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would, I do not." O what hard and irreconcileable strugglings are there in the Christian's breast! "Flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh."* How hard to get to duty, how hard to keep with God in duty? When the Christian would repent, believe, meditate, pray, obey, he is so fastened down with the sin that doth so easily beset him, that he knows not what to make of himself: he is weary of his life with this dead body tied to him, and cries out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?”
(10.) Believers have more apprehensions of God than others have, and are more afraid of offending him. Carnal men are apt to think God is altogether such a one as themselves, and are ready to say, "The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it," he winks at small faults: God is merciful, these are venial sins and infirmities, God will take no notice of them: but the pious Christian looks on his sin through a magnifying glass, and sees the aggravations of that, which the world accounts a peccadillo. David cries out, after numbering the people, 2 Sam. xxiv. 10, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done; I have done very foolishly." Besides a good man hath awful apprehensions of God's justice, holiness, and truth, in executing his threatenings. Josiah's heart was tender, and he humbled himself upon hearing God's threatenings. David saith," My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments." + So did Habakkuk, chap. iii. 16. And had not the believer relief in Christ, such thoughts would swallow him up; yet faith in Christ is not always at hand, and then he is exceedingly daunted.
• Luke xi. 21.
+ Heb. xii. 1.
Cant. vi. 13. Rom. vii. 15, 20, 24. Gal. v. 17.
xxxiv. 27. Psal. cxix. 120.
(11.) Yet further, pious men are greatly afflicted with God's withdrawings and the hiding of his face. Sinners know not what this means; they think God loves them, though they know not what special love signifies. Poor creatures, they have no qualms upon them, "no bands in life or death; their strength is firm, they are not in trouble as other men." How often do God's children experience sad eclipses; God withdraws from them his quickening influence, their hearts are not enlarged God-wards at seasons, but they complain they are hardened from God's fear. How oft do we find God's dearest children cry out, "Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and countest me for thine enemy ?"* They complain they go forward seeking him, but cannot find him, Job xxiii. 8, 9. David, Heman, and even Christ himself have complained of God's forsaking them, not totally and finally, but in their present sense and feeling. And this is a doleful case, an insupportable burden, yea, a kind of death to them. This made the Psalmist cry, "While I suffer thy terrors I am distracted." David complains of broken bones. None knows what this means but they that experience it.
(12.) Once more, sincere Christians are much liable to fears and jealousies about their spiritual state. The ungodly seldom call this in question, they have always been of a good belief. Their maxim is, Hope while thou breathest. They have honest hearts; and if at any time they dispute their condition, they quell their fears, and quiet their spirits with their good wishes, vows, prayers, attending on ordinances, and acts of charity. But believers have frequent returns of fears,' not only respecting their duty, "to work out their
* Psal. lxxiii. 4, 5. Isa. lxiii. 17. + Psal. xxii. lxxvii. lxxxviii.
Job xiii. 24.
Psal. lxxxviii. 15.
own salvation with fear and trembling;" but from the consideration of the treachery of their hearts, subtlety of Satan, paucity of sincere believers, and importance of religion; they are ready to fear, lest a promise being left of entering into rest, they should seem to come short of it: nay, it is well if there be not oft too much slavish fear in the hearts even of the best. It is true, perfect love casteth out this fear; but alas! love is not yet perfect, no more than other graces, therefore returns of this fear may be consistent with sincerity, and fear hath torment. Hence it is in all these respects, that if pious men had all their hope and happiness in this life, they would be most miserable.
You will say, All God's children are not thus exercised, many have a more easy passage to heaven. I answer, some have. But all may expect such troubles at one time or other of their lives. "What son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?" As long as as there is malice in Satan, corruption in our hearts, or defects in our graces, we may reckon on such troubles as these. Our Lord hath said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me," Matt. xvi. 24.
3. The next general consideration respects the vindication of the saints of God in this their choice. And this may seem necessary; for if God's children be greater sufferers than others in this world, they may be in reason, and are by carnal men, esteemed the greatest fools in nature, who bring upon themselves such troubles in hopes of future happiness, which no man ever saw, nor is capable of seeing in this world; they however cast the allurements of the world at their heels, and judge all men fools beside themselves. Who will believe them?
Phil. ii. 12. Heb. iv. 1. 1 John iv. 18. Heb. xii. 7.
Ans. (1.) The eyes of converts are opened to see things otherwise than most do, or than they themselves formerly did. Satan held his black hand over their eyes, but now God "hath shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ," 2 Cor. iv. 4, 6. All the rest of the world have but one eye, Christians have each two eyes, of reason and grace. The scales of ignorance fall from their eyes: the black veil is taken away by the Spirit's illumination. "The eyes of their understandings are enlightened to know the hope of his calling, and the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints," Ephes. i. 17, 18. They are placed a degree higher than others, and the higher they stand, the further they see. Our Lord accounts them friends, and courtiers know more of their king's counsels than others: "His secrets are with them that fear him." The emerald helps failing eyes, so doth the Spirit, 1 Cor. ii. 10-12.
(2.) The graces of faith and hope look beyond time, at things invisible.* Hope that is seen is not hope, but that which we wait for with patience. Right hope is fixed beyond the veil. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith," Gal. v. 5. It is essential to the christian religion, to look not at things seen, but things not seen, that is, eternal, 2 Cor. iv. 18.
(3.) The new nature furnisheth the Christian with a holy impetus, and tendency to things beyond time and sense. Believers are renewed in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, after the image of God, and thereby they are attracted to invisible objects: being
• 2 Cor. iii. 16. John xv. 15. Psal. xxv. 14. Heb. xi. 1, 27. + Heb. vi. 19, 20. Rom. viii. 24, 25. 1 Thess. i. 3. Col. iii. 10. Eph. iv. 24.
"risen with Christ, they seek those things that are above." They are not satisfied with corporeal, perishing objects: nothing pleaseth them but invisible realities.
(4.) Pious souls have a pledge and earnest of future things; a foretaste, prelibation, and anticipation of heaven. God hath "given the earnest of his Spirit in our hearts," 2 Cor. i. 22. This is both a privilege and assurance of the bargain;* a pledge is returned back, but an earnest is kept as part of the bargain, till all be consummated:† so that God is, in some sort, a debtor to make good his promise, and "the righteous hath hope in his death," Prov. xiv. 32.
The subject may now be considered as affording scope for Instruction, Conviction and Lamentation, Examination, and Exhortation.
I. Instruction. 1. It teaches us that there is a future state in another world, a world to come, besides this present evil world. God hath made more worlds than one. Things will not always continue in the same posture, as the profane scoffers of the last days affirm, saying, "Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation;" which the apostle disproves, 2 Pet. iii. 3—10. All things are upon the wheel of change. Actors upon the stage are successively taken off, and at last the stage itself shall be taken down, 1 Cor. vii. 31. There is a "world without end." +
2. There be some persons in this world, that shall be counted worthy to possess a better world: so our Lord saith. "But they which shall be counted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the
* Col. iii. 1, 2. 2 Cor. v. 5. Eph. i. 13, 14.
+ Pignus redditur, arrhabo retinetur.
Heb. ii. 5. Eph. i. 4. Heb. xi. 3. i. 2. Eph. iii. 21.