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come, though it do not presently dispel all their darkness, 2 Cor. xii. 7-9. This is a mistake indeed for the light doth put away the darkness only by degrees.
2. Because it doth not answer their expectations, or comes not in the way they looked for it, Matth. xiv. 26. O how hard is it for us to keep from setting limits to God. If God gives not all our asking, we will not give him a receipt for what we receive. If he comes not the way we looked for, we will not acknowledge that he comes at all. But if any glimmerings of the light of his countenance have come through the cloud into your souls, you will know it by these marks, 1. Where there are any new discoveries made, there is light there. If a man see the motes in his room, he knows the sun is up, though he see not the body of the sun. If you see more of your own vileness, and are more humbled under a sense of the evils of your hearts, that is a sign the light of the Lord hath arisen upon you. 2. Where there is heat it is a good sign. Do you feel your souls enamoured with Christ, that is a good sign. Do you hate sin more and love Christ more?
And though it is not noon day with you as with some others, yet I would have you to be thankful. Because perhaps, it has not been so dark night with you as with them. If you be not lifted up so high as others, perhaps neither have you been plunged so deep as they were. That which will lift up one will not be sufficient for another.
Be thankful also, because it is like you have not such hard work to begin to as they have. God's children will not be permitted to eat idle bread. There is commonly hard work for them that get a large meal. It is observable that they that get the brightest manifestations, get also the hardest services. Remember that sovereignty challenges a latitude. May he not do with his own what he pleaseth. Sovereignty takes one piece of clay and sets it on the throne, dandles one child on the knee, and leads another to heaven by the brink of hell.
III. I shall say this to you, that the desire of your soul shall be satisfied. Fear not, for you shall see the salvation of the Lord, and this I say, on these three grounds.
1. Because that desire has the promise of God. "Open thy mouth wide, says he, and I will fill it." He will fill the hungry. God will not leave his children always in the dark, seeing he hath promised to return. Do you then plead the promise of God. Faith in the promise is the hand turning about the key that opens heaven. 2. That desire is of God's own implanting. It is not a flower that grows in nature's garden, and since he has given it, he will ac
complish it; for he hath not given it in vain, nor only to torment the creature. Nay it is a great mercy in itself, and so is a pledge of further mercy, Hos. ii. 14.
3. The Lord never altogether frustrated such desires. They will be importunate and resolute, and the Lord refuses none such, Luke xviii. 1-8.
Use 4. Then they are richly privileged on whom the Lord has lift up the light of his countenance. I hope there may be some who came sorrowing, and are going away rejoicing. The Lord hath lifted up the light of his countenance upon them, and the wounds of their souls are healed. "But unto you that fear my name, saith the Lord, shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall." Orders have been given and the prisoner is set at liberty, by a broad view of the righteousness of the Mediator, Job xxxiii. 23, 24. Now sirs, many have desired to see the things which you see, and have not seen them, therefore be thankful to the Lord, and acknowledge his goodness. Let the high praises of God be in your mouth all the day long.
Again, Walk humbly. Keep low sails. Though you be adorned like the dove, with shining feathers, yet look to your black feet, your black heart, and walk softly.
See also that you walk watchfully. Satan will attack you, to rob A rash word, and a vain thought, a carnal laughter may be a door to admit the tempter to rob you of your enjoyment.
Be making constant application to Christ, and glory more in himself, than in his gifts.
Lastly, Walk as a child of light, walk tenderly, and do good to others. Walk prudently and tell your experiences, especially to the indolent Christian, "for as iron sharpeneth iron, so doth the countenance of a man his friend." Tell them also to the distressed Christian. "When thou art converted strengthen thy brethren. For this shall every one that is godly, pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters, they shall not come nigh unto him." Tell them also to those weak ones who withdraw from our communion. If they would believe that Christ keeps communion with us, they would be tender of separating from us. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, in those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, we will go with you; for we have heard, that God is with you." Amen.
Now, be ye not stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever; and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.
THESE words are an exhortation given upon the occasion of a public intimation made of a design to celebrate the sacrament of the passover at the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. The intimation is made to all Israel, even those of the ten tribes, who were not of Hezekiah's kingdom. Though they were of different kingdoms, and many other differences among them, yet these were not to hinder their communion in one sealing ordinance. In the words we have two things.
1. A blessed season of grace marked for them. Now, Hezekiah takes notice, and would have them take notice, of the opportunity put into their hand. Now, when the doors of the house of the Lord, long shut, are opened, chap. xxix. 3. When the temple service, long in disuse, is revived. It is like that of Paul, "Behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation."
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2. Their duty in that blessed season of grace. It is, first, negative. Be not stiff-necked. Hebrew, harden not your neck. metaphor taken from bullocks unaccustomed to the yoke, who make great difficulty and resistance about taking it on. In a season of grace, God offers to lay his yoke on the neck of sinners, and now he is offering to lay it on yours. Do not resist nor shift it, make no difficulty about it; but take it on readily and easily.
They had an example of stiffness in their fathers, who had been ruined by it, so that the kingdom of Israel was now near to be extinguished. Therefore he would have them beware of following them.
Then comes next positive duty, which is threefold. First, yielding themselves to the Lord. Hebrew, give ye the hand to the Lord. Giving of the hand, in the language of the Holy Ghost, is opposed to stiff-neckedness, and denotes one's yielding himself up, as the be
sieged to the besiegers, Jer. 1. 15. Or as a nation, Ezek. xvii. 18. or particular persons, 1 Chron. xxix. 24. yield and give up themselves to a king.
It is a natural sign confirming the yielding, and so is used for engaging to a thing yielded to. So the sense is, God is requiring you to yield yourselves to him. Do it then as by giving the hand. The next part of their duty is, to enter into his sanctuary. It is a kind invitation to God's house. The doors of it are opened. Come in then to that place which he hath chosen to put his name there, and have communion with him in his house. They are also to serve him. Serve him in his ordinances, serve him in your daily walk, that his wrath may be turned away.
Doctrine I.-In a season of grace, in which God is offering to lay his yoke on sinners, they should beware of being stiff-necked, or refusing to take it on. Let us inquire,
What is that yoke which the Lord is offering to lay on sinners. There is a twofold yoke which he hath for their necks. First, there is an iron yoke for the destruction of the impenitent. Thus God told the Israelites, "That because they would not serve him with joyfulness, and gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things, therefore he would put a yoke of iron upon their neck, until he have destroyed them." This is a yoke that is laid on the sinner, whether he will or not. There is no shifting of it. So this cannot be the yoke here intended. But secondly, there is a soft and easy yoke for the salvation and welfare of penitent sinners. "Take my yoke upon you, saith Jesus, and learn of me: For my yoke is easy." This is not laid on against their will; and so those that struggle against it, and will not receive it, go without it. This is the yoke here meant. God as a judge, lays on the former, as a Saviour he offers to lay on the latter.
Now this is the yoke of kindly willing subjection to God in Christ, submitting ourselves to him. We must submit to him as our rightful Lord and ruler, "as the princes and the mighty men, and all the sons likewise of king David, submitted themselves unto Solomon the king." We must no more go without a yoke, but take on his yoke. It is twofold.
1. The yoke of subjection to the will of his commandments. He that made you is offering to rule and govern you, to give out commandments to you, to be obeyed. "Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently." It is your duty to submit, to take his will for your law. He must be obeyed, as well as believed.
"For Christ is the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him."
2. The yoke of his providential will. He that made the world and you, claims the government of the world, and of you; that since you are his own, he may do with you, as to your lot, what he will. "Is it not lawful for me, says he, to do what I will with mine own?" He will not have you masters of your own process, or to carve for yourselves. He claims to dispose of you, as seems good to him. And you ought to take on this yoke, saying, He shall choose our inheritance for us.
Now, this obedience of the sinner to God is called a yoke,
1. Because coming under it, we are in a state of subjection as those under a yoke. The ox that hath never been under the yoke is untamed, and goes where he lists; so does the unsubdued sinner. "They say, with our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own, who is Lord over us?" The sinner's own will is his law. But when he submits his neck to God's yoke, he yields to do and suffer what he will, saying, with Paul at his conversion, "Lord what wilt thou have me to do ?"
2. Because it is laid on us for labour or work. Beasts for slaughter go without a yoke at their own ease and pleasure; but those that are for work must bear it. Those men who walk licentiously after their own lusts, if they repent not, will find that the case of cattle for slaughter will be theirs. "For, says the prophet, God will pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter." But the yoke is taken on for labour. Under it we are with David "to serve our generation by the will of God, and to work out our own salvation, with fear and trembling."
3. Because by it we are not only kept at work, but kept in order at our work. If any thing be wrong in the yoke, the work becomes disorderly. They who truly bear the yoke, are uniform and orderly in their obedience. "They have respect unto all God's commandments." They who take their religion by fits and starts, who are partial in the law, strict in some plain duties, loose in others, who serve God but by halves at best, discover themselves not to be truly come under the yoke.
4. Because of its uneasiness to the flesh. Though the service of God is a blessed state of freedom; yet to flesh and blood, it is a yoke, grating to our sensitive appetites, and crossing our corrupt wills. To the new nature indeed it is easy; but to the old corrupt nature most uneasy; and as long as there are any remains of it, there will be a pain in bearing it. "For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."