Изображения страниц

tions of God's gracious acceptance of him, complacence in him, and regards toward him,) as his God? (that God to whom he hath committed all, and is devoted to, and who will certainly regard and bless him, as his true favourite, and as one by grace in covenant with him ;) and how may he do it so as to abandon all disturbing shifts and cares elsewhere?


DIRECTION I. Let him retire into himself, and there compose his thoughts for close and serious work; (Psalm iv. 4; lxxvii. 6;) for here he will find a full and truly great employment for every faculty and thought.-More here is requisite to self-redress, than mere reading, complaints, or prayer. Here is work within him and above him. God and himself must now take up his closest, deepest, and most serious thoughts and pauses. Much here must be inquired into, remembered, considered, and debated; and the distracted, wandering, careless, inconsiderate soul, that is, broken and scattered into wild and incoherent thoughts, is no ways fit for this employment; nor can it, without due recollection of itself, proceed to argue down what lies upon it as its load and burden. He that knows nothing of himself as to his state and temper, and as to those urgent circumstances under which he lies, cannot know much of God; nor well discern what fit and pertinent improvement may be made of God's refreshing name and promises. And he that through his negligence converses little with himself, must know too little of his own affairs and straits to make right applications of God's promises and memorials unto himself, so as to derive therefrom what is fit to cherish and support him. All must be set aside that may distract, and summoned-in that may assist, and thought upon that may relieve, him in his strait. "Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom." (Prov. xviii. 1.).

DIRECT. II. When thus retired and composed, let him discourse and mind his gracious self." For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph. ii. 10.) “Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us for thou also hast wrought all our works in us." (Isai. xxvi. 12.) Grace in the heart is a great pledge and earnest, and gives us huge assurances, of good things to come: "Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work." (2 Thess. ii. 16, 17.) God hath set gracious souls apart for his own self; (Psalm iv. 3;) and to the highest purposes and endowments are they wrought and framed : "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." (1 Peter ii. 9.) "And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory." (Rom. ix. 23.) "Now he that hath wrought us for

the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit." (2 Cor. v. 5.) What clearer dawnings of a glorious day, and what more hopeful token and presage of special favour and respects from God to us can we imagine, than the participation of a Divine Nature, that never can be pleased but when aspiring toward God, and that is insatiable till it get up to him? What, a soul created after God, and formed to his praise, and bearing such impresses of the Holy One, and yet determined to dereliction and destruction? O how can these things be? Read but those characters of God upon thy spirit. Mind the propensions and ascents of heaven-born principles. See but what wonders grace hath wrought already. Hath God essayed to tear thy soul from Satan's paw? Hath he transformed thy spirit, and made it so much a resemblance of his own holiness and wisdom? Hath he advanced thine esteem of holiness and heaven? Hath he cast out thy rubbish, and raised in thee a habitation for his own holy name? And will he demolish and disrespect a monument and structure to his own praise? Why did God thus illuminate thine eyes, inflame thy heart with holy fervours, and so invigorate thy active powers, as to enable thee to move toward him, but that thou mightest attain to and possess his highest favours and endearments? Hath it been ever thus with thee, that nothing can satisfy thine heart but holiness, God, and heaven? Why then hath God thus cast his mantle over thee, but to attract and draw thy soul to him? And hath God put these principles, instincts, and propensions into thee, only to torment thee by the unsatisfied enragements of a holy thirst? Is grace so beautiful in another? and is it the less valuable and observable, because God hath implanted it in thy own self? Art thou made restless and dissatisfied every where, but under the influences and sensible smiles of God's most gracious countenance? And doth thy God impose upon thee, and only trifle Grace is a principle and design so truly heavenly and exalting, as that its tendency proves its extraction, and manifests God's purposes to do thee good for ever.

Let this thy experience be observed; for who can think it likely that God should draw such parallel lines upon thy soul to his own holy will, and make thee such an epistle so manifestly written by his own Spirit, and yet not allow thee to peruse thyself, and to form what is wrought within thee, into such pertinent encouragements and supports as thy respective agonies and distresses may require? And how can this be done, if no survey be made, no inventory taken and considered, of thine inward worth and riches? "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places." (Eph. i. 1720.) "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light,

and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." (Acts xxvi. 18.) And certainly, from what God works within a gracious soul, may it infer great things determined to it, and reserved for it for who can think that God would rear an habitation for himself, and not inhabit it? or raise a temple, so magnificent and sumptuous as the holy soul, and not fill it with his glory?" In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Eph. ii. 22.) "For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (2 Cor. vi. 16.) Had God designed to forsake thee utterly, would he not have delivered and resigned thee up to a stupid and polluted spirit? Then hadst thou been so inapprehensive of the sinfulness of sin, the beauty of holiness, the pleasure of a well-ordered mind and life, and of invisible realities, as that thou wouldest have easily received and borne the image of the devil and the world upon thee. The thoughts and prospects of an eternal state would never have reconciled thee to the severities and courses of true godliness, nor have made thee so ambitiously solicitous for divine acceptance, and the satisfactions and fruitions of that state where God is all in all, as now they have done. Surely, the soul that is visited with "the Day-Spring from on high, guiding its feet into the way of peace," and all this "by the tender mercy of its God," ought not so easily to give up all for lost, as to despair of light and help, because of present darkness, and of "the valley of the shadow of death." This "white stone," with such " a new name in it," is no small earnest, nor an obscure sign, of everlasting mercies and endearments. God that hath sanctified the soul, hath thereby signified his gracious purpose to do it good at last, and never so to forsake it as to return no more. See, then, what holy principles, favours, aims, and actions, God hath brought thee to; and thence encourage and fix thy trust in God.

