to be '^a Light to lighten the Gentiles,"
as well as " the Glory of Israel," God sent Him at a time
wheii all iniquity did abound, that men might see plainly that
it was not for any works of theirs that He sent His Son into
the world, but for His goodness, and for His truth^s sake. And
after men had sufficiently wearied themselves in seeking for
peace and happiness, by Avays of their own invention, and all
to no manner of purpose; it was then that God sent His
only Son into the vforlA., that men might live through Him;
that they might know how to live so as to please God, how


to appease God when they have offended Him, and how to
secure His favour both here and hereafter : " In this the love
of God was manifested/^

In short, God's design being to recover man to a state of
happiness, from which he fell by sin, there was no other way
of restoring him to happiness, but by holiness.

The wav God has taken to bring this about has been by
sending His Son into the world, who being the express image [Heb. i. 3.]
of God, by Him we know ivhat God is, and what will please

By Him, for instance, we know the exceeding great love of
God towards men ; for God having from the beginning pur-
posed to send His Son into the world, all the wickedness, all
the provocations of men, could not divert His goodness and
faithfulness from doing it.

B]/ Him, we know that God is ready to forgive the greatest
sinners upon their repentance, and return to their duty.

And whereas we are but too apt to fall, by Him we know
that God is able and ready to support us by His grace ; and
that He will not suffer us to be tempted above what we are
able to bear, provided we ask His help sincerely.

That men may not vainly depend upon the love of God
Mdthout caring to deserve it. His Son has assured us, that
God is just as well as good, and that He has judgments as well
as mercies in store for such as shall deserve them.

And then, that we may certainly know what ivill please Gody
He has given us a very few, plain directions in His ser-
mon on the mount, contained in the fifth, sixth, and seventh
chapters of St. Matthew. There we learn, in what true hap-
piness consists : not in any thing the world is apt to doat on;
not in the abundance which men possess ; but in poverty of
spirit ; in a godly sorrow for our own sins, and for the sins
of others ; in meekness ; in hungering and thirsting after
righteousness ; in mercy and loving-kindness ; in purity of
heart ; in making peace ; and in suffering for righteousness'

And because He knew very well how hardly men would be
brought to esteem these things, much less to strive after
them, until they could be persuaded, that it is no great mat-
ter what a man's lot is in this world, provided he can but


258 OF god's love in sending

SERM. please God: He therefore chose to be born of mean parents,
XXIII . • •
'— in a mean place and condition. He had neither honse nor

harbour, and yet He never repined ; teaching us that this is

not the world where we are to look for happiness. And

being pressed with the bitterest sufferings, He still submitted

to the will of God, giving us a rule how to behave ourselves,

when God suffers us to be afflicted. Thus we live through

Him ; that is, by His example we learn what will please God.

And in this was manifested the love of God, in that He has

suited this means of attaining happiness to the very meanest


It is not every body that can attain to any great measure
of knowledge ; but every body who hears the life of Christ,
and believes Him to be sent from God, who sees the miracles
He wrought, and the example He set His followers, must be
convinced, that He was assisted by a divine power ; that what-
ever He said was true ; that whatever He promised was cer-
tain; and tiiat whatever He did was worthy to be imitated.

From all which it appears, that the gracious God has
dealt with us as with reasonable creatures, and has made use
of the most plain and powerful arguments and motives to
make us ho^y, that we may at last be happy. He sent not
one to force a law upon His creatures by the sword and
bloodshed, but He sent His only Son, with ivorks sufficient to
shew that He came from God ; with offers of pardon and
grace upon most merciful terms; with poiver to forgive sins;
with rewards and punishments ; requiring nothing of us, but
what He Himself in our nature had performed and suffered,
and what He would enable every faithful servant of His to
undergo with patience, if not with pleasure.

By this time I hope you understand, that the design of the
Gospel is to mend that disorder which sin has caused in the
world. That this is to be done no other way, than by root-
ing it out, and establishing holiness in the room of it. That
God sent His Son into the Avorld for this very end, that is, to
[iPet.1.18.] redeem us from death, bij redeeming us from our vain conver-
sation. And that we ought to value the love of God by the
price of our redemption. And we shall still have more reason
to do so, when we consider, in the second place,

II. The extent of this love of God, in sending His Son into


the tvorld. And indeed the Scriptures are very plain and ex-
press as to this matter: "God (saith St. John, iii. 17.) so
loved the world, that He sent His Son, that the world
through Him might be saved." And that God was no re-
specter of persons in thus loving the world, we are assured
by the Apostle, His will is, that all men should be saved, i Tim. 2.4.
And St. Peter affirms, that even such as perish, through their
own wilful disobedience, are of the number of those whom
Jesus Christ came to save. ''They denied the Lord that [2 Pet. 2.1.]
bought them ;" that bought, and would have saved them, but
they brought upon themselves destruction.

Nay, to take away all manner of scruple, and to apply this
most comfortable truth to the consciences of sinners, who are

Online LibraryThomas WilsonThe works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) → online text (page 23 of 49)