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to be otherwise; but in opposition to a quarrelling spirit because God does not show mercy sooner.
We should persevere in our efforts to obtain salvation as being sensible that God is not obliged to bestow it in our time, or at all; that he may, if he will, refuse to show mercy; and if he does show mercy, that he may do it in his own time. Remember that the command of Christ, to you is, “Repent and believe the Gospel.” You cannot lawfully continue in your present state one day or hour. Those who defer and put off repentance till another time are not in a likely way to obtain deliverance. The way is, to improve the present time; to do now, what must be done ever. We should make securing our salvation our present and immediate business. Therefore inquire, whether you do not put it off. If you do not put off
. the whole of the work, yet do you not put off part of it? Do you think you now strive as much for salvation, it will ever be needful that you should? If not, delay no longer. Let it not be said of you to-morrow, that there is any thing delayed to-day, which you yourself thought needful to be done, or in your power to do, in order to your salvation. If you are sensible that you are in this dreadful condition, you certainly will make haste; you will need no other motive to it.
2. Let nothing, which you do in seeking salvation, be done with slackness. The direction is, “ Whatsoever thy band findeth to do, do it with thy might." Therefore, let nothing be done with a slack hand. Do every thing which you do in this great work earnestly. There are many things which you have to do; many duties to be performed, many means to be employed. Let all be done with your strength. Be earnest in prayer, earnest in hearing the word preached, diligent and faithful in watching over your own heart, diligent in searching your heart, diligent in reflecting on your past life, diligent and laborious in meditation, laborious and earnest in striving against temptation. And do not perform merely the duties of religion towards God earnestly, but also its duties towards your neighbour. Be earnest that you may do every duty required of you towards all men. Be earnest and diligent to do justly and honestly, and to render to every man his due.
Be earnest to watch against an envious, malicious and revengeful spirit. Be earnest to do all the duties of charity: labour with your might, that you may behave charitably towards men, and neglect no duty of charity required of you. Be earnest in performing every relative duty: in rendering suitable honour to your parents; in manifesting kindness and confidence to your husband or your wife; in instructing and governing your children, bringing them up in religion, and seeking their salvation in every way pointed out in the scriptures. Do this earnestly,
and with all your strength. You should not merely do some things earnestly, but all.
3. Take heed Jest this your earnestness be not transient; but that you continue in it to the end. It is the misery of many persons, that they seem to be very warmly engaged for a little time, but it does not last. It is a very rare thing, that any who are thoroughly and perseveringly in earnest for salvation, fail of it, unless they have put off the work until they are near death before they began. How unstable is the heart of man, and how many are there, who go to hell through backsliding! It is often the case when persons begin with much seeming earnestness, that they do it upon a secret dependence that they shall not need to make these efforts very long. They flatter themselves, that in a little time they shall obtain what they seek, and then they may take their ease; therefore, when they have gone on a while, and fail of that expectation, they soon slacken their exertions. They never consented to seek in this diligent persevering manner, always; but they appointed a time of their own, and sought it on terms of their own fixing. But a man is then in a hopeful way to be converted, when he has so great a sense of his misery, and his necessity of conversion, that he is disposed to do his utmost, to be violent for the kingdom of heaven, and to devote his life to it.
If you are seeking salvation, inquire how it is with you as to this matter. Do you feel a disposition in yourself to be at the
Ꭰ paips and difficulty of a most laborious seeking God's grace in the denial of every lust, and in a painful performance of every duty as long as you live? Or does this seem to you to be too much; more than you can find a heart to comply with? You may be ready to say, that you could be willing to do all this, if you knew you should obtain at last. But that is not sufficient. You should be willing to run the venture of that, and seek upon what encouragement is given you, and to wait God's sovereign will and pleasure in that way. And if you cannot become willing for this, be sensible there is a defect in your manner of seeking; which it behoves you to mend. And do not think that you seek in the right way until you come to it. If you have a right sense of the dolefulness of your condition, it will bring you to it. Consider the great encouragement there is for this way of seeking. Proverbs viii. 34. “Blessed is the man, that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” Hosea vi. 3. “ Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.”
