All the promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus; they meet all in him and from him are derived unto us. When man was in integrity, he was with God, and in God, and that immediately, without the intervention of a Mediator. But our falling from God hath made us without God, and the distance is so great, as Abraham speaks to the rich man, that neither can those above go down to him, nor he come up to them. There is a gulf of separation between God and us, that there can be no meeting. And so we who are without God, are without hope in the world, Eph. ii.12; no hope of any more access to God as before. The tree of life is compassed about with a flaming fire and a sword. God is become a consuming fire unto us, that none can come near these everlasting burnings, much less dwell with them. Since there can be no meeting so, God hath found out the way how sinners may come to him, and not be consumed. He will meet with us in Jesus Christ, that living temple, and this is the trysting place.(158) There was a necessity of this Mediator, to make up the difference, and make a bridge over that gulf of separation, for us to come to God, and this is his human nature, the new and living way, the vail of his flesh. God is in Christ therefore, reconciling the world to himself. All the light of consolation and salvation that is from God, is all embodied in this Sun of righteousness. All the streams of grace and mercy run in the channel of his well beloved Son. It follows then, that God is not to be found out of Jesus Christ, and whosoever is without Christ, is without God in the world. "God was in Christ reconciling the world," and "there is therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ," but God out of Christ is condemning the world, and therefore condemnation is to all that are not in Christ. When all the sons of Adam were declared rebels, because of his and their own rebellion, the Lord hath appointed a city of refuge, that whosoever is pursued by the avenger of blood, may enter into it, and get protection and safety. Without is nothing but the sword of the avenger, justice reigning in all the world beside, within this city, justice may not enter to take out any into condemnation. And therefore those souls that flee for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before them in Jesus Christ, justice may pursue them to the ports of this city, condemnation may follow them hard, till they enter in, but these may not enter into the ports of the city. What a miserable estate then are these souls in, that be in their own natures in the open fields without this city! How many foolish men apprehend no danger, but sport about the ports of the city of refuge, and will not enter in! O the avenger of blood shall be upon thee ere thou know, and if it find thee out of the city, woe unto thee! All thy prayers and entreaties will not prevail. Justice is blind and deaf, -- cannot deal partially, or respect persons, cannot hear thy supplications. It is strange, that men are taken up with other petty inconsiderable things, and yet neglect to know what this is, to be in Jesus Christ, upon which their salvation depends.
Faith in Jesus Christ is the soul's flight into the city of refuge. Now none flieth but when they apprehend danger, or are pursued. This danger that a soul apprehends, is perishing and condemnation for ever. The pursuer is the law of God, and his justice, these have a sword in their hand, the curse of God, and the sentence of condemnation. God erects a tribunal in his word, wherein he judgeth men. Whosoever he hath a purpose of good-will unto, he makes the law to enter into their consciences, that the offence might abound. He sends out some messenger of affliction, or conviction, to bring them before the judgment seat, and hear their accusation read unto them. There the soul stands trembling, and the conscience witnesseth and approveth all that the word challengeth of, so that the sinner's mouth is stopped, and can have no excuse to this accusation. Then the judge pronounces the sentence upon the guilty person, "Cursed is every one that abideth not in all things, &c." The soul cries, Guilty, O Lord, guilty, I deserve the curse indeed. Oh! "what shall I do to be saved?" Then the soul looks about on the right hand, and on the left hand, to seek some refuge, but there is none. Whither shall he go from him? He looks within himself, and beholds nothing within, but the accusing witnessing conscience becomes a tormentor. The fire is kindled within, which feeds upon the fuel of innumerable sins. Now the soul is almost overwhelmed, and spies if there be any place to flee to from itself, and from that wrath, and behold the Lord discovers a city of refuge near hand, where no condemnation is, even Christ Jesus, who hath sustained the curse, that he might redeem us from it. The vision of peace is here, and thither the soul flies out of itself, and from justice, into that discovered righteousness of Christ, and so the more that the offence abounded, now the more hath grace super-abounded, so that there is now no more condemnation to him.
