Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

religion is: but ye may, certainly know what fort your own is of, without extraordinary revelation; otherwise the Apostle would not exhort the saints to give diligence to make their calling and election sure, 2 Pet. i. 10. Therefore, the attainments of hypocrites and apoliates hould not disturb you in your serious inquiry into your own itate. But I'll tell you two things wherein the meanest faints go beyond the most refined hypocrites. (1.) In denying themselves, renouncing all confidence in themselves, and their own works, acquiescing in, being well-pleased with, and venturing their souls upon God's plan of salvation thro' Jesus Christ, Matth. v. 3. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And chap. xi. 6. Blefjed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me. Philip. iii. 3. We are the circumcision which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (2.) In a real hatred of all sin; being willing to part with every lust, without exception, and comply with every duty the Lord makes, or shall make known to them: Pfal. çxix, 6. Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. Try yourselves by these.

CASE VI. “ I see myself fall fo far thort of the saints mentioned " in the scriptures, and of several excellent persons of my own ac

quaintance; that, when I look on them, I can hardly look on my“ elf as one of the same family with them." Ans. It is indeed matter of humiliation, that we get not forward to that ineasure of grace

and holiness, which we see is attainable in this life., This should make us more vigorously press towards the mark : But surely it is from the devil, that weak Christians make a rack for themselves of the attainments of the strong. And to yield to this temptation, is as unreason. able, as for a child to dispute away his relation to his father, because he is not of the same stature with his elder brethren. There are faints of several sizes in Christ's family : fome fathers, foine young men, and some little children, 1 John ii. 13, 14.

CASE VII. “ I never read in the word of God, nor did I ever “ know of a child of God fo tempted, and so left of God as I am ; " and therefore no faint's case being like mine, I cannot but conclude I am none of their number.Anf. This objection arifas to some from their unacquaintedness with the scriptures, and with experienced Christians. It is profitable in this case, to impart the matter to some experienced Christian friend, or to some godly minister. This has been a blessed mean of peace to some persons; while their case, which appeared to them to be fingular, has been evinced to have been the cale of other saints. The scripture give instances of very horrid teinptations, wherewith the saints have been assaulted: Job was tempted to blafphemie ; this was the great thing the devil aimed at, in the case of that great faint, Job i, 11. He will curse thee to thy fuce. Chap. ii. 9. Curse God and die. Afaph was tempted to think, it was in vain to be religious ; which was in effect to throw off all religion, Plal. Ixxiii. 13. Verily I bave cleansed my heart in vain. Yea, Christ.

him

[ocr errors]

himself was tempted to cast himself Vown from a pinacle of the temple, and to worship the devil, Matth iv. 6,9. And many of the children of God have not only been attacked with, but have actually ydelded to very gross temptations for a time. Peter denied CHRIST, and cursed and fwore that he know him not, Mark xiv. 71. Paul, when a per. secuter, compelled even faints to blafpheme, Acts xxvi. 10, 1. Many of the saints can, from their fad experience, bear witness to very grofs temptations, which have astonished their fpirits, made their very flesh to tremble, and fickened their bodies. Satan's fiery darts make terrible work; and will cost pains to quench them, by a vigorous manag, ing of the shield of faith, Ephes. vi. 16. Sometimes, he makes such desperate attacks, that never was one more put to it, in running to and fro, without intermiffion to quench the fire-balls incessantly thrown into his house by an enemy designing to burn the house about him; than the poor tempted saint is, to repel satanical injections. But these injections, these horrid temptations, though they are a dreadful afiliction, they are not the sins of the tempted, unless they make them theirs by confenting to them. They will be charged upon the tempter alone, if they be not consented to; and will no more be laid to the charge of the tempted party, than a bastard's being laid down at the chalte man's door, will fix guilt upon him. But, fuppofe neither minister nor private Christian, to whom you go, can tell you of any who has been in your case ; yet you ought not thence tò infer, that your cafe certainly is fingular, far less to give over hopes: for it is not to be thought, that every godly minister, or private Christian, has had the experience of all the cases a child of God may be in. need not doubt but some have had distresses known only to God, and their own consciences; and, fo, to others these diftreffes are as if they had never been. Yea, and though the scripture do contain suitable directions for every case a child of God can be in; and these illustrated with a fufficient number of examples: yet it is not to be imagined, that there are in the fcriptures perfect instances of every particular cafe incident to the saints. Therefore, howbeit you cannot find an instance of your case in the scripture ; yet bring your case to it, and you shall find suitable remedies prescribed there for it. And study rather to make use of Christ for your case, who has salve for all fores; than to know ii ever any was in your

