May 17, 2011

Increase Mather (1639–1723) on the Means and Motive of Christ's Knocking

Quest. 2. How or by what means is it that Christ doth knock and call at the door of the hearts of men?

Answ. 1. Christ knocketh at the hearts of men by his Word; by his Epistle he knocked at the Laodicea's door: Hence in the Text Christ's voice is spoken of. When Christ's voice, his Word is heard, then is he knocking at the hearts of men; therefore the Word is compared to an Hammer, Jer. 23:29. Is not my Word like a Hammer, &c. An Hammer you know is an Instrument, whereby men sometimes knock and break open doors: So doth the Lord by the Hammer of his Word, knock and break open the doors of the hearts of sinners. The Lord knocks by the Promises of the Word, and by Threatenings also, these are knocking, awakening words indeed; so by Instructions and Exhortations, &c. Hence it is, that as for all men that enjoy the Ministry of the Word, whosoever they be that have the Gospel dispensed among them, Christ knocketh at their doors, and desireth entrance into their hearts.

2. Christ knocketh by his Works. There is a secret voice of the Lord to the Soul in every Providence, though few hear it, few understand it. As now by mercies, Rom. 2:4. The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. It should be so, this is God's end in bestowing mercies and good things upon the Sons of men; it is thereby to awaken and to stir them up to Repentance, that the Lord and they might come together. That Preservation, Provision, Protection, which the Lord in his gracious Providence is pleased to afford unto sinners: Those common mercies which he bestows upon the vilest of men, Food and Rayment, Health, Wealth, nay, every meals, and every nights rest and sleep, by all the Lord is knocking and calling upon men, that they would learn to know, and love, and serve him, that giveth all good unto them; as it is said, Prov. 18:16. A man's gift maketh room for him; even so Christ seeks for a room in the heart, by the gifts which he bestoweth, and is therefore most worthy to be received with the highest entertainment.

Again, the Lord knocketh at the door by Afflictions, as we see in this Context, Whom I love, I rebuke and chasten (saith Christ) and then it follows, I stand at the door and knock. How? even by chastening Dispensations of Providence: Therefore is that Mic. 6:9 Hear ye the rod. Affliction is God's rod; and an iron rod it is, whereby the Lord doth, as it were, rap at the door of secure sinners. If the Lord afflicteth a man, he striketh and giveth blows: Hence David saith, Remove thy [stroke] from me, I am consumed by the [blow] of thine hand, Psal. 39:10.

3. Christ doth call and knock at the doors of men's hearts, by the voice of his Spirit: It is said, Isa. 30:21. Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk therein, &c. namely, a word spoken by the secret whisperings of the Holy Spirit, saying to the sinner, Thou art out of the way; if ever thou desirest to be happy, thou must forsake this way thou art going in, and turn into a new, and another way. This is partly meant by the voice which my Text speaketh of, namely, the voice of Christ's Spirit: Sometimes a poor Creature begins to think seriously with himself, Am I in Christ, or out of Christ? Am I in a state of Nature, or in a state of Grace? If I should die in this condition, what would become of my poor Soul? Secret thoughts are darted into the heart of a sinner, that it is high time for him, to think of making his peace with God: He doth, as it were, hear a voice behind him saying, Man look about thee, there's one thing needful, and thou neglectest that, and in the mean time art taken up about needless vanities: Now these are the secret whisperings of the Spirit of Christ, whereby he knocketh and calls upon the hearts of men.

4. Christ knocks and calls upon the heart, by the voice of Conscience. A man's Conscience is God's Messenger, whereby he knocketh at the door, and speaketh home to the heart, Prov. 20:27. The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord, searching the inward parts of the belly. So that the inward parts of the belly, that is to say, the most secret corners of the heart, are ransacked by the spirit of a man, by which the Conscience is meant. And when Conscience speaketh, the Lord speaks also; for Conscience is God's Messenger (as was said) it cometh armed with Authority in his name; and hence is said to be the candle of the Lord, because it is of the Lord's sending and setting up. The voice of Conscience is many times a roaring voice, whereby the Lord doth Awaken the most secure and sleepy sinners. Conscience hath a Commission, that I may so speak, not only to knock at the door, but if need be, to break the door down, rather than that the sleepy sinner should not be awakened.
Increase Mather, Some Important Truths About Conversion (London: Printed for Richard Chiswell, at the Rose and Crown in Pauls Church-yard, 1674), 88–92. This work has a preface to the reader by John Owen.


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