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to a more experimental manner of preaching, as well as in many instances discover those, before unknown, tokens of success which may strengthen their hands in the work of their great Master.
It is by frequent conversations of this kind, that I have learnt many of the particulars on which I have grounded the preceding discourse. I hope therefore you will excuse me, if on so natural an occasion I have borne my public testimony to what has been so edifying to me, both as a minister and a christian. And the tender regard which I have for young persons training up for the work of the ministry, and my ardent desire that they may learn the language of Sion, and have "those peculiar advantages which nothing but an acquaintance with cases, and an observation on facts can give," has been a farther inducement to me to add this reflection, with which I conclude my discourse; humbly hoping that what you have heard upon this occasion will, by divine blessing, furnish out agreeable matter for such conversation as I have now recommended, to the glory of God, and to the advancement of religion among you. Amen!
so probably be rescued out of his hands, and put for ever out of his power.
2. Let me advise you to "break off every thing which is contrary to such impressions as these."
Sin will immediately appear to have been your disease and your ruin; and therefore, if ever you hope for recovery, you must resolutely break with that; not merely with this or that particular evil, but with every sin; and that only for a little while, but entirely and for ever. A mortal irreconcileable war must be declared against it. Every fleshly lust must be denied ; every immoral practice, for which your heart may at any time smite you, must be reformed; and if ever you expect to reap mercy and life, you must, as the prophet expresses it, Break up your fallow ground, and not sow among thorns*. For Righte ousness has no fellowship with unrighteousness, and light no communion with darkness+. And you may be assured, that as all sin grieves the Spirit of God, and strengthens the heavy fet ters which lie upon the soul; so those sins which are committed after these awakenings and convictions, have a peculiar guilt attending them, and Do greater despite to the spirit of grace, in proportion to the degree in which his motions on the soul have been vigorous and warm.
3. "Seek further knowledge," especially from the word and ordinances of God.
The influences of divine grace are not to be considered as a blind impulse; but God's spirit works on the spirit of man, as one rational being on another. The apostle therefore puts the question with great reason, How shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard? And as some knowledge is the foundation on which the Spirit of God ordinarily operates in men's hearts; so in proportion to the degree in which you attain farther light into the scheme of the gospel, and of salvation by Christ, it may be expected you will be more impressed by it. The mention of this is so much the more necessary, as mistaken notions of religion often expose people, on the one hand, to great perplexities, and on the other, betray them into a false peace, which one way or another will be bitterness in the end. Come therefore to the house of God, and attend spiritual preaching. The question is not about forms, but things. Be not therefore over scrupulous about what is merely circumstan
begun to seize him, and that full execution would quickly have been done. But God's Ways are not as our ways, nor are his thoughts as our thoughts* Christ laid him almost as low as hell, that he might raise him as high as the third heaven †; of which he afterwards gave him a view in vision, to anticipate his reception into it. This day of his terror and astonishment was, in a nobler sense than any other, the day of his birth; for he is brought to bow himself at the foot of an injured Saviour, to offer him as it were a blank upon which to write his own terms of peace; and as soon as he heard that this glorious person was Jesus, whom, in his members he had so long persecuted, he makes his submission in these lively comprehensive words, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?This was not a time for a long speech; but he that discerns all the secret recesses of the spirit, knew these few words were full of a most important meaning, and expressed not only a grief of heart for all that he had before been doing against Christ and his kingdom, but the sincerest resolution for the future to employ himself in his service, waiting only the intimations of his wise and gracious will, as to the most proper and acceptable manner of beginning the attempt.
There is, methinks, a poignant kind of eloquence in this short expression, far beyond what any paraphrase upon it can give: And our compassionate Lord accepted this surrender. All his former rebellions were no more remembered against him; and before he rose from the ground to which he fell, on so terrible an occasion, Christ gave him an intimation, not only that his forfeited life should be spared, so that he should get safe into the city to which he was bound, but that he should there be instructed in that service which Jesus, whom he had persecuted, would now condescend to receive at his hands.
I represent the case thus largely, because I hope it is a case which in some measure suits the experience of some that hear me this evening. Paul tells us, it was For this reason, among others, that he himself obtained mercy, though he was the chief of sinners, that in him, as the chief, Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them who should afterwards believet.
Is there, then, in this assembly, any awakened and convinced sinner; any one that, apprised of his folly, and sensible of his misery, is desirous to fall at the foot of Christ, and say with Saul, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? That which
* Iṣa. lv. 8.
† 2 Cor. xii. 2.
1 Tim. i. 15, 16.
I see not, teach thou me; and wherein I have done iniquity I will do so no more*!-To such would I now especially address: And while I put the question, is there any such among us? I would fain persuade myself, there are several: For I humbly hope, that all the labours that have been bestowed in the preceding discourses are not in vain, nor all the prayers that have been offered for their success in vain; prayers, which I doubt not have been carried by many of you into your families and your closets, as well as jointly presented to God in this public assembly. Trusting therefore that it is thus with some, and praying that it may be a more frequent case, I proceed,
Sixthly, to give some directions to such, who are awakened by divine grace to a sense of their misery in an unregenerate state, and are brought to desire recovery from it.
To such I propose to give directions: And to what purpose would it be to undertake to offer them to any others? Who would pretend to teach those who are unconcerned about their salvation, what methods they are to take in order to their becoming truly regenerate? This, methinks, would be like giving directions how those might learn to write who do not desire it, and will not take a pen into their hands. All I could say to such, while they continue in this character, would vanish into empty air: It would not, probably, be so much as observed and remembered. I speak therefore to awakened souls, and to such it is pleasant to address on this head. Ananias undoubtedly undertook this message to Saul with cheerfulness, to tell him what Christ would have him to do: And I would with pleasure and cheerfulness engage in the like work; humbly hoping that some will hear with observation and attention, will hear for themselves, and so Hear for their goodt. And to this purpose let me advise you, to attend to the impressions that have been made upon you with great seriousness,-to break off every thing that is contrary to them,-to seek for further knowledge in religious matters, to pour out your souls before God in earnest prayer, -to communicate the state of your case to some experienced christian, to acquaint yourselves with such as are much in your own circumstances,-to fly immediately to Christ, as ready to receive all that come to him,-to dedicate yourselves to him, and to his service, in the most solenın manner,-to arm yourselves to encounter with the greatest difficulties in your christian
own reason should suggest some very obvious advantages, attending the method I propose, of opening your case freely to those, whom you think to be more experienced in these things. The impression may be revived upon your own souls, even by the account you give them: And their advice may be exceeding useful to you to guard you against the wiles of the enemy which they have known, though hitherto you are strangers to them; and to guide you into such methods, as, by the divine blessing, may farther promote that good work which seems in any measure to have been begun within you. You may also depend upon it that it will engage their prayers for you; which in this case may have great prevalency. And it will also naturally lead them to inspect your conduct; and if they see you afterwards in danger of being drawn aside, they may remind you of the hopes once entertained, and the impressions once made upon your mind.In this respect you may hope, that by Walking with wise men you will be yet wiser*: and will soon find how happy an exchange you make, when you give up your vain, and perhaps wicked companions, that you may become the Companion of them that fear God, and that keep his preceptst; and may have your Delight in them, who in the judgment of God are the excellent of the earth, however they may be despised and derided by men."
6. I would also advise, that you " endeavour to search out those, if there be any such about or near you, who are much in your own circumstances."
Observe, especially among young people, whether there are any that seem of late to have grown more serious than ordinary; and particularly more constant in attending the ordinances of God, and more cautious in venturing on occasions and temptations to sin: And if you can discover such, endeavour to form an acquaintance with them. Try by pro. per hints how far their circumstances resemble yours; and as you find encouragement, enter into a stricter friendship with them, founded on religion, and intended to promote it in each others hearts. Associate yourselves in little bands for christian converse and prayer; and by this means you will quicken, and strengthen the hearts of each other. For on the one hand, what they tell you of their own experience, will much confirm you in a persuasion that what you find in yourselves is not a mere fancy, but is really a divine work begun
† Psal. cxix. 63.
* Prov. xiii. 20.
Psal. xvi. 3.