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There is a work of the Spirit of God at large: The Spirit of God fills all the world, saith the Wise Man; Wisdom i. 7: not so yet, as was the error of P. Abailardus in Bernard, That God's Spirit is anima mundi: as the God of the World, not as “the soul of the world:” as in the state of the first Tohu and Bohu, the Spirit of God Auttered upon the waters, as it were to hatch the creature which should be produced; Gen. i. 2; so doth he still fill the world for the preservation of this universe: but, in this all, he works in man especially; There is a spirit in man; saith Elihu, in Job xxxii. 8. and the in spiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding; yet this is not the leading of this Holy Spirit, that we are in hand with. Lower than this, there are certain common graces wrought in nien by the Spirit of God; as some general illuminations in the knowledge of divine things; some good moral dispositions; some restraints of evil inclinations and actions: which yet will never reach to evince our sonship to God: how easily were it for me, to name you divers heathens, which have been eminent in all these; and yet, for ought we know, never the nearer to heaven! Yet, lower; there are some special gifts of the Spirit, which we call Charismata; rare endowments bestowed upon some men; excellent faculties of preaching and praying; power of miraculous workings, as no doubt Judas did cast out devils as well as the best of his fellow-apost'es; gifts of tongues and of prophecy, and the like: which do no more argue a rigbt to the sonship of God, than the Manuary's infused skill of Bezaleel and Aholiab could prove them saints. Yet, lastly, there may be sensible operations of the Spirit of God upon the soul, in the influences of holy motions into the heart, in working a temporary faith, and some fair progress in a holy profession; and yet 110 sonship: the world is full of such glow-worms, that make some shew of spiritual light from God; when they have nothing in them, but .cold crudities, that can serve for nothing but deceit.
Will ye then see, What leading of the Spirit can evince us to be the Sons and Daughters of God ? know then, that, if we will hope for a comfortable assurance hereof, we must be efficaciously led by his sanctifying Spirit; first, in matter of Judgment; secondly, in our Dispositions; and, thirdly, in our Practice.
1. For matter of JUDGMENT: ye remember what our Saviour said to his disciples; When the Spirit of Truth is come, he will lead you into all truth; John xvi. 13: that is, into all saving and necessary truths; so as to free us from gross ignorance or main error. Whosoever, therefore, is enlightened with the true and solid knowledge of all those points of Christian doctrine which are requisite for salvation, is, in that first regard, led by the Spirit; and, in this behalf, hath a just title to the sonship of God: as, contrarily, those, that are grossly and obstinately erroneous in their judgment of fun. dameutal truths, let them pretend to never so much holiness in heart or life, shall in vain lay claim to this happy condition of the Sons of God.
2. For our DISPOSITION, secondly. If the Holy Spirit have wrought our hearts to be right with God in all our attections; if we
do sincerely love and fear iim; if we do truly believe in him, receiving him as not our Saviour oniy, but as our Lord; if our desires be unfeigned towards him; if, after a meek and penitent self-dejection, we can find ourselves raised to a lively hope and firm confidence in that our Blessed Redeemer; and shall continue in a constant and habitual fruition of him: being thus led by the Spirit of God, we may be assured that we are the Sons of God; for flesh and blood cannot be accessary to these gracious dispositions.
3. Lastly, for our PRACTICE, it is a clear word, which we hear God say by Ezekie', I will put my Spirit into the midst of you; and will by i cause you to walk in my statutes, and keep my laws; Ezek. xxxvi. 27. Lo, herein is the main crisis of a soul led by the Spirit of God, and adopted to this heavenly sonship. It is not for us, to content ourselves to talk of the laws of our God, and to make empty and formal professions of his Name. Here must be a continued waik in Gou's statuies: it will not serve the turn for us, to stumble upon some acceptable work; to step aside a little into the paths of god iness, and then draw back to the world. No, my Beloved: this leading of God's Spirit must neither be a forced angariation, as if God would feoff grace and salvation upon us against our wills; nor some sudden protrusion to good; nor a mere, actual, momentary, transient conduction, for a brunt of holiness and away, leaving us to the sinful ways of our former disobedience, and to our wonted compliances with the world, the devil, and the flesh: but must be in a steady, uninterrupted, habitual course of holy obedience; so as we may sincerely profess, with the man after God's own heart, My soul hath kept thy testimonies, and I love them erceedingly; Psalm cxix. 167.
