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himself. There were indeed then seven thousand latent believers, but scarce another visible professor; and it is not hard to imagine how little true faith, regularly professed, there was in the world, when Christ was in the grave. And under the fatal apostasy foretold in the revelation, those that kept the testimony of Jesus are reduced to so small a number, as that they are spoken of under the name of two witnesses. But yet in all these hazardous trials and reductions of the number of professors, God always hath, and ever will reserve to himself a remnant, true, faithful, pure, and undefiled.
$12. And this he doth for weighty reasons: 1. To maintain his own kingdom in the world. Should it at any time totally fail, Christ would be a king without a kingdom, an head without a body, or cease to be the one or the other: wherefore, God will secure some who neither by the abuse of their own liberty, nor by the endeavors of the gates of hell, shall ever be drawn off from their obedience. And this God in his grace, power, and faithfulness, will effect to make good his promises to Christ, which he multiplied to that purpose from the foundation of the world.
2. Should all faith utterly fail in the earth, should * all professors provoke God and apostatize from him, then all gracious intercourses between the Holy Spirit and mankind in this world would be at an end. He hath undertaken a work and he will not faint in it, or give it over one moment until it be accomplished, and all the elect brought to God. If therefore the natural children of Abraham fail, he will, out of the stones and rubbish of the Gentiles, raise up to God a living temple wherein he may dwell. .
3. God will do this on account of the work he hath for some of his people in all ages and seasons to do in
the world; which is great and various: he will have some always to conflict with his adversaries and overcome them, and therein give testimony to the power of his grace and truth. Could sin and Satan drive all true grace, faith, and obedience out of the world, they would complete their victory; but so long as they have any to conflict with, against whom they cannot prevail, themselves are conquered; the victory is on the other side; and Satan is sensible that he is under the curse. Wherever true faith is, there is a victory, John v, 4; by this doth God make his remnant as a brazen wall, that his enemies shall fight against in vain, Jer. xv, 20, be they, therefore, never so few, they shall do the work of God in conquering Satan and the world through the blood of the Lamb.
4. God will always have a testimony given to his goodness, grace, and mercy. As in the ways of his providence he never left himself “without witness," Acts xiv, 17; no more will he in the ways of his grace. Some he will have to give testimony to his goodness in the calling, pardoning, and sanctifying of sinners; but how can this be done if there be none on earth made partakers of that grace? They are proper witnesses who testify what they know and have experience of
5. And lastly, God will always have a revenue of special glory out of the world, by his worship. And this also must necessarily fail, should not God preserve to himself a remnant of them that truly fear him. And it deserves to be observed, that God lays a few, often a very few of his secret ones, in the balance against the greatest multitude of rebels and transgressors; a great multitude are but some.
$13. Obs. 4. God is not displeased with any thing in his people but sin; or, sin is the only proper object of
God's displeasure, and the sinner for sin's sake. With whom was he displeased, but with them that sinned? I need not set up my candle in the sun of this truth; I wish it were as seriously considered practically, as it is confessed notionally. Every revelation of God by his word, and many of his awful works, bear witness to it; and every one hath that witness in himself, as will not admit him to doubt of it. The nature of God, his law, the light of conscience, and the universal sense of judgment, at present fixed, and certainly future, testify to it: and doubtless great is the power of sin, and the craft of Satan, which prevail with most to continue in sin, notwithstanding this uncontrolable conviction.' To this we may add, public sins, sins in societies are a great provocation to God. It was not for their private and personal sins that he was thus provoked with his ancient people, but for their conspiracy, as it were in sin. The reasons of this are manifest, and therefore I shall not insist upon them. God helps cities and nations, especially such as hear the voice of God, well to consider it; and all of us to take heed of national prevailing sins!
$14. Obs. 5. God sometimes will make men who have been exemplary wicked in sin, righteously exemplary in their punishment. They sinned, saith the apostle, and provoked God, and their carcasses fell in the wilderness. To whatend is this reported? It is that we might take heed, that we fall not after the same example of unbelief,' chap. iv, 11. There is an example in unbelief, and there is an example in the fall and punishment of unbelievers; and oftentimes judgments have had in them a direct testimony against, and dis. covery of the nature of the sins revenged by those judgments. Our Savior, indeed, hath taught us, that we are not to fix particular demerits and sins, by our
own surmises, on persons that may be overtaken with dismal providences in the world, merely because they were so overtaken; such was the condition of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices; and the eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them; of whom he denies, that from what befell them, we have any ground to judge them to have been greater sinners than others, Luke xiii, 3-5. In such cases, this only may be concluded; that such persons were sinners, as all are, and therefore were righteously obnoxious at any time to any severe judgment of God; and the reason of God's singling them out in such a manner, is that mentioned in the same place by our Savior: to declare to others, in the like condition with themselves, that ‘unless they repent, they shall all likewise perish.'
$15. If we investigate these reasons a little more particularly, we shall find that God will do thus, to bear witness to his own holiness and severity. In the ordinary course of providence, God gives constant testimony to his own goodness and patience; "he causeth his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,' Matt. v, 45. He will sometimes rise up to his work; his strange work; his act, his strange act, Isa. xxviii, 21; that is, to execute greatand fearful present judgments on sinners, which, though it be a 'strange work, seldom coming to pass, yet it is ‘his work,' a work that becomes him, and whereby he will manifest his holiness and severity. He reveals his judgments from heaven against the ungodliness of men, Rom. i, 18. And this he sometimes doth by exemplary punishment on exemplary sinners.
2. God doth this to check and control the atheism that is in the hearts of men. Many whilst they see wicked men, especially open and profligate sinners
prospering in a constant course, are ready to say in their hearts, "There is no God, or that he hath forsaken the earth; or Mal. ii, 17, “Where is the God of judgment?” And this encourageth men in their wickedness, as the wise man expressly tells us, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil,” Eccles. viii, 11. The consideration hereof makes them cast off all regard of God and to pursue the lusts of their hearts according to the power of their hand. To stay men in this course, God sometimes hurls a thunder-bolt amongst them; casts out an amazing judgment, in a way of vengeance on some notable transgressors, and were it not that God did sometimes awe the world with “his strange works” of vengeance, which he executes at his pleasure, so that great sinners can never be secure one moment from them, it is to be feared that atheism that is in the hearts of men would bring them every where to the condition of things before the flood, when the whole earth was filled with violence, and all flesh had corrupted its way.”
3. God will do thus for the encouragement of them who bear witness to himself in the world, against the wickedness of men. The principal work of the servants of God in the world is to bear witness to God; his being, his holiness, his righteousness, his goodness, his hatred of sin: for this cause are they for the most part mocked, despised, and persecuted in the world. So saith our apostle; 'for therefore we both labor, and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God;' 1 Tim. iv, 10. And sometimes they are ready to faint in their trials. It is to them like a sword in their bones, while their enemies say unto them, “Where is your God?” Psal. xlii, 10. They have indeed a sure word of promise to trust to and to rest upon; and that