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your dials, we do not want marks, we know what o'clock it is without any. If the marks upon the soul of a believer are like the sun-dial, there are marks to prove that we are upon the right foundation; if the sun does not shine on the sun-dial, there is no knowing what o'clock it is : but let it shine, and instantaneously you know the time of the day : this is not known when it is cloudy; and who dare to say but that a child of God, for the want of the Sun of Righteousness shining upon his heart, may write bitter things against himself. A good man may have the vapors, as one Mr. Brown had, that wrote a book of good hymns, who was so vaporish that no body could make him believe he had a soul at all. Let the sun shine, the believer can see whether the sun is in the meridian at the sixth, ninth, or twelfth hour. O that there might be great searching of heart. I have been looking up to God for direction; I hope the preaching of this may be to awaken some, to call back some backsliders, to awaken some sinners that do not care whether their souls prosper or no. I do not mean the Tabernacle comers, or the Foundry comers, or the Church, or Dissenters, but I speak to all of you, of whatever denomination you are; God of his infinite mercy give you his Spirit. You that are believers, come, let us have that common name among us all; if we have it we go off well. If you want to know whether your souls prosper, that is, whether they are healthy, (you know what a person means when he wishes your body to prosper,) let me ask you how it is between you and God, with respect to secret prayer? Good Mr. Bunyan says, if we are prayerless, we are Christless. None of God's people, says he, come into the world still-born. Good Mr. Burkitt, (whose commentary has gone through five or six and twenty editions; and yet I think if he was now alive, and to preach once or twice a day, they would cry, away with his commentary, and preaching and all,) speaks to the same purpose. Come into the world still-born! what language is that in a preacher's mouth? But it will do for those that like to use marks and signs. “I will pour out a Spirit of grace and supplication,” says the Lord; and I will venture to say, if the Spirit of grace resides in the heart, the Spirit of supplication will not be wanting. Persons under their first love dare not go without God; they go to God, not as the formalist does, nor for fear of going to hell, or being damned. It is a mercy any thing drives to prayer; and a person under the spirit of bondage, that has just been brought to the liberty of the sons of God, goes freely to his heavenly father under the discoveries and constraints of divine love. Come I will appeal to yourselves ; did not you, like a dear fond mother, if the child,
the beloved child, made but the least noise in the world, o, says the mother, the dear child cries, I must go and hush it: so time was, when many hearkened to the call of God, and could no more keep from the presence of God in secret, than a fond mother from the presence of her dear child. Now if your souls
prosper, this connection between you and God will be kept up; I do not say that you will always have the same fervor as when you first set out; I do not say you will always be carried up into the third heavens; the animal spirits possibly will not admit of such solace; but you should inquire with yourselves, whether you would be easy to be out of God's company? Steal from behind your counter, and go and converse with God. Sir Thomas Abney, who was observable for keeping up constant prayer in his family, being asked how he kept up prayer that night he was sworn in Lord Mayor? Very well, says he, I invited the company into my room, and entertained them, and when the time came, I told them, I must leave them a little, while I went and prayed with my family, and returned again. God grant we may have many such Lord Mayors. If our souls prosper, the same principle will reign in us, and make us conscientiously attend on the means of grace. It is a most dreadful mark of an enthusiastic turn of mind, when persons think they are so high in grace, that they thank God they have no need of ordinances. Our being the children of God is so far from being the cause of our wanting no ordinances, that, properly speaking, the ordinances are intended for the nourishing of the children of God; not only for the awakening the soul at first, but for the feeding of the soul afterwards. If the same nourishment the child receives before, feeds it after it is born; and as the manna never failed, but the children of Israel partook of it daily while in the wilderness, till they came to Canaan, so we shall want our daily bread, we shall want the God of
and mercy to convey his divine life into our hearts, till we get into the heavenly Canaan. There faith will be turned into vision, and then we shall not want ordinances; and let people say what they will, if our souls prosper we shall be glad of ordinances, we shall love the place where God dwells; we shall not say, such a one preaches and I will not go, but if we are among them we shall be glad of a good plain country dish, as well as a fine garnished dessert; and if our souls prosper, we shall be fond of the messengers as well as the message; we shall admire as much to hear a good ram's horn, such as blowed down the walls of Jericho, as a fine silver trumpet. So in all the ordinances of the Lord, and that of the Lord's supper for example ; if the soul does not attend thereon, it is an evidence
that it does not prosper. It is a wonder if that soul has not done something to make it afraid to meet God at his table. “ Adam where art thou ?" says the eternal Logos to his fallen creature; and every time we miss, whether we think of it or no, the Redeemer puts it down; but if our souls prosper, how shall we run to the table of the Lord, and be glad to come often to the commemoration of his death.
