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Morbattle, Saturday before the Sacrament, June, 1707.

THE GREAT DESIRE OF THE SAINTS.

SERMON XXIX.

PSALM iv. 6.

Lord lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.

HOWEVER all men have the same common nature, yet grace makes

a vast difference among them. understandings, so, in their wills. very different as in the text.

As it makes difference in their

Their choice is not the same, but

On

In this verse we have the world divided into two parties. the one side which is the worst, there are many, on the other side not many. Many is a word of comparison, and properly signifies a great number, and because there are degrees in a great number, sometimes it signifies all, Rom. v. 19. Sometimes the most part, Matth. vii. 13. so here. Wherefore those on the other side must be few. So that if it were put to the vote in the world, whether God or the world should have men's hearts, God should be voted out of the world. We have also in the verse something supposed in which the parties agree, and that is in two things. 1. They agree in their sense of defects. Every man godly and ungodly is sensible he labours under some wants. The wicked man in the fulness of his sufficiency is in straits, there is still a void in his heart, even after he hath glutted himself with all he can find in the world. His heart is like the grave, or the barren womb, that never say it is enough. The godly also while here, are still craving, being compassed with wants. 2. They agree in their desire of supplies. The mouths of both are opened, they gape for satisfaction as the parched ground for the rain. The desire of happiness is interwoven with man's nature, and that desire is fresh, even when desire fails in old age.

But there are also some things in which they differ, and these are, 1. The object of their desires. The wicked's desire is creeping, the godly's desire soars aloft; the one desires any good, that is worldly good things, verse 7. like the wild beasts that seek their meat among their feet: but the godly desires the light of God's countenance, that is the favour and sense thereof. The reason of the metaphor is, because the affections of the heart appear in the countenance. The weary traveller does not so much desire the ris

ing of the sun, as the gracious soul does the light of God's countenance, Psal. lxvii. 1.

5. They differ in the way which they take to the accomplishing of their desires. The wicked are at a great uncertainty here, who will shew us? That is, make us to enjoy. The godly are at a point, they go straight to God with their desires. Carnal men know not what quarter to go to, but try all, like the hungry infant that sucks wherever it comes, and finding no milk in one thing, goes to another, and so on. But the child of God straightway fixes on the breasts of divine consolation. "Lord lift thou up the light of thy

countenance upon us."

3. In the success of their desires. The carnal man gets not his desire satisfied. He is still saying, who will show us any good, for he is always at the wrong door; but the gracious soul gets its rest taken up in the bosom of the great God. Here it lays itself down and goes no farther. The carnal man is like a traveller that has lost his way in a misty day, when he sees a bush he takes it for a house and promiseth himself rest, but finding he is disappointed there, gets up again and falls into the same mistake, and is disappointed without end. Whereas the godly come to the right door, and continue there till it be opened.

Doctrine. It is the great desire of gracious souls to have the light of the Lord's countenance lifted up upon them. I shall,

I. Speak to the case that is here supposed.

II. Consider this desire of the gracious soul.

III. Give the reasons, why it is the great desire of the gracious soul. I am then,

I. To speak to the case that is here supposed, which is, that the the saint, the child of light, may sometimes sit in darkness. Hence saith Isaiah, "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light." The sun may go down upon the saint in his way to Immanuel's land, a black cloud may overshadow him, and set him down in the valley of the shadow of death, where he may be left to cry for the light to arise upon him. Here I shall first show how far this darkness may proceed with them. And secondly, How can

these things be.

First then, How far may this darkness proceed with them.

1. It may go so far with them, that they cannot see to read their evidences for heaven. Sometimes the believer can say My Beloved is mine, and I am his. But when the light of God's countenance goes down on them, they may cry out, "My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord." So that the harps employed formerly

to sing the songs of the Redeemer are hanged upon the willows, because they are now by the rivers of Babel and cannot sing the songs of Zion.

2. That they cannot see above them, nor look up to heaven. Thus the publican would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. They may lose their confidence with God, who sometimes could by an eye of faith pierce the clouds, and come boldly before the throne of grace. They may go to God, but they are under the feet of a diffidence, discouragement and heartlessness.

3. The very thing that was their light before may be as darkness unto them. The word of God that was their lamp, the joy and rejoicing of their heart before, may become gloomy and dark; yea, and be turned into terror to them. "I remembered God, says Asaph, and was troubled, I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed." Men are very liable to misapprehensions in the dark, hence an angel with a flaming sword seems to them to guard the tree of life. On its fruit they have sometimes sweetly feasted, but the door of Christ's banqueting house seems now closed; the blunted edge of the threatenings now appears sharp and piercing. Bid them lay hold on a promise, that is to them, like God's commanding Moses to take the serpent by the tail, though sometimes it has been the rod of God in their hands.

