« AnteriorContinuar »
O let there be no longer delay! Cry to Him, that he may enable you so to do! Bewail your own impotence and helplessness; and, the Lord being your helper, enter in at the strait gate; take the kingdom of heaven by violence! Cast out every idol from his sanctuary, and the glory of the Lord shall soon appear.
5. Perhaps it is this very thing, the want of striving, spiritual Sloth, which keeps your soul in darkness. You dwell at ease in the land; there is no war in your coasts; and so you are quiet and unconcerned. You go on in the same even track of outward duties, and are content there to abide. And do you wonder, meantime, that your soul is dead ? O stir yourself up before the Lord! Arise, and shake yourself from the dust; wrestle with God for the mighty blessing ; pour out your soul uuto God in prayer, and continue therein with all perseverance! Watch! Awake out of sleep; and keep awake!-otherwise there is nothing to be expected, but that you will be alienated more and more from the light and life of God.
6. If, upon the fullest and most impartial examination of yourself, you canuot discern that you at present give way, either to spiritual sloth, or any other inward or outward sin, then call to mind the time that is past. Consider your former tempers, words, and actions. Have these been right before the Lord ? “ Commune with him in your chamber, and be still;” and desire of him to try the ground of your heart, and bring to your reinembrance whatever has at any time offended the eyes of his glory. If the guilt of any unrepented sin remaiu on your soul, it cannot be but you will remain in darkness, till, having been renewed by repentance, you are again washed by faith in the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.”
7. Entirely different will be the manner of the cure, if the cause of the disease be uot sin, but Ignorance. It may be, ignorance of the meaning of Scripture; perhaps occasioned by ignorant Commentators; ignorant, at least, in this respect, however knowing and learned they may be in other particulars. And, in this case, that ignorance must be removed, before we can remove the darknesslarising from it. We must show the true meaning of those texts which have been misunderstood. My design does not permit me to consider all the passages of Scripture which have been pressed into this service. I shall just mention two or three, which are frequently brought to prove, that all believers must, sooner or later, “walk in darkness.”
8. One of these is, Isaiah 1. 10, 66 Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeili tlie voice of his servant, that walketh in darkuess, und hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lorii, and stay upon bis God.” But how does it appear, either from the text or context, that the person
here spoken of, ever had light? One who is convinced of sin, “feareth the Lord, and obeveth the voice of liis scrvant.' Aud liim we should advise', though he was still dark of soul, and had never seen the light of God's countenance, yet to s trust in the ware of the Lord, and stay upon his God." This text, therefore, prores nothing less than that a believer iu Christ " m:t sometimes lutk in Gariness."
9. Another text which has been supposed to speak the same doctrine, is Tosca ii. , 5] will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably into her.” Heuce it has been inferred, that God will bring every believer into the wilderness, into a state of deaduess and darkuess. But it is certain, the text speaks po sich thing; for it does not appear that it speaks of purricular believers at all: It manifestly refers to the Jewishi mtion; anal, perhaps, to that only. But if it be applicable to particular persons, the plain mcaning of it is ilis :-( will dreiv lim by lore; I will nest convince him of sin ; and then comfort !imliy my pardoniug mercy,
10. A third scripture, from whence the same interence has been drawn, is that aboro recited!, “Ye 10w hare sorrow : but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy to man tiket from you." This has been supposed to imply, that God would, atiratime, withdraw binisali froni all belicters; and tits and not, till after they had thus sorrowed, are the joy ich no man could take from them. But the whole contexi shows, Chiat our Lord is here speaking personally to the prestles, and no others; and that he is speaking concernins these particular crents, liis own death and resurrection. “I liile while'," say's lie, "and ye shall not see me,” ring whilst lan iilie grave: 6 Jul again, a little while, and ye shall nie me;" when I am risen from the dead. “Ye will cep üid lament, and the world will rejoice: but your sorrow shall be turned into joy."_“Ye now liave sorrow, because I am about to be taken from your head; “but I will see you again, after my resurrection, “and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy," which I will then give you, “no man taketh from you.” All this we know was literally fulfilled in the particular case of the Apostles. But no inference can be drawn from hence, with regard to God's dealings with believers in general.
11. A fourth text (to mention no more) which has been frequently cited in proof of the same doctrine, is, 1 Pet. iv. 12. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you.” But this is full as foreign to the point as the preceding. The text, literally rendered, runs thus: “Beloved, wonder not at the burning which is among you, which is for your trial.” Now, however this may be accommodated to inward trials in a secondary sense; yet, primarily, it doubtless refers to martyrdom, and the sufferings connected with it. Neither, therefore, is this text any thing at all to the purpose for which it is cited. And we may challenge all men to bring one text, either from the Old or New Testament, which is any more to the purpose than this.
