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as if he had said, tell me, for the Lord's fake, and tell tag quickly, whether there be any way of falvation, and where: it lies, for I am a loll man, an undone foul. Bui when (he Lord opened the heart of Lydia, there were no such terrors, the Lord spake to her in a more mild and gentle voice; as you fee ver. 14. The spirit of God varies his method according to the temper of the loul he worketh on. Knotty pieces need greater wedges and harder blows to rive them asunder, and as he directs his ministers, Jude 22 to make a difference, to deal tenderly and compassionately with some; but others, to save with, fear; so he himlelf observeth like different methods.
3. Some knocks of Christ are successful, and obtain the delired effect. He knocks, and the loul opens; but others are unsuccessful; he knocks once, and again, by convictions, which may cause the conscience, for the present, to startle a little, but there is no opening to Christ by faith. O friends I this is of dreadful consideration; Prov. i. 24. " I called, and you refut M ed; I stretched out my hand, and no man regarded." There is a call without an answer, a knock, and no opening; and these things are very common, especially among the unconverted, that live under a lively gospel-rousing ministry. Of this Christ complains, Mat. xvi. 17. " Whereunto shall I liken this "generation? They are like unto children sitting in the mar"ket-place, and calling, to their fellows, faying, We have pip"ed unto you, and you have not danced; we have mourned "unto you, but you have not lamented:" q. d. Neither the delicious airs, and melody of goipel-grace, nor the mournful, and dreadful threats of damnation to unbeliever?', avail any thing to open your hearts to embrace me; no- voices from mount Gerezim, or mount Ebal, will prevail with you. Ah f how many fad witnesses unto this truth have I now before mine eyes! but God forbid it should be thus all round: no, no, there be some souls who hear, and open, even every one that hath heard, asid learned of the Father, John vi. 45. when the soirit of God puts forth his power with the word, then, and aot till then, it becomes successful.
4. Sometimes Christ knocks with a thick succession of convictions, a quick repetition of his calls. Some mcu have had thousands of convictions in a few years; for in this cafe the Lord faith, as it is Exod. iv. 8. '* If they will not hearken to "the voice of the first sign, yet they may believe the voice of "the latter sign." And yet sometimes neither the former, nor the latter avail any thing. "How oft wbuld I have gathered *! thy children* and ye would no*?" Mat. xxiii. 37. How oftsaJ -fntimatmg the many calls Christ gave Jerufalem to come unt» him, yet all in vain. Obllinate sinners, Christ hath been knocking, and calling at some of your consciences, from your very childhood; thoufands of convictions have been tried upon some of you, and yet, to this day, your souls are fhut fast against him. The Lord hath waited, from year to year, for your answer, by this signifying how loath he is to part with you; such a time thou wast upon a sick bed, nigh unto death; at such a time under such a sermon, and then Christ knocked at thy soul: if all this be in vain, so many convictions as you have stifled, so many faggots you carry with you to hell, to increase your flames, and torments. Yet commonly those quick repetitions, and redoublings of the strokes of convictions end well; and it is a good sign, when one conviction revives another, and the Lord keeps the soul still waking. But O take heed, and try not his patience too long, lest the next stroke be more dreadful than all the former; not to open your hearts, but smite iead your hopes for heaven.
5. Sometimes Christ knocks intermittingly, knocking and stopping, a call and silence, and that at a considerable time and distance: a conviction this day, and, it may be, hot another in many months. There be some aged sinuers that have not had more than one or two remarkable rouzings of conscience in fifty or sixty years time, and then no more; do not think that the Lord will make his spirit always strive with men, Gen. vi. 3. no, there is a time when God faith to the word, convict the conscience of that mao or woman no moi c, not a stroke more, by way of conviction, but henceforth be thou for obduration, not to open, but to shut him up, Isa. vi. 10. Reader, bethink thyself, how long was it since thy conscience was roused, aud awakened? G faith one, seven or ten years ago I heard such a sermon whkh tore my conscience to pieces; I fell under such a providence, which roused and awakened all my fears; but since that time all hath been still, and quiet; the Lord give a second awakening, lest you awake with the flames of God's wrath about you. I observe, it is usual, when God works upon any very early, he knocks thus interinittiQgly: now the conscience is active, and full of trouble, then the vauities of youth extinguish these convictions again; but the Lord follows his design, and at last the conviction settles, and ends in conversion.
6. Christ sometimes knocks with both hands at once,.with the word, and with the rod together; the Utter in subserviency
to the former; and if ever the soul be like to open, it will open then, when ordinances and afflictions work together. The word smites the conlcience with conviction, and at, or about the fame time, providence smites the outward man with some .affliction, to make the word work esfectually; or, under some smart affliction, a suitable word is seasonably directed to the conlcience: and thus junffa juvant, the one aslisteth the other, and both together produce the desired esfect. Thus the Lord wrought upon the Theflalonians, i Thes. L 6. " And ye be\" came followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the "ward in much affliction" A child dies, an estate is lost, or a sickness scizeth, at the time when conscience is prepared by a conviction from the word, or afflictions have prepared it for the word: the rod upon the back helps the word to work upon the heart, and if both these working in fellowship, will not do the work, there is little hope that any thing will do it.
