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to us in our declining years, is gone hence, and we see him no more! Here again we walk in darkness and have no light. Some indeed may say, "Ought we not to be resigned to the will of God on all these occasions? Ought we not patiently to submit to his will, who undoubtedly has an absolute right to deal with us and ours as he sees good?" Most assuredly we ought. Yet at the same time it should be remembered, that religion does not turn us into stocks and stones. But on the contrary, it renders the mind more susceptible than ever of the tenderest impressions. St. Paul, no doubt, would have been resigned to the will of God, if his friend had died, of whom he says, "He was sick and nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow." From hence it appears, Paul himself, eminent as he was for holiness, would have been deeply affected, had his beloved friend died. But we have a greater example than even that of Paul: Our blessed Re deemer himself wept at the grave of his friend; "When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews also weeping who came with her, he groaned in spirit and was troubled;" And it is added, "Jesus wept!" Here we see tears of tenderest pity and love: tears of softest, sweetest sympathy, flowing down the cheeks of our blessed Redeemer! And this appears the more extraordinary, because he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead; Why then did he weep? Surely as an example for us, that we might learn of him, to bear a part in the sorrows of our friends, and "weep with them who weep, as well as rejoice with them who rejoice." We may also learn this very useful lesson; That it is possible to be deeply af fected on many occasions, and yet be resigned to the will of God; we may be painfully patient under his afflicting hand, and sorrowfully resigned to his holy and blessed will.
We may be also exercised with dark and distressing temptations: Some meet with a larger share of these than others; and how far our minds may be bowed down under the weight of them, we know not, till experience teach us. It may be said to us, "Why should you fear temptation? Satan can do nothing against you or proceed any farther than God will permit him. Besides, you will always find strength according to your day." This is all very true: But nevertheless, we should be exceeding careful we do not make light of tempta tion. We may be too much of Peter's spirit when he said, "Though I should die with thee, I will rot deny thee.' Peter spoke nobly, but how far was he from making good his resolution?
It may often be said to such persons, "Let not him that girdeth on his harness, boast himself as he that putteth it off." When it shall please God to permit us to be exercised with Jong and painful temptations, we may be as much at a loss to account for his dealings with us, as Job was; and we may walk in darkness with respect to the advantages intend ed for us by these trials. The distressing nature, and power of temptation, is only to be known by experience; and it is well for us, when we can say upon good ground, "He knoweth the way that I take, when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
A person who is brought into the favour of God, may undoubtedly hold fast the beginning of his confidence stedfast to the end: But it must be allowed, until he obtains the abiding witness of the Spirit, he will be molested with doubts and fears respecting his interest in Christ, And therefore it is the duty and privilege of every believer, to obtain this invaluable blessing. We must likewise acknowledge, when the Lord deepens his work in the soul, discovering the remains of corruption and the necessity of entire sanctification of body, soul, and spirit; this discovery being quite a new thing, and perhaps unexpected, the believer, till he is better instructed, will be ready to conclude, he has lost ground, has grieved the Holy Spirit, and is now in darkness. But this is a great mistake; for we well know, the Lord only designs to lead him to higher degrees of holiness,
When a clear and full discovery is made of the various evils, the roots of bitterness, which still reside in the heart, we need not wonder such a person is exceedingly pained, and deeply laments the want of entire conformity to the image and will of God; he will be ashamed to think he is still so unlike his blessed Redeemer!. It is true, there are too many who deem it but a little thing to be governed by their own will, to be under the power of anger, fretfulness, and other bad tempers, and to be carried away with unholy desires. But he who retains that tenderness of conscience and genuine simplicity which the Lord gave him when he was first brought into christian liberty, will be of another mind. And although he is not overcome by any of those evils which he feels in his heart, yet he will walk mournfully before the Lord, because he is thoroughly sensible they are there.
The blessed God is well acquainted with human nature he knows we are liable to abuse those blessings which we
easily obtain: That it may not be thus, but we may highly value and duly improve so inestimable a blessing, as the full renewal of the soul in righteousness, he may suffer us so to feel the plague of our own heart, as that great heaviness, and bitter sorrow may be the consequence.
Let triflers with God and religion, say what they please : To a truly pious soul it will be a very humbling consideration to find, notwithstanding the Lord has been abundantly gracious, yet so much self-will, pride, anger, peevishness, fretfulness, impatience, unholy desires, and the like, should still remain. And when a larger measure of divine light is communicated these evils will appear more hateful, because they so greatly resemble the devil from whom they originally 'proceeded. But the Lord will not suffer faithful souls to continue long in this situation; he will not only shew them the ample provision which he hath made through Christ Jesus for their full and complete salvation; but will speedily and powerfully deliver them.
