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when his soul was exercised with thoughts of God's marking our iniquities upon him, it was sorrowful unto the death. He was amazed and very heavy;' Mark xiv. 33. His agony, his blood sweat, his strong cries and supplications, his reiterated prayers, “if it be possible let this cup pass from me,' his last and dreadful cry, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' all manifest what apprehensions he had of what it was for God to mark iniquities. Well may poor sinners cry out, Lord, who shall stand ?' when the Son of God himself so trembled under the weight of it.
In serious thoughts of God's marking sin, he is represented unto the soul under all those glorious, terrible attributes and excellencies, which are apt to beget a dread and terror in the hearts of sinners, when they have no relief from any covenant engagements in Christ. The soul looks upon him as the great lawgiver, James iv. 12. able to revenge the breach of it, by destroying body and soul in hell fire, as one terrible in holiness, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. So also in greatness and in power; the living God, into whose hands it is a fearful thing to fall; as attended with vindictive justice, saying, ' Vengeance is mine, and I will recompense ;' Heb. x. 30. Now for a soul to consider God, clothed with all these dreadful and terrible excellencies, coming to deal with sinners according to the tenor of his fiery law, it cannot but make him cry out with Moses, 'I exceedingly quake and tremble.'
These things work on their minds: the conclusion mentioned before, is asserted in these words; namely, that God's marking of sin according to the tenor of the law, and man's salvation, are utterly inconsistent; a conclusion, that must needs shake a soul, when pressed under a sense of its own guilt.
When a person who is really guilty, and knows himself to be guilty, is brought unto his trial, he hath but these four grounds of hope that his safety and his trial may be consistent. He may think that either, 1. The judge will not be able to find out, or discover his crimes, or, 2. That some one will powerfully intercede for him with the judge ; or, 3. That the rule of the law is not so strict as to take notice of his miscarriages; or 4. That the penalty of it is not so se
vere, but that there may be a way of escape. Cut him short of his expectations from some, one, or all of these, and all his hopes must of necessity perish. And how is it in this case?
1. Of the judge we have spoken somewhat already. The present inquiry is, whether any thing may be hid from him or no; and so a door of escape be opened to a sinner, The apostle tells us,' that all things are open and naked unto him ;' Heb. iv. 12. and the psalmist, that there is not a thought in our hearts, nor a word in our tongue, but he understandeth it afar off, and knoweth it altogether;' Psal. cxxxix. 2. 4. What the sinner knows of himself, that may cause him to fear, that God knows. And what he knows not of himself, that deserves his fear, that God knows also; he is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things; 1 John iii, 20. When God shall not only set in order before the sinner, the secret sins, which he retains some remembrance of; but also brings tò mind and represents unto him, that world of filth and folly, which either he never took any real notice of, or hath utterly forgotten, it will trouble him, yea, confound him.
2. Bụt may not this judge be entreated to pass by what he knows, and to deal favourably with the singer ? May not an intercessor be obtained to plead in the behalf of the guilty soul? Eli determines this matter, 1 Sam. ii, 25. • If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him ; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him ?' There is not, saith Job, between us n'ai, one that might argue the case, in pleading for me, and so make up the mats ter, ‘laying his hand upon us both;' Job ix, 33. We now consider a sinner purely under the administration of the law; which knows nothing of a mediator. In that case, who shall take upon him to intercede for the sinner? Besides, that all creatures in heaven and earth are engaged in the quarrel of God agaiņst sinners; and besides the greatness and terror of his majesty, that will certainly deter all or any of them from undertaking any such work; what is the res quest that in this case must be put up unto God? Is it not that he would cease to be holy, leave off from being righteous, relinquish his throne, deny himself, and his sove,
reignty, that a rebel, a traitor, his cursed enemy, may live and escape his justice? Is this request reasonable? Is he fit to intercede for sinners that make it? Would he not by so doing prove himself to be the greatest of them ? The sinner cannot then expect any door of escape to be opened unto him; all the world is against him; and the case must be tried out nakedly between God and him. But,
