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pon clear argument, I was forced to admit: Which afterwards was of considerable use to me. .
17. But during this period of time under all these wrestlings and strugglings betwixt growing light and sin, corruptions,as I grew in years, grew stronger and stronger, took deeper root, and received an increase of strength by occasional temptations, and new force from the weak resistance made to them by these vain courses. Rom. vii. 8, 9, 11. As the law came nearer in its spiritual meaning and extent, sin revived, and appeared more discernible in its strength, and fin taking occasion by the commandment wrought in me inclinations to all evil. Being fretted, not fubdued, it grew stronger, till at length it New me.
18. Under this perplexity, I betook myself still to one or other of the fore mentioned vain courses: fer, ii. 36. I gadded about to change my way, sent to Egypt, and went to Assyria, yet could not they help me. But yet these exercises and perplexities had some intermissions, and then I turned remiss and careless. Hy, vi. 4. My goodness like the morning cloud and early dew, foon passed away. .
19. However, by these means I was brought to a Specious like form of religion. For now, 1, I took fome care to avoid those lins, whether secret or open, that thwarted the light of my conscience most plainly. I not only abstained from those evils, to which, most, even of the fobérer sort of students, were fre. quently drawn over ; but with a sort of resolution I kept at a distance from the occasions of them. Thus I begun 2 Pet. ii. 20. to escape the pollutions of the world through the knowlege of the truth. 2. I was more exact and punctual in attending duties, publick, private and secret, than heretofor. and that not without some concern, at least, at fometimes as to my inward frame in them. Thus I thought, I kept his ordinances. Mal. iii. 14, 3. When I was enfnared, either into the commission of sin, or omission of
duty, I was brought to a deep sorrow : And for some time walked mournfully before God. Ibid. 4. Whereas I always had a sort of awful regard for them that fearcd God, since ever I began to be in the least awákned, now I begun to have a sort of a liking and kindness to them, and pleasure in their company and converse, even about matters of religion. This light forced an approbation of them on my mind, and so to give glory to God, there light so Shining before me, Matth v. 16. that I could not but take notice of them. 5. I had frequent Tuftes of the word of God, And powers of the world to come, Heb. vi. 5. which made me delight in approaehing to God. And, 6., I got some things that looked like return of prayer ; when under a sense of impotency, I betook myself to God by prayer : In any strait I found help so remarkable, That I could not but take notice of it. The Lord hereby drew me gradually in to expect good in his way, and though I was wrong in the main, as it were, encouraged the faintest beginnings of a look toward a return. i Kings xxi. 29. And the word • of the Lord came to Elijah the Tisbite, saying, "Seest thou how Ahab humbled himself before me:
Because he humbled himself before me, I will not " bring the evil in his days; But in his Son's days • I will bring the evil upon his house. .
20. Now, though by these means, I got a name to live, yet really I was dead. For, 1. The natural darkness still remained uncured. Some dawnings of light were indeed begun, and some discoveries made of what formerly I had not known, yet the power of darkness still remained, and the vail was not yet taken • away, nor were spiritual things seen in a true light.' ' 2 Cor. iii. 14,15. Eph, iv. 18. 2 The enmity of my mind against the law, * especially in some instances, remaind in force, there was not a respect to all Gorl's
com* Compare Rom. vii. 8. with Rom, vii. :2, 22.
commands. Pfalm cxix. 6. I had not yet a fight of the beauty of holiness. Nor did I in my heart ap. prove of the whole yoke of Christ's precepts as good and desireable. It was not that I delighted in holinels and comformity to the law, at least in some instances; but that I was undone without it, that made me aim at any sort of compliance. 3. ' I yet sought righ
teousness as it were by the works of the law. Rom. ix. 32. I was wholly legal in all I did, not seeing the nécessity, the security, the glory of the gofpel me thod of salvation, by ' seeking righteousness and s strength in the Lord Christ alone.' Rom. x. 4. Psalm 1xxi. 16. 4 Self was the spring of all: My only aim was to be faved without any regard had to the glory of the Lord, or any enquiry made, how it might be confiftant with it to save one who had fo deeply offended. In a word, all my religion was constrained, violent, selfish, legal and anti-évangelical. These, not to mention other things, were still
Reflections upon the foregoing exercise,
TT will not be improper to review the preceeding I exercise, and offer two or three observations.
