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as you would have him. Thou needest some operative physic as well as cordials; a son may merit a frown, as well as a smile from his father. God is a free agent; but it is well thou art so sensible of his access and recess, his smiles and frowns; it is a sign of some spiritual life in thy soul. 4 Case. But you said the new creature grows;
I find it otherwise, I cannot see that I grow
in grace, nay, I decline and go backwards, what think you of that?
, I answer, As the Christian grows in grace, so he grows in light to discover his state ; he sees more depravity in himself, and is still more sensible of decays in grace, which keeps him humble, self-denying and vile in his own eyes; that is growth too, bless God for it: but observe it, grains of allowance must be given to old age, when natural parts decay, and persons may not be so quick and lively as formerly, yet may be more solid and increasing in experience. Mr. Greenham said, “It is a hard and rare thing to keep up young zeal with old discretion.” Dost thou not keep up a more constant course of duty, and cherish more settled resolutions for God? Is not thy heart more deadened to the world, and taken up with things unseen ? art thou not more composed under afflictions ? dost thou not more clearly discover and bewail spiritual sins ? dost thou not long more after the good of relations, take more delight in God's word, breathe after more of God's presence in ordinances ? Speak out, man, deal faithfully, bear not false witness against thyself; yet it is true, the growing tree meets with a fall of the leaf, and a sharp winter; still doth a spring come, and it grows in the summer. Peter's fall became the means of recruiting him to greater boldness for God; but I hope thou art “not a backslider in
heart,” to dislike the ways of God; thou art but “overtaken with a sin,” against thy strong purposes. When thou “sleepest, doth not thy heart wake?”
? Thou art not pleased with this declining state ; "thy spirit is willing, but thy flesh is weak.” *
5 Case. But, alas, I have such strong, impetuous, yea, imperious workings of corruption in my heart, as never any had that hath a principle of grace; none
Is it possible I should be a new creature ? I answer, The “heart knows its own bitterness," and wickedness, Prov. xiv. 10. Every gracious soul thinks his own heart the worst, because he knows it best. But who told thee that thy heart was so bad ? was it always thus with thee? was there not a time when thou thoughtest thy heart was as good as any one's? is it not spiritual light that makes these unusual discoveries? “ Whatsoever doth make manifest, is light.” Did not sin “revive upon the coming of the commandment?” But friend, let me ask thee; Dost thou think that upon the planting of this new principle in the soul, sin should be utterly extirpated, and that thou shouldst hear no more of it? Dost thou not find even blessed Paul, “groaning still under a body of death?” Will not the flesh still “ lust against the Spirit ?” of Surely thou knowest little of a Christian state, if thou imaginest a total immunity from the body and indwelling of sin, in this world. It is well if sin be not upon the throne, though thou hast it in the field to fight with ; the gospel privilege is, “sin shall not have dominion over thee, because thou art under grace,” Rom. vi. 14.
6 Case. But what will you say of a man that can* Prov. xiv. 14. Gal. vi. 1. Cant v.2. Matt. xxvi. 41.
Eph. v. 13. Rom. vii. 9. . Rom. vii. 24. Gal. v. 17.
not give a precise account of the time and manner of this divine change taking place in his heart, that never had such terrors as some have ?
I answer, Will any say that the river Nile is no river, because men never found out the head of it? God is a free agent, and hath different seasons and manners of working. Some have been wrought upon in their younger days, they were religiously educated, and never stept aside into gross sins, and God steals in gently with them, he opens their hearts as he did Lydia's, Acts xvi. 14. and gently attracts them to himself, picking the lock, as it were, without much noise; whereas he breaks the wards in others, with overwhelming convictions, as he has dealt with Paul, and Luther, and others, among whom Mr. Bolton may be mentioned. Some are of mild and gentle natures, and God sees they cannot bear hard blows, which some others need, who are of sturdy and stubborn spirits. Do not murmur, but thank God that he hath come so sweetly into thy soul; he knows thy frame and constitution. See the work be there, and a scriptural work, and leave God to his liberty. But this thou canst say through grace, it is not with thee now, as it hath been; as the blind man said, I may be ignorant of some circumstances, “but one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see,” John ix. 25. Things are otherwise represented to me, and my spirit working otherwise within than, formerly ; so that I may say as Rebecca with her twins in her womb, “if it be so, or not so, why am I thus ?”
7 Case. But alas, nobody knows what a frame of spirit I have in my prayers, such distractions and wanderings from God, as cannot be consistent with a spiritual change : what think you ?
Answ. It is sad thing, that such vermin should
crawl in God's sanctuary, especially when thou art in God's immediate worship. But dost thou approve of them, and make them welcome ? are they not troublesome guests ? do they not forcibly assault thee, as 80 many unmannerly visitants ? Suppose in your family as you are kneeling in prayer, a noisy, boisterous rabble stand under your window, roaring and hallooing, though it disturb you, would you thence question your sincerity in the duty ? And it is all one, whether the disturbance be in the room or in the bosom, since both are disliked as a burden to thee. I often reflect on a passage I read many years ago, “The good Lord keep the hearts of his people under a due sense of their distractions, for they are never like to be rid of them while they live.” Thou dost reckon thyself to be as in the belly of hell with Jonah, while thou art yoked with such thoughts and sendest many a deep groan to heaven against them, and sometimes dost obtain some help against them, and gettest near thy God in duty.
I shall however add no more of these cases, but only two words as a close of this discourse, for if poor doubting souls would, instead of their complainings and objections, but do these things, it would tend more to their satisfaction, and the glory of God.
(1.) That they would spend that time in examining their own consciences, which they take up in fruitless complaints. Alas, many professors have got a method of whining and complaining to ministers and christian friends, and think to be better thought of for such complaints; but this is a sad judgment of God, for persons to "pine away in their iniquity, and yet mourn one towards another,” Ezek. xxiv. 23. If persons would spend such time in searching their own consciences
Mr. Thomas Shepard Treat. on Distraction.
and conversation, it would tend more to clear up the sincerity of their hearts, and a saving work of grace. Begin, sirs, enter into your closets, commune with your own hearts, deal faithfully and effectually; put not off yourselves with unproved conceits and groundless imaginations, but go through with the work: ransack your hearts, they are your own; be not put off with such mannerly excuses as Rachel's : take such an account as you must give to God: let no darling sin escape your view, or the least grace be denied with any scorn or disregard. When David “ thought of God, he was troubled,” and expresseth many discontented murmurings; but when "he communed with his own heart,” he clears God, and condemns his unbelief, indicts the thief, and clears his conscience of that troublesome Jonah in his bosom. This plain dealing evidenceth a Christian's state sooner than wrangling; and yet if still thou art at a loss, appeal to God, and say as Job, “ Thou knowest that
“ I am not wicked ;” or, as Peter, “ Thou knowest that I love thee;" or, as David, “Do not I hate them that hate thee? Search me, O God, and know my heart.” * As wise physicians trust not their own judgment about their own health, so the saint knows God's line reacheth lower than his own, and to his judgment he will stand.
(2.) Instead of complaining, commence vigorously the work of sanctification, to mortify the deeds of the body,“ to cut off a right hand, and pluck out a right eye,” Matt. v. 29. When you have searched out the leaven, purge it out, “ 1 Cor. v. 7. Lay aside" “ every weight, and the sin which doth most easily beset you,” Heb. xii. 1. Run the sword of the Spirit to the heart of every lust ; “lay the axe to the root of the Psal. lxxvii, 3, 6. Job x. 7. John xxi. 15. Psal. cxxxix. 21, 23.