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.dant encouragement hath he given us in bis holy word? "If any man do his \vill," saith our Lord, *' he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." And "gain, " When the Jrloly Spirit is come, he shall guide you into all truth." So, likewise, the prophet Hosca, "Then shall we know, if we fpllow on to know the Lord, that his going forth is prepared, a,s the morning:" As if he had said, The sun of righteousness, shall rise higher, and shine brighter upon you, till he shine in his noon-day or meridian brightness. If then we.walk with God, these gracious words must be fulfilled: For as God is light, and in him there is no darkness, it must needs follow, that while we walk with him, we shall be blest with his pre-. sence, shall walk in the light of his countenance, and his will shall be revealed to us in a clearer, and a clearer manner, not only as it respects our dulv, but as it respects the, accomplishment of his own designs, in the complete sanctification of our souls. He who in this instance walks with God, js continually looking unto him, that his will may be fully accomplished; so that he may comprehend as the Apostle says, " The length, and breadth, and depth, and height; qnd ma,y kn,ow the love of Christ, which passetii knowledge." .Hence then, we shall be made acquainted with the height and depth of that salvation, which we are called to enjoy. Jind this being viewed in all its parts and branches, in the light of the Spirit of God, will appear divinely beautiful, or trulv excellent; and our souls will hunger and thirst after the enjoyment of so great a good, after that which appears infinitely desirable, it being the greatest good that we are Capable of enjoying in the present world, as it is every way Calculated to make us holy and happy at the same time.
That it is the will of God we should walk in. the light, will liot admit of ado.ubt; and the more we consider his word, the more clearly it will appear. "Arise," saith the Pro-.
Ehet, '* and shine, for thy light is come, aiid the glory of the^ ord is ris,en upon thee." So likewise the Apostle, "We Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from, glory to glory, even as by the Spirif of the Lord."
Let then the light of God shine upon the mind, and w,e shall see the boundless mercy, the astonishing love, the un-t speakabje goodness of God, as well as the exceeding riches of ibis grace, so fully revealed in his word, that we shall no Conger entertain a shadow of doubt, but he will save us to 'he uttermost, stamp his 6\vn lovely image upon oursou!s( and make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, ilo'.v is it possible to doubt of this, if the Lord hath
in the prosperity of those who fear him? If, as he hath said, he " will be a Father unto us,'' where is there a truly affectionate father, but would gladly make his children (were it in his power) (he happiest creatures in the world? And will not our heavenly Father, who hath all power in his hand, discover thus much love towards his children? No doubt he will;—and if so, we shall certainly experience such a measure of his grace, as shall "cleanse us from all filthiness of flesh and spirit." How can; we doubt of this, when we are told, that " It is God who worketh in us, both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure." Let then the word of God have free course, in enlightening our minds; and let the power of God be fully manifested in Ms, and grace shall reign through righteousness, and we shull be sanctified throughout^ body, soul, and spirit.
Being thus made acquainted with the will of God, the next thing is, so to walk with him as to do it. And here it may be necessary to consider two things: First, The will of God, as j.t respects the performance of our duty, in paying a sacred regard to the holy precepts of his word; and, Secondly, As it respects our embracing the promises, which yet remain to; be accomplished in us.'
With respect to the former. He who walks with God,* under a deep sense of his own weakness, continually looks to, him for daily supplies of spiritual strength: And in as much as our Lord himself has taught him to pray,—" Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven;" we cannot doubt but that he who taught us thus to pray, certainly intended to grant what we pray for: And if so, then, as the will of God ipust be done in heaven, by those holy and happy spirits who inhabit there, with all possible chearfulness, so he who walks >vjth God, expects his prayervshall be answered, and he also shall be so far assisted, that his duty shall be his delight. We greatly dishonour God, and bring an evil report upon religion, when we represent him as a hard master, and his service so extremely difficult. The truth is, if we walk with. God, we shall have his presence with us: So the Prophet saith, "The Lord is with you, while you are with him." And if so, then we shull be fitted for every good word and work, and we shall gird up the loins of our minds, and chearfully follow wherever the Lord leads the way. No part of our duty can be unpleasant, much less impracticable, while the Lord is our strength, which he will surely be, while we look unto him, as he hath taug'it us in his holy word. How strangely do those people dishonour God, who represent him, as setting his dearest children not only an exceeding diffifcnlt, hut atl impossible task to perform; and by this means Would have us believe, that we are under the necessity of sinning all the days of our life? But is not tliis utterly inconsistent with infinite Wisdom and boundless Goodness? .Surely it is; as well as contrary to every part of the sacred Scriptures. There we are told, " As thy day is, so shall thy strength be." And again, " Fear not, Abraham, for I am God all-sufficient; walk before me, and be thou perfect." This being the case, we shall be so strengthened that our duty shall not be our burthen, but one delight.
Our dutv being thus made easy, As to the preceptive part of the word of God, the next thing is our embracing his promises. Here one would suppose-that we should meet with no difficulty, because these hold forth to us blessings of inestimable value, whose nature needs only to be known in order to be infinitely desired/ The promises of God, as they stand in the Bible, may be viewed with unspeakable de'light^ and the blessings contained in them maybe exceedingly desired, and earnestly followed after: But the grand difficulty is, Our laying hold of these promises, so as that they may be fulfilled in us. In this respect we may say,'" The help that
'is done upon earth, the Lord doth it himself:" And therefore he who would embrace the promises, must pray with the Apostles, "Lord increase our faith ;!< in as much as we Jknow that God conveys the riches of his grace to our minds*
.in proportion to our faith.
