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Jesus Christ; as Balaam, Cain, Judas, and others, can witness.
Further, consider, that what thou hast not of these things here, thou mayest have another time, and that to thy distraction. Wherefore, instead of being discontented, because thou art not in the fire, because thou hearest not the sound of the trumpet, and alarm of war, “pray that thou enter not into temptation.” Yea, come boldly to the throne of grace, , and obtain mercy, and find grace to help in that time of need. Psalm lxxxviii. 15; Matt. xxvi. 41; Heb. iv. 16.
Poor creature! thou criest, 'If I were tempted, I could come faster, and with more confidence, to Jesus Christ.' Thou sayest thou knowest not what. What says Job? “Withdraw thine hand far from me; and let not thy dread make me afraid: then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me.” Job xiii. 21, 22. It is not the over-heavy load of sin, but the discovery of mercy; not the roaring of the devil, but the drawing of the Father, that makes a man come to Jesus Christ. I myself know all these things.
True, sometimes, yea, in general, they that come to Jesus Christ, come the way that thou desirest; the loaded, tempted way: but the Lord also leads some by the waters of comfort. If I were to choose when to go a long journey, namely, whether I would go it in the dead of winter, or in the pleasant spring (though, if it was a very profitable journey, as that of coming to Christ is, I would choose to go it through fire and water, before I would lose the benefit): but I say, if I might choose the time, I would choose to go it in the pleasant spring, because the way would be more delightsome, the days longer, and warmer, the nights shorter, and not so cold. And it is observable, that that very argument that thou usest to weaken thy strength in the way,
very argument Christ Jesus useth to encourage his beloved to come to him : “Rise up,” saith he, “my love, my fair
DECAY OF FEELING A SOURCE OF FEAR.
and come away." Why? “For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines, with the tender grape, give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Song ii. 10-13.
Trouble not thyself, coming sinner. If thou seest thy lost condition by original and actual sin; if thou seest thy need of the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ; if thou art willing to be found in him, and to take up thy cross and follow him; then pray for a fair wind and good weather, and come away. Stick no longer in a muse and doubt about things, but come away to Jesus Christ : do it, I
lest thou tempt God to lay the sorrows of a travailing woman upon thee. Thy folly in this thing may make him do it. Mind what follows. « The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him.” Why? 6. He is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children." Hos. xiii. 13.
7. Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee, may rise from those decays that thou findest in thy soul, even while thou art coming to him. Some, even as they are coming to Jesus Christ, do find themselves grow worse and worse; and this is indeed a sore trial to the poor coming sinner.
To explain myself. There is such a one coming to Jesus Christ who, when at first he began to look out after him, was sensible, affectionate, and broken in spirit; but now is grown dark, senseless, hard-hearted, and inclining to neglect spiritual duties, and the like. Besides, he now finds in himself inclinations to unbelief, atheism, blasphemy, and the like; now he finds he cannot tremble at God's word, at his judgments, nor at the apprehension of hell-fire : neither can he, as he thinketh, be sorry for these things. Now, this is a sad dispensation. The man under the sixth head complaineth for want of temptations, but thou hast enough of them; art thou glad of them, tempted, coming sinner? They that never were exercised with them, may think it a fine thing to be within their rage; but he that is there, is ready to sweat blood for sorrow of heart, and to howl for vexation of spirit.
This man is in the wilderness among wild beasts: here he sees a bear, there a lion, yonder a leopard, a wolf, a dragon. Devils of all sorts, doubts of all sorts, fears of all sorts, haunt and molest his soul. Here he sees smoke, yea, some fire and brimstone, scattered upon his secret places. He hears the sound of a horrible tempest.
Oh! my friends, even the Lord Jesus, that knew all things, even he saw no pleasure in temptations, nor did he desire to be with them. Wherefore one text saith, “he was led," and another, "he was driven," of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. Matt. iv. 1; Mark i. 12.
But to return : thus it happeneth sometimes to them that are coming to Jesus Christ.
