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(3.) A third evidence is, persons drawing their peace and comfort rather from their duties, and the performance of that to which they have engaged, than what Christ makes over to sinners in the covenant of grace. It was not so with David, for the covenant itself was all his salvation, and all his desire, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. But when the other works, he expects his wages; when he fails, he has no hope, as one who has broken covenant with Christ. But, when the true covenanter fails in his duty, yet all that his soul depended upon still remains a covenanted righteousness; all that he trusted to for his duties also remains, to wit, covenanted strength, Rom. vii. 24, 25, and viii. 1. And so there is new application for covenant-benefits; whereas when many fail in their covenant, all is gone, and it must be made over again, ere he can have any new footing. This trifling appears, when,
7. Persons lay hold on Christ with a faith of which the mighty power of God was not at the forming, Eph. i. 19; but is merely the product of a person's natural faculties. Most men's faith is like wild oats, that grow up without the labour of the husbandman. They come too easily to it to make any sure work by it. The evil heart of unbelief is not so easily shaken off as men imagine. Those who find no difficulty, do but trifle and beat the air; if the work were heartily plied, it would not be so easy. We now proceed,
III. To inquire how people come to turn such solemn work into trifling. They do so,
1. Because they have no due consideration of the worth and preciousness of their souls, they do not suitably value the great salvation; Matth. xxii. 5, "But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise." Men will not trifle in matters which appear to them of great concern. But men who do not duly value their souls will venture them on they know not what. But who considers eternity, and the weight which lies on the soul's transacting with God? If men had eternity in their eye, and were transacting as for eternity, communicating for eternity, they would act in another manner, and not thus trifle in so important a business. They do so,
2. Because they know not what a God they have to do with, they think that he is altogether such a one as themselves, Psalm 1. 21. Men transact in their duties with they know not whom, and therefore they know not what; Joshua xxiv. 19, " And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord; for he is an holy God, he is a jealous God, he will not forgive your transgressions, nor your sins." When people have mean thoughts of God, they are ready to think any little thing may serve him. They thus trifle,
3. Because they know not their own hearts, and their deceits; Jer. xvii. 9," The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? There are many secret biases there, to which they do not advert. Men may be hypocrites, and not know themselves to be such. The heart has a depth of deceit, which is not easy to fathom, which will make men say, with Saul, I have performed the commandment of the Lord, while, after all, the bleating of the sheep will discover the deceit. They thus trifle,
4. Because sin has never been made bitter enough to them. It is hard to wean us from the love of lusts, if the breasts of them be not laid over with gall and wormwood. We must dig deep, and build upon the rock. Where the fallow ground is not plowed up, there will be a sowing among thorns, Jer. iv. 3. The consent of many to take Christ, such as it is, is too lightly win to be solid.-They thus trifle,
5. Because they are hasty and indeliberate in their engaging. They fall a-building ere they count the cost, Matth. xiv. 25.; what is rashly done, is but slightly done in this matter. He that would make sure work, must lay his account beforehand with what he may meet with in the Lord's way. Then, meet with what they will, they will not be offended.-They thus trifle,
6. Because they have never got a sufficient discovery of their own utter weakness and insufficiency. They think they have a stock, and therefore may trade with it, and are very ready to undertake, though their heart will certainly misgive in the performance. This is building on the old foundation of nature; whereas, there will never be sure work, till this foundation be razed. If any man will come after Jesus, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow him. It only remains that,
IV. We make some application. This doctrine may help us to see the reason why so many return with the dog to his vomit. There is an error in the first concoction. That you may beware of this, we would exhort you, to make sure work in your transacting with the Lord. O do not trifle in so important a concern! To guard you effectually against this, consider the following things.
Consider, this is to put, so far as you can, a solemn cheat on the great God: Gal. vi. 7, "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." It is a dangerous thing to mock God. His all-seeing eye knows how you deal with him, and can penetrate through all your pretences. Consider.
2. It is to put a solemn cheat on your own souls; you thus deceive your own souls. If you trifle with God, you will find at length a sad disappointment; Isa. . 11, "Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that
WITH THE OUTWARD PROFESSION.
compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow." As ye sow, ye will reap. Sow the wind of hypocrisy, and you will reap the whirlwind of wrath.
3. Consider the weight of the matter; the salvation or damnation of the soul is no small business; if you manage it right, you may get your salvation sealed; if not, see Luke xiv. 24, " For I say unto you, that none of those men which were bidden, shall taste of my supper."