Now then, Dear Christians, lay this to heart seriously; and call yourselves sadly to this trial. What is the carriage of our lives? What obedience do we yield to the whole Law of our God? If that be entire, hearty, universal, constant, perseverant, and truly conscientious; we have whereof to rejoice; an unfailing ground to pass a confident judgment upon our spiritual estate, to be no less than happy. But, it we be willingly failing in the unfeigned desires and endeavours of these holy performances, and shall let loose the reins to any known wickedness; we have no part nor portion in this blessed condition.
Mark, I beseech you, how fully this is asserted to our hands: In this, saith the Beloved Apostie, the children of God are manifest, and the children of the Devil; whosoever doth not righteousness is not . of God, neither he that loves not his brother; 1 John iii. 10. Observe, I pray you, what test we are put to. Ye hear him not say “ Whoso talks not holily,” or, “Whoso professes not godliness:" in these, a hypocrite may exceed the best saint: hut Whosoever doth not righteousness. Withal, see, what a clause the Disciple of Love superadds to the mention of all righteousness, neither he that loves not his brother: surely, the Spirit of God is a Loving Spirit; Wisdoin i. 6: and St. Paul hath the like phrase; Rom. xv. 30.
To let pass, then, all the other proofs of our guidance by the
Spirit; instance but in this one. Alas, my Brethren, what is be come of that charitable and Christian carriage of men towards one another, which God requires of us; and which was wont to be conspicuous amongst Christian conipatriots? Woe is me! instead of that true and hearty love, which our Saviour would have the Livery of our Discipleship, the badge of our holy profession; what do we see but emulation, envy and malice, rigid censures and rancorous heart-burnings, amongst men? Instead of those neighbourly and friendly offices, which Christians were wont lovingly to perform to each other; what have we now, in the common practice of men, but underminings, oppressions, violence, cruelty? Can we think, that the Spirit of Him, who would be styled Love itself, would lead us in these rugged and bloody paths ? No; no: this, alone, is too clear a proof, how great a stranger the Spirit of God is to the hearts and ways of men;
and how few there are, that, upon good and firm grounds, can plead their right to the sonship of God. Alas! alas! if these dispositions and practices may bewray the Sons of a holy God, what can men do to prove themselves the children of that hellish Apollyon, who was a man-slayer from the beginning?
For us, my Beloved, Oh, let us hate and bewail this common degeneration of Christians; and, as we would be and be acknowledged, the Sons of God, Let us put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels 'of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another; forgiving one another
, if wee have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave us : and, above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness; Col. jii. 12, 13, 14.
And, lastly, forsaking the mis-guidance of Satan, the world, and our corrupt nature, which will lead us down to the chambers of death and eternal destruction, let us yield up ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit of God, in all the ways of righteousness, and holiness, of piety, justice, charity, and all manner of gracious conversation; that we may thereby approve ourselves the Sons and Daughters of God; and may be feolfed in that blessed inheritance; which he hath laid up for all his. To the possession whereof, may he happily bring us, who hath dearly bought us, Jesus Christ the Righteous: To whom, with the Father and the Blessed Spirit, One Infinite God, be given all praise, honour, and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
THE MOURNER IN SION.
ECCL. iii. 4. [There is) a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn,
and a time to dance. I NEED not tell yon, that Solomon was a wise man.
His wisdom, as it was in an extraordinary measure put into him, by Him, that is wisdom itself; so was it in a more than ordinary way improved, by his diligent observation. His observation was universal; of times, things, persons, actions, events: neither did he lock his experiments up in the closet of his own breast; but, by the direction of God's Spirit, laid them forth to the world in this Divine Sermon; which, not as a king, but as a prophet, he preached to all posterity. Every sentence here, therefore, is a dictate of the Holy Ghost.
