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last year; I cannot but think he will soon find himself under a necessity, greatly to insist upon it with them, that God is under no manner of obligation to shew any mercy to any natural man, whose heart is not turned to God: And that a man can challenge nothing, either in absolute justice, or by free promise, from any thing he does before he has believed on Jesus Christ, or has true repentance begun in him. It appears to me, that if I had taught those that came to me under trouble, any other doctrine, I should have taken a most direct course utterly to have undone them : I should have directly crossed what was plainly the drift of the spirit of God in his influences upon them ; for if they had believed what I said, it would either have promoted selflattery and carelessness, and so put an end to their awakenings; or cherished and established their contention and strife with God, concerning his dealings with them and others, and blocked up their way to that humiliation before the sovereign disposer of life and death, whereby God is wont to prepare them for his consolations. And yet those that have been under awakenings, have often times plainly stood in need of being encouraged, by being told of the infinite and allsufficient mercy of God in Christ; and that it is God’s manner to succeed diligence, and to bless his own means, that so awakenings and encouragements, fear and hope, may be duly mixed, and proportioned to preserve their minds in a just medium between the two extremes of selflattery and despondence, both which tend to slackness and negligence, and in the end to security.
I think I have found that no discourses have been more remarkably blessed, than those in which the doctrine of God's absolute sovereignty with regard to the salvation of sinners, and his just liberty, with regard to answering the prayers, or succeeding the pains of mere natural men, continuing such, have been insisted on. I never found so much immediate saving fruit, in any measure, of any discourses I have offered to my congregation, as some from those words. Rom. iii. 19. “That every mouth may be stopped ;” endeavoring to shew from thence that it would be just with God forever to reject and cast off mere natural men.
In those in whom awakenings seem to have a saving issue, commonly the first thing that appears after their legal troubles, is a conviction of the justice of God in their condemnation, in a sense of their own exceeding sinfulness, and the vileness of all their performances: In giving an account of this they expressed themselves very variously; some, that they saw that God was sovereign, and might receive others and reject them ; some, that they were convinced, that God might justly bestow mercy on every person in the town, and on every person in the world, and damn themselves to all eternity; some, that they see that God may justly have no regard to all the pains they have taken, and all the prayers they have made ; some, that they see that if they should seek, and take the utmost pains all their lives, God might justly cast them into hell at last, because all their labors, prayers and tears, cannot make an atonement for the least sin, nor merit any blessing at the hands of God; some have declared themselves to be in the hands of God, that he can and may dispose of them just as he pleases; some that God may glorify himself in their damnation, and they wonder that God has suffered them to live so long, and has not cast them into hell long ago.
Some are brought to this conviction, by a great sense of their sinfulness, in general, that they are such vile wicked creatures in heart and life : Others have the sins of their lives in an extraordinary manner set before them, multitudes of them coming just then fresh to their memory, and being set before them with their aggravations; some have their minds especially fixed, on some particular wicked practice, they have indulged; some are especially convinced by a sight of the corruption and wickedness of their hearts; some from a view they have of the horridness of some particular exercises of corruption, which they have had in the time of their awakening, whereby the enmity of the heart against God has been manifested ; some are convinced especially by a sense of the sin of unbelief, the opposition of their hearts to the way of salvation by Christ, and their obstinacy in rejecting him and his grace.
There is a great deal of difference as to persons distinctness here ; some, that have not so clear a sight of God's justice in their condemnation, yet mention things that plainly imply it. They find a disposition to acknowledge God to be just and righteous in his threatenings, and that they are deserving of nothing : And many times, though they had not so particular a sight of it at the beginning, they have very clear discoveries of it soon afterwards, with great humblings in the dust before God.
Commonly persons’ minds immediately before this discove. ry of God’s justice are exceeding restless, and in a kind of struggle and tumult, and sometimes in mere anguish ; but generally, as soon as they have this conviction, it immediately brings their minds to a calm, and a before unexpected quietness and composure; and most frequently, though not always, then the pressing weight upon their spirits is taken away, and a general hope arises, that some time or other God will be gracious, even before any distinct and particular discoveries of mercy; and often they then come to a conclusion within themselves, that they will lie at God's feet, and wait his time; and they rest in that, not being sensibie that the spirit of God has now brought them to a frame whereby they are prepared for mercy ; for it is remarkable that persons, when they first have this sense of the justice of God, rarely, in the time of it, think any thing of its being that humiliation that they have often heard insisted on, and that others experience.
