Imatges de pàgina

1. It is a walking highly dishonourable and offensive to God: Rev. iii. 15, 16, " I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot ; I would thou wert cold or hot. So than, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." How could an affectionate husband take it, to have his wife gadding after other lovers? And, 0 how dishonourable is it to God, that those who have given themselves away to him should be found hanging about the doors of the world, and their lusts? Friends' wounds pierce deepest; and therefore many do more dishonour God, and disgrace religion, by their uneven walk, their halting betwixt two opinions, than if they should go over entirely to the devil's side in the world : Ezek. xx. 39, “ As for you, O house of Israel! thus saith the Lord God, Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts and with your idols.”

2. lt a walking which is most grievous and offensive to the serious and godly. With what concern does Elijah complain of it here! They are a heavy burden in the ship of the church of God; and the lighter they are in their fleeting and flowing, the heavier their case lies on serious souls : Psalm ly. 12, 13, 14, “ For it was not an enemy that reproached me, then I could have borne it; neither was it he that hated me, that did magnify himself against me, then I would have hid myself from him. But it was thou, a man, mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company." And no wonder, considering that the name of God is blasphemed by reason of such walkers; and they are the worst enemies religion has : Phil. iii. 18," For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and pow tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and who mind earthly things.” When two armies are in the field, as is the case betwixt Christ and the devil, absolute deserters are dangerous; but such as remain in the camp, yet keep up a correspondence with the enemy, are still more so.

3. It is a walking which is hardening to the wicked: Prov. xxviii. 4, “ They that forsake the law, praise the wicked.” T'hey betray the cause of religion to them, and open their mouths to blaspheme and reproach the way of God: Rom. ii. 23, 24, “ Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles, through you, as it is written." Do you think that your coming to a communion table, your waiting on ordinances, public, private, or secret, will ever commend the way of the Lord to onlookers, while you make not conscience of tender walking in the whole of your conver

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sation, even in your natural and civil actions ? Nay, truly, the sinful liberty you take to yourselves, even as others, will make your religion loathsome to them. I have found some have been restrained from the table of the Lord by observing the unsuitable walk of others after a communion; but woe to that man by whom the Son

; of man is betrayed.

Lastly, It is a walking which is ruining to one's own soul. The generation that wandered in the wilderness died there; and waverers betwixt the Lord and their idols fall into the mire at length : Hos. vi. 4, 5, “ What shall I do unto thee, 0 Judah? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew, it goeth away. Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth; and my judgments are as the light that goeth forth.” It is to those that are faithful unto the death only that the crown of life is promised, Rev. ii. 10. Instability in the good ways of the Lord vexeth the Holy Spirit; whereupon he departs, then the soul withers, and is cast over the hedge at length. Many walk in a round betwixt their lusts and their duties while they live; and when they go out of the world they are just where they were when they came into it. As they were born in sin, so they die in it, and so tumble down into the pit.— I shall now point out,

III. The causes of this unsteady walking, going from side to side betwixt the Lord and idols; together with the remedies.

1. The want of a right set of the heart at first, is one cause: Psalm lxxviii, 37, “For their heart was not right with lim, neither were they stedfast in his covenant." While these in the text had two opinions, and were not determined to one of them, they could not but halt betwixt the two. The heart that is never once freely separate from sin, so as to see it to be an evil, and the greatest evil, and to hate it for itself, that is, for its contrariety to God's holy nature and law, will make at best but a halting professor. If the duties of religion be desirable to them for one reason, the enjoyment of their lusts is so for another; and thus the heart being divided, the life is so too.

In this case the remedy is, to come once freely away to the Lord Christ, from all your lusts and idols : 2 Cor. vi. 17, “ Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you." They who once thus part freely, will never halt again botwixt the two. Though they may bave a weak side by reason of indwelling corruption, yet they have a sound side too, that is combating with that weakness : Gal. v. 17, " 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.” And they


are in consequence longing for the victory : Rom. vii. 24, “O! wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?" Unite with Jesus Christ, and you will walk in him; for where he is once freely chosen for a pilot to the ship, the sinner's course through the sea of this world will be completely managed ; that soul will never be shipwrecked.

And now, if ye be in earnest not to halt any more, I give you an advice :-As soon as ye get home after this work is over, retire by yourselves, and consider where your weak side lies, what is that last or lusts that is most likely to draw you over to its side again; and having seen it, consider how your soul stands affected to it, and labour by all means to make sure a final parting with it in your heart; that is, honestly and resolutely before the Lord to give up with it again for ever. And as for the void space which the renouncing that sweet morsel will make in your heart, fill it up with Christ himself, by taking him expressly in the room of that idol: Matth. xiii. 45, 46, “ Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”

To this some may object, is there any saint in the world that is free of halting? Ans. There is a great difference betwixt the Christian's balting through weakness, and the halting through wickedness spoken of in the text, which is really more than halting, properly so called. The one is a halting like him that is lame of one leg, the other like him that is lame of both.—Tho Christian, whatever weakness he is attended with in his walk, is absolutely determined for God and holiness, in opposition to all his idols: the hypocrite wants this resolution of heart. The former longs, sighs, groans, and strives to get the victory over corruption; is never for truce and reconciliation betwixt the Lord and lusts, but for the extirpation of these lusts. But the latter is at bottom for both together, a reconciliation betwixt them, and cannot think to hold with the Lord without his lasts.— The Christian sinneth not with that full swing of heart the hypocrite doth. The former hath a sound side, a renewed part, which lusteth against the flesh, and so far resists the sway to the weak side ; whereas the latter has nothing sound, and so sinneth with full consent of the will, however tho conscience may reclaim and reprove.

2. Another cause is, unmortified lusts and light meeting together in the soul. An enlightened conscience puts it forward to God; unmortified, lively, reigning lusts, draw it back again. Thus one is tossed from side to side, as in the case of Pilate and Balaam : Job xxiv. 13, “They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof." Lusts rise agaiost light, and thrust a man out of the paths thereof. It is with them as with David, in the battle against Absalom. Upon the one hand, it was hard to lose a kingdom: on the otber baod, to lose a son: “ Therefore deal gently," says he, “ with Absalom.” Even 40 here, they are loth to lose their sonls, yet loth also to lose their idols. Hence they must do something for each of them. In this case there is this

REMEDY :-Mortify your lusts, that you may trample on them, and follow the light: Col. jii. 5, “ Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth," &c. Prune off these suckers, that ye may bave a thriving soul. Deny their cravings, that ye may weaken and starve them. And that ye may be enabled to do this, let your conscience and your heart both together take up their rest in Christ by faith. Know, 0 sinner! there is enough in Christ for the bouadJess desires of thy heart, as well as for the cravings of thy conscience : Cant. v. 16, “Bis mouth is most sweet; yea, he is altogether lovely." Col. ii. 9, 10, "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godlicad bodily. And ye are complete in bim, which is the head of all principality and power."-Here some may reason,

(1.) How can that be ? for, alas! there are many desires in my wretched heart, that are of such a carnal sort, that there can be 10thing in Christ for them. Ans. Our Lord satisfies the desires of poor sinners, by enlarging such of them as are boly, fulfilling these, and extinguishing others of them that are unholy: Psalm Ixxxi. 10, “ I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt :" “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." Though thou canst not have in Christ the unworthy thing thy false heart desireth, thou shalt have in him what is a thousand times more desirable; and then the desire of that thing will die away. None complains of the want of candles while the sun shines into the room, for that more than supplies the want of them all; and none will cry, " Who will shew us any good ?" wlieu the Lord "lifts up upon them the light of his countenance." A child may be fond of his rattle, and will not part with it; but put a more pleasing thing in his hand, and he will immediately let it go: Matth. xiii. 44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure bid in a field, the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof gooth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”- Another may inquire,

(2.) What way shall I take to got Christ to fill my heart? The answer, in a word, is, Bolievo.- What shall we believe ?

(1.) Believe that there is a complete fulness in Christ, sufficient to satisfy the boundless desires of your hearts : Col. ii. 19, " Hold

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ing the head, from which all the body by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” He is infinite in perfections; and whatever is desirable in all the creation, is eminently in him as the fountain of all.

(2.) Believe that he, with all his fulness, is offered to you, in tho way of exchange with all your lusts and idols. Siucerely consent to the exchange. There is a full Christ before you; and the last of the eyes, the last of the flesh, and the pride of life, are with you. Give up with these, as expressly and solemnly as yo can, and take Christ in their room; believing there shall be no missing of them, and looking for the heart-satisfaction in bim ye used to seek in them. And believe it is a bargain unalterablo for eternity : Maith. xiii. 45, 46; Psalm lxxiii. 25, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.---God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever."

(3.) When your lusts come back, offering to entertain you as formerly, believe ye have in Christ what is a thousand times better : Psalm 1sxxiv. 10, “ For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand.” Say in your souls, as the olive, Jud. ix. 9, Shall I come down from bread, and lie down to eat husks? Shall I leave the milk and honey, and fill my mouth with gravel-stones? If the lust of vanity say, there is gaiety and finery, the eyes of beholders are fixed on thee ; let the soul say, but I have in Christ a never-fading beauty, glorious robes of unspotted righteousness, Christ's love and bis Father's, &c. that is solid and substantial, not to be exchanged for the airy Gothings of the world's vanity. If the lust of covetongness say, there is a good prize to be had by a very little stretch, let the soul say, but I have riches in Christ, and that without any sting, durable riches and righteousness.

(3.) Another course of this walking is, men's touching but very lightly on religion in its turn, but digging deep in their lasts in their turn : Psalm lxxviii. 18," And they tempted God in their heart, by asking meat for their lasts." Ver. 36, “Nevertheless, they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.” They are as it were in jest in the former, but in deep earnest in the latter; they swim like feathers in the waters of the sanctuary, but sink as lead in the mighty waters of their corrupt affections.

In this case, I propose this remedy :-Labour to be experimental Christians: Psalm xxxiv. 8, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” A taste of the transcendent goodness of God, the hidden excellency of religion, would hold you fast to the right side : John

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