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Follow on to know. There is more in that God, that Christ, that covenant manifested to you, than you have yet seen.—There are,
2. Others that have got but some glimmerings of solid hope from the Lord. It may be that they come here in a dark night of desertion, saying, “ My hope is perished from the Lord,” Lam. iii. 18. But now the day begins to break, and they have some hope that there may be yet room for a backslider. Follow on, his going forth shall be as the morning, which grows lighter and lighter to the perfect day.—There may be,
3. Some who, it may be, Christ has treated, as Joshua did his captains, when he made them set their feet upon the necks of the captive kings, Josh. X. 24. Some lust that has long kept them un- . der, they have now got subdued, the bonds of wickedness are broken, and the gates of brass pulled down ; so that now they are conquerors over their spiritual foes. To such we would say, Bestir yourselves and pursue. Wounded lusts, when they get time to recover, have made sad work at a second onset; you are not yet there, where the gates shall not be shut at all by day. You are, however, strong for the present; follow on, and you will be yet stronger : Zech. xii. 8, “ In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem ; and he that is feeble among you at that day, shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them.”—There may be,
4. Some who have not come so far forward yet, though they are come the length to be heartily content that they and their lusts were freely parted, though they cannot tell how it will be accomplished. Follow on, pursue, you have them at a fair advantage. The throne of sin in the heart is shaken. Lusts sit looser than they did. Press hard upon the tottering fabric, and it may come to fall altogether; so that you may soon be ready to say with Ephraim, “ What have I any more to do with idols ?” Hos. xiv. 18.-There may be,
5. Some who have not come so far, but yet they have some desires after Christ and religion. They have a hungering after him, and they are more squeamish as to their lusts than they were : though they cannot as yet see, if they forego the world and their lust, how their loss will be made up, Truly this is not much ; but every thing must have a beginning. Follow on; that cloud, like a man's hand, may come to darken the heavens at length. The conversion of Zaccheus had as slender a beginning, Luke xix. 3. You have seen, you were touched, look on, take a better look of the Plant of Renown, and ye may come to be affected, allured, and captivated. There may be,
6. Some who liave not come even so far, but they have got somo convictions of sin ; and though they have no will to part with their lusts, yet, they cannot see how to live with them, and as little can they see how to live without them. Their conscience is awakened, but their heart is just where it was. It is small length this indeed; but follow on. If the conscience has got the first touch, the heart may get the next. If sin is become uneasy to the conscience, it may hecome a burden to the heart next, and so the sweet morsel may be vomited up.-There may be,
Lastly, Some who have not come so far as to have any particular conviction, or quick touches of conscience, only they bave a sort of uneasiness with respect to the case of their souls, a secret dissatisfaction with their state and case, which they see is not good. This is even as little as can reasonably be concluded to be any beginning of good; yet follow on, pursue this, think more attentively upon it. If the dry bones be but beginning to move, they at last may come together, and live,- We now proceed,
III. To show what it is to follow on, how you must hold your hand to religion, that ye may thrive in it, now that your hand is in it. The word imports a violence and eagerness, such as men have in pursuing an enemy, persecuting the people of God, or in hunting for prey.- Wherefore, when following on,
1. You must make religion your great end. As every man who pursues has something in view, so your great design must be to know the Lord : "Not,” says Paul," as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” There was a prospect which misgave at first with Adam, because Satan laid the measures for it, Gen. iii. 5. But you must take it up again, as the Lord himself will have you: Matth. v. 48, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” When once grace touches the heart, it produces a certain restlessness there, till the soul be perfectly united with God. You will never make any good of religion, till you make it your grand object in the world. You must not be merely occasional castomers to religion, of which see an instance, Judges xviii. 5, but stated and constant. When following on,
2. Yon must be persuaded of the weight and worth of religion; for no wise man will pursue what he thinks not worth the pains. What is the reason that the men of the world do not follow on to know the Lord ? Why, truly, the most part are of Pharaoh's opinion, that religion is only for those who have no other thing to do. Hence it may be, they have got something to do here for the present; but if they were at home, they have another thing to do than 10 follow it out: Matth. xxii. 5, “ But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise.” The shadow of the world is substance with them, Hos. xii. 1, 8; and the substance of religion is a shadow; but O! consider, “what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?" A wedge of gold would make a sluggard run, and shall not a weight of glory make us follow on ?—When following on,
3. You must hold fast what you have; the pursuer will be very loth to go back a step; Rev. iii. 3, “ Remember, therefore, how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.” Beware that the spark does not go out, for thus you may quickly have a cold coal to blow at. Make much of any good motion put into your heart. Say not, it is not much you have to hold; for the less it is, it will die out the easier, and there is thus the more need to keep it in. It cannot be so little, but Satan will think it worth his pains to rob you of it. The kingdom of heaven in the soul has a small beginning, like a grain of mustard-seed, and must be cherished. When following on,