That this was the design of our Lord, in all that he did and suffered on our account, we cannot doubt, because the Apostle assures us, " he came to redeem us from all iniquity;" and he himself said, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Therefore, if we seriously and intensely desire to be filled with divine grace; or to experience the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit to such a degree, that sin may be destroyed, root and branch; then the promise of the Lord will be accomplished; we shall be saved according to the desire which God hath wrought in us. How great will this deliverance be? and how happy are they who are thus brought out of darkness into light.
Fourthly, What ground such persons have to trust in the Lord, and to stay themselves upon their God?
. I. With regard to those who are seeking salvation through Christ, and yet walk in darkness; They certainly have all the encouragement that God himself can give them, to come and partake of the riches of his mercy and love in Christ Jesus. Is it possible to afford greater encouragement to returning sinners to trust in the Lord, than to assure them, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." Or, that Christ our Redeemer," was made a sin-offering for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God through him." In
consequence of this, God himself declares, "I will be mer. ciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities' will I remember no more." Many such gracious declarations as these, we shall find in the word of God, which he will certainly make good to all who seek his face. It is well known, that Satan will use all his art, to distress, discourage, and cast down those who are coming to Christ; and many doubts and painful fears will that enemy throw into their minds. But these are all fully answered in the great and precious promises, and the kind and gracious invitations made to those who seek the Lord. Let them only believe the words of Christ, and their doubts will be dispelled: "Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you." And as if this was not enough, he adds, "Every one who asketh receiveth, and he who seeketh findeth." If any one should say, "But I have asked, and have not received: I have sought the Lord, and have not found him :" That person would do well to consider the words of the Psalmist, If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. Iniquity must be put away, and the one desire of our heart must be to be saved from the accursed thing. Again, we should remember the word of the prophet, "Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." If we are in earnest, if our whole soul is athirst for God, if we really desire to be saved in God's own way, and upon his own terms, there is no ground at all, for any one to doubt or fear; no not although we may think ourselves to be the very worst of sinners, seeing that our Lord saith, "Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast him out."
If the Lord is pleased to try the believer with distressing providences, and he walks in that kind of darkness before described, let him not be discouraged, but remember the Lord hath taken him and all he hath, under his protection. The enemy knows, and has been obliged to confess it too, "Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?" Yea; and the Lord hath set the same hedge about you also; and therefore remember, Satan must ask leave of God, before he can
hurt either you or yours. Remember again, the hand of an infinitely wise and gracious God, is in all the events of his providence; the hairs of your head are numbered; and a sparrow falleth not to the ground without the notice of your heavenly Father. As nothing can happen to you by chance, the Lord whom you serve, must have a wise and gracious
It may be said to us on such occasions, "What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." Therefore we should patiently wait the openings of providence, "He that believeth maketh not haste," Doth not charge God foolishly, but commits himself and all his concerns into the hand of the Lord, whose truth and faithful⚫ness can never fail.
If our kind and gracious God should lay his chastening hand upon us, and we should walk in darkness on that account, nearly the same observations may be made. The Lord hath given us his holy word to comfort us on such occasions, and if we attend to it as we ought, we shall not be cast down: “We have had fathers of our flesh who cor- rected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be the partakers of his holiness." Hence we see every affliction is designed to bring us nearer to God, to make us wiser and better, and to fit us for the enjoyment of our everlasting inheritance: yea, to heighten our happiness in heaven itself. These light afflictions which are but for a moment, worketh for us, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." It is not improbable but the time will come, when we shall see, some of the heaviest afflictions we ever mét with, have been the greatest blessings, and we shall have eternal cause to praise the Lord for them.
design in permitting those distressing trials to befal you, you will learn this from his own word, for it declares, that "All things shall work together for good to them that love God.".
Should violent temptation be our portion, still we are encouraged to trust in the Lord: His ways may appear exceedingly mysterious for the present. God hath his way in the mighty waters, and his footsteps are not always seen. Yet nevertheless he speaks in the most encouraging manner to us, therefore we need not be cast down, or confounded. It is not his design we should be overcome by temptation at any time; no, nor does he intend our spiritual prosperity should be interrupted thereby. "There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: and God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." From these
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