1, The foregoing exercise affords me full confirmation of many of the truths contested by the Pelagians and others, concerning man's inability to good, and the corruption of his nature. When I read and hear their high swelling words of vanity in commendation of man, and in praise of his free will to God, his good inclinations; and when I hear specious-like arguments offered for proof of these notions, I have no reason to be shaken. Will they dispute me out of my senses? May. I not believe the word? Or must I wrest and distort scriptures to make places that appear unfavourable to free-will, accord with these notions of it,which some advance ? Sure I am, if they will not al
low scripture to be its own interpreter, 'tis safer, at least in these things that concern our own natural state, which conscience may know, to admit exper ience to comment, rather than reason proceeding upon abstract notions: And where scripture and exper: ience join, there we have the fullest confirmation of the truths that are established in the mouth of two such witnesses; the last not only confirming, but illustrating the testimony of the former. If they say, that their hearts are not so perverse and ill inclin'd, and that they find inclinations to good in them; I cannot say so of mine : Yet by the way I must observe, that in their practise they go seldom further if so far as others, who agree with me in owning their hearts so wicked, their corruptions so strong, their wills deprived, and fet upon evil, that they can do nothing well-pleasing to God ; Now surely ifmatters are as they represent them, they are far to blame. As for me, I find more folid truth in that one scripture, that tells us, that the 'heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wick ed, Jer. xvii. 9. than in many volumes of idle antiscriptural notions reared up on the subtil arguings of men, whose eyes have never yet been opened to see the plagues of their own hearts, and who therefore run out in asserting such an ability and power, and inclination to good in man, as neither scripture, nor
the experience of such as have their eyes in the least s measure opened, admits of. However if others will
think that there are such good inclinations in them, 11. I must quite my part in them, Woful experience
convinces me, and obliges me to acknowledge to my own shame, that I never look'd toward the Lord's way, save when he drew me; Jer xxxi. 18. I was as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; I never went longer in it than the force lasted; I inclin'd to sit down, and fat indeed down at every step; no great fign I
had any heart to the way! I never got up again, but . . When the Lord's power was of new put forth. I all
D' 4 :
this while never went on stept but with a grudge, Gen xix. 26. I frequently looked back to Sodom, I have been as a backsliding heifer. I was griev'd for what I left behind ; my heart cleave to what my light had the greatest opposition to : Job xxiv, 13. Thus I' was of them that rebel against the light; I oft refus'd where the command was plainest; When I was brought into a strait, I betook myfelf rather to any shift, than to Christ; Prov. xxviii. 16. Sin bit me, and yet I lov'd it ; my heart deceived me oft and yet I trufted in it rather than God, jer. xvii. 5.7. God dealt with me in a way of kindness, but when he spoke to me in any prosperity, I would not hear : Ifa lvii. 17. He fmote me and I went on frowardly. I never parted with any, sin till God beat and drave me from it, and hedged in iny way. Surely this looks like the heart deceitful ahove all things, and desperately wicked. Jer xvii. 9. .
2. The forgoing exercise clcars what a depth of deceitfulness is in the heart of man. How many shifts has my heart used to elude the design of all these strivings of the Lord's spirit with me? What strange fhifts has the heart of man, and how many are they? I have told many, but the one half is not told. All these shifts respect but one point in religion, If one would undertake to give an account but of those deceits, which are more noted, with respect to the whole of his walk and way, how many volumes might he write. There is much true divinity couch'd in that short scripture. Jer xvii. 9. The heart is deceitful.ro bove all things, who can know it? Who can understand his errors? Pfalm xix. 12. When I upon areview mind so many, how many more might I have noticed if I had observed them in the time, or soon after ? And if so many may be seen, how many secret, undifcernable, or at least undecerned deceits are, there? 3. How far may we go in religion, and yet come