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Mot. 2. Follow on, hold your hands to religion, however small a measure of it you haye : for you shall know, if you follow on to know.
You shall know that a going foot in religion is always getting: Isa. xlv. 19, “I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.” They who are hanging on about the Lord's hand, will always find some off-fallings. Though they do not soon get the very thing they would be at, they will always get something in the mean time, well worth all the pains. If you be following on for comfort, this may be denied for a while, but you will be ready to get a deeper conviction to prepare the way for it; if,; for deliverance from temptation, you may, like Paul, get grace to wrestle against, and to overcome it.-Again,
You shall know that religion is a reward to itself : Psalm xix. 11, “In keeping of them, (thy commandments), there is great reward." There is a pleasure in attending the very posts of Wisdom's door: Psalm lxxxiv. 10, “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand : I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." There is a sweet peace in the Lord's way: the strictest ways of religion are a pleasure; Prov. iii. 17, “ Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." There is a great pleasure in seeing the bosom-idol on the cross, sin dying, and grace reviving in the soul.
You shall know, that the more you follow on, it shall be the easier ; the more you walk in this way, you will be the more expert : Isa. xl. 31," They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint." That which makes religion so difficult to us, is our not holding at it, our taking it but by fits and starts. Is it not always the easier to you to seek the Lord, the oftener you are at his throne ? But omit one occasion, you will find yourselves the less fit for the work.
You shall know, that some difficulties in religion, which are like mountains afar off, shall turn to mole-hills, when you resolutely come up to them. God will make iron gates open of their own accord to his people who are resolute to be through. Unbelief and carnality make difficulties where there are none. “A lion," says the sluggard,“ is in the way.” They make real difficulties greater : Exod.
. xiv. 15, 16, “ And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it; and the children of Israel shall go on dry land through the midst of the sea." See David's experience, Psal. xviii, throughout.
You shall know that his goings forth are prepared as the morn
ing. The manifestations of himself are certain. As the morning will certainly follow the darkest night, so the darkest time which a follower of the Lord has, will certainly issue in a morning-light of refreshment at length. These manifestations are also gradual. There is always more and more of God to be known, to be given out, according to the soul's diligent waiting and following on.
Mor. 3. You will be great losers if you do not follow on; you will lose what you have got. The sacred fire in your hearts will go out, if you do not cherish it, and if this should take place, you will be a step farther from heaven than you were. Nay, if you lose it, who knows if ever you will recover it again; if ever the wind will blow as fair for you to Immanuel's land, remember that which is in Luke xiv. 24, “ For I say unto you, that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.” And if it should recover it, you will have to begin again, and it is a sad matter for people always to be but beginning; ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth, because they forget as fast as they learn. You will lose also all the pains you have been at to get what you lave : Prov. xii. 27, " The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting; but the substance of a diligent man is precious.” What a sad matter is it to be at pains for something, and then when it is got, just to let it slip through our fingers! We have work enough besides. There is no propriety in always doing and undoing again. In a word, you will lose your souls, if you do not follow on to know the Lord; Luke ix. 62, “ And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven.” Heb. x. 38, “ Now, the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” And it will be a bitter ingredient of hell in your heart, that sometime you was not far from the kingdom of God, and yet missed it.—To this may be proposed these objections :
1. I have met with so many disappointments, how can I follow on further? Answ. You are not the first who have met with disappointments, Job xxiii. Song iii. And yet such have found him at length. Disappointments are useful to the people of God; they sharpen their appetite; they are necessary to give us honourable thoughts of, and to learn us to stoop to divine sovereignty, for our time is always ready, while his time may be not yet come. They make the enjoyment more sweet, when we are favoured with it. And therefore follow on, and wait the Lord's time.
2. My case grows worse and worse. Answ. What then? his goings forth shall be as the morning, and the darkest hour is usually before day-break.
I shall, in conclusion, offer the following directions :
1. Look to God through Jesus Christ, from whence must come all your strength. Let your resolutions be taken up under a sense of weakness, and a persuasion of the supply to be had from the Lord himself.
2. Be much in prayer and meditation. These are suited to keep the impressions of God fresh upon your souls.
3. Make conscience of self-examination, that ye may the better know how it is with you, whether you be going backward or forward.
4. Beware of looking back, much more turning back, to your old sin, especially the sin which has been the great make-bate betwixt God and your soul. Keep special watch against it.
5. Beware of evil company, and follow only such as are following the Lord.
6. Live above the world while yo live in it. It will not be possible to follow on, if we come not to an holy indifference about the world.