In many persons, the first convictions of the justice of God in their condemnation, which they take particular notice of, and probably the first distinct conviction of it that they have, is of such a nature, as seems to be above any thing merely legal : Though it be after legal humblings, and much of a sense of their own helplessness, and of the insufficiency of their own duties; yet it does not appear to be forced by mere legal terrors and convictions; but rather from an high exercise of grace, in saving repentance, and evangelical humiliation; for there is in it a sort of complacency of Soul, in the attribute of God’s justice, as displayed in his threatenings of eternal damnation to sinners. Sometimes at the discovery of it, they can
scarcely forbear crying out, 'Tis Just 1 'Tis just .....Some express themselves, that they see the glory of God would shine bright in their own condemnation; and they are ready to think that if they are damned, they could take part with God against themselves, and would glorify his justice therein, And when it is thus, they commonly have some evident sense of free and allsufficient grace, though they give no distinct account of it; but it is manifest, by that great degree of hope and encouragément that they then conceive, though they were never so sensible of their own vileness and illdeservings as they are at that time. Some, when in such circumstances, have felt that sense of the excellency of God's justice, appearing in the vindictive exercises of it, against such sinfulness as theirs was, and have had such a submission of mind in their idea of this attribute, and of those exercises of it, together with an exceeding loathing of their own unworthiness, and a kind of indignation against themselves, that they have sometimes almost called it a willingness to be damned ; though it must be owned they had not clear and distinct ideas of damnation, nor does any word in the Bible require such selfdenial as this. But the truth is, as some have more clearly expressed it, that salvation has appeared too good for them, that they were worthy of nothing but condemnation, and they could not tell how to think of salvation’s being bestowed upon them, fearing it was inconsistent with the glory of God's majesty that they had so much contemned and affronted. That calm of spirit that some persons have found after their legal distresses, continues some time before any special and delightful manifestation is made to the soul of the grace of God, as revealed in the gospel; but very often some comfortable and sweet view of a merciful God, of a sufficient Redeemer, or of some great and joyful things of the gospel, immediately follows, or in a very little time: And in some, the first sight of their just desert of hell, and God's sovereignty with respect to their salvation, and a discovery of allsufficient grace, are so near, that they seem to go as it were together.
These gracious discoveries that are given, whence the first special comforts are derived, are in many respects very various ; more frequently Christ is distinctly made the object of the mind, in his allsufficiency and willingness to save sinners : But some have their thoughts more especially fixed on God, in some of his sweet and glorious attributes manifested in the gospel, and shining forth in the face of Christ: Some view the allsufficiency of the mercy and grace of God; some chiefly the infinite power of God, and his ability to save them, and to do all things for them; and some look most at the truth and faithfulness of God: In some, the truth and certainty of the gospel in general is the first joyful discovery they have ; in others, the certain truth of some particular promises; in some, the grace and sincerity of God in his invitations, very commonly in some particular invitation in the mind, and it now appears real to them that God does indeed invite them. Some are struck with the glory and wonderfulness of the dying love of Christ; and some with the sufficiency and preciousness of his blood, as offered to make an atonement for sin; and others with the value and glory of his obedience and righteousness. In some the excellency and loveliness of Christ chiefly engages their thoughts; in some his divinity, that he is indeed the son of the living God ; and in others the excellency of the way of salvation by Christ, and the suitableness of it to their necessities. Some have an apprehension of these things so given, that it seems more natural to them to express it by sight or discovery; others think what they experience better expressed by the realizing conviction, or a lively or feeling sense of heart; meaning, as I suppose, no other difference but what is merely circumstantial or gradual. .* There is often, in the mind, some particular text of scripture, holding forth some evangelical ground of consolation; sometimes a multitude of texts, gracious invitations and promises flowing in one after another, filling the soul more and more with comfort and satisfaction; and comfort is first given to some while reading some portion of scripture ; but in some it is attended with no particular scripture at all, either in read