It is said of the ancient saints and servants of the Lord, that, "By faith they obtained promises;" and we must obtain them in the very same way. The blessings contained in any .particular promise appear truly desirable, and as we
, see them to be so, we earnestly long, and heartily pray for them; the power of God is communicated, and we are enabled to lay hold upon or to embrace the promise, and the blessings contained therein are our own. This will hold equally good, whether the promise respects our justification, or ' our sanctification. There is no difference, as throughout every stage of the Christian life, the wordiof the Lord is, "According to thy faith so be it done unto thee." If then the Lord hath said, "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean," it must follow, that he who can by faith embrace this promise shall have the salvation which it contains, fully imparted, and he sliall be made clean.
.. - , As we are called to do, so on many occasions we shall be called to suffer the will of God: And he who walks t*jth Cod shall find; that respecting this also, his strength sliall
be proportioned to his day. It is said, that, "Mart is borfi to trouble, as the sparks fly upward." And again it is said, that, "Many are the troubles of the righteous." As then he who walks with God will undoubtedly meet with afflictions of various kinds, so he will see the hand of an infinitely kind and gracious God in them, that he intends them all to 'work together for his good, and that therefore he designs to support him under, and to bring him safely through them. Many are the promises which the Lord hath made, in order to comfort and encourage us in the hour of trial; from every one of which it appears, that he Would not that we should faint in the day of adversity, that we should sink in the deep waters of affliction, or that we should be overcome by our spiritual enemies. But rather, that in all these things we should conquer; yea, be more than conquerors, thro' him who hath so loved us, as to promise that he "will never leave us, nor forsake us." "Our help standeth In the name of the Lord," With the Psalmist, "who made heaven and earth,'* It would be strange indeed, if he'who walks with this all-powerful God, should be cast down or confounded. Surely this cannot be; our enemies shall find, that the God whom we serve is abundantly able to uphold^ defend, and save us. It is true, no temptation or affliction, considered in itself, can be joyous, but grievous: And it is equally true, that in our present state we must feel, yea most sensibly feel, manv of those trials which the "Lord^may permit us to pas's' thro'. Therefore, when we prayi'that "the will of God may be done by us, as it is done in heaven," we must remember, that suffering is not included in this petition; for angels and glorified spirits have nothing to suffer. It is not to be supposed, that in the general we should suffer with that degree of cheerfulness, br that wei should rejoice in afflictions, as we do in obeying the holy precepts of the Gospel. There are trials that, have a natural tendency to distress us exceedingly; and under them we 'ought to feel As men, as well as, Christians. The loss ofa dear friend, and much more the loss of a kind and affectionate husband, or of a beloved wife, may, and ought deeply to affect our minds. But still, he who walks with God, does not sorrow on such occasions, like those without hope; but as he well knows, that the hand of his God is in these pafnful dispensations of his providence, so he patiently endufes them, looking unto Jesus for w\sdom and grace, that rhe may be taught how to improve,'and be strengthened to endure; so shall he glorify God, tho' he is called to pass thro' 'the fire.- - '»'j -! - -J -i
Afflictiens are not to be made light of, nor temptations trifled with. But sensible of our own weakness, and welt knowing how little flesh and blood can bear, we ought ferr vently to pray, *' Lead us not into temptation." And should our gracious God see good to try us, then the calmest submission, the most entire resignation to his will is our duty, and divine grace shall work this in us.
There is, no doubt, \vhat the Apostle calls, "Glorying in tribulation." But we cannot suppose that he means that a Christian must needs glory in whatsoever trial may bring him into tribulation. But rather, that he has chiefly, if not altogether, that persecution or thost-- particular trials in view which \ve may suffer for righteousness sake. As when the Apostle says, "If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf."—. His meaning must be, if what we suffer on a religious account, then are we honoured by our Lord and Master, to bear his cro.-s; and therefore may rejoice with the two Apostles, that we are accounted worthy to suffer reproach for his sake.
And yet even here, a proper distinction should be made, or some tender minds may be wounded. We are not called to rejoice in this sort of trials, let them come from what quarter they will; supposing a man's foes should be those of his own household: The husband persecutes the wife, or the wife the husband: the parents the children, or the children, the parents. It is impossible that such trials should be matter of glorying, to one who walks with God; but on the contrary, they ought to occasion real sorrow. Yet in and through all, we shall be supported, and all these things shall work together for our present and eternal good.
To walk with God, implies, That we live in the enjoyment of communion with him; or as the Psalmist expresses it, "That we walk in the light of his countenance." To walk with God necessarily supposes that he is present with us, that we are walking in company with him. Hence then, we are sensible of his favour, have clear views of his love towards us; and the happy fruit of this is, abiding peace and solid joy in our minds. The intercourse is open between God and our souls, and we receive fresh supplies of grace from him. He shines upon our minds, and we clearly see the way in which he calls us to walk. We see increasing beauty in religion, and are made more fully acquainted with the great-* ness, and the inestimable value of spiritual and eternal things. We feel the quickning, strengthening, sanctifying power of