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iv. 10, “ Jesus answered, and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” O then press eagerly into the inner court of religion; there are beauties there that will arrest your heart. Labour that you may havo your hearts in every duty; break through the shell, till ye come to the kernel. Once make religion your business, it will soon fill your hands, as well as your hearts.—I shall only mention,
4. Another cause of this walking. They would fain be at heaven, but have no heart for the ragged way to it: Mark x. 21, " Then Jesus beholding him, loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved; for he had great possessions.” The sluggard loves the gold, but will not dig for it.
In this case the remedy is, to put on a resolution, a peremptory resolution for God, to cleave to him at any rate, and to pass through the wilderness to the heavenly Canaan, cost what it will: Numb. xiv. 24, " But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.” There ye may be, there ye must be, else you are ruined. And there are two things, as to which I would caution you.
(1.) Have you not got that victory over your idols you were expecting? Do not give over, but resolutely continue the struggle, looking to the Lord for strength to accomplish that in which you have engaged : Rom. xvi. 20, “ And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." Have you come to Christ's door, though you apprehend you have got nothing yet? Be peremptorily resolved you will not go back to the door of your lusts, but hang on at his, though you should die at it, and you shall find, as in Cant. iii. 4, “ It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth.”
(2.) Have you got your feet on the necks of your idols ? Pray, do not think the war is over, or that the Egyptian pursuers, who have been sometimes heavy on you, will be seen no more. No, no; the broken forces of corruption will rally again, and the newly-baffled idols will lift up their heads; therefore be on your watch, and prepare to renew the battle.
IV. I am now to make some improvement, which for the present shall only be in an use of exhortation.
Beware of wavering, and study to be stable Christians.--To enforce this, consider,
1. That stability is the ground of fruitfulness : Psalm i. 3,“ And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season ; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.” A tree, after being lifted, and planted sometimes here, sometimes there, cannot be fruitful: “ The rolling stone gathers no fog.” Unstable as water, can never prevail. Doubts, fears, and dryness in the soul's case, is a
. necessary consequence of unsettledness. Consider,
2. That stability is the beginning of comfortable experiences in religion. We cannot think to thrive in a trade, till we settle to it. A fool is always beginning, leaves off, begins again, and so on; he'. never brings any thing to perfection.-Consider,
That stability is a fence against temptations. The wavering professor is a hopeful prey to temptation. The town that begins to parley, is next door to surrendering. The Jews saw Pilate begin to waver, and then they plied him to condemn Christ, till they carried him off his feet.--consider,
Lastly, That stability is the foundation of serviceableness for God. The vessels of the temple were of gold, silver, brass, &c. but none of glass, no crystal ones; these were too brittle for templo-service. So wavering professors will never be honoured of God to be serviceable for him, but they will do much harm to the way of the Lord.
CREATION'S GROANS CONSIDERED AND IMPROVED.*
Rom. viii. 22, For we know that the whole creation groaneth, and travelleth in pain to
gether until now.
If we look abroad into the world, we cannot miss to perceive it in a feverish condition; the whole head sick, the whole heart faint; good men and God's good creatures also groaning under a weight of misery. If we look above us into heaven, we cannot but seo that it is an holy God who has cast them into, and keeps them in this miserable condition. But withal we may conclude, that it shall not
* Delivered January, 1716.
be always 80 ; this fever of the creation will have a cool. A gracious God will not suffer it always to be ill with good men and liis good creatures. Therefore the apostle, ver. 18 of the chapter before us, taking a view of the suffering lot of the saints, of which himself bad a large share, by faith looks through the cloud of miseries into which the saints are now wrapt up, and beholds a glory that is to be revealed in them, a lightsome day that shall succeed this dark nigbt, when all the clouds shall be scattered, never more to gather. He confirms the revelation of that glory from two considerations. 1. The creatures, ver. 19, with earnest expectation wait for it. 2. The saints, ver. 23, anxiously look and long for it. And neither of these can be in vain, for they are of God's implanting; and justice stands not against the satisfying of these appetites raised by the savctifying Spirit in the saints, and by the creating hand in the creatures.
As to the first of these, the apostle, 1. Asserts that longing of the creatures for the revelation of that glory in the saints, ver. 19. 2. He shews the misery they are under, from which they are so anxious to be delivered, vanity, ver. 20; corruption, ver. 21. 3. That their deliverance is connected with, and must be suspended till the revelation of that glory in the saints, ver. 21. 4. He shews bow uneasy they are in the meantime, ver. 22.–Thus much for the connection.