Lastly, Keep the prize in your eye, and remember how short a time it will be before you arrive at your journey's end. This consideration will animate you to follow vigorously, because the time will not last, and the work must be done. It will dispose you to recollect, that ere long you will be at the end of every difficulty, that the days of your sorrow and mourning shall be ended. Amen.
THE ACCEPTABLE MANNER OF DRAWING NEAR TO GOD. *
HEB. X. 22, Let us draw near with a true heart, in the full assurance of faith, hav
ing our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
I HAVE been, in our last discourses, urging and directing you to evidences for heaven; and we are shortly to celebrate that ordinance which is a special evidence of the Lord's love to his people, and appointed to evidence it to them. That it may be so in effect to us, let us hearken to the advice in the text; which is an improvement of the doctrine as to the great privileges of Christians. They
* Delivered May, 1715.
have freedom of access to God through Christ. They have Christ as an High Priest set over the house of God; therefore, “Let us draw near," &c. Here we have,
1. An exhortation and excitement to a duty corresponding to the privileges which are through Jesus Christ: “Let us draw near,'' that is, to God. Though he is great, and infinitely glorious, dwells in the highest heavens; yet, seeing he is upon a throne of grace, let us not stand at a distance from him, but draw near to him in the whole of our conversation, and particularly in acts of worship waiting on him. Let us do it, the weak together with the strong; let us press in at the door of grace together. We have,
2. The right way of managing this duty for God's honour and our own comfort. This is laid down in four particulars.
(1.) We shonld draw near to God with a “true heart," that is, a sincere heart; with the heart, and not with the lips only; not with a false hypocritical heart, but a heart true to God, true to our own real interest. We are to draw near,
(2.) “In full assurance of faith." Let us come believingly, come in faith, leaning upon his Son, trusting in his blood. Let us not come doubtingly, doubting whether we will be welcome or not, whether there be access for us or not; but with full assurance, liko a ship that is carried towards the port with full sail before the wind.-- We are to draw near,
(3.) “ Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience." An evil conscience is a guilty, accusing, and condemning conscience. This vexes, disquiets, and torments the heart. Guilt is the mother and nurse of fears. The sting of guilt in the conscience is like a thorn in a man's
a foot; when he is called to meet a friend, alas ! he cannot go, he dare not set a foot to the ground, or overy step goes to his heart. The way to cure this is, by sprinkling with the blood of sprinkling, that is, by faith applying the blood of Christ for remission of sin. This makes the soul meet to draw near to God, and that with full assurance, even as the unclean under the law were cleansed by the sprinkling of blood.- We are to draw near,
(4.) Having " our bodies washed with pure water;" that is, onr outward man also parged; that so, having clean hands, and a pure heart, we may ascend to the hill of God, and stand in his holy place, Psalm xxiv. A blameless outward conversation. Sin so curbed and borne down within, that it do not scandalously break out into the life; and this must be done with the pure water of the spirit of sanctification, not with the muddy water of Christless endeavours, as in painted hypocrites.-From this subject, I would take the following
DOCTRINE, That Christians may, and ought to draw near to God.
“ Let us draw near.” This is the voice of the gospel sounding in the ears of the visible church through our Lord Jesus Christ; and it is sounding in our ears more particularly this day, while he gives us the hope of his coming so near to us in the sacrament of the supper next Lord's day.
In this discourse, I shall attend shortly to the following things :-
1. To shew what is implied in this, “Let us draw near.” There are two things in it.
1. Sin has set us at a distance from God : Isa. lix. 2, “ But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." Sin indeed could not remove us out of the place where God is, for he is every where : but it has set us out of his favour, out of his friendship, and that is a sad out-cast. In Adam, while he stood, we lived in the land of light, the light of God's countenance; but he sinned, and was banished from the presence of the Lord, after he had run away from him with us in his loins; and so we come into the world estranged from God: Psalm lviii. 3, " The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies."
2. Sinners stand at a distance from God till they be called, and that powerfully : John vi. 44, “No man can come unto me, except the Father who hath sent me, draw him." They keep their ground where their first father left them. The breach began on our side, we left our Father's house, and ran away from it without all just ground, but we never come back again till worthless we be sent for and fetched ; like the Lerite's coucubine, Jude xix. 2, 3.-And here lies the case :
Insensible sinners will not: John v. 40, " And ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” They are away, and they will not come back. They have no eye upon the privileges of them that are near; they can do well enough without it. They love the devil's common, where they can ramble up and down at their own liberty, better than God's inclosure, where they think a man cannot get elbow-room. Hence they are running away farther and farther from him, till, I believe, not a few are so far from him, that they hardly ever hear from him; nor is there one left with them to disturb them in their wandering.
Sensible sinners dare not: Luke v. 8, “ When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, Depart from me, for I am a