I will venture to affirm farther, that if your souls prosper, you will grow downwards. What is that? Why you will grow in the knowledge of yourselves. I heard, when I was at Lisbon, that some people there began at the top of the house first. It is odd kind of preaching that will do for the Papists, resting merely in externals. The knowledge of ourselves is the first thing God implants. Lord, let me know myself, was a prayer that one of the Fathers put up for sixteen years together; and if you have high thoughts of yourselves, you may know you are light-headed, you forget what poor silly creatures you are. As our souls prosper, we shall be more and more sensible, not only of the outside, but of the inside ; we first battle with the outward man, but as we advance in the divine life, we have nearer views of the chambers of imagery that are in our hearts; and one day after another we shall find more and more abomination there, and consequently we shall see more of the glory of Jesus Christ, the wonders of that Immanuel, who daily delivers us from this body of sin and death; and I mention this, because there is nothing more common, especially with young christians. I used formerly to have at least a hundred, or two hundred in a day, who would come and say, 0 dear, I am so and so, I met with God; ah! that is quite well: a week after they would come and say, O sir, it is all a delusion, there was nothing in it; what is the matter? O, never was such a wretch as I am, I never thought I had such a wicked heart. Oh! God cannot love me; now, sir, all my fervor, and all that I felt is gone; and what then? Does a tree never grow but when it grows upward? Some trees, I fancy grow downward ; and the deeper you grow in the knowledge of yourself, the deeper you grow in the knowledge of God and his grace, that discovers the corruptions of your hearts. Do not you find that aged men look back upon some former states. I know some people cannot look back to see how many sins they have been guilty of, but if grace helps us to a sight of our inherent corruptions, it will make us weary of it, and lead us to the blood of Christ to cleanse us from it; consequently, if your souls prosper, the more you will fall in love with the glorious Redeemer, and with his righteousness. I never knew a person in my life that diligently used the word,
and other means, but as they improved in grace, saw more and more of the necessity of depending upon a better righteousness than their own. Generally, when we first set out, we have better hearts than heads; but if we grow in the divine life, our heads will grow as well as our hearts, and the Spirit of God leads out of abominable self, and causes us to flee more and more to that glorious and complete righteousness that Jesus Christ wrought out.
The more your souls prosper, the more you will see of the freeness and distinguishing nature of God's grace, that all is of grace. We are all naturally free-willers, and generally young ones say, we have found the Messiah, of whom Moses and the prophets spoke ; which is right, except that word we have found; for the believer a little after learns, that the Messiah had found him. I mention this, because we ought not to make persons offenders for a word; we should bear with young christians, and not knock a young child's brains out because he cannot speak in blank verse.
Let it not be forgotten also, that the more your souls prosper, the more you will rise above the world. You cannot think that I mean you should be negligent about the things of this life. Nothing tries my temper more, than to see any about me idle; an idle person tempts the devil to tempt him. In the state of paradise, Adam and Eve were to dress the garden, and not to be idle there; after the fall, they were to till the ground; but if any body says that the Methodists think to be idle, they injure them. We tell people to rise and be at their work early and late, that they may redeem time to attend the word. If all that speak against the Methodists were as diligent, it would be better for their wives and families. What, do you think a true Methodist will be idle ? No, he will be busy with his hands, he knows time is precious, and therefore he will work hard that he may have to give to them that need, and at the same time he will live above the world ; and you know the earth is under your feet, so is the world. When he goes to sleep, he will say, I care not whether I awake more. I can look back, and tell you of hundreds and hundreds that once seemed alive to God, and have been drawn away with a little filthy, nasty dirt. How many places are there empty here, that have been filled with persons that once were zealous in their attendance ? As a person the other day, to whose having a place it was objected, that he was a Methodist ; no, says he, I have not been a Methodist these two years. I do
my part, wish people joy when they get money ; only take care it does not get into, and put your eyes out; if your money increases, let your zeal for good works increase. Per
haps some stranger will say, I thought you was against good works. I tell you the truth, I am against good works; do not run away before I have finished my sentence; we are against good works being put in the room of Christ, as the ground of our acceptance; but we look upon it, if we have a right faith, our faith will work by love. Ever since I was a boy, I remember to have heard a story of a poor indigent beggar, who asked a clergyman to give him alms, which being refused, he said, will you please, sir, to give me your blessing ; says he, God bless you ; 0, replied the beggar, you would not give me that if it was worth any thing. There are many who will talk very friendly to you, but if they suppose you are come for any thing, they will run away as from a pick-pocket; whereas, if our souls prospered, we should “count it more blessed to give than to receive.” When we rise from our beds, this would be our question to ourselves, what can I do for God to-day? What can I do for the poor? Have I two, or five, or ten talents? God help me to do for the poor as much as if I knew I was to live only this day.
In a word, if your souls prosper, my dear hearers, you will grow in love. There are some good souls, but very narrow souls; they are so afraid of loving people that differ from them, that it makes me uneasy to see it. Party spirit creeps in among christians, and whereas it was formerly said, see how these christians love one another ! now it may be said, see how these christians hate one another! I declare from the bottom of my heart, that I am more and more convinced that the principles I have preached are the word of God. Pray what do you do at Change ; is there such a thing as a Presbyterian, or Independent, or Church-walk there? Is there any chambers there for the Presbyterians, and Independents, and Churchmen to deal in ? People may boast of their wildfire zeal for God, till they cannot bear the sight of a person that differs from them. The apostle commends Gaius for his catholic love, for his love to strangers. That was a glorious saying of a good woman in Scotland, Come in, says she, ye blessed of the Lord ; I have a house that will hold a hundred, and a heart that will hold ten thousand. God give us such a heart; he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God. I could mention twenty marks, and so go on wire-drawing till nine or ten o'clock ; but it is best to deal with our souls as with our bodies, to eat but little at a time. It is so with preaching ; though I do not proceed any farther in my discourse, God bless what has been said.
But is there a child of God here that can go away without a drooping heart? I do not speak that you may think me