3. It may be the rule of the law whereby the sinner is to be tried is not so strict, but that in the case of such sins as he is guilty of, it may admit of a favourable interpretation; or that the good that he hath doné, may be laid in the balance against his evil, and so some relief be obtained that way. But the matter is quite otherwise; there is no good action of a sipner, though it were perfectly good, that can lie in the balance with, or compensate the evil of, the least sin committed. For all good is due on another account, though no guilt were incurred. And the payment of money that a man owes, that he hath borrowed, makes no satisfaction for what he hath stole; no more will our duties compensate for our sins. Nor is there any good action of a sinner, but it hath evil and guilt enough attending it, to render itself unacceptable; so that men may well cease from thoughts of their supererogation. Besides, where there is any one sin, if all the good in the world might be supposed to be in the same person, yet in the indispensable order of our dependance on God, nothing of that good could come into consideration, until the guilt of that sin were answered for unto the utmost. Now the penalty of every sin, being the eternal ruin of the sinner ; all his supposed good can stand him in little stead. And for the law itself, it is an issue of the holiness, righteousness, and wisdom of God; sò that there is not any evil, so great or small, but is forbidden in it, and condemned by it. Hereupon David so states this whole matter, Psal. cxliii. 2. Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.' That is, if things are to be tried out and determined by the law, no sinner can obtain acquitment; as Paul declares the sense of that place to be, Rom. iii. 20. Gal. ii. 16. But yet,
4. It may be the sentence of the law is not so fierce
and dreadful, but that though guilt be found, there may . be yet a way of escape. But the law speaks not one word on this side death to an offender. There is a greatness, and an eternity of wrath in the sentence of it; and it is God himself who hath undertaken to see the vengeance of it executed. So that on all these accounts, the conclusion mentioned, must needs be fixed in the soul of a sinner, that entertains thoughts of drawing nigh to God. Though what hath been spoken, may be of general use unto sinners of all sorts, whether called home to God, or yet strangers to him; yet I shall not insist upon any general improvement of it, because it is intended only for one special end or purpose. That which is aimed at, is to shew what are the first thoughts that arise in the heart of a poor entangled soul, when first he begins to endeavour a recovery in a returnal unto God. The law immediately puts in its claim unto him, and against him. God is represented unto him, as angry, displeased, provoked; and his terror more or less besets him round about. This fills him with fear, shame, and confusion of face; so that he knows not what to do. These troubles are greater or lesser, according as God seeth it best for the poor creature's present humiliation, and future safety. What then doth the sinner ? What are his thoughts hereupon? Doth he think to fly from God, and to give over all endeavours of recovery? Doth he say this God is a holy, and terrible God; I cannot serve him; it is to no purpose for me to look for any thing but fury and destruction from him; and therefore, I had as good give over as persist in my design of drawing nigh to him. It cannot be denied but that in this case, thoughts of this nature will be suggested by unbelief; and that sometimes great perplexities arise to the soul by them. But this is not the issue and final product of this exercise of the soul; it produceth another effect; it calls for that which is the first particular working of a gracious soul arising out of its sin-entanglements. This is, as was declared, a sincere sense of sin, and acknowledgment of it, with self-condemnation in the justification of God: this is the first thing that a soul endeavouring a recovery from its depths is brought and wrought unto. His general resolution to make serious and thorough work, with what he hath
in hand, was before unfolded. That which in the next place we are directed unto in these words, is the reflection on itself, upon the consideration of God's marking iniquity, now mentioned. This is faith's great and proper use of the law;
the nature whereof shall be farther opened in the next discourse.
The first particular actings of a soul towards a recovery out of the depths of sin. Sense of sin, wherein it consists. How it is wrought. Acknowledgment of sin; its nature and properties. Self-condemnation.
WHAT is the frame of the soul in general, that is excited by grace, and resolves in the strength thereof to attempt a recovery out of the depths of sin-entanglements, hath been declared. We have also shewed what entertainments, in general, such a soul had need to expect, yea, ordinarily shall be sure to meet withal. It may be he goes forth at first like Sampson with his locks cut, and thinks he will do as at other times; but he quickly finds his peace lost, his wounds painful, his conscience restless, God displeased, and his whole condition, as the utmost of his own apprehension, hazardous. This fills him with the thoughts expressed in this third verse, and fixes the conclusion in his mind, discoursed of before. He finds now that he hath the law afresh to deal withal. Thence ariseth that sense and acknowledgment of sin, that self-condemnation, in the justification of God, whereof we now speak. He grows not sullen, stubborn, or displeased; for the extenuation of his sin and guilt, he quarrelleth not with, he repineth not against, the holiness, severity, and righteousness of the law of God; but reflects wholly on himself, his own unworthiness, guilt, and desert; and in a sense of them lies down at the foot of God, in expectation of his word and sentence. Three things in this condition we ascribe unto such a soul. First, a sincere sense of sin. There is a twofold sense of sin. The one is general and notional; whereby a man knows what sin is, that himself is a sinner; that he is guilty of this or that, these or those sins; only his heart is not affected