"That which we have Seen and Heard, Declare we unto You, that Ye Also May have Fellowship with Us,"
1 John i.3. -- "That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us," &c.

There are many things that you desire to hear, and it may be are usually spoken of in public, which the generality of men's hearts are more carried after. But truly, I should wrong myself and you both if I should take upon me to discourse in these things, which, it may be, some desire, for direction or information concerning the times, for I can neither speak of them with so much certainty of persuasion as were needful, nor can I think it an advantage, to shut out and exclude this which the apostle takes to declare, as the chief subject of his writing, which must needs be, if such things have place. Therefore I choose rather with the apostle to declare this unto you, which I can always do with alike certainty and certainly might always be done to an infinite greater advantage. There are these two peculiar excellencies in the gospel or word of life, that it is never unprofitable, nor unseasonable, but doth contain in it, at all times, the greatest advantage to the souls of men, of infinite more concernment and urgency than any other thing can be supposed to be. And then we have no doubtful disputations about it. It varies not by times and circumstances. It may be declared with the same full assurance at all times, which certainly cannot be attained in other things. I would gladly know what Paul meant, when he said, he determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified, (1 Cor. ii.2) and that he counted all dross and dung to the super excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ, Phil. iii.8. Sure it must amount to so much at least, that this should be the ordinary subject of the ministers of the gospel, since they are the ambassadors of Jesus Christ, not the orators of the state. Should not all other things be thought impertinent and trivial in respect of this, -- the salvation of sinners? And what hath a connection with that, but Jesus Christ and the word of life?

But though this be the most pleasant and profitable subject, yet I fear that few of them who pretend a calling to this embassage, are thus qualified and disposed to speak and declare it, as the apostle imports, "that which we have heard and seen," &c. It is true, there was something extraordinary in this, because they were to be first publishers of this doctrine, and to wrestle against the rebellion of men's hearts, and the idolatry and superstition of the world, -- yea, to undertake such a work, as to subdue all nations by the preaching of a crucified man to them which seemed to reason the most desperate and impossible employment ever given or taken. Therefore, it behoved them to be the eye and ear witnesses of his doctrine, life, miracles, and all, that being themselves persuaded beyond all the degrees of certainty that reason can afford, they might be the more confident and able to convince and persuade others. But yet there is something that holds by good proportion, that he that declares this eternal life to others should be well acquainted with it himself. He that preaches Jesus Christ, should first be conversant with him, and become his disciple and follower, before he can with any fruit become a teacher of others. Therefore the apostles, (Acts 1) chose out one that had been with them from the beginning, gone in and out with them, seen and heard all. O how incongruous is it for many of us, to take upon us to declare this unto others, which I fear, few can say they have heard and seen in a spiritual manner, and handled by experience! No question, it prevails usually most with the heart, that comes from the heart. Affection is the fire that is most suitable to set affection on flame. It is a great addition to a man's power and virtue in persuading others, to have a full persuasion settled in his own heart concerning these things. Now it is much to be lamented, that there is so little of this, and so few carry the evidence on their hearts and ways that they have been with Jesus conversant in his company. I cannot say but the ordinances that carry their worth and dignity from God, and not from men, should be notwithstanding precious to your hearts, and that word of life, however, and by whomsoever sent, if to you it be spoken, it should be suitably received with gladness of heart. But I confess, there is much of the success disappointed, by the unsuitable carriage and disposition of instruments, which ought to be mourned under, as the greatest judgment of this nation.

Two principles hath acted this divine apostle, the exceeding love of his Master, for he loved much as he was much beloved. And this carries him on all occasions to give so hearty a testimony to him, as you see, John xxi.24, he characterised himself, or circumscribes his own name thus "This is the disciple that testifieth these things, and wrote these things, and we know his testimony is true." Where that divine love which is but the result and overflowing of the love Christ carries to us, fills the heart, this makes the sweetest vent and most fragrant opening of the mouth, whether in discourse, or in prayer, or preaching, that can be. O how it perfumes all the commendation of Christ! "Peter, lovest thou me? Feed my sheep." These have a natural connection together, -- the love of Christ in the heart, and the affectionate, hearty, serious declaration of him to others. And then, another principle hath moved him, -- the love of others' salvation. "These things I declare, that ye may have fellowship with us." Finding in his own experience how happy he was, what a pearl he had found, how rare a jewel, -- eternal life, -- he cannot hide it, but proclaims it. His next wish is now since I am thus blessed, O that all the world knew, and would come and share with me! I see that unexhausted fountain of life, -- that unemptiable sea of goodness, -- that infinite fulness of grace in Jesus Christ, that I, and you, and all that will, may come and be satisfied, and nothing diminished. There is that immense fulness in spiritual things, that superabundance and infinite excess over our necessities, that they may be enjoyed by many, by all, without envy or discontent, without prejudice to one another's fulness which the scantiness and meanness of created things cannot admit. I believe, if ministers or Christians did taste of this, and had access into it to see it, and bless themselves in it, -- if they might enter into this treasury, or converse into this company, they would henceforth carry themselves as those who pity the world, and compassionate mankind. A man that were acquainted with this that is in Christ, would not find his heart easily stirred up to envy or provoked upon others' prosperity or exaltation, but rather he would be constrained to commiserate all others, that they will not know nor consider wherein their own true tranquillity and absolute satisfaction consists. He that is lifted up to this blessed society to converge with God, were it not for the compassion and mercy he owes to miserable mankind, he might laugh at the follies and vanities of the world, as we do at children. But as the {GREEK SMALL LETTER PHI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER THETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER RHO}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMEGA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}, the affectionate, kind love our Saviour carried to human nature, made him often groan and sigh for his adversaries, and weep over Jerusalem, albeit his own joy was full, without ebb, so in some measure a Christian learns of Christ to be a lover and pitier of mankind, and then to be moved with compassion towards others, when we have fullest joy and satisfaction ourselves. O that we might be persuaded to seek after these things which may be gotten and kept without clamour and contention, -- about which there needs be no strife nor envy! O! seek that happiness in fellowship with God, which, having attained, you lack nothing but that others may be as happy.

