Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

heaven seems to have blasted many of us, and the curse of the Lord is as a worm at our root. Married to the Lord, and yet barren, is a contradiction, Rom. vii. 4. For the very end of this marriage is, that we may bring forth fruit unto God. Where the soul is joined to the Lord, it is made the habitation of the Spirit: and this is that which produces the fruits of holiness, Eph. v. 9, " For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth."

Here some may say, Alas! this speaks death to me, for do what I will, the weeds in the cursed soil of my heart suffers no fruit to appear there. To such I answer. There is no fruit which grows in the heart of a believer in the world, but it has a weed of corruption by the side of it; their faith is marked with unbelief, their hope with diffidence, their very sincerity with hypocrisy. But are you at pains to pluck up these? If you should look into a garden, and saw nothing but weeds in it, yet if ye saw the gardener weeding it, you would conclude there must be something else there; so in this case. Will you see if there be any thriving of undergrowth in your hearts, if you be growing downwards in humility, self-loathing, self-denial, depending and cleaving more from a sense of need to the Lord? Eph. iv. 15, 16. Barren trees use not to have their branches hanging down to salute the ground, unless they be broken off by a violent wind. Another evidence is,

5. The having no communication of the life of grace from Christ to the soul: John xiv. 19," Because I live, ye shall live also." Food and raiment are what every soul married to the Lord get from him. If the soul be truly united to Christ, it will partake of the root and sap of the vine: John vi. 57, " He that eateth me, saith Jesus, even he shall live by me." True faith opens a way for a stream of blood to run through the heart, by which the soul is purged and quickened. The blood of Jesus "purges the conscience from dead works, to serve the living God," Heb. ix. 14. But, alas! the faith of many is like a pipe laid short of the fountain, and so brings none of the water of life into the soul. Many covenant with the Lord as the seven women, Isa. iv. 1, who take hold of one man, as it is there said, they will be called by his name; for so is Christ's spouse, in token of her marriage-relation, she loseth her name, and takes her husband's, lsa. xliv. 5, " One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob." This will take away their reproach before the world, and it will do much to silence the blustering tongue of an ill-natured conscience. Yea, but after all this, they will eat their own bread, Isa. iv. 1. They will live upon their own stock of natural and acquired abilities, for they are not, as in Matth. iii. 5, "poor in spirit." They come not, as true believers, with a

weak soul to a strong God, an empty vessel to a full fountain. Thus does the true believer, who says, Gal. ii. 20, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." But the other will live on their lusts; Christ gives rest to their consciences, and their lusts give rest to their hearts; he shall bear up their hopes, and their lusts shall satisfy their desires.-They will wear their own apparel. Rom. x. 3, " For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God." Their duties make a great figure in their own eyes, and therefore are cyphers in God's account. Hence the more they do and the better they do, the more they are in conceit with themselves, and the further from Christ. It is quite contrary with true covenanters; Phil. iii. 3,"They rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh :" Rev. ii. 14, "They wash their robes, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb."-We shall only add as an evidence,

Lastly, The having no contentment in Christ alone. Where the soul heartily closes with Christ, he is to the soul a covering to the eyes: Psalm 1xxiii. 25, " Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." Hence the triumph of faith, even when all external things fail; Hab. iii. 17, "I will rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation." But, alas! how many of us have no comfort, but when the cisterns of creature-comforts are running full! how few arrive at the height of rejoicing in the Lord, when these cisterns are dried up! Matth. xiii. 45, 46. Every person's house stands upon two props, Christ and the creature, but the weight lies only upon one of them. Take away the world from the believer, he stands firm on the rock Christ; take away the world from the hypocrite, and all falls down together. A person may bear to have some branch of his comforts cut off; but when God strikes at the root of creature-comforts, then may the hypocrite say, Thou hast taken away my gods, and what have I more? Some can endure any thing but poverty, for covetousness reigns in them; others any thing but disrespect, for pride is their idol.

Here again some may say, If this be an evidence, we know not who will make sure work, for many time gracious persons are as much, if not more, cast down with the loss of creature-comforts, than others; To this I answer, No doubt gracious souls will sometimes be more joyful on the receipt of a temporal mercy, and more cast down on the loss of them, than others for the chief thing

which affects him is the face of God appearing in it, either as favourable or frowning; so that they will be ready to say on such an occasion, as in Gen. xxxiii. 10, "For therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me." And this will make a mole-hill mercy or cross appear like a mountain. The godly in this case fetch their comfort from the Lord, others fetch theirs from something else in the world; when one stream runs dry, they go to another, like the prodigal before he came home. The drying up of the streams sends the gracious soul to the fountain.

