« AnteriorContinuar »
Galatia, but forbad them to preach the word in Alia, Acts xvi. 6." And when they essayed to go into Bithynia, the spirit fuf« fered them not,” v. 7. But a man of Macedonia appears to Paul io a vision, aod prayed him, saying, « Come over to Ma“ cedonia and help us," v. 9. Thus you see how the mystical, as well as the natural clouds are moved according to divine counsel; and though ministers are not dow difpoled to their respective places, in such as extraordinary way, yet there is still a special hand of the spirit guiding their motions, which is feca partly io qualifying them for such a people, and partly in drawing out their hearts to elect and call them, and inclining their hearts to accept the call.
3. There is a great deal of difference in the showers of raia that fall upon the earth. Sometimes you have ab hasty Mower, which makes the ways float, and the streets run, but it is gone presently, the earth hath but little benefit by it; and sometimes you have a sweet, gentle, foaking rain, that moderately foaks to the root, and refrelhes the earth abundantly. This is called the small rain, and the former, the great rain of his ftrength, Job xxxvii. 6. So it is in thefe fpiritual showers, the effects of fome sermons (like a sudden spout of rain) are very tranfient, that touch the heart a little for the prelent, by way of conviction or comfort, but it feets away immediately, Jam. i. 23. At other times the gospel, like a fettled moderate rain, soaks to the root, to the very heart. So did that sweet Mower which fell, Acts ii. 37. It searched the root, it weot to the heart; the influences of it ale fometimes abiding, and do much longer remain in, and refresh the heart, than the rain doth the earth. There be effects left in some hearts, by fome fermons and duties, that will never out of it as long as they live. "I will never
forget thy precepts, for by them thou hast quickaéd me," Psal. cxix. 93
4. The rain is most beneficial to the earth, when there come sweet, warm suo-blasts with it, or after it. This the scripture calls “ a clear lining after rain," 2 Sam. xxiii. 4. by which the feminal virtue of the earth is drawn forth, and then the herbs, flowers, and corn sprout abundantly. So it is with gospela showers, when the fun of righteousoess opens upon poor fouts under the word, darting dowo the beams of grace and love up. on them, whilst they are attending on it, (just as you sometimes see a sweet shower fall while the luo liges out). O how comfortable is this! and effectual to melt the heart! And as the warm raio is most refreshing, fo when the word comes warmly',
from the melting affections of the preacher, who imparts aot only the gospel, but his own foul with it, i Thel. ïi. 8. this doth abundantly more good than that which drops coldly from the lips of the unaffected speaker.
5. Showers of rain do exceedingly refresh the earth, as a maa is refreshed by a draught of water, when his spirits are even fpent. O how welcome is a shower to the thirsty ground ! Hence the little bills are faid to rejoice on every fide, yea co shout for joy, and siog when a shower comes, Plal Ixv, 12, 13Bui qever were showers of rain so sweetly refreshing to the thirsty earth, as gospel-fhowers are to gracious bearts, Col. iv. 8. they comfort their very hearts. What joy was there in Samaria, when the gospel came to that place ? Acts vii. 8. It revives the soul, it is mel in ore, melos in aure, jubilum in corde, honey in the mouth, melody in the ear, and a very jubilee in the heart.
6. Raio is necessary at seed-time, to make ready the earth to receive the feed, Plal. Ixv. 9, 10. " Thou vifiteft the earth, aod " watereft it; thou greatly iorichest it with the river of God, “ which is full of water; thou preparest them corn, when thou “ haft fo provided for it; thou watereft the ridges thereof a“ bundantly, thou settleft the furrows thereof, thou makest it " soft with showers, thou blesselt the springing thereof." And this the scripture calls the former rain. And as this is necessary about feed-time, fo the latter rain is as needful about caringtime, to disclose the ear, and to bring it to perfection; both these are great blessings to the earth, and conduce to a pieptiful harvest, Joel ii, 23, 24.“ Be glad then ye children of Sion, “ and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he hath given you “ the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come “ down for you the rain, the former and the latter rain in the “ first month, and the floors shall be full of wheat, and the “ fats Wall overflow with wine and oil.” Thus the gospel hath a double use and benefit also. It is necessary as the former rain at feed-time, it causes the firit spring of grace in the heart, Psal. xix. 7. And there could be (in an ordioary way) no spring of grace without it, Prov. xxix. 18, And as this former raio is necessary to cause the first fpriag of grace, so allo it bath the use of the latter raia to ripen those precious froits of the spirit in the souls of believers, Eph. iv. 11, 12, 13." He gave some
“ " apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some “ pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for " the work of the mipistry, for the cdifying of the body of 5 Christ, till we all come ią the unity of the faith, and the
" kpowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, unto the " measure of the Itature of the fulaess of Christ." Were all the elect converted unto God, yet fill there would be a neccflity of a gospel-ministry.