DIRECT. III. Let him then well observe how far the face of God is hid from him indeed.-Lest otherwise his own condition, and God's aspects and deportment toward him, should be mistaken by him. "But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." (Isai. xlix. 14—16; Psalm lxxvii. 6, 10.) How oft do souls mistake God, and form or fancy great discouragements and eclipses, which rather rise and issue from themselves, than him! What, if the brain or body should be indisposed? What, if some bold and wanton expectations or desires, irregularly formed and cherished, come to nothing? Suppose some melancholic Christians (such have I known, and have rather pitied and reproved, than cherished and commended them) should desire, expect, and pray for some miraculous illapses of strength and comforts on them, or beg of God some such deliverances and salvations as suit not the ordinary, stated methods of God's pro

vidence, or make their requests to God for some ecstatic transports and enlargements in a duty, or covet unfit degrees of gifts, or abilities for duties, taking that to be grace which may be a gift consistent with a lost condition; and suppose these things never acquested [obtained] by them: must it thence follow, that the face of God is hid from them? O what a pass must God be at with these men's souls, when they must take him for their enemy, or for a discontented and distasted friend, unless he will (to humour them) transgress the stated methods of his dealing with men's souls! If their natural strength and fervour do but decay through age or sickness, or other accidental weaknesses; or if God touch them in their darlings here, as interests, relations, possessions; or cast them upon unwelcome straits, though for their good; O then they think him gone from them in deep distaste and wrath, whenas these things rather insinuate demonstrations and assurances of God's faithfulness and favour to them, than any hard thoughts of or bad designs upon them. See then that you be sure that God hides his face from you indeed, before you proceed to infer discouragements, or any ways to countenance your own despondencies, and any jealousies or hard thoughts of God.

But yet it is to be acknowledged, that God sometimes doth hide his face indeed; (Isai. Ixiv. 7;) and that either, 1. Totally, as to the damned in hell, so as never to show it more to them again. But this is nothing to our present case: Or else, 2. Partially, as to those on earth, who are either, (1.) Unconverted, or, (2.) Converted persons. The former are not here concerned, but the latter. And as to converted persons, such as are truly gracious, God is said to hide his face from them, when he removes his candlestick from them: (Rev. ii. 5:) Or when they rather only see, than really feel and are bettered by, the light; and are scarce sensible of either savour or power in God's ordinances, or of any improvement in or of themselves thereby: Or when they have not any free intercourses with God in holy duties, but ever find themselves to be deadened and straitened in the addresses of their spirits to God in his holy ordinances; of which their jealousies are increased, by their being conscious to themselves of much barrenness, wantonness, and ingratitude under their sanctuary-privileges: Or when they are terrified with storms and tempests in their own breasts, through pressing fears and multiplied distractions. But here let them consult God's word and providences, and their own consciences, together and thus debate this matter with themselves :-" What makes thee think, O my soul, that God now hides his face from thee ? Is it what is and hath been common either to mankind, or to the 'generation of the just?' or something peculiar to myself, and unusual to others? Is it any thing that can make it evident, that I either yet was never truly gracious, or that God's grace is now extinct in me? Have I a heart for God? and hath he none for me? Is any thing inflicted on me inconsistent with God's saving love to me? Have my afflictions deadened me to God and holiness, or cut off the entail of his covenant-favours upon me? Are there no cases and instances of God's eclipsed face parallel to or much beyond my own,

[ocr errors]

to be discerned in Abraham, David, Job, Lot, Christ, or others? See James v. 10; Heb. v. 7, 9. Job's friends got nothing but reproofs from God, for their inferring God's contempt of him from what God laid on him.

It is much to be observed, that God's dearest favourites have had the sharpest exercises, and great darkness and disconsolateness on their spirits, at some times or other; for the sensible comforts and refreshments of religion are seldom found the daily fare of the exactest walkers with God under heaven. And yet how often are these eclipses greatened by their fancies or follies! And then by their misrepresentations of God to themselves, how oft and much is he dishonoured by them! But let these things be well considered by gracious souls:

1. God doth not always, nor ever, totally hide his face from them whom he hath changed and transformed through grace.

2. That when at any time it is hid from them, it is not hidden in so much wrath, but that mercy shall prevail at last.

3. Nor can it ever be so dark with them, but that some remedies and refreshments may be had, from the Name, the Son, and the covenant and from that of God within themselves which they ought not to undervalue, overlook, or to deny, or to quit the acknowledgments and comforts of.

Nay, I may boldly say it, that, at the worst, more of God's face doth or may appear to them, and shine upon them, than is at any time hidden from them. I mean, more of that face which is discernible here on earth; for, otherwise, it is but very little of God's face that the best men see at most in this world, if compared with what is to be manifested in eternity unto the heirs of glory. And therefore is it yet a shameful thing, both to be pitied and blamed in gracious persons, that every intermission or retreat of sensible joys and favours shall so enrage their fears and sorrows, as that God's tenderness and faithfulness shall presently be arraigned; and his most gentle discipline, heavily censured, strangely aggravated, extravagantly resented,* and most immoderately bemoaned by them! yea, and that before they have well understood what ails them, and unto what degrees their so bemoaned eclipse hath reached! Come then, my soul, deal fairly with thyself and God, and tell me, What is it that God hath now denied thee? How far hath God denied it? What of God is it that thou once hast seen, but canst not now? What hinders the present sight or the recovery of what before hath been thy strength and joy? Do not mistake God's looks and heart; nor, in a pet, charge God with what he is not guilty of; nor say too hastily,

me formerly than now?"

[ocr errors]

Why better with

DIRECT. IV. Let him remove and shun all that provokes God thus to hide his face." Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." (Isai. lix. 1, 2.) • See the meaning of this old word in page 85 of this volume.-Edit.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »