صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

ter for me never to have known the way of righteousness, than thus to have relapsed; and have all the prayers that I have put up, and all the sermons I have heard, and the books that I have read, to aggravate my sin and misery.' O how many a poor Christian in this dark misjudging case, is ready with Job, to curse the day that he was born, and to say of it," Let it be darkness, let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it: let it not be joined to the days of the year: let it not come into the number of the months:Because it shut not up the doors of the womb, and hid not sorrow from mine eyes. Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? Why did the knees prevent me, or why the breasts that I should suck? For now should I have lain still and been quiet-Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul: which long for death, and it cometh not-which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad when they can find the grave. Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in!" (Job iii.) Such are the lamentations of distressed souls, that lately were as in the arms of Christ. Their lives are a burden to them; their food is bitter to them; their health is a sickness to them; their liberty is as a prison to them; their dearest relations are become as strangers; and all their comforts are turned into sorrows, and the world seems to them as a howling wilderness, and themselves as desolate, forsaken souls. They are still as upon the cross, and will own no titles, but vile, unworthy, lost, undone, forlorn and desolate; as if they had learned no words from Christ, but "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!"

And much of this comes from the ignorance of ourselves in the time of peace and consolation. We are as David, (Psal. xxx. 6, 7,) that saith "In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved: Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: but thou hidest thy face and I was troubled." One frown of God, or withdrawing the light of his countenance from us, would quickly turn our day into night, and cover us with sackcloth, and lay us in the dust.

Take warning, therefore, dear Christians, you that are yet in the sunshine of mercy, and were never at so sad a loss, nor put to grope in the darkness of mistake and terror. No

man is so well in health, but must reckon on it that he may be sick. When you feel nothing but peace and quietness of mind, expect a stormy night of fears, that may disquiet you: When you are feasting upon the sweet entertainments of your Father's love, consider that feasting is not likely to be your ordinary diet, but harder fare must be expected. Look on poor Christians, in spiritual distress, with compassion; hear their sad complaints, and the bills for prayer which they here put up, and join in hearty prayer for them, and remember that this may prove your case. If you say, To what purpose should you know beforehand, how subject you are to this falling sickness: I answer, not to anticipate, or bring on your sorrows; but if it may be, to prevent them; or if that may not be, at least to prevent the extremity and terror, and to be provided for such a storm. When you are now in health of body, and not disabled by melancholy, or other corruptions of your fantasy, or passion, nor overwhelmed with the troubles of your mind, you have leisure calmly to understand the case of such misjudging and distressed souls; and accordingly you may avoid the things that cause it: and you may be furnished with right principles, and with promises, and experiences, and recorded evidences of grace; and when comfort is withdrawn, you may by such provision understand, that God changeth not, nor breaks his covenant, nor abates his love, when your apprehensions change: and that this is no sign of a forsaken soul: and that the ceasing of our feast, and withdrawing of the table, is not a turning us out of the family. Expect some sicknesses, and you will the better know the use of the physician, and will lay up promises, and prepare your cordials: and this will prove an exceeding ease, when the hour of your trial comes.

And what I have said of the loss of comfort may be said also of the diminished and interrupted operations of all grace. We little think, in the vigour of our holy progress, what falls, and swoonings, and languishings we may find. When you have access with boldness in prayer unto God, and lively affections and words at will, and comfortable returns, remember that you may come to a sadder case; and that many a true Christian hath such withdrawings of the spirit of prayer, as makes them think they are possessed with a dumb devil, and question whether ever they prayed

acceptably at all, and cannot so much as observe the groanings of the Spirit in them. (Rom. viii. 26.)

When you are warm and vigorous in the work of God, and find delight in all the ordinances, remember that you are subject to such sicknesses as may take away your appetite, and make you say, I have no mind to hear, or read, or pray: methinks I feel no sweetness in them! I was wont to go up with comfort to the house of God; I was glad when the Lord's-day was come, or nigh: it did me good to see the faces of the saints: O the meltings, the strivings, the lively workings of soul that I have had in their sweet communion! when they have preached and prayed as full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith but now I do but force myself to duty: I go to prayer as against my will: I feel small relish in the word of life. O how many Christians that little thought of such a day, cry out that spiritual death is upon them; that they are dead to prayer, and dead to meditation, and dead to holy conference; and that once they thought they were dead to the world, and now they find they are dead to God. Understand before that you are liable to this, and you may do much to prevent it: and if you should fall into a sickness and loss of appetite, you may be able to difference it from death.

When you are sweetly refreshed at the table of the Lord, and have there received a sealed pardon, as from heaven into your bosoms, and have found delightful entertainment with the Lord, remember that the day may come, when dulness, and unbelief, and fears, may so prevail, as to make that an ordinance of greatest terror to you, and you may sit there in trembling, lest you should eat and drink your own damnation and you may go home in fears, lest Satan have there taken possession of you, or lest it have sealed you up to wrath or you may fly from that feast which is your due, and Christ invites you to, through fears, lest it belong not to you, and should but harden you more in sin: for, alas, this sad and sinful case is too often the case of true believers, that little feared it in their spiritual prosperity. So that the very high expectations of such workings of soul, which they cannot often or ordinarily reach, and the frustrating of those expectations, doth so often turn the table of the Lord into the bitterness of wormwood, into distracting fears and troubles, that I cannot tell whether any other

part of worship occasion so much distress to many that are upright at the heart as this doth, which is appointed for their special consolation.

So when you are clear and vigorous in the life of faith, and can abhor all temptations to unbelief, and the beams of sacred verity in the Scriptures, have shewed you that it is the undoubted word of God, and you have quietly bottomed your soul on Christ, and built your hopes upon his promises, and can with a cheerful contempt let go the world for the accomplishment of your hopes; remember yet that there is a secret root of unbelief remaining in you, and that this odious sin is but imperfectly mortified in the best: and that it is more than possible that you may see the day when the tempter will assault you with questionings of the word of God, and trouble you with the injections of blasphemous thoughts and doubts, whether it be true or not! And that you that have thought of God, of Christ, of heaven, of the immortal state of souls, with joy and satisfied confidence, may be in the dark about them, affrighted with ugly suggestions of the enemy, and may think of them all with troublesome, distracting doubts, and be forced to cry with the disciples, "Lord increase our faith." (Luke xvii. 5.) And as he, Mark ix. 24, "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief." Yea, worse than so; some upright souls have been so amazed and distracted by the tempter, and their distempered hearts, as to think they do not believe at all, nor yet are able sincerely to say, " Lord help thou my unbelief." When yet at that time their fears and their abstaining from iniquity shew, that they believe the threatenings, and therefore indeed believe the word. Now if we did but thoroughly know ourselves, when faith is in its exercise and strength, and consider whither the secret seeds of remaining unbelief may bring us, being forewarned, we should be fore-armed, and should mortify our faith the better, and be provided against these sad assaults. And if the malignant spirit be suffered to storm this fortress of the soul, we should more manfully resist and we should not be overwhelmed with horror, as soon as any hideous and blasphemous temptations do assault us. (When Christ himself was not exempted from the most blasphemous temptation, even the worshipping of the devil instead of God; though in him there was no sinful disposition to entertain it, Matt. iv. 9, 10; John xiv. 30.),

[ocr errors]

O watch and pray, Christians, in your most prosperous and comfortable state! Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation: for you little think what is yet within you; and what advantage the deceiver hath; and how much of your own to take his part; and how low he may bring you, both in point of grace and peace, though he cannot damn


I am troubled that I must tell you of so sad a case, that even the children of God may fall into, lest by troubling you with the opening of your danger, I should do any thing to bring you into it. But because self-ignorance, and not being beforehand acquainted with it, may do much more, I have timely shewed you the danger with the remedy.

5. Another instance of the darkness even of a heart that in part is sanctified, is in the successes of the temptations of adversity. When we want nothing, we think we value not the world, and we could bear the loss of all, but when poverty or danger comes, what trouble and unseemly whining is there, as if it were by a worldling that is deprived of his idol, and all the portion that ever he must have! And by the shameful moan and stir that we make for what we want, we shew more sinful overvaluing of it, and love to it, than before we observed or would believe. O how confidently and piously have I heard some inveigh against the love of the world, as if there had been no such thing in them; who yet have been so basely dejected, when they have been unexpectedly stripped of their estates, as if they had been quite undone !

How patiently do we think we could bear affliction, till we feel it! and how easily and piously can we exhort others unto patience, when we have no sense of what they suffer! But when our turn is come, alas, we seem to be other men. Suffering is now another thing; and patience harder than we imagined. And how inclinable are we to hearken to temptations, to use sinful means to come out of our sufferings! Who would have thought that faithful Abraham should have been so unbelieving, as to equivocate in such a danger, and expose the chastity of his wife to hazard, as we read in Gen. xii. 12, 13. 19? and that he should fall into the same sin again, on the same occasion, (Gen. xx,) to Abimelech, as before he had done with Pharaoh! and that Isaac should, after him, fall into the same sin, in the same place! (Gen.

« السابقةمتابعة »