4. Consider, if you thus trifle with God in this matter, you will be discovered. The man without the wedding-garment was soon found out. You will not hold right to the end; you will return to the vomit; your latter end will be worse than your beginning. Consider,
5. That you have a deceitful heart; it is necessary to be sure with it; it will soon give you the slip, and break the bonds, if they be slightly put on. Consider,
Lastly, If you make sure work, you will find the eternal advantage of it. All the blessings of the covenant will be your portion. You may get a feast; "To this man will I look, saith the Lord, who is of an humble and contrite spirit, and who trembleth at my word."
I shall close with the following short DIRECTIONS :
Set about the work of self-examination. Inquire particularly at your hearts, whether they be willing to take Christ, and renounce all other lovers, and to take him wholly, only, and everlastingly. Pray that God may examine you, and discover yourselves to yourselves; lay yourselves open to self-searching. Lastly, Put your hearts into the Lord's hand, as sensible that in yours they will miscarry. "Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass."
DEUT. V. 29,
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever.
You have been this day avouching the Lord to be your God. You have all had an offer of Christ, and there was none heard tell of
protesting against him; nay, did not your hearts say within you, Even so I take him? Many of you have, before angels and men, sealed a covenant with him this day, and we may report to the Lord, that you have said you are content to be his. O that there were such an heart in you, all would be well!
Having, in the preceding discourse, offered all that we intend from the first doctrine, we now proceed to
DOCTRINE II. That a heart sincerely and suitably corresponding with the profession of a covenanting people, is a most valuable and excellent thing.
Here I shall,
I. Shew what a heart such a heart is.
II. Make it appear, that such a heart is a most valuable thing. I. We are to shew what a heart such a heart is; and on this head, the particulars shall be mostly taken out of the context. We observe,
1. That such an heart is a heart that has got a view of the majesty and glorious perfections of that God with whom we have to do: Deut. v. 24, "And he said, Behold the Lord our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire; we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth." The eye saw this; all would have been right, if the glory of the Lord had thus shined in their hearts. An unenlightened heart in the knowledge of the Lord looks so like hell, and unlike heaven, that it cannot be such a heart. A dark heart will make a dark confused conversation. There is no right worshipping of an unknown God. This view of the Lord's glory is necessary. Moses desired it, Exod. xxxiii.; and all get it in a greater or less degree: 2 Cor. iii. 18, " But we all beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." If ye have seen the King in his glory, and his train filling the temple, it is a token of good. But, alas! many see the chair of state, who behold not the King sitting in it.
2. It is a heart filled with the fear of God. "O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me." Indeed they professed it, and they had a tolerably sufficient measure of it, had it been but of the right stamp, and had it got leave to have soaked kindly into their hearts. But, alas! it was only like a scud of rain, violent in the time, but wetting only the surface of the ground, and soon dried up. But O for such a heart as would fear always! not witha slavish distrustful fear, but a filial reverential fear, a fear of circumspection. Such a heart as would keep the eye upon the majesty of
the Lord, would promise to keep right: Heb. xii. 28, "Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear." A heart wanting this, will be like an unruly horse without a bridle; Prov. xxv. 28, "He that hath no rule over his own spirit, is like a city that is broken down, and without walls."
3. It is a humble heart. O how humble did they seem to be now under the sense of their own sinfulness, and the holiness of that God with whom they had to do! A heart humbled indeed is a valuable blessing. When Christ lances the swelling of the heart, and lets out the filthy stuff of pride and self-conceit, makes the man low in his own eyes, he is even preparing a house for himself on earth; for the Lord "dwells with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the heart of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones," Isa. lvii. 15. They durst not go near the mountain to touch it, they looked as they would rather have rolled themselves among the dust of the Lord's feet. "O that there were such an heart in them!" The honest heart is shaken out of self-confidence, for a right sight of the Lord in his glory, and of our own vileness, go always together; Isa. vi. 5, "Then said I, Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
4. It is a heart filled with wonder at the goodness of God, his condescension and patience towards sinners, vers. 24 and 26. That soul will wonder that God should ever have come in speakingterms with vile man; that ever anything should have proceeded out of his mouth, but arrows dipped in the vinegar of the curse, to have slain the traitors outright. And will God thus indeed deal with man? It will be the wonder of that soul, that God hath not consumed it, mingled its blood with its sacrifices, struck it dead at the communion-table. O how wonderful that they should have spoke with the Lord, and are yet alive!
.5 It is a heart convinced of the need of a Mediator, and resolved to employ him in all causes betwixt God and them, ver. 27. It is not every one that sees their need of Christ, and their need of an Advocate to go betwixt God and them. But he who has such a heart will look on himself, in himself, as dry stubble, as he looks on God as a consuming fire; and all his own duties and attainments as a wall of dry boards which will not keep the fire from him, but increase it, and desire to have Christ betwixt them and a holy God, as a crystal wall, which may let through the light, but not the flames of that fire. His very name will be precious to that heart,