We now proceed,

II. To shew when covenanting is not heart-work, but a trifling business. It is so,

1. When the soul is not divorced from sin. The heart is naturally glewed to sin, and it is impossible that the heart can at once be both for the Lord and lusts, Matth. vi. 24. The first marriage must be made void before a second can be made sure. They must have their covenant with their lusts broken, who will have their covenant with the Lord sure; Hos. xiv. 8, "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?" Living lusts and the living Lord will not both get the throne of the heart. In the day of espousals, when Christ gets the crown, lusts get the cross. Many will be in suit of the heart, and the heart for a time may be halting betwixt two; but in a covenanting day with the Lord, all others must be discharged; Psalm xlv. 10, "Hearken, O daughter! and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house." Here some may inquire, How may a person know if their heart be divorced from sin? ANsw. That which makes the man and his lusts one, is the greedy grip which the heart takes of sin, it is the heart cleaving to its lusts: Jer. viii. 5, "Why then is the people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return." The heart and affections in sin are like the hot iron, where the iron and the fire are very close together. The man's lusts are to him like a leg or an arm which is knit to the body with joints and bands. Now, where the heart is divorced, it loaths that sin which before it loved. Though sin cleaves to the man, yet he cleaves not to it, Rom. vii. 17-22. Never was the captive more desirous to be loosed of his bands, than that soul to be free from sin. Like a weak honest virgin, though it cannot shake itself loose of its grips, yet it would be content if one would set it free. Solemn covenanting is trifling,

2. When the soul is not divorced from the law, Rom. viii. 4, Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit to God." Legal professors do but trifle with the Lord, and never make heartwork of covenanting with him. They may bind themselves faster and faster to duties, but there is no engaging their heart to the Lord of duties; they are as they who would draw up with the handmaid instead of the mistress; and do but bind themselves to the work of spinning out their own ruin out of their own bowels. There is a generation who get some convictions of their misery by sin, the law comes and takes them by the throat, and then they cry, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Hence they bestir themselves, and fall a trading to gain something for heaven and eternal life; they set about secret duties, attending public ordinances, and take the sacrament, and the effect of all is but to wreath their necks faster in the yoke of law-bondage, and to remove themselves farther from Christ. This is but trifling.-If it be inquired, How may one know if they be divorced from the law? you have the word, Gal. ii. 19, "For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." The law comes home to the soul with such force and power, that it cuts off all hopes of the soul's ever mending itself by its works; makes the soul see its utter emptiness and weakness; and hence it dies off, and lies at the foot of free grace, with that prayer in its mouth, Jer. xxxi. 18, "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God." Theu Christ's blood is the soul's only refuge for guilt, Christ's Spirit for holiness; and the soul will have no peace but what comes from this blood; while many instead of this, lick themselves whole of their wounds by confession, mourning, prayer for pardon, and engaging not to do so any more. But it is quite different from this, when, as above, the Spirit of Christ leads his divorced bride out of the house of her former husband to Jesus himself.-It is so,

3. When the soul comes not heartily and freely to the Lord in his covenant, Psalm lxxviii. 34-37. The Lord will not meet that soul. He cares not for persons giving the hand, when they do not give him their hearts. Indeed this is a covenant which speaks out the extreme naughtiness of men's hearts, by their coming into it grudgingly and per force. The sacrifice that is dragged to the altar, will not be accepted, it will run away from it again. It will be like the strong bough which is forcibly bowed, which will soon fly back. When the Lord comes to a soul, he deals with the heart. He touches the heart, as he touched the hearts of Saul's companions, 1 Sam. x. 26; Jer. xxxi. 3, "The Lord hath appeared to me of old,

saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." There is grace in the Lord's lips, heavenly rhetoric to catch a sinner's affections, Psalm xlv. 2. When the Spirit of the Lord pours in overcoming grace, then the man pours out his heart before him, Psalm lxii. 8. Thus the people become willing in the day of his power, Psalm cx. 3. Here we may shortly state and consider two cases :

CASE 1. What shall become of those, then, who are driven to the Lord by terror? I answer, Those who are only driven by terror, they will even leave him again when the terror is over, for terrors will break a heart of stone, but will not melt it. At the same time, terror may begin the work, which love will crown: Hos. ii. 14, "Therefore, behold I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her." When the Lord is to match with sinners, they are bold and perverse, they will not speak to him, till he has shot an arrow into their flesh, till he has made them prisoners of war; and then, when he has them in chains, he makes love to them. He first drives the sinner, and then he draws him like Noah's dove into the ark, Gen. viii. 9. The Lord sets the avenger of blood in pursuit of the poor criminal, be with a heavy heart leaves his own city, and his old acquaintances, and flees for his bare life to the city of refuge, to which he has no inclination, but must do is a great thing. When he comes to the gates, and sees the beauty of the place, the excellencies and loveliness of the city charm him; then he says, This is my rest, here will I dwell.

CASE 2. I often find, when I am to go to the Lord's table, a great backwardness to the duty. What should be done in this case? I answer, There is a great difference betwixt a man's turning his back and running away from his friend, and a sickly man's coming slowly to him. And if I might be allowed so to speak, I should distinguish between a backward heart, and a backwardness upon the heart; Matth. xxvi. 41, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." A backward heart is a foolish heart, and will make sad work of a communion; Prov. xvii. 16, "Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?" I wish the Lord may turn this people from the Lord's table, till he has turned their hearts back to himself; or else, when they have put their hands to the plough, they will after all leave it, and injure religion more than if they had never meddled with it. But for others, our Master allows you to come as you are able, with your burden upon your back, and lay it down at his feet; Matth. xi. 28, "Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give

« AnteriorContinua »