Part Two: Use
I. Use 1. To persuade us, if grace be the cause of all the good we enjoy, not to wrong grace.
A. Why? For this is to close and stop up the fountain; yea, to make grace our enemy; and if grace be our enemy, who shall plead for us?
B. But how do we wrong grace? I answer—five ways—
1. By neglecting the offers of grace. Such make God speak in vain, and to spend his best arguments to no purpose: 2 Cor. 6:1,
a. It is a great affront you put upon God to despise him when he speaks in the still voice. Look, as when David had sent a courteous message to Nabal, and he returns a churlish answer, it put him in a fury: 1 Sam. 25:34,
b. It may be you do not return a rough and churlish answer, and are not scorners and opposers of the word, but you slight God’s sweetest message, when he comes in the sweetest and mildest way. … It is great salvation that is offered; there is an offer of pardon and eternal life, but it worketh not if you neglect it. There is a sort of men that do not openly deny, reject, or persecute the gospel, but they receive it carelessly, and are no more moved with it than with a story of golden mountains, or rubies or diamonds fallen from heaven in a night-dream. You make God spend his best arguments in vain if you neglect this grace.
….They do not absolutely deny, but make excuse; they do not say, non placet, but non vacant—they are not at leisure; and this made the king angry. When all things are ready, and God sets forth the treasures and riches of his grace, and men will not bethink themselves, their hearts are not ready. How will this make God angry? Such kind of neglecters are said to ‘judge themselves unworthy of eternal life,’ Acts 13:46. …Grace comes to save them, and God makes them an offer as though they were worthy; and they judge themselves unworthy, and plainly declare they were altogether not worthy of this grace.
2. Another sort of men that wrong grace are those that refuse grace out of legal dejection.
(a) Many poor creatures are so vile in their own eyes that they think it impossible they should ever find favour in God’s eyes. Oh! but consider, cannot the riches of grace save? When God shall set himself on purpose to glorify grace to the full, cannot it make thee accepted? Wherefore doth God bring creatures to see their unworthiness, but that grace might be the more glorious? Grace would not be so much grace if the creature were not so unworthy; therefore you should be glad you have your hearts at that advantage, to be sensible of your own vileness.
(b) It is a wrong to grace if you do not fly to it; you straiten the riches and darken the glory of it. It is as if an emperor’s revenue could not discharge a beggar’s debt. …
Take heed of slighting the grace of God; it is God’s treasure: so far as you lessen grace, you make God a poor God. Mark that expression, Eph. 2:4, ‘God, who is rich in mercy.’ God is lord of all things, but he counts nothing to be his treasure but his goodness and mercy. He doth not say, rich in power, though he is able to do beyond what we can ask or think; nor rich in justice, though he be righteous in all his ways and just in all his works; nor doth he say rich in creatures, though his are the cattle of a thousand hills; but rich in mercy. Therefore take heed of straitening mercy, for so far you lessen God’s wealth and treasure.
3. Grace is wronged by intercepting the glory of grace.
(a) It is the greatest sacrilege that can be to rob God of his glory, especially the glory of his grace.
(b) Grace is wronged also when you are puffed up with anything you have done for God, as if it were done by your own power and strength.
(c) So, when we have done anything for the glory of God, let us send for God to take the honour.
4. Grace is wronged by turning it into wantonness.
(a) It is a heavy charge, and a black note is set on them: Jude 4, ‘Ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness;’ …It is a mighty wrong to grace when we make it pliable to such a vile purpose.
(b) You dishonour God and disparage grace when you would make it to father the bastards of your own carnal hearts. You are vile and sinful, and you are so under the encouragements of grace, and the rather because of the abundance of grace; and, like the spider, suck poison out of the flower, and turn it into the nourishment of your lust;
( c) Grace giveth no such liberty to sin. This is done grievously by the Antinomians, who say grace gives them freedom from the moral law. It is true, grace makes us free, but to duty, not to sin.
(d) A man hath never the more carnal liberty for being acquainted with the gospel. This is the great thing which puts us upon duty and watchfulness, and melts the heart for sin, and awes it, and disposeth it to obedience.
5. Grace is wronged by slighting it after a taste, as carnal professors do: 1 Peter 2:3, ‘If so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.’
(a) A man hath at first a taste, that he may have trial how sweet the ways of God are. Now, if after trial, you are not satisfied, but make choice of the world again, it is a mighty wrong and contempt you put upon grace; for you do as it were declare and pronounce that you have made trial, and upon experience have found the pleasures and profits of the world are better than all the comforts that flowed from the grace of God.
(b) The whole aim of the word is to persuade men to make trial of the sweetness of grace: Ps. 34:8, ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good,’ and that his grace is good. But now your experience is a flat negative and contradiction to the word, and you do as it were say, I have made trial, and I find no such sweetness in it. None wrong grace so much as they that have tasted of grace, and yet have turned aside to the profits and pleasures of the world again, and grow weary after some strictness of profession.
II. Use 2. To press you to glorify grace.
A. This is the glory God expects from you. ..Certainly he that is a partaker of it must needs be most affected with it. Let us see a little what cause we have to praise God, above the angels, and above other men.
1. Above the angels. I do not mean the bad angels, with whom God entered not into treaty; he dealeth with them in justice, not in grace; but even the good angels. …
(a) In some respects we have more cause to bless God than even the good angels…. It is true God hath been exceeding good and bountiful to the angels, in creating them out of nothing, that they are the courtiers of heaven; but mark how good and gracious he is to us above them. The angels never offended him, but he is bountiful and gracious to us, notwithstanding the demerits of our sin; his wronged justice interposed and put in a bar, yet grace breaks out, and is manifested to us unworthy creatures.
2. Above other men.
(a) There is a common and inferior sort of grace, which is made known to all the world. [“Common grace”]
(b) The whole earth is full of his goodness, but this grace that bringeth salvation, that is peculiar to the elect, to a few poor base creatures in themselves, a little handful whom God hath chosen out of the world.’’
But when God comes to look among the sons of men, many times he chooseth the most crabbed pieces, and calls them with a holy calling, according to the purpose of his grace. It is a wonder sometimes to see how grace makes the difference between two persons involved in the same guilt. Justice can make no separation; when men are in a like case, they must look for the same judgment; but grace makes a great separation. Many of God’s elect are as deep in sin as those now in hell, yet God makes a difference. Both the good and bad thief were involved in the same condemnation, yet one is taken into paradise, and the other went unto his own place. Thus praise and glorify grace.