12. But is not darkness much more profitable for the soul than light? Is not the work of God in the heart most swiftly and effectually carried on, during a state of inward suffering ? Is not a belicver more swiftly and thoroughly purified by sorrow, than by joy?- by anguish, and pain, and distress, and spiritual martyrdoms, than by continual peace?' So the Mystics teach ; so it is written in their books; but not in the Oracles of God. The Scripture no where says, that the absence of God best perfects his work in the heart! Rather, his presence, and a clear communion with the Father and the Son : a strong consciousness of this, will do more in an hour, than his absence in an age. Joy in the Holy Ghost will far more effectually purify the soul, than the want of that joy; and the peace of God is the best means of refining the soul from the dross of earthly affections. Away then with the idle conceit, that the kingdom of God is divided against itself; that the peace of God, and joy in the Holy Ghost, are obstructive of righteousness; and that we are saved, not by faith, but by uubelief, not by hope, but by despair !
13. So long as men dream thus, they may well “walk in darkness :” nor can the effect cease, till the cause is removed. But yet we must not imagine it will immediately cease, even when the cause is no more. When either ignorance or sin has caused darkness, one or the other may be removed, and yet the light which was obstructed thereby, may not immediately return. As it is the free gift of God, he may restore it, sooner or later, as it pleases him. In the case of sin, we cannot reasonably expect that it should immediately return. The sin began before the punishment, which may, therefore, justly remain, after the sin is at an end. And even in the natural course of things, though a wound cannot be healed while the dart is sticking in the fleshı; yet neither is it hicaled as soon as that is drawn out, but soreness and pain may remain long aftcr.
14. Lastly : If darkness be occasioned by manifold, and heavy, and unexpected temptations; the best way of removing and preventing this, is, to teach believers always to expect temptation, seeing they dwell in an evil world, among wicked, subtle, wlicious spirits, and have an heart capable of all evil. Convince then, thiet the whole work of sanctification is not, as this imaginei, hrought at once; that when they first beliere, ibicy are but as new-born babes, who are gradually to grow!, and may expect many storms, before they come to the full stature of Christ. Above all, let them be instructed, when the storm is upon them, vot to reason with the Devil, but to?!!; to pull out their souls before God, and shovy Him of their trouble. And these are the persons into whom, chiefly, we are to apply the great and precious promises; not to the gravit, till the inorance is removed, much less to the impenitesimer. To these we may largely and affectionately di dare the lovingkindness of God our Saviour, and expatiate upon his tender mercies, which have been ever of old. Here we may dwell upon the faithfulness of God, whose “ word is tried to the uttermost; and upon the virtue of that blood, which was slied for 115, to“ cleanse us from all sin :' and God will then bear witness to his word, and bring their souls out of tronble. The will say, “ Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thec.” Yea, and that light, is thou walki bumbly and closely with God, will “shine more and more unto the perfect day.”
HEAVINESS THROUGH MANIFOLD
“Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through
manifold temptations.” 1 Peter i. 6.
1. In the preceding discourse, I have particularly spoken of that Darkness of mind, into which those are often observed to fall, who once walked in the light of God's countenance. Nearly related to this is the Heaviness of soul, which is still more comnion, even among believers. Indeed, almost all the children of God cxperience this, in an higher or lower degree. And so great is the resemblance between one and the other, that they are frequently confounded together; and we are apt to say, indifferently, Such an one is in darkness, or, Such an one is in heaviness ;-as if they were equivalent terms, one of which implied no more than the other. But they are far, very far from it. Darkness is one thing ; Heaviness is another. There is a difference, yea, a wide and essential difference, between the former and the latter. And such a difference it is, as all the chidren of God are deeply concerned to understand: otherwise, nothing will be more easy, than for them to slide out of heaviness into darkness. In order to prevent this, I will endeavour to show,
1. What Manner of Persons those were, to whom the Apostle says, “Ye are in Heaviness :” II. What kind of Heaviness they were in: III. What were the Causes : and,
IV. What were the Ends of it. I shall conclude with some Inferences.
1. ). I am, in the First place, to show, What Manner of Persons those were, to whom the Apostle says, “Ye are in Heaviness.” And, first, It is beyond all dispute, that they