It is not Solomon then, but a greater than Solomon, even the Holy Spirit of the Great God, that tells you there is not a time only, but a season too, for every thing and for every purpose under heaven: that is, as I hope you can take it no otherwise, for every good thing, or indifferent; as, for evil things or actions, if men find a time, yet sure God allows no season; those are always damnably-unseasonable abuses of times, and of ourselves.
Not to meddle with other particulars; our thoughts are now, by the Divine Providence, pitched upon, a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; or rather only upon the time to weep and mourn, for our time of laughing and dancing is past already: and perhaps we have had too much of that in our former times; which makes the causes and degrees of our now weeping and mourving, as more unconth, so more intensive: we must be so much deeper in our mourning, by how much we have been more wild and wanton in our laughter and dancing.
I. To fall right down therefore upon our intended discourse, without any previous circumlocutions; There is a THREEFOLD TIME OF JUST MOURNING: 1. When a man is sensible of his Punishments; 2. Of his Sins; 3. Of his Dangers.
1. Of his PUNISHMENTS, first; or rather, which is more general, of his Afictions; for all afflictions are not intended for punishments: some are fatherly chastisements only for our good, whereas all punishments are afflictive. When we are whipped then, when we smart with the rod, we have cause to weep; and if, in this case, we shed no tears, it is a sigu of a graceless heart.
It is time, therefore, to mourn, when we are pressed by sufferings; whether from the immediate hand of God, or mediately by the hands of men; whether by private or public calamities.
Are we smitten in our Bodies, by some painful and incurable diseases? Doth the pestilence rage in our streets? Hath God for bidden us the influence of heaven, and cursed the earth with barrenness? Hath he broken the staff of bread, and sent leanness into our souls? Hath he humbled us with the fearful casualties of fire or water? by wrecks at sea; by lightnings and tempests by land? Hath he sent murrain amongst our cattle, and destroying vermin into our barns and fields ? now God tells us, it is a time to mourn.
Are we disquieted in our Minds, by some overmastering passions of grief; for the miscarriages of children, for the secret discontents of domestical jars, for unjust calumnies cast upon our good name! Are we molested in our minds and spirits with impetuous, and no less importune than hateful temptation? now it is a time to mourn.
Do we find in our Souls a decay and languishment of grace; a prevalence of those corruptions, which we thought abated in us? Do we find ourselves deeply soul-sick with our sinful indispositions? Shortly, do we find the face of our God for the time withdrawn from us? now, now it is a time to mourn.
If we turn our eyes to those evils, which are cast upon us by the hands of men: Do men find themselves despoiled of their estates, restrained of their liberties, tortured in their bodies? Do they find the woeful miseries of an intestine war; killings, burnings, depopulations? Do they find fire and sword raging in the bosom of our land? Now it is a time to mourn. Were these evils confined to some few persons, to some special families, they were worthy of the tears of our compassion; for it is our duty to weep with them that weep: but, where they are universal, and spread over the whole face of any nation, there cannot be found tears enough to lament them.
2. Punishments then are a just cause of our sorrow and mourning: but, to a good heart, sie is so much greater cause of mourning, by how much a moral evil is more than a natural; and by how much the displeasure of an Almighty God, is worthy of more regard than our own smart. Doth thy heart then tell thee, that thou hast offended the Majesty of God by some grievous sin? now is thy time to weep and mourn; as thou wouldest for thy only sof; Zech. xii. 10: now it is time for thee to be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. Thy soul is foul, wash and rinse it with the tears of thy repentance: go forth with Peter, and weep bitterly. Dost thou find in the place where thou livest, that sin
, like some furious torrent, bears down all before it? now it is time for thee to mourn for the sins of thy people; and to say, as the holy Psalınist did, Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because mer keep not thy law; Psalm cxix. 136.
3. Lastly, as our sufferings and our sins make up a due time for