A sad hap indeed ! One would think, that he that is ing from the wrath to come has little need of such clogg as these. And yet so it is, and woful experience proves it. The church of old complained, that her enemies overtook her between the straits; just between hope and fear, heaven and hell. Lam. i. 3. So now this man feeleth the infirmity of his flesh; he findeth a proneness in himself to be desperate. Now he chides with God, flings and tumbles like a wild bull in a net; and still the guilt of all returns upon himself, to the crushing of him to pieces. Yet he feeleth his heart so hard, that he can find, as he thinks, no kind feeling under any of his miscarriages. Now he is a lump of confusion in his own eyes, whose spirit and actions are without order.
Temptation serves the Christian as the shepherd's dog serveth the silly sheep—that is, coming behind the flock, he
USE OF TEMPTATIONS.
rung upon it, pulls it down, worries it, wounds it, and grievously bedabbleth it with dirt and wet, in the lowest places of the furrows of the field, and not leaving it until it is half dead, nor then neither, except God rebuke.
Here is now room for fears of being cast away. Now I see I am lost,' says the sinner; "this is not coming to Jesus Christ,' says the sinner; such a desperate, hard, and wretched heart as mine is, cannot be a gracious one,' saith the sinner: band bid such a one be better,' he says, 'I cannot, no, I cannot.'
Quest. But what will you say to a soul in this condition ?
Answ. I will say, That temptations have attended the best of God's people: I will say, that temptations come to do us good; and I will say also, that there is a difference betwixt growing worse and worse, and thy seeing more clearly how bad thou art.
There is a man of an ill-favored countenance, who hath too high a conceit of his beauty; and wanting the benefit of a glass, he still stands fair in his own conceit. At last a limner is sent unto him, who draweth his ill-favored face to the life; now, looking thereon, he begins to be convinced that he is not half so handsome as he thought he was. Coming sinner, thy temptations are these painters, they have drawn out thy ill-favored heart to the life, and have set it before thine eyes, and now thou seest how ill-favored thou art.
Hezekiah was a good man, yet when he lay sick (for aught I know) he had somewhat too good an opinion of his heart; and for aught I know also, the Lord might upon his recovery leave him to a temptation, that he might better know all that was in his heart. Compare Isa. xxxviii. 1-3, with 2 Chron. xxxii. 31.
Alas! we are sinful out of measure, but see it not to the full, until an hour of temptation.comes: but when it comes, it doth as the painter doth, draw out our heart to the life. Yet the sight of what we are, should not keep us from coming to Jesus Christ.
There are two ways by which God lets a man into a sight of the evils of his heart; one is, by the light of the word and Spirit of God; and the other is, by the temptations of the devil. But, by the first, we see our sinfulness one way, and, by the second, another. By the light of the word and Spirit of God, thou hast a sight of thy sinfulness, as by the light of the sun, thou hast a sight of the spots and defilements that are in thy house, or raiment. Which light gives thee to see a necessity of cleansing, but maketh not the blemishes to spread more abominably. But when Satan comes, when he tempts, he puts life and rage into our sins, and turns them, as it were, into so many devils within us. Now, like prisoners, they attempt to break through the prison of our body; they will attempt to get out at our eyes, mouths, ears, any way, to the scandal of the gospel, and reproach of religion, to the darkening of our evidences, and damning of our souls.
But I shall say, as I said before, this hath ofttimes been the lot of God's people. And no temptation hath overtaken thee, but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not suffer thee to be tempted above what thou art able. 1 Cor. x. 13. See the book of Job, the book of Psalms, and that of Lamentations. And remember farther, that Christ himself was tempted to blaspheme, to worship the devil, and to murder himself (Matt. iv; Luke iv); temptations worse than which, thou canst hardly be overtaken with. But he was sinless, that is true. And he is thy Saviour, and that is as true! Yea, it is as true also, that by his being tempted, he became the conqueror of the tempter, and a succorer of those that are tempted Col. ii. 14, 15; Heb. ii. 15; iv. 15, 16.
Quest. But what is the reason that some that are coming