In the words of the test, we have,
1. The party whose uneasiness is here taken notice of: “ The whole creation,” or every creature in heaven and on earth, is uneasy. Yet this phrase is not so universal, but that it admits of some exceptions, as Mark xvi. 15, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature;" yet not to the angels, glorified saints, devils, &c. The limitation is every creature made for the use of man, in heaven or on earth, which, because of their relation to him, were made subject to vanity on occasion of his sin. This shews a good reason for that phrase, Mark xvi. 15, “Preach the gospel to every creature;" that is, the gospel, which is gospel or good tidings to every creature ; for not only man, but the creatures that were sunk in misery with him, shall have the advantage of it. As they smarted by the first Adam's sinning, they shall bo restored by virtue of the second Adam's suffering. Acts iii. 21, " Whom the heavens must receive, until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” So here are to be excepted,
(1.) The angels, for as they were not made for man, so they are already perfectly happy, as the courtiers of the great King, who stand before the throne continually, as is signified by that phraso, Matth. xviii. 10, " That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven,"
(2.) The devils. For though they be most uneasy, and carry their hell about with them, 2 Pet. ii. 4, “For God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;" yet as they were not made for man, so man did not make them miserable, but they made man so. Besides, the creature here was subjected in hope, ver. 20; but the case of devils is absolutely hopeless; for them there is no Saviour, and to them there is no promise.
(3.) Men themselves. For as, 1 Cor. xv. 27, “ But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest, that He is excepted who did put all things under him ;" so wheu it is said," the whole creation groaneth,” &o. it is manifest he is excepted, who was the cause of the groaning of them all. The reprobate, some of them are in hell already, others are posting on, both groaning, but in vastly different degrees. Yet they are not meant here, for their groans shall never have an end. But all the effects of the curse that are to be found in the universe this day, sball with them be swept out of the world into the lake at the great day, there to be settled on them as their proper base : Rev. xx. 14, “ And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."
(4.) The elect. Some of them are in heaven, and groan no more. The unconverted elect groan under outward miseries; but they are not meant here, for, being immersed in wickedness with the rest of the world, they are far from the earnest expectation which the creatures here have, ver. 19. Believers groan most sensibly, but they must also be excepted here, as being opposed to this creation or creature. Ver. 23, “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our
Now, these being excepted, it remains, that by the whole creation we understand all the rest of the creatures made at first for the use of man. They are all uneasy. The visible heavens were made the roof of his house, the earth his floor; the sun, moon, and stars, were made to be his lights, the air to breathe in, the wind to refresh him; the various produce of the earth to afford him necessaries, conveniences, and delights. He was lord of sea and land. Fishes, fowls, and beasts of the earth, were all at his command. While he stood, they were all of them most easy in his service. But now that matters are reversed with him, their situation is also reversed ; none of them failed to share in his misery. For though vanity, corruption, and misery, first sprang up in the man, they did not halt there, but spread over the face of the whole earth, diffused themselves over the
brinish waters of the sea, and ascended through the air to the very glorious lights in heaven.-In the words of the text we have,
2. The agony that the whole creation or creatures are in,-a great agony. It is expressed two ways, both metaphorical.
(1.) They groan. This is a metaphor, taken from a man, with a heavy burden on his back, which so straitens him, that he cannot freely draw his breath; and when he gets it, it is a groan. So there is a heavy weight lying on the whole creation, that makes it groan; or, in other words, creatures got their death-wounds that day Adam got his, and so they are groaning still with the groans of a deadly wounded man. His sin stung them to the heart, and so they groan. The weight they are lying under is the weight of the curse, which binds vanity and corruption on them by virtue of the sin of man : Gen. iii. 17, “ Cursed is the ground for thy sake.” A weight under which, though stupid impenitent man groans not to God, yet his very beasts, and the very earth on which he walks, do.
(2.) They "travail in pain.” A metaphor taken from a woman bringing forth a child. The pains of child-birth are exquisite pains, and put the patient both to groans and strong cries. And into this condition is the whole creation brought by man's sin. They are in pangs, and they cry out of their pangs. But though birth-pains are sore pains, yet they are hopeful. There is thus some hope that the creature will be delivered. They are travailing in pain with the hiuds, to cast out their sorrows, Job xxxix. 3. They have conceived vanity and misery, and they have gone long with it, and they are travailing in pain to be delivered of the unhappy birth. They groan and also they travail. One that has too heavy a burden on his back, groans continually while it is on. But blessed be the holy and wise God, that has made the pains of travail intermitting; now and then a shower. So the creatures have their ordinary pains that are never off them. But sometimes, as at this day, they have extraordinary, and as it were travailing-pains, which will off again, though they will return: Joel i. 18, “ How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture : yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.”-In our text we have,
3. The mournful concert they make : they groan together and travail together. Not together with us, ver. 23, but together among themselves. Before sin entered into the world, they all looked blythe, and as it were sung together : but now they have changed their tune, and groan together. The beasts and the fowls groan from the earth, and the very heavens echo back to them the same strain. So many creatures as there are, so many groaners, each of them with their mournful note.- We have,