7. Every knock of Christ disturbs the sinful rest of the soul; it rouseth guilt in the conscience, and puts the inner man into great diflress, and trouble. Before Christ comes, and knocks at the door of the heart, all is still and quiet within; the soul is in a quiet steep of sinful security, no fears or troubles-molest its rest. Luke xi. 21. " When a strong man armed keepeth his *' palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he *' shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from
"him all his armour wherein he trusted." The armour which Satan puts into the hands of sinners, to defend themselves against the convictive strokes of the word, are the general mercy of God; the outward duties of religion, partial reformations, &c. But when Christ comes by effectual conviction, he disarms the sinner of all these pleas, and then the foul sees what broken reeds it leaned upon. "When the commandment came, (faith "Paul) sin revived, and I died," Rom. viuo. i. e. all my vaia hopes expired; no artifice of Satan can any longer quiet the sinner's conscience; he apprehends himself in a miserable condition, meditates an escape; farewel now to s«und and quiet sleep: no peace, til] out of danger.
8. Every effectual knock of Christ gives an alarm to hell, and puts Satan to all his shifts, and arts, to secure the posiesiion of the convinced sinner. The devil is a jealous spirit, and when his interest is in danger, he bestirs himself to purpose; the time of conviction is an hour of temptation. "We wrestle not with flesh -* and Wood, (faith the apostle) but against principalities, a"gainst powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this *' world, againd spiritual wickedness, (or wicked spirits) La "high-places," or about heaveniies, Eph. vi. 12. The strife betwixt satan and the foul, is now for no less than the prize of eternal life; it is now for all, or none; for life or death, for heaven er hell: The powers of hell are now all in arms to destroy convictions, and secure the possession of the loul against Christ; as when a granado falls into a garrison, the first care of the defendants is, to stifle, and choak it before it break. Whilst Christ Is speaking by his Spirit in one ear, the devil is whispering in the Other; and the things he whispers to quench convictions, are ulually such as these: It is time enough yet, what Deed such haste? Enjoy thy pleasures a little longer, thou mayest come to Christ, and be saved at last. If that will not do, then he changeth his voice: To what purpose wilt thou go to Christ? It is now too late, the time of grace is over; hadst thou come to him in thy youth, and obeyed his first call, it had been somewhat, but now it is to no purpose. If this will not quiet the soul, then he faith, Thy fins are too great to be pardoned, there A% no hope for such a prodigious sinner as thou art. If the Lord help the foul to overcome this, by discovering to it the riches of mercy, pardoning the greatest of sinners then he represents the multitudes which are in the fame case with the convinced sinner; Come, fear'not, if it go ill with thee, it will be as bad for millions of men and women; if thou go to hell, thousands will go with thee: But if the foul be loath to be damned for company, then he bids it look upon the train of troubles and afflictions that come along with Christ, and will certainly follow him, if the dqor be open to let him in: If Christ come in, reproaches, losses, and sufferings, will certainly come in with him; troops of miseries and calamities follow him; himself hath told thee so, and art thou mad, to ruin all thy comforts in the world, and plunge thyself into a lea of trouble for what thine eyes never saw? But if the soul reply, these are more tolerable than damnation, better my flesh suffer for a time, than my soul be cast away for ever; then he represents the insuperable difficulties of religion, what a hard thing it is to be saved, how many painful duties and acts of mortification the Toul must pass through.' Thus you see what an alarm conviction gives to the powers of hell.
o. Every effectual knock of Christ is followed on, and new convictions revive old and former ones, and the Lord never leaves knocking till the door be opened; if one sermon will not do, another shall; if one wound be plalftcred and healed by the art of satan, a fresh wound shall be made; if a former conviction vanish, the next (hall be sealed upon the soul; add when the Spirit of the Lord sealeth a conviction npon the conscience, raze it ant who can? And here is the difference betwixt special and common convictions; common convictions come and go, they put the soul in a fright for a day or a month, and then trouble it no more for ever; but special convictions will be continued, one thing backs another; for Christ is in pursuit of the soul, and will give, it chase, till at last he overtake, and come up with it.
10. Lastly, All the knocks of Christ cease and end, when the sinner's day of grace is ended; this is of dreadful consideration; when the time of mercy is over, no more strivings of the Spirit with a man, after that. Christ faith to the drowsy sinner, as he spake to the drowsy disciples in the garden, Sleep en now, and take your rest. So here, 1 called thee in such a sermon, but thou heardest not; by such a providence, but thou obeyedst not; steep on now and take thy rest: "My "people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would "none of me; so I gave them up to their own hearts lust, to "walk in their own counsels," Pl'al. lxxxi. ti, 12. q. d. I have done with them, the treaty is ended, 1 will make no more essays towards their conversion and falvation. So I gave them up. Methinks it sounds as much as this, take them sin, take them devil, I will have no more to do with him. So Hosea iv. 17. "Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone." His heart is glued fast to sin, he is enamoured upon other lovers, let him alone. O beloved, it is a dreadful thing for God to fay, let this man alone in his formality, and that man in his carnal security. Let not this be misapplied by poor, trembling souls under conviction: I know the fear of this judgment is upon their hearts, nothing makes them tremble more than lest the day of grace be ended with them. But there is no ground for this fear, whilst the Spirit continues convincing, and the soul trembling lest his convictions should prove ineffectual. Thus much of the oature, instruments, and manner of Christ's knocking at the door of a sinner's heart. Our way is now opened to a fruitful application of this point, which I will wind up in divers necessary uses. I. Use, for Insormation.
And first, The point before us will be useful for information, in the following inferences, and deductions.
Infer. 1. Into how deep a sleep hath sin cast the souls of sinners, that Christ must stand so long, and give such loud repeated knocks, before it will .awake and open to him? There is the spirit of a deep sleep fallen upon men, like that into which God cast Adam; God speaks once, yea, twice, but man re