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our spirit be right, we will be carried through; if not, we will fall off. The great work of religion lies inward. Take heed, therefore, to your spirits ; see that these be of the right kind, that your hearts be right with God, and sound in his statutes.- I shall have done with,
2. An use of exhortation. Labour then to get another spirit, earnestly seek it, aim at, and pursue after it. To obtain your compliance with this exhortation, I would lay before you the following motives,
(1.) The prevailing spirit among us is a spirit which is our plague, and therefore we have great need to labour for another spirit: Luke xix. 55, “ Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” This is among the rest of our plagues. Men are little at home, weigh not their spirits in the balance of the sanctuary; but their spirit of selflove makes all of high importance, and to appear well, which is their own. There is a sixfold spirit that is our plague this day.—There is,
(1.) A carnal worldly spirit: Phil. iii. 19, “ They mind earthly things.” Our spirits are sunk in the thick clay of a present world, and have got into an earthly constitution, as if, with our bodies, they were only sprung of earth. From communion and converse with God, our spirits are greatly estranged, but the world gets our first, middle, and last thoughts; so that there seems need of some terrible alarm to make us lift up our heads off that pillow.-There is,
(2.) A private narrow spirit: Phil. ii. 21, “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.” O what a rare thing is a public spirit among us this day, a kindly concern for the kingdom and interest of Christ in the world, men naturally caring for these things as their father's concerns. Sirs, our wide mouths will not absolve us from the crime of a narrow spirit in God's matters, more than Jehu's bravado, “ Come, see my zeal:" Prov. xxvi. 23, “Burning lips and a wicked heart, are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.” The Protestant religion is in hazard abroad and at home; is there any thing of the care of the churches lying upon you? This church is in hazard of falling into the enemy's hands; are your hearts, like good old Eli's, " trembling for the ark ?” 1 Sam. iv. 13. Nay, do not many look upon our present privileges with such a despising eye, that it is all one to them whether they sink or swim. Have the attempts of our enemies ever made you go alone to wrestle with God against them? You profess you would have ministers to keep honest; but are we obliged to your wrestlings with God for us on that account? Havo we any larger share in your prayers than
we were wont to have? Will the loss of our honesty bo to you the loss of many prayers for us in a difficult time? Psalm cxxxii. 9, “Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness, and let thy saints shout aloud for joy.” It is a time of much sinning; are you sighing and crying for all the abominations that are in the midst of the land ? Ezek. ix. 4. Are you putting to your hand, as you have access, to stop the stream of abounding sin ?- There is,
(3.) A stout, sturdy, fearless spirit. I fear, if God look to none but to those who are poor, of a contrite spirit, and who tremble at his word, Isa. lxvi. 2, there will be few amongst us that will get a look of him. How little are we affected with the word, the dispensations of the day, and the signs of the times! Is not the word like a ball thrown against a wall ? The custom of hearing it has lessened the value of it. Who is hearkening for the time to come ? Does that question lie near your heart, How shall I be carried through in the evil day? Are you putting matters in order between God and you, and preparing an ark for your safety ?-There is,
(4.) A proud fiery spirit, while the bumble, meek, and lowly spirit does rarely appear. People are so puffed up with conceit of themselves, there is no dealing with them. If they make themselves vile, they will rather be more vile than submit to admonition or reproof. And if they be in the least ruffled, they are ready to cast all ordinances behind their backs. If the whole be not exactly according to their mind, they will contomptuously reject all. Witness the contempt poured by some upon the last fast. Humiliation of heart, and selfdenial would cure us of this irreligious heart, which is the bano and ruin of religion among us, and would kindle in us a more kindly warmth of heart towards God and the things that bear his stamp.There is,
(5.) A formal spirit: 2 Tim. iii. 5, “ Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." The bodily exercise of religion is much amongst many of us, but for exercise unto godliness among us, it appears to be very rare, 1 Tim. iv. 7, 8. And many proclaim themselves utter strangers to it. In the eyes of any discerning Christian, they have so little sense of the vitals of practical godliness, that these things are an absolute mystery to them. It would fare the better with many of us, that we would begin again and lay the foundation of our religion, and follow it out in the great mysteries of the Christian life, mortification of heart corruptions, the life of faith, and communion with God.-There is,
(6.) A profane spirit, where the works of the flesh are manifest. There is a lying spirit, which so possesseth many, that they make no conscience of speaking truth, but lend their tongues for lies. There is a bitter spirit of cursing and swearing, railing and reproach-, ing, amongst us, so that sober persons may say, as in Psalm lvii. 4, “My soul is among lions; and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.” See also Psalm lxiv. 3—7. A base, sneaking, dishonest spirit, lodges in the breast of many, whose covetous, unrighteous ways, in undermining, deceiving, and wronging their neighbours, will bring a vengeance from heaven on their heads.
