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cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out*. True, you will say, none that are given him by the Father: could I know I were of that number, I could then apply cheerfully to him. But, dear reader, let me intreat you to look into the text itself, and see whether that limitation be expressly added there. Do you there read, none of them whom the Father hath given me, shall be cast out? The words are in a much more encouraging form and why should you frustrate his wisdom and goodness, by such an addition of your own? Add not to his words, lest he reprove theet: take them as they stand, and drink in the consolation of them. Our Lord knew into what perplexity some serious minds might possibly be thrown by what he had before been saying, all that the Father hath given me shall come unto me; and therefore, as it were on purpose' to balance it, he adds those gracious words, him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise, by no means, on no consideration whatsoever, cast out.
§. 8. If therefore you are already discouraged and terrified at the greatness of your sins, do not add to their weight. and number that one greater and worse than all the rest, a distrust of the faithfulness and grace of the blessed Redeemer. Do not, so far as in you lies, oppose all the purposes of his love to you. O distressed soul, whom dost thou dread? To whom dost thou tremble to approach? Is there any thing so terrible in a crucified Redeemer, in the Lamb that was slain? If thou carriest thy soul, almost sinking under the burden of its guilt, to lay it down at his feet, what dost thou offer him, but the spoil which he bled and died to recover and possess? And did he purchase it so dearly, that he might reject it with disdain? Go to him directly, and fall down in his presence, and plead that misery of thine, which thou hast now been pleading in a contrary view, as an engagement to your own soul to make the application, and as an argument with a compassionate Saviour to receive you. Go and be assured, that where sin hath abounded, there grace shall much more abound. Be assured, that if one sinner can promise himself a more certain welcome than another, it is not he that is least guilty and miserable, but he that is most deeply humbled before God, under a sense of that misery and guilt, and lies the lowest in the apprehension of it.
+ Prov. xxx. 6.
John vi. 37.
Rom, v. 20.
Reflections on these Encouragements, ending in an humble and earnest Application to Christ for mercy.
"O MY soul, what sayest thou to these things? Is there not at least a possibility of help from Christ? And is there a possibility of help any other way? Is any other name given under heaven, whereby we can be saved? I know, there is none, I must then say, like the lepers of Israel+, if I sit here, I perish; and if I make my application in vain, I can but die. But peradventure, he may save my soul alive. I will therefore arise, and go unto him; or rather, believing him here, by his spiritual presence, sinful and miserable as I am, I will this moment fall down on my face before him, and pour out my soul unto him
"Blessed Jesus, I present myself unto thee, as a wretched creature, driven indeed by necessity, to do it. For surely were not that necessity urgent and absolute, I should not dare for very shame to appear in thine holy and majestic presence. I am fully convinced, that my sins and my folly have been inexcusably great; more than I can express, more than I can conceive. I feel a source of sin, in my corrupt and degenerate nature, which pours out iniquity, as a fountain sends out its water, and makes me a burden and a terror to myself. Such aggravations have attended my transgressions, that it looks like presumption, so much as to ask pardon for them. And yet, would it not be greater presumption to say, that they exceed thy mercy, and the efficacy of thy blood; to say, that thou hast power and grace enough to pardon and save only sinners of a lower order, while such as I lie out of thy reach? Preserve me from that blasphemous imagination! Preserve me from that unreasonable suspicion! Lord, thou canst do all things, neither is there any thought of mine heart withholden from thee. Thou art indeed, as thy word declares, able to save unto the uttermost §. And therefore, breaking through all the oppositions of shame and fear, that would keep me from thee, I come and lie down as in the dust before thee. Thou knowest, O Lord, all my sins, and all my follies. I cannot, and I hope, I may say, I would not, disguise them before thee, or set myself to find out plausible excuses. Accuse me, Lord, as thou pleasest and I will ingenuously plead guilty to all thine accusations. I will own myself as great a sinner, as thou callest me: but I am still a sinner, that comes unto thee for pardon.
Acts iv. 12. † 2 Kings vii. 4. Job xlii. 2. § Heb. vii. 25. || Psal. Ixix. 5.
If I must die, it shall be submitting, and owning the justice of the fatal stroke. If I perish, it shall be laying hold, as it were, on the horns of the altar; laying myself down at thy footstool, though I have been such a rebel against thy throne. Many have received a full pardon there; have met with favour even beyond their hopes. And are all thy compassions, O blessed Jesus, exhausted? And wilt thou now begin to reject an humble creature, who flies to thee for life, and pleads nothing but mercy and free grace? Have mercy upon me, O most gracious Redeemer, have mercy upon me, and let my life be precious in thy sight! Oh do not resolve to send me down to that state of final misery and despair, from which it was thy gracious purpose to deliver and save so many!
Spurn me not away, O Lord, from thy presence, nor be offended when I presume to lay hold on thy royal robe, and say that I cannot and will not let thee go, till my suit is granted +! Oh remember, that all my hopes of obtaining eternal