4. Seek, that you may be brought to lie at God's feet in a sense of your own exceeding sinfulness. Seek earnestly, that you may have such a sight of yourself; what an exceedingly sinful creature you are, what a wicked heart you have, and how dreadful you have provoked God to anger; that you may see that God would be
most just, if he should never have any mercy upon you. Labour, that all quarrelling about God's dispensations towards sinners may be wholly subdued; that your heart may be abased and brought down to the dust before God; that you may see yourself in the hands of God; and that you can challenge nothing of God, but that God and his throne are blameless in the eternal damnation of sinners, and would be in your damnation. Seek that you may be brought off from all high opinion of your own worth, all trust in your own righteousness, and to see that all you do in religion is so polluted and defiled, that it is utterly unworthy of God's acceptance; and that you commit sin enough in your best duties to condemn
for Seek that you may come to see, that God is sovereign, that he is the Potter and you the clay, and that his grace is his own, and that he may bestow it on whom he will, and that he might justly refuse to show you mercy. Seek that you may be sensible, that God is sovereign as to the objects of his grace, and also as to the time and manner of bestowing it, and seek to God and wait upon him as a sovereign God. Seek that you may be sensible that God's anger is infinitely dreadful, yet, at the same time be sensible that it is just. Labour that when you have a sense of the awfulness of the wrath of God in your mind, you may fall down before an angry God, and lie in the dust. Seek that you may see, that you are utterly undone, and that you cannot help yourself; and yet, that you do not deserve that God should help you, and that he would be perfectly just, if he should refuse ever to help you. If you have come to this, then you will be prepared for comfort. When persons are thus humble, it is God's manner soon to comfort them. When you are thus brought low, doubtless God will soon list you up. God will not bestow such a great and infinite mercy as eternal life upon persons, who will not acknowledge bis sovereignty in that inatter. When once there has been that conviction upon the heart which casts down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against God, then God is wont speedily to reveal his grace and love, and to pour the oil of comsort into the soul.
5. Abound in earnest prayer to God, that he would open your eyes, that you may behold the glorious and rich provision made for sinners in Jesus Christ. The souls of natural men are so blinded that they see no beauty or excellency in Christ. They do not see his sufficiency. They see no beauty in the work of salvation by him; and as long as they remain thus blind, it is impossible that they should close with Christ. The heart will never be drawn to an unknown Saviour. It is impossible, that a man should love that, and freely choose that, and rejoice in that, in which he sees no excellency. But if your eyes were opened to see the excellency of Christ, the work would be done. You would immediately believe on him; and you would find your heart going after him. It would be impossible to keep it back. But take heed that you do not entertain a wrong notion of what it is, spiritually to see Cbrist. If you do, you may seek that, which God never bestows. Do not think that spiritually to see Christ, is to have a vision of him as the prophets had, to see him in some bodily shape, to see the features of his countenance. Do not pray or seek for any such thing as this. But what you are to seek is, that you may have a sight of the glorious excellency of Christ, and of the way of salvation through him, in your heart. This is a spiritual sight of Christ. This is that for which you must cry to God day and night. God is the fountain of spiritual light. He opens the eyes of the blind. He commands the light to shine out of darkness. It is easy with God to enlighten the soul, and fill it with these glorious discoveries, though it is beyond the power of men and angels.
HOSEA y. 15.
I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their of
fence, and seek my face; in their affliction they will seek me early.
In the preceding part of the chapter is threatened the destruction of Ephraim. Ephraim, in the prophets, generally means the ten tribes, or the kingdom of Israel, as distinguished from the kingdom of Judah. When we read of Ephraim and Judah in the prophets, thereby is meant the whole people of Israel of the twelve tribes, as in verse 12, of this chapter." Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness." By Judah is meant the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, which were under the king of Judah ; and by Ephraim is meant the ten tribes under the king of Israel. Ephraim is put for the whole kingdom of Israel, because Samaria, the seat of the kingdom, the royal city, was in that tribe. In the verse immediately preceding the text it is declared in what a terrible manner God was about to deal with Ephraim. “ For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah ; I, even I, will tear and go away, and none shall rescue him.” In the text God declares how he would deal with them after he had torn as a lion, &c. And here,
1. God declares how he would withdraw from them. “ I will go and return to my place ;" when I have torn as a lion. I will go away; I will leave them in that condition. I will depart from them, and they shall see no more of me.
2. What God will wait for in them before he returns to them to show them mercy, there are three things here signified.
1. That they should be sensible of their guilt. “ Till they acknowledge their offence.” It is in the original, till they become guilty.” That is, till they become guilty in their own eyes, till they are sensible of their guilt ; in the same sense as the same expression is used in Romans ii. 19. “ That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God : " That is, become guilty in their own eyes.