(2.) The case of our day requires another spirit than we have. God seems to be speaking to the carnal worldly generation this day, as in Haggai i. 4 ; Jer. xliv. 4, 5. To the formal and profane, as in Matth. iii. 10. To the private-spirited, as in Amos vi. 1. And to all, as in Amos iv. 12. But O how unsuitable are our spirits to the case of the day! How unmeet are our spirits to act for God! They are too mean to do any thing great and honourable for God and his glory. And doubtless, if we get not another spirit, we will never be honoured of God to perform any thing that is great for him. Our work as Christians is at all times difficult, but we are likely to have a special difficulty in our time. Is the mean and base spirit wherewith we are plagued, meet to set us to oppose the stream and tide of sin that is going through the generation? Is our careless carnal spirit meet to wrestle with God, to keep him still in our land ?
- Again, how unmeet are our spirits for suffering ? The soft and carnal spirit which prevails, suits very ill with a time in which the Lord seems to be about to pluck up and destroy. That spirit of formality and profanity answers very ill with a time in which people's religion may be put to the utmost trial: Isa. xxxiii. 14, “ The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites." Verily, if we get not another spirit, a time of trial will make a dreadful discovery among the professed followers of the Lord.
(3.) Does not our own particular case, with respect to eternity, reqnire another spirit ? Eternity is no dream, the wrath to come is no scare-crow; these are the greatest of realities, and certainly require our utmost efforts. Does the prevailing temper of our spirits look like the eternal weight of glory that is abiding those who strive, run, wrestle, and fight the good fight of faith? Alas! our spirits are as unlike the attaining it, as the slaggard, who will not plow his field, is like to attain a good crop. They who look for a treasure, dig for it; and they who wish for the prize, run for it; but it is a loitering not a labouring spirit with which most of us are possessed, who have small probability of seeing heaven, unless it will drop down into our mouths.-Again, does our spirit look like flying from the wrath to come, that infinite load of wrath which is abiding a perishing gedeVOL. IX.
ration? We seem to be creeping from it rather than fleeing; and therefore it is ready to overtake us. O how would our spirits stir within us, if we were duly affected with eternity, and the danger that our souls are in of the wrath to come !—But farther, how un. like is our spirit to the subduing of strong corruptions within our own breasts ! How soft are our spirits against these our deadliest enemies ! We must have another spirit, or our spirits will soon be devoured by them.- Lastly, There is no following of the Lord fully, and so no heaven, without another spirit; and therefore, as ever we would be found Christians indeed, and safe through eternity, let us labour for that other spirit : “ Create in us, O Lord, a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us.”—I shall now very briefly attend to
DOCTRINE III. That those who, by following the Lord fully in the time of general declining, distinguish themselves, God will distinguish them from others, by special marks of favour in the time of general calamity.—The scriptures afford many instances in proof of this, as Noah, Lot, Jeremiah, and many others.
For illustrating this doctrine, we shall,
I. Shew how those must distinguish themselves from others in the time of general declining, who would have the Lord to distinguish them from others in the time of general calamity.-We shall point out,
II. The marks of favour by which, in times of great calamity, God uses to distinguish such.
III. We shall subjoin some reasons of the point, to confirm it.-
IV. Make some improvement.
I. To shew how those must distinguish themselves from others in the time of general declining, who would have the Lord to distinguish them from others in time of general calamity.--Here we observe,
1. That they must be best, when others are worst : Gen, vi. 9, “Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generation; and Noah walked with God." Their candle must shine brightest, when that of others is dying out. It is the property of holy zeal for God and his way, to become more vehement by opposition; so that the declining of others is as oil to their flame. It was better with Lot when he dwelt among the Sodomites, than when with his own children in the cave : 2 Pet. ii. 7-10," And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked, (for that righteous man dwelling
among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds).” The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment, to be punished.” “ It is time for thee, Lord, to work; for they have made void thy law. Therefore I love thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold.” If religion be dying out among others, this will the more kindle an holy fire of zeal, and increase it in their own breasts.- We observe,
2. That they must cleave to God, especially in that article in which others are leaving him, as in Caleb's case ; that is to say, they must be careful that they be not led away with the sins of the time, that they do not enter into the general conspiracy of the generation against the Lord and his way, whether it be against truth or holiness. Thus tlie promise was to those who kept the life and power of godliness in Sardis, where there was a great general declining, a deadness and formality, and the bare carcase of religion: Rev. iii. 4, “ Thou bast a few names even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy."—We observe,
3. That they must witness against every declining, according to their stations, and as they have access, for the exoneration of their own consciences, and the honour of God. Thus did Noah, that
. preacher of righteousness, to that unrighteous world. These must give a real testimony by their contrary practice, and, as they may have access, labour to withdraw others from sinful courses. Thus did Caleb.-We observe,
4. That they must be mourners over the sins of others, lamenting them before the Lord ; sighing and crying for all the abominations which are done in the midst of the land, Ezek. ix. 4. They must mourn for those who cannot mourn for themselves. When the glory of God is impaired by the sins of an apostatizing generation, their love to the persons of the sinners, and hatred of their sins, must draw tears of godly sorrow from their eyes.
Let us now,
II. Point out the marks of favour by which, in times of general calamity, God useth to distinguish such.There is,
1. Liberal furniture for duty, in a large communication of the spirit, when the Spirit is withdrawn from others : Matth. x. 19, “ But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what yo shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.” The Lord calls not his people to serve bim for nought; he even rewards the will to his work, with strength for it. If they be resolute to bear his burden, God will strengthen the back for it.