case. Tho one should thew you an instance of your case, in an undoubted saint; yet none could promise it would certainly give you ease : for a scrupulous conscience would readily find out some difference. And if nothing but a perfect confortnity of another's case to yours, will fatisfy, it will be hard, if not impossible to satisfy you. For it is with people's cafes, as with their natural faces: though faces of all men are of one make ; and some are so very like others, that, at first view we are ready to take then for the same : yet if you view them more accurately, you will see something in every face, distinguishing it from all others; though poflibly you cannot tell what it is; wherefore I conclude, that if you

And we

can

can find in yourselves the marks of regeneration, proposed to you from the word ; you ought to conclude, you are in the state of grace, though your cafe were lingular, which is indeed unlikely.

CASE last, “ The afHictions I meet with are strange and unusual. « I doubt if ever a child of God was trysted with such dispensations “ of providence as I am.” Ahf. Much of what was said on the preceeding case; may be helped in this. Holy Job was assaulted with this temptation, Job v. 1. To which of the saints wilt thou turn? But he rejected it, and held fast his integrity. The Apostle fupposeth Christians may be tempted to think trange concerning the fiety trial, 1 Pet. iv. 12 But they have need of larger experience than Solomon's who will venture to say, See this is new, Eccles. i. 10. And what though, in respect of the outward dispensations of providence, it happen to you according to the work of the wicked? You may be just notwithstanding; according to Solomon's observe, Ecclef. viii. 14. Sometimes we travel in ways, wliere we cannot perceive the prints of the foot of man or bealt; yet we cannot from thence conclude, that there was never any there before us : so, albeit thou canst not perceive the footiteps of the flock in the way of thine affliction; thou must not therefore conclude, thou art the first that ever travelled that, road. But, what, if it were fo, that thou wert indeed the first? Some one saint or other behoved to be the first, in drinking of each bitter cup the rest have drunk of. What warrant have you or I, to limit the holy one of Jfracl to a trodden path, in his dispensations towards us? Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great winters, and thy footsteps ure not known, Pfal. lxxvi. 19. If the Lord should carry you to heaven by some retired road, and let you in at a back-door, (lo to speak) you would have no ground to complain. Learn to allow fovereignity a latitude ; be at your duty; and les no affliction cast a vail over any evidences you otherwise have for your being in the state of

grace :

for no man knoweth either their love or hatred by all ihut is before them, Ecclef. ix. I.

Use II. Ye that are strangers to this new birth, be convinced of the absolute neceility of it. Are all in the state of grace born again? Then ye have neither part nor lot in it, who are not born again. I mult tell you in the words of our Lord and Saviour, (and () that he would speak them to your hearts) ye must be born again, John ii. 7. And for your conviction, consider these few things.

First, Regeneration is absolutely ileçefiary to qualify you to do any thing really good and acceptable to God. While you are not born again, your best works are but gliftering sins, for though the matter of them is good, they are quite marred in the making. Consider, (1.) That without regeneration there is no faith, and without faith it is impofble to please God, Heb. xi. 6. Faith is a vital act of the newborn foul. The Evangelist, thewing the different entertainment our Lord Jesus had from different persons, foine receiving him, some rejecting hin, points at regenerating grace, as the true

[ocr errors]

rise of that difference, without which never one would have received him. He tells us, that as many as received him, were these which were born-of God, John i. 11, 12, 13: Unregenerate men may prefume; but true faith they cannot have. Faith is a flower, that grows not in the field of nature.

As the tree cannot grow without a root, neither can a man believe without the new nature, whereof the principle of believing is a part. (2.) Without regeneration a man's works are dead works, As is the principle, so must the effects be: if the lungs be rotten, the breath will be unsavoury; and he who at belt is dead in sın, his works at best will be but dead works. Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving, is nothing pure being abominable, und disobedient, and unto every good work, reprobate, Tit'i. 15, 16. Could we say of a man, that he is more blameless in his life, than any other in the world; that he macerates his body with fafting; and has made his knees as horns with continual praying ; but he is not ború again : that exception would mar all. And if one Thould say, there is a well-proportioned body, but the soul is gone, it is but a dead lump. This is a melting consideration Thou dost many things materially good, but God faith, All these things avail not, as long as I see the old nature reigning in the man, Gal. vi. 15. For in Jesus Christ ineither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

If thou art not born again, (1.) All thy reformation is naught in the fight of God. Thou hast ihut the door, but the thief is still in the house. It may be thou art not what once thou wast, yet thou art not what thou must be, if ever thou feeft heaven; for, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, John ii. 3. (2.) Thy prayers are an abomination to the Lord, Prov xv. 8. It may be, others admire thy seriousness; thou criest as for thy life: but God accounts of the opening of thy mouth, as one would account of the opening of a grave full of rotteuness, Rom. ii. 13. Their throat is an open sepulchre. Others are affected with thy prayers; wluch seem to them, as if thy would rend the heavens: but God accounts them as the howling of a dog: They have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds, Hof.vii. 14. Others take thee for a wrestler and prevailer' with God; but he can take no delight with thee, nor thy prayers neither, la, lxvi. 3. He that killeth an ox, is as if he New a man: he that sacrificeth a lamb, is as if he cut off a dog's neck,

he that barneth incenje, as if he bleed an idol. Why not? Because thou art yet in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity. (3.) All thou haft done for God and his cause in the world, though it may be followed with temporal rewards, yet is loft as to divine acceptance. This is clear from the case of Jehu; who was indeed rewarded with a kingdom, for his executing due vengeance upon the house of Ahah; as being a work good, for the matter of it, because it was cominanded of God, as you may see, 2 Kings x, 13. Yet he was punished for it in his posterity, becaule he did it not in a right manner, Hof. d. 4. I will Avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu. God looks mainly to the heart: and if so, truly albeit thy outward appearance be fairer than that of many others, yet the hidden man of thy heart, is lothfome; thou lookest well before men, but art thou, as Mofes was, fair to God, as the margin hath it, Acts vii. 20. O what a difference is there betwixt the characters of Afa and Amaziah: The bigh places were not removed: nevertheless, Afa his heart was perfect with the Lord all his days, 1 Kings xv. 14. Amaziah did that which was right in the fight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart, 2 Chron.xxv. 2 It may be, thou art zealous against iin in others, and doft admonith them to their duty, and reprove them for their fin; and they hate thee, because thou dost thy duty. But I must tell thee, God hates thee too, because thou dost it not in a right manner; and that thou canst never do, whilst thou art not born again. Lastly, All thy struggles againft fin, in thine own heart and life, are naught. The proud Pharisee afflicted his body with fasting, and God ftruck his foul in the mean time with a sentence of condemnation, Luke xviii. Balaam struggled with his covetous temper tu that degree, that though he loved the wages of unrighteousness, yet he would not win them by cursing Israel, but he died the death of the wicked, Numb. xxxi 8. All thou doft while in an unregenerate state is for thy felf: and therefore it will fare with thee, as with a subject, who hriving reduced the rebels, put the crown on his own head; and therefore loseth all his good service, and his head too.

Object. If it be thus with us, then we need never perform any religious duty at all. Anf. The conclusion is not just No inability of thine can loose thee from the duty God's law lays on thee: and there is less evil in thy doing thy duty, than there is in the omitting of it. But there is a mids betwixt omitting of duty, and the doing of it as thou dost it. A man ordereth masons to build a house: if they quite neglect the work, that will not be accepted ; if they fall on, and build upon the old rotten foundation, neither will that please; but they must raze the old foundation, and build on firm ground. Go thou and do likewise. In the mean time, it is not in vain for thee, even for thee, to seek the Lord: for tho he regards thee not, yet he may have respect to his own ordinance, and do thee good thereby, as was faid before,

Secondly, Without regeneration there is no communion with God. There is a fociety on earth, whose fellowship is with the Father, and with the Son Jesus Christ, 1 John i. 3. But out of that society all the unregenerate are excluded; for they are all enemies to God, as ye heard before at large. Now, can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos iii. 3. They are all unholy: and what communion hath light with darkness-Christ with Belial? 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15. They may have a shew and femblance of holiness, but they are str Higers to true holiness, and therefore without God in the world. How fad is this case, to be imployed in religious duties, but to have no fellowship

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »