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as if the “ bruised reed and the smoking flax,” were not objects of our Saviour's regard, as well as the stately palm-tree and the cedar of Lebanon. In one word, (for it would be impossible to enumerate all the particular errors that produce disquiet,) the want of a full and clear view of gospel truth frequently mars the joys which we otherwise might feel.
3. The sins into which the people of God have sometimes fallen, have often caused their “ souls to be cast down and disquieted within them.” At such times the Lord has fulfilled that declaration concerning them: “ If my children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes; nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from them, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.” (Ps. lxxxix. 28, &c.) Sin, committed against light, like Jonah in the ship, or Achan in the camp, will cause a storm and commotion in the conscience. It has often driven persons to the verge of despair ; and though after many tears and pains, and much wrestling with God, they may have obtained pardon, yet the conscience still has trembled : as the sea still is agitated after the storm has ceased.
Such are the principal causes of religious dejection and melancholy. Let us now inquire,
II. Why, like David, we should endeavour to rise from this state.
There are many whose piety appears to consist only in groans, and fears, and doubts, and lamentations. To such God cries, as he did to Joshua, “ Get you up, why lie ye thus upon your face ?" To such Jesus cries, “ Let not your hearts be troubled ; ye believe in God, believe also in me." Let such therefore, with the Psalmist, expostulate with their own soul, and say, “ Why art thou cast down, O my soul! and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
Your duty to God, as well as your own happiness, requires this. How imperfectly are all the Christian duties performed by you, when you are thus “ swallowed up with overmuch sorrow :" how unfitly do you worship Him who loves a cheerful and a thankful giver? Your melancholy hinders your faith; your troubled, dejected spirit, will not receive with full trust and confidence those great tidings of joy contained in every page of the gospel; and though you dare not in direct terms contradict the Lord, yet do you believe as you should, his full and free promises, and his readiness to embrace and crown all returning prodigals? And is not your hope destroyed by this temper; that hope which gives so much glory to God, and communicates so much felicity to the believer; that hope which might serve as an anchor to your soul amidst the storms and commotions of earth?, Instead of this, we behold in you only fears, and apprehensions, and gloom. It inspires you with injurious thoughts of God, and destroys that sense of his infinite goodness and love, which would animate you to obedience. And after all he has done for
you; after all the kindness with which he has followed you, and the mercies with which he has loaded you, do you thus requite him? Where is that joy in the Holy Ghost, and that peace which constitute so large a part of the kingdom of God; that delight in the Lord and his works and ways, which he so often enjoins, and which he so much approves ? Where that satisfac
tion in the word of God, which should be experienced by you? Instead of deriving from it comfort and peace, every promise is rejected, and every threatening applied to yourselves. If mercies are bestowed on you, they are diminished in your esteem, since you consider them only as increasing your sin, and marked with no impression of a Father's love. You receive not the gospel with that temper which becomes it. Angels and men rejoiced together when Jesus was manifested as the deliverer of the captives, the Saviour of the perishing, the refuge of all who would flee to him; but these glad tidings of everlasting joy are heard by you with sadness, and melancholy, and doubt; the ordinances of religion become unprofitable, or at least, lose their sweetness for you; prayer becomes a mere complaint, and not a child-like supplication; preaching carries no peace to your heart; the sacrament fills you with terror; the anticipation of death causes your heart to faint within you; under your dejection, you regard it as the certain entrance to everlasting misery; instead of cheering and animating your fellow-travellers to Zion, you damp their spirits and deject them; and you give a false idea of religion to the careless world, causing them to believe it the parent of sorrow, instead of the source of joy.
Surely then, you will not contentedly remain in this state; you will strive to acquire such a frame of mind, that you may praise the Lord “ as the health of your countenance and your God.” Do not, with so many, suppose that a dejected and an humble spirit are always the same; they are so indeed, when we are abased in the dust under a sense of unworthi. ness, and at the same time, lifted up by a sense of the divine mercies, and the fulness of the atonement.
This was the humility of Paul, who, while he terms himself “ the least of all saints, and the chief of sinners,” could yet add, “ I know in whom I have believed.” Ah! how different is this from the temper of those who neglect the consolations of God.
But what are those means, in the use of which melancholy and dejected believers may hope again to obtain peace, comfort, and a calm trust in God? We are to answer this question in the
IIId. division of our discourse.
1. Imitate here the example of David, instead of yielding to a vague grief; cite your soul; inquire of it the particular cause of your sorrow : different remedies will be requisite, according to the different sources of your distress : and be careful that you trifle not with God, and your comfort, and your salvation, while you inquire of your soul, “ why art thou cast down?” Be impartial; there is another and more solemn judgment to succeed: be persevering; like the Psalmist, return again and again to the investigation: be prayerful; self-love, or the delusions of your heart, may otherwise deceive you. Pray then to God, to “ search you, and see if there be any wicked way in you."
If on this examination, you find that it is some sin in which you have indulged that has separated between God and you, that has darkened your evidences, and implanted sorrow in your bosom, attempt not to seize on comfort till you have renewed your repentance. The examples of Peter and David may show you that God will not speak true peace unto you, till
have first been humbled before him. Abase yourselves then before God; flee afresh to the blood of atonement ; spread your iniquities, with all their aggravations, before the Father of mercies and the compassionate Redeemer; and for ever renouncing them, plead for their forgiveness that sacrifice which is the only hope of the sinner. The peace which a conscience, troubled by its guilt, obtains in any other manner, is the most awful judge ment which God can inflict, and is only the prelude to everlasting despair.
Do you find, on examination, that it is not from the ravages of any gross sin in the conscience, that your heart is disquieted within you ; but from the perplexity of your mind, concerning religion, or doubts respecting the state of your souls and your spiritual condition ? Other remedies then must be applied.
2. Be careful to understand the gospel-scheme of salvation ; especially the nature, the terms, the intent of the covenant of grace. Ignorance, it cannot too often be repeated, is a great cause of distress of soul to the godly; and frequently they mourn when they are invited to “ draw water with joy from the wells of salvation.” Remember that the very intent of the covenant of grace, is to exalt the riches of God's infinite mercy
above all the sin and unworthiness of
3. Study also the promises of God; view them in their variety, their extent, their application to you. Do not be content with reading them in your scriptures, but consider the promise and Christ in it, and plead it before the throne of God. Often the believer walks in darkness, when there is a declaration suited to his very case, which he disregards from ignorance or neglect ; but which, were it pleaded before the Lord, would cause light to spring up his soul.
4. In your devotions, be much employed in praise and thanksgiving, instead of principally occupying