4. You must not stand still, but be moving forward, labouring for more, be it much or little which you have: Phil. iii. 12, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." A man who sits down on his attainments, will quickly be empty-handed. The fire will go out, if constant fuel be not furnished to it. Good beginnings will be lost, if they be not cherished. Hast thou but one conviction ? follow on to get it more deeply rooted. Be earnest that it spread further into thy heart and life, that thou mayest bring forth fruits meet for repentance.- When following on,
5. You must babitually attend upon religion, and make it your chief business: 1 Thess. v. 15,“ See that none render evil for evil unto any man, but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” Fits and starts of religion cannot be reckoned a following on, or holding our hands to it. You must labour to weave the whole life into one continued web of religion : 1 Pet. i. 15, “ As he which bath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation." Whatever way you may turn, you should still be pointing towards God. You must not be sober at home, and loose abroad: not a church-saint, and a house-devil; a pretender to piety, and a renouncer of honesty. You must say to all temptations which would take you off your way, as Joab, in his pursuit, 2 Sam. xviii. 14, " I may not tarry thus with thee."- When following on,
6. You wust be resolute and vigorous in your endeavours: Eccl. ix. 10,“ Whatsoever they hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." Mere endeavours will not reach heaven: Matth. xi. 12, “ The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Our iron is blant, we must therefore apply the more strength. Our work is great, our strength small, our opposition powerful; but we must do or die. The work of religion will not prosper with only good wishes and folded hands. No; we must exert our hands, and set down our feet: Prov. ii. 4, 5, “ If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hidden treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.”— When following on,
7. You must entertain a hope of success. No man will pursue but in hopes to overtake. We will have difficulties to grapple with in this pursuit; but let us " who are of the day be sober, putting on the breast-plate of faith and love, and for an helmet the hope of salvation.” When the heart grows hopeless, the hands will hang down, and the knees be feeble: Heb. x. 35, “Cast not away, therefore, your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward." You must learn to hope against hope. You have the promise in the text to encourage you. What though many attempts misgive ? The tree falls not down at the first or second stroke of the axe; and the water, by continued dropping, wears the stones.- When following on,
Lastly, If you fall, you must get up again, and quicken your pace; and the sooner the better. The longer you lie, you will find it the harder to get up. If you find the impressions on your spirit begin to decay, take them in time, and go to God with them for a revival: Rev. iii. 2, "Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, th are ready to die.”
From what has been observed, we may learn, that the world shall never be able to ruin religion, as long as there are some remaining who will honestly follow after it. The hostile designs against religion are plainly exposed at this day, and its enemies have begun to put them in execution. There are contrivances on foot to debauch men's consciences, and mischief is framed into a law. Such a toleration of superstition, errors, and blasphemies, is set on foot, as is a shame to a Christian country, no point of Christianity being protected from the insults of vile men, but the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; and withal, patronages are restored to make way for introducing the most naughty men into the ministry, while the most conscientious will find more difficult access. The discipline of the church is left to be trodden under foot of profane men. And what
is all this, but to ruin religion, and the covenanted work of reformation ? But while our text remains, religion shall never be ruined, if we will follow after it. Let men and devils do their utmost, it shall stand, till its followers abandon and give up with it. And therefore, if it be ruined, the ruin will lie at our own doors, in not cleaving to it; but woe be to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed !
You may see here how to turn the cannon on the enemies of religion this day. It is very natural for zeal to grow by opposition. Now, the friends of religion in Scotland have been long at a stand, and its enemies have begun to drive the work back. Should we now awake, and follow it more vigorously, then should we know. We should discern the flame to spread more and more, we should see the Lord going forth as the morning, his work prospering over the belly of opposition, superstition and profanity gliding away as the darkness of the night at the morning-dawn. We should perceive him as a giant refreshed with wine, rising to defend and carry on his own work.
Be exhorted, therefore, to hold your hands to religion now when your hand is in it. As ever you would do a good deed to the church of God, and to your own souls, follow religion closely in your practice. It is observed of some of the builders of the wall of Jerusalem, that they repaired each over against his own house, Neh. iii. 23, 28, 30. Make it your endeavour, that your own exercise be right; this will be so much reformation. If you have got never so little, hold your hands to it, labour to get it strengthened this night.
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED,*
Hos. vi. 3,
Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord.
Having, in the former discourse, attended to the two first heads of the method we laid down, we now proceed,
III. To confirm the doctrine, or show you, that the way to follow religion is, to follow on, to pursue, to hold your hands to it, when once your hand is in it. And the belief of this would be a great
• Delivered Monday, Sept. 1, 1712.