4. They may be unable to discern their best friend from their foe even as the disciples, when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, it is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. Sometimes the Lord is coming to cure them, and they think he is coming to kill them. Hence the soul is filled with fears, and doubts, and jealousies of Christ, why it is dark, the sun is gone down, and they can see nothing but blood through a dark cloud.

5. The darkness may be such that they may lose sight of their guide; and what a weary case must this be. Sometimes a child of God may be within view of Christ, and a cloud may come and take him out of their sight. Hence Zion is heard to complain, "The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me." Like Heman they think they are remembered by him no more, and are cut off from his hand. Hence they are left sometimes to spend a little time saying, "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? For ever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?"

6. They may lose sight of their way-marks, and be filled with such confusion and perplexity, that they know not what to do or what way to direct their course, and thus be shut up, that they cannot come forth. Former experiences are the believers way-marks in

a dark hour, and sometimes they serve to guide their feet in a dark place. They remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. But sometimes the darkness is so great, that they can get no help of them, Psal. cxliii. 5—8.

7. The darkness may be such that they may quite sit up for a time, and give over duty, as in the thick darkness of Egypt, Exod. x. 23. The darkness may fetter their tongues, Psal. lxxvii. 4. and restrain prayer, Song ii. 14. Either they cannot pray though they would, or they may think it is vain to seek the Lord any more, or that they will but bring more wrath upon themselves.

8. It may be so thick that no ray of light can pierce it, till the sun arise and dispel the cloud. "In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my sore ran by night, and ceased not; my soul refused to be comforted." Discouragement beats back as a brazen wall, all comfort offered to the soul, being like Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they were not. The disease may be so violent, that ministers and Christians may apply suitable remedies, but all the world cannot cause them take effect, till the Lord himself put to his hand.

Lastly, They may be weary of their very lives. "My soul, says Job, is weary of my life: I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul." Hence their very bodies may be neglected and the necessary comforts of life refused. "My heart is smitten, and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread," like Paul's company in the ship, Acts xxvii. 20, 21. And hence a longing for death, Job iii. 20, 21. Sometimes this darkness comes on suddenly, Jer. xx. 13, 14. Sometimes it creeps on by degrees as on Samson. Let us, secondly,

Shew how can these things be.

1. It arises from our corruptions, these cast up mists that intercept the light, the light of the Lord's countenance, they grieve the Spirit of Christ, Eph. iv. 30. When we are well we cannot keep ourselves so. It is difficult to carry a full cup even. Our unwatchfulness, quenching the Spirit, slighting occasions of communion with God, and neglecting means of improvement, bring us into darkness. 2. God will have a difference betwixt the place of the believer's pilgrimage and his eternal home. It is peculiar to Immanuel's land to have no night there, Rev. xxi. 25. And sovereignty challenges a latitude, and will have some in darkness, while others are in light.

We are now,

II. To speak of this desire of the gracious soul. And
First, What is it to have the light of the Lord's countenance.

1. It implies a state of reconciliation with God. There is an en

T

mity betwixt God and every man by nature. Hence angry words and angry looks, that sometimes look the stoutest sinners out of countenance, spoils their mirth, and makes the wheels of their hearts drive heavily. This enmity is taken away, and the soul enjoys peace with God through Christ, Eph. ii. 14. The flames of wrath are extinguished by the blood of the Lamb. ness of a natural state is over, and the true light is come. of righteousness is risen to the believer. They who were sometimes darkness are now light in the Lord. They are all the children of the light and of the day.

Thus the dark

The sun

2. It implies something more, and that is the Lord's laying aside any special controversy with the soul. Though there is never a breach betwixt God and a gracious soul in respect of its state, yet often in respect of the frame of the soul. Though the sun be up, yet a cloud may overshadow it. Now the Lord may frown on his own people, and sin is that cloud. "I have blotted out as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and as a thick cloud thy sins: return unto me, for I have redeemed thee." Now when the light of the Lord's countenance is lifted, the soul may say, "The voice of my Beloved behold he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills."

3. It implies a communication of gracious influences and an intimation of God's love to the soul. Then the soul is lifted up when the Lord's favour is discerned, and the soul can say with Paul, “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Sometimes Christ says to the gracious soul, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee." It is his voice and they doubt not of it; for this light when it shines so brightly dispels doubts and fears, and like the sun is seen by its own light. The Spirit attests the truth of the word and of the work of grace in the soul. And by this light of the Lord's countenance, the soul can look far back to that blessed hour when the Father and the Son were engaged in making the covenant of redemption, and see itself given to Christ by the Father, and its redemption undertaken by the Son, this in the fulness of time performed and in the time of love begun.

It can also look forward “even to the land that is afar off, to the house not made with hands eternal in the heavens." This light will let them see through the clouds, and behold the many mansions in the Father's house. It will let them see how far eternity of blessedness goes, when the saints shall be ever with the Lord. And though mountains of sin be in their way home, this light will let them see over them. "Iniquities prevail against me, as for our VOL. III.

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