"These things I declare, that ye may have fellowship with us." O that ministers of the gospel might say so, and might from their own experience invite others to partake with them! As Paul requests others to be followers of him, as he was of Christ, so those who succeed Paul in this embassage of reconciliation, and are sent to call to the feast, might upon good ground interpose their own experience thus. O! come and eat with us, -- O! come and share with us, for it will suffice us all without division. When some get into the favour of great and eminent persons, and have the honour to be their companions, they will be very loath to invite promiscuously others to that dignity, this society would beget competition and emulation. But O! of how different a nature is this fellowship, which whosoever is exalted to, he hath no other grief, but that his poor brethren and fellow creatures either know not, or will not be so happy! Therefore he will always be about the declaring of this to others. But if ministers cannot use such an expression to invite you to their fellowship, yet I beseech you, beloved in the Lord, let all of us be here invited by the apostle to partake of that which will not grieve you to have fellows and companions into, but rather add to your contentment.

Moreover, this may be represented to you, that ye are invited to the very communion with the apostles. The lowest and meanest amongst you hath this high dignity in your offer, to be fellow citizens with the saints, with the eminent pillars of the church, -- the apostles.

It might be thought by the most part of Christians, who are more obscure, little known, and almost despised in the world, that they might not have so near access into the court of this great King. Some would think those who continued with him in his temptations, who waited on his own person, and were made such glorious instruments of the renovation of the world, should have some great preference to all others, and be admitted into the fellowship of the Father and the Son, beyond others, even as many would think, that Christ's mother and kinsmen in the flesh, should have had prerogatives and privileges beyond all his followers. But O! the wonderful mystery of the equal, free, and irrespective conveyance of this grace of the gospel in Christ Jesus! Neither bond nor free, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision. There is one "common salvation," (Jude, ver 3,) as well as "common faith," Tit. i.4, and it is common to apostles, to pastors, to people, to "as many as shall believe in his name," so that the poorest and meanest creature is not excluded from the highest privileges of apostles. We have that to glory into, in which Paul gloried, -- that is, the cross of Christ. We have the same access by the same Spirit, unto the Father, we have the same Advocate to plead for us, the same blood to cry for us, the same hope of the same inheritance. In a word, "we are baptized into one body," and for the essentials and chief substantiate of privilege and comfort, the Head equally respects all the members. Yea, the apostles, though they had some peculiar gifts and privileges beyond others, yet they were forbidden to rejoice in these, but rather in those which were common to them with other saints. "Rejoice not," saith Christ, "that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven," Luke x.20. The height and depth of this drown all other differences.

Now, my beloved, what can be more said for our comfort? Would you be as happy as John, as blessed as Paul? Would you think yourselves well if it were possible to be in as near relation and communion with Christ as his mother and brethren? Truly, that is not only possible, but it is holden out to you, and you are requested to embrace the offer, and come and share with them, "He that heareth my words and doeth them, the same is my mother, and sister, and brother." You shall be as dear to him as his nearest relations, if you believe in him, and receive his sayings in your heart. Do not then entertain jealous and suspicious thoughts, because you are not like apostles or such holy men as are recorded in scripture. If you forsake not your own mercy, you may have fellowship with them in that which they account their chiefest happiness. There is no difference of quality or condition, no distance of other things can hinder your communion with them. There are several sizes and growths of Christians, both in light and grace. Some have extraordinary raptures and ecstacies of joy and sweetness, others attain not to that, but are rather kept in attendance and waiting on God in his ways, but all of them have one common salvation. As the highest have some fellowship with the lowest in his infirmities, so the lowest have fellowship with the highest in his privileges. Such is the infinite goodness of God, that which is absolutely necessary, and most important either to soul or body, is made more universal, both in nature and grace, as the common light of the sun to all, and the Sun of righteousness too, in an impartial way, shining on all them that come to him.

sermon iv which we have
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