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man! wherb:, wretchese with the
can I, who have violated reason, forgotten my obligations, neglected my privileges, and broke through all the restraints of kindness, how can I appear with any degree of confidence at the sacred throne? How can I, whose steps have devi. ated from the path of duty, who have listened to the voice of worldly charms, and been deaf to the remonstrances of conscience and of, truth, enter into the divine presence with the least hope of mercy ? Ah! wretched delinquent! miserable man! where shall I fly ? Where shall I hide my blushing face? What power can relieve me now? What worldly good can be a substitute for the loss of that peace I once enjoyed ?" Thus the backslider bemoans himself, and, filled with distress, he knows not what to do, where to go, or how to act. Misery is painted in his countenance, fear seizes his soul, while guilt presses on him as an intolerable load. Under such feelings, and in such circumstances as these, it was that David exclaimed, “I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean ; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Hide thy face from mine iniquities, and blot out all my sins.” Thus Jonah : “ Out of the belly of hell cried I. I said, I am cast out of thy sight. My soul fainted within me.” Thus of Peter, too, it is said, that “ he went out, and wept bitterly.” Ps. li. Jon. ii. Matt. xxvi. 35.
But it is not open transgression only that af. fects the christian. Many have reason to be thankful they have been preserved from this ; . but there are secret backslidings, the wanderings of the thoughts, and the coldness of the affections, that prove occasions of great distress to a tender conscience. He would fain imbibe the lovely spirit and imitate the noble example of his Saviour ; " but, alas !" says he, “ my best hours are not free from sinful infirmities, nor my best duties from sinful imperfections. These, like a worm at the root, eat away the vigour of my graces, and tarnish the beauty of my services. O such swarms of unruly and irregular desires ! When, O when shall they all be brought into subjection ! Lord, when I engage in any spiritual duty, or heavenly exercise; when I draw near to thee, and promise myself some sweet converse and communion with thee, yea, even then, this evil is present with me! O If I were but rid of it in these hours, what a mercy should I esteem it, though I were troubled with it at other times ! Could I but be free from it in the seasons of duty, on sabbaths, and sacramental occasions, what a comfort would it be! But, alas! sin is most active and busy in such seasons ; it takes off niy heart from duty ; it interrupts all my thoughts, and carries off my soul from my beloved. So that even the good motions which come from the Spirit of God are either interrupted, or mingled with some evil tendencies. No sooner do I attempt to do any thing for God and his glory, but I find something presented, either of self-love or vain glory : hypocrisy or unbelief will be springing up, either to distress my soul, to prevent or spoil all my services. Lord, I come hither to meet with thee, I come to obtain fresh strength against sin, and yet it seems to bear down all before it. I come for light, but behold darkness; for comfort, but behold trouble, Once I thought I had little to do but to triumph over all my corruptions, slain, as I then hoped, by the power and grace of Christ. My heart and affections began to warm and melt in duty, my soul seemed to get near to God; but, alas! how different is it now with me! sin seems more powerful than eyer. O what reason, then, have I to complain with the apostle, that, when I would do good, evil is present with ine!" See Dr. Stafford on theith ch. Rom. Ser. 20, p. 383.
Another source of distress to the christian is - the hiding of God's face. This is a sore trial,
as we may find from the language of those who have experienced it. “0," says Job, “ that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there ; and backward, but I cannot perceive him. On the left hand where he doth work, but I cannot behold him; he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.” “Lord,” says David, 66 why castest thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted, and ready to die: while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted.” 6. He hath led me," says Jeremiah, .and brought ne into darkness, but not into light. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out; he hath made my chain heavy.” So Zion complains, es The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hatlı forgotten me.” Job xxiii. Ps. Ixxxviii. 15. Lam. ü. 1, &c. Is. xlix. 14.
Ah! what does the christian feel in this unhappy situation? All the beauties of creation, the blessings of Providence, the smiles of the creature,
or the wonders of art, cannot fill up that aching void which he now experiences. In proportion as he loves his God, so he feels his distress arise when deprived of the light of his countenance. As thousands of inferior luminaries could not supply the place of the sun, so he finds that all the inferior joys of the present state cannot be a substitute for the glorious Sun of Righteousness. Existence itself becomes a burden; every thing is insipid. His soul refuses comfort, ministers, ordinances, sabbaths; yea, even the promises themselves afford him no consolation. He walks in darkness, and has no light. Now it is, too, he begins to doubt whether he ever knew the truth, and felt its power. He is almost ready to imagine that God is about to give him up to the horrors of a guilty conscience. The monuments. of divine justice are brought to his view : he trembles at the recollection of an Achan, a Saul, a Judas. He reads those passages of scripture which say, “I also will choose their delusion, and will bring their fears upon them. This shall ye have of mine hand ; ye shall lie down in sor. row. They shall call upon me, but I will not answer ; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me. I will laugh at their calamity, I will mock when their fear cometh.” Is. 1. 11. Prov. i. 23, &c. These scriptures he is ready to apply to himself, and sometimes such has been the greatness of his distress, that, with a busy imagination and a gloomy mind, every circumstance has been converted into an occasion of grief. If a threatening be pronounced from the pulpit, he thinks it is against him. If a friend inadvertently drop an unpleasant word, he con
ceives that it is sent by Providence as a testimony against him. If affliction seizes him, he imagines it is the wrath of God poured out upon him. If even he meet but with a look of indifference from any of the saints, he construes it to their contempt of him, and that God thus suffers it for his punishment. Thus the christian some. times thinks all things are against him. Yet however, notwithstanding all, he cannot go back; he dare not give up: he struggles and longs for deliverance ; nor can he be satisfied until the Lord appear, and the Spirit bear witness with his spirit, that he is born of God. It is this he wishes to ascertain; and, like the poet, exclaims,
6. "Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Am I his, or am I not.
If I love, why am I thus ?
Why this dull and lifeless frame?
Who have never heard his name.
Lord, decide the doubtful case;
Thou, who art thy people's sun,
If it be indeed begun."
We may add once more, that, to many christians, the thought of approaching dissolution becomes a source of distress. Death, indeed, in itself is awful, and few can look forward to it without feeling some degree of tremor; but of all characters, none ought to meet it with such confidence as the christian. To him it will be a pleasant change, and so far from being a matter of