I beseech you consider this, and let it be written on the table of your hearts. There are two tribunals that God sits upon, -- one out of Christ Jesus, another in Christ Jesus. There is a throne of justice, where no sentence passes but pure unmixed justice, without any temperament of mercy and this all men must once compear before. You know what a covenant of works God once made with us, -- if thou do these things thou shalt live, if not, thou shalt die the death. According to this we must once be judged, that justice suffer no prejudice. Therefore God speaks out of his law, upon this throne, the language of mount Sinai, he reads our charge unto us, and because all the world is guilty, therefore the sentence of death is once passed upon all. Now, whoever of you come before this tribunal to be judged, know that it is a subordinate court, there is a higher court of mercy and judgment, both justice and mercy mixed together. Though mercy be the predominant, justice and judgment are the habitation of it, but mercy and truth go before the Judge's face, and come nearest sinners to give them access. And this you may appeal unto from that tribunal of justice. "But there is forgiveness with thee, &c.," Ps. cxxx.4, 5. And whoever comes here, Christ Jesus sits on this throne to absolve him from that sentence. If you ask what equity is in it, is not this a prejudice to justice, and an abomination to the Lord, to justify the wicked and ungodly sinner? I say, it is no iniquity, because Jesus Christ hath paid the price for us, and was made a curse for our sins, that we might be the righteousness of God in him, and therefore it is just with God to forgive sins, to relax that sinner from the condemnation of the law, that flees into Jesus Christ. You may answer justice -- I will not take this for God's last word. I hear that all final judgment is committed to the Son, that he may give life to whom he will; he calls me, and to him will I go, for he hath the words of eternal life, he will justify, and who shall condemn?
Now, if any man will not now arraign himself before the tribunal of God's justice, if he will not search his guiltiness till his mouth be stopped, and hear his sentence of condemnation read, and take with it, -- that man cannot come to Jesus Christ, to be absolved, for he justifieth none but self-condemned and lost sinners. So your day is but yet coming, when you must answer to justice. The tribunal of mercy shall be removed, and Christ shall sit upon a throne of pure justice, to judge those who judged not themselves. Alas for your loss, the most part of you! I pity you. You live in great peace and quietness without the ports of the city of refuge. We declare unto you in the Lord's name, you are under the curse of God: will you yet sit secure, and put the evil day far from you? Oh! rather trouble your peace for a season, with the consideration of your sins! Enter into judgment with yourselves till you see nothing but perishing in yourselves; -- and there is no hazard, because salvation is brought near in the gospel. If you would not trouble yourselves so much as to judge yourselves, then you shall be judged when there is no Mediator to plead for you, none to appeal unto.
But whosoever takes the sentence of condemnation unto them, and subscribes to the righteousness of the Lord's curse upon them, we do invite all such in the Lord's name, to come in hither, even to Jesus Christ. There is no condemnation to them that are in him. If you stand scrupulous, making many questions in such a matter of so great necessity, you wrong your own soul and dishonour him. Know this, that God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Therefore thou condemned sinner mayest come to God in Christ. If you ask any warrant, we think there should be no such questioning, when you are in so great necessity. If a man were starving without a city, and it were told him there is plenty within, were he not a fool that would make any more business, but labour to enter in? This is enough to cross all your objections; you are in extreme necessity, and like to perish within yourself; "he is able to save to the uttermost all that come to him." What would you more? Let there be then a closure between absolute necessity and sufficient ability to save. Will you yet stand disputing without the city, when the avenger of blood is above your head? If you will yet press for some more ground and warrant of believing, -- then I will tell you all that I know is in the word for a ground of faith. You have great misery and necessity within you, -- that you grant, and it is your complaint. Christ hath mercy and sufficiency of grace in him; he is able to save to the uttermost, -- that you cannot deny. But I do add this third, he is also willing to save thee, whoever will be saved by him; nay, he is more willing than thou art. If you question this, I desire you but to consider the whole tenor of the gospel. How many invitations! How many persuasions! How many promises to those who come! Yea, how many commands, and that peremptory, to believe on him! Yea, how many threatenings against you, if you will not come to him to have life! Hath he given himself for the sins of the world, and will he