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experienced, Matth. xv. 21. and downwards. The richest treasure is that which lies deepest.— Confider,
6. That as importunity is ufually in all cafes the way to come fpeed, fo it has special advantages in this cafe which promife fuccefs. The Lord gives much to importunity: Luke, xi. 9. “ And I fay unto you, Afk, and it fhall be given you; feek, and ye fhall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." The word in the eighth verfe rendered importunity, is in the Greek Shamelessness. Pinching need makes people fhamelefs. It is not here as with men, that a fhameless feeker must get a fhameless refufal; they who will not, cannot take a denial, fhall not be troubled with it: And when there is enough and to fpare to the needy, this and their condition makes them shamelefs; both concur to make them importunate.
7. But further confider, that fuch followers the Lord does not bid them go back; and is not this very encouraging? If a beggar be following a man for an alms, and he knows it, there is always hope while he does not command him away. Now, you will follow long ere the Lord bid you go away; but if there were no hope, you would foon get your anfwer. Thus the foolish virgins were foon answered with a " Verily I fay unto you, I know you not," Matth. xxv. 12.-Confider
8. That the Lord commands you to follow on: Luke, xi. 19. "And I fay unto you, Afk, and it fhall be given you; feck, and ye fhall find; knock, and it fhall be opened unto you." And is not that encouraging? I know unbelief will be ready to fhape an answer to the soul, taking God's delay for a denial, that the foul may follow no further: Jer. ii. 25. "With-hold thy foot from being unfhod,
fhod, and thy throat from thirft; but thou faidft, There is no hope; no." It is, however, better to hang on about God's door, than go back to fill our belly with the hufks which fwine devour. He commands you to follow on, and he would not do it, if there was no hope.- Confider farther,
9. That it is the Lord who has given you the foot to follow him: James, i. 17. Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither fhadow of turning." If you have any defire after him, or the leaft good motion, it is from himfelf; and though he fhould have no regard for you, he will regard his own work in you, if you do not put it away from you. God opens not his children's mouth to put an empty fpoon in it; but he who forms the defire will fatisfy it.-Confider,
Laftly, That the very nature of the thing confirms it, that the more we apply ourselves to the business of religion, we shall bring it to the better account. It is true, we own that religion in the principle of it is infufed into the heart; but the Chriftian having both to will and to do wrought in him by God, must work out his own salvation with fear and trembling, Phil. ii. 12. 13. Grace, by its exercife, increases. Whatever good motions the Lord has put into the heart, it is like a fpring; the more opening which it gets, and the more it runs, the more water comes into it; whereas, if it be stopped, the water turns away, and feeks another opening.
IV. WE are now to make fome practical improvement,
In an use of information.
Is it fo that the way to profper in religion is to
follow on to know the Lord? Then we may learn,
(1.) That those who have not yet begun to look and feek after the Lord, they are neither profpering in their fouls, nor are they in the way to it. Hearken, Oye ftupid fouls, whofe hearts within you are this day dead as ftones, moving ftill towards the earth, but having no motion in them towards God. Your cafe is fad, and there is no appearance yet of its growing better; it is dark night with you, and there is no appearance of the morning-light. Your hearts are fhut against Christ, and there is no putting in of his hand at the hole of the door; you have not the smallest prospect of happiness. We may fee,
(2.) That it is no wonder though backfliders have lean fouls. How many are there this day, who, comparing their own cafe with what it has been formerly, may cry out, as in Ifa. xxiv. 16. "But I faid, my leannefs, My leannefs, woe unto me." They have loft the delight they sometimes had in God; there is now little or no communication between heaven and them. Whence does this take place? Why, they did not follow on, when they were once fet fair off, but went backward. When the wind was fair for Immanuel's land, they trifled away their time, and were bufy here and there about other things; and their fair occafions were loft. We may fee,
(3.) That they are in no profpering cafe, who are at a ftand in religion. There is a generation who think they have got as much grace as will carry them to heaven, and therefore they are not preffing forward. Paul had more than ever they could pretend to, yet fays he, Phil. iii. 12. "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may VOL. II. U apprehend
apprehend that for which alfo I am apprehended of Chrift Jefus." Truly, if you continue thus, it will be an evidence that you have no grace at all; for, Prov. iv. 18. "The path of the just is as the fhining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
(4.) You may fee how the fmalleft spark which you now have, may be brought to a great flame. Do but follow on to know the Lord, and then you fhall know, you fhall make progrefs; and though your stock be but small, you may come to make that bleffed account of it, which is in Luke, xix. 16. "Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.” Hold your hands to what you have got here, when you are gone from this place, and you will find it will grow in your hands; it will increase in the ufing. But here fome may propose an
OBJECTION: "I am a fearful backflider, who have wafted my ftock which fome time increased with me in that way, and can I think ever to recover it again? Anf. Return, O prodigal! there is yet room for thee in thy Father's houfe. The promise in the text concerns you as well as others. See alfo Hof. v. 15. and chapter vi. 1. and downwards, where there is great encouragement to returning backfliders. Are you convinced of your folly? are you touched at the heart with your backfliding? are your fouls moving for a return? as in Jer. xxxi. 18. "I have furely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, Thou haft chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God." Then it may yet be as well with you as ever it was, Joel, ii. 23.-27.
Laftly, We may hence fee what is the ruin of many communicants, and others who attend upon ordinances. It is not so much that they get no
thing at them, as that they carry nothing away with them; or if they do, they do not hold their hands to it when they are at home. You who think that your work is over when the communion is over, you will make no good account of what you have been doing. Would you not think him a foolish man, who would employ himself on the meadow fharping his fcythe, and then lay it by when he has got it fharped? Wherefore came you here, but to get a meal for your journey heaven-ward; and if fo, then go in the ftrength of it, go from ftrength to ftrength unweariedly, till you appear before God in Zion.---I come,
2. To an use of exhortation.
I would exhort you all to follow on, to hold your hands at religion, however fmall the beginnings of it may be with you; and to prevail with you, I would lay before you the following Mo
Mot. 1. The way to profper in religion is, when we find the leaft moving, to beftir ourselves, and hold our hands to it, as David, 2 Sam v. 24. 25. We would all take measures for improving our bodies and eftates, why not alfo for improving our fouls? I am fure, there are fad fymptoms of a fpiritual confumption and decay on the generation in which we live; we have need to use the remedy for ourselves against it. These symptoms are fuch as the following. The ftomach for our fpiritual food is gone; ordinances are not prized; we look generally as if we had got a furfeit of the gofpel; farms and merchandise go much nearer people's hearts than opportunities of communion. with God, for which they will be loth to lose a day's work; an evidence this that we may have to faft till we find our ftomachs again.Another fymptom is, that profeffors have generally loft