7. After a great glue of raio, usually there comes a drooght; it is a common country proverb, Wet and dry, pay one another. And truly when a people are glutted with a fuloels of gospelmercies, it is usual with God to fhut up and restrain the gospelclouds, that, for a time at least, there be no dews upon them, and thereby teach them to prize their defpiled (becaule common) mercies at an higher rate. For as a good man once said, mercies are best koowa by the back, and most prized when most wanted. “ Io thote days the word of the Lord was precious, thete was “ no open vision," i Sam. iji. 1. It is with spiritual as with temporal food, lighted when plenteous, but if a famine once come, then every bit of bread is precious. Jerusalem remembered in the days of her afflictions, and of her milery, all her pleasant things chat she had jo the days of old, Lam. i. 7. It is both a final and dangerous thing to wap tonize with gospelmercies, and despise the plainest (if faithful) ministers of the gospel. The time may come when you may be glad of the plainest fermon, from the mouth of the meancft ambassador of Christ,
8. To conclude, The prayers of faiats are the keys that open and shut the natural clouds, and cause them either to give out, or with-hold their influences, Jam. v. 17, 18.“ Elias was a man " subject to like passions, as we are, and he prayed earneftly " that it might not raio, and it rained not on the earth by the “ space of three years and six months; and he prayed again, " and the heavens gave rain, and the earth brought forth her “ fruit.” God hath fubjected the works of his hands to the prayers of his faints, Isa. xlv. 11.
Prayer is also the golden key which opens thefe myslical gorpel-clouds, and dissolves them into sweet gracious showers. God will have the whole work of the ministry carried on by the prayers of his people; they first obtain their minifters by prayer, Luke x, 2. " Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, to send forth la“ bourers into the vineyard." It is by the help of prayer that they are carried on, and enabled to exercise their mioiftry: They may tell their people as a great general once told his foldiers, That he few upon their wings.' '
“ Pray for me, (faith “ the great apoftle) that utterance may be given me, that I may
open my mouth boldly, to make koowo the mysteries of the gospel," Eph. vi, 19. Yea, by the saints prayers it is, that
ministers obtain the success and fruits of their labonrs, 2 Thell ü. 1. “ Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the “ Lord may have free course, and be glorified even as it is with “ you." And thus you have the metaphor opened. Now, O! that these truths might come down in (wect showers upon hearts both of ministers and people, in the following reflections.
1. Am I then a cloud? Apd is doctrine Three reflections
my as rain to water the Lord's inheritance? And for go/pel miniAters.
yet do I think it much to be toffed up and
down by the furious winds and storms of perfecution? Do not I see the clouds above me in continual mo. tions and agitations? And shall I dream of a fixed, settled state? No ; false teachers, who are clouds without rain, are more likely to enjoy that than I. Which of all the prophets have not been tossed and hurried worse than I? Aets vii. 52. He that will not let men alone to be quiet in their lusts, must expect but little quiet from men in this life. But it is enough, Lord, that a reft remaineth for thy servant ; let me be fo wife to secure a rest to come, and not so vain to expect it on earth.”
2. Aod, O that I might study those instructing clouds, from which, as from the bottles of heaven, God pours down refreshing showers to quench and satisfy the thirsty earth! In this may I resemble them, and come amongst the people of the Lord, "in " the fuloess of the blesing of the gospel of Christ,” Rom. xv. 29. Olet not those thirsty souls that wait for me as for the rain, Job
“ return like the troops of Tema, alhamed, with their “ heads covered,” Job vi. 19. that my lips might refresh many! Let me never be like those empty clouds, which deceive the hopes of thirsty souls ; but let my doctrine descend as the rain, and distil as the dew, and let that plot of thine inheritance which thou hast affigoed to me, be as a field which the Lord hath blessed.
3. Once more, lift up thine eyes to the clouds, and behold, to how great ao height the sup hath mouoted them, for by reason of their sublimity it is, that they are called the clouds of hea. ven, Matth. xxiv. 30. Lord, let me be a cloud of heaven too: Let my
heart and conversation be both there! Who is more ad. vantaged for an heavenly life than I heavenly truths are the fabjects of my daily study, and shall earthly thiogs be the ob. jects of my daily delights and loves ? God forbid that ever my earthly conversation should contradict and shame my heavenly calling and profeflion, Shige forth thou glorious sua of righ
teousness, and my heart shall quickly be attracted and mounted above these visible clouds, yea, and above the aspectable heavens.
1. Is the gospel rain, and are its ministers clouds ? Wo is nie then, that my habitation tions for priis upon the mountains of Gilboa, where there vate Chrifti are no dews! Ah sad lot, that I should be like ans. Gideon's dry fleece, 'whilft the ground round
For those that about me is wet with the dew of heaven; O thou that commandelt the clouds above, and
want a gospel openeft the windows of heaven, remember, and miniftry. refresh this parched wilderness, wherein I live, with howers of grace, that we may not be as the heath in the defart, which Teeth pot when good cometh, nor inhabit the parched places of the wilderness.
2.0 Lord, thou hast caused the heavens above For those that me to be black with clouds, thou openeft the celestial cafements from above, and daily fendelt enjoy a gospeldown showers of gofpel-blellings : 0 that I might miniftry.
. be as the parched earth under them! Not for barrennefs, but for thirstinefs. Let me fay, “ My foul longeth, yea, even faiota " eth for the courts of the Lord':” that I might there fee the beauty of the Lord. Doth the spungy earth fo greedily fuck up the thowers, and open as many mouths as there are clefts in it, to receive what the clouds dispense? And shall those precious foul-enriching fhowers fleet away unprofitably from me? If so, thes, 3. What an account have I to make for all
For unprofithose gospel-blessings that I have enjoyed; for
The PO E M.
Upon those treasures which the heavens do spend