not be willing that sinners partake of that he was at so much pains to purchase? Think you that Christ will be content his death should be in vain? And it should be in vain, if he did not welcome the worst sinners; yea, it should be in vain if he did not draw them to him, and make them willing. But besides this, he hath promised so absolutely, and freely, and fully, as there should be no exception imaginable against it; "him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out," John vi.37. Why do you imagine any case where Christ hath made none? Why do you sin against your own souls? Oh, if I were in Christ, say you, I would be well! and oh, that he would welcome such a sinner! Christ answers thee in express terms; "whosoever will, let him take and drink freely." Thou declarest thy willingness in so speaking; and he declares his willingness in so promising. Nay, thy looking afar off on him, is a fruit of his willingness; "ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," and loved you first. If ye will not yet believe this, look upon his command; this is his command, that ye believe on the Son, 1 John iii.23. What warrant have ye to do any duty he commands? And why do ye more question this? Is not this his command? And is it not more peremptory, because a new command, and his last command? And when withal he boasts(159) us into his Son, that we may have life, oh, who should have the face to question any more his willingness! Other grounds than these I know none; and I think if any come to Christ, or pretend to come, on other grounds, he comes not right. If the most holy man come not in among ungodly sinners; if he do not walk upon the grounds of his own extreme necessity, and Christ's sufficiency, he cannot come to Jesus Christ. There is a conceit among people, which, if it were not so common as it is, I would not mention it, it is so ridiculous -- how can I come to Christ so unclean and so guilty, nothing but condemnation in me? If I were such and such, I would come to him. Alas! there can nothing be imagined more absurd, or contrary even to sense and reason. If thou wert such and such, as thou fanciest a desire to be, thou wouldst not come to Christ; thou neededst him not. That which thou pretendest as a reason why thou shouldst not come, is the great reason pressed in the gospel why thou shouldst come. What madness is this? I am so unclean, I will not come to the fountain to wash; -- wherefore was the fountain opened, but for sin and uncleanness? And the more uncleanness, the more need; and the more need, the more reason to come. Necessity is a great errand, and our errand is a sufficient warrant. I am pursued by the law, I have condemnation within me, and nothing but condemnation. Well then, come to Christ Jesus, the city of refuge, where no condemnation is. Wherefore was this city appointed, but for this end? I beseech you every one who useth those debates, and taketh a kind of delight in them, know what they mean, how they wrong your own souls; how they dishonour Christ, and so God the Father; nay, how foolish and ridiculous they are, -- that if it were not your perplexity indeed, they deserved no answer, but a rebuke or silence. I have seen people take delight in moving objections against the truth, yea, and study earnestly how to object against any answers given from the truth. Alas! thou meddlest to thine own hurt; thou art upon a way which shall never yield thee any comfort, but keep thy soul from establishment, as a wave tossed up and down! If ye believe not, but dispute, ye shall not be established.
But I would speak a word to those that have believed, that have fled for refuge to Christ. Oh! it concerns you most of all men to study to know this condemnation that ye are delivered from, that ye may be thankful, and may keep close within this city. I say, there is no man within the world should have more thoughts, more deep and earnest meditations on the curse and wrath of God, than those who are delivered from them through Christ; and my reason is, that ye may know how great a salvation ye have received, how great a condemnation ye have escaped, and may henceforth walk as those who are bought with a price. Your creation makes you not your own, but his, because he gave that being. But your redemption should make you twice more his, and not your own, because, when that being was worse than if it had not been at all, he made it over again. So ye are twice his: first, he made you with a word, but now he hath bought you with a price, and that a dear price, -- his blood. Again, the keeping this curse always in your view and sight and application of it unto your sins, will make much employment for Christ. O how will ye often flee into that city! I think they are the greatest enemies of Jesus Christ, and his grace, who would have a believer have no more use of the law. I know not who can use the law if he do it not. I know not who can apply it unto Christ, the end of it, but he. Certainly he hath not only use of the commands as a rule of obedience, but the curse also, not to make him fear again unto bondage; no, no, but to make him see always the more necessity of Jesus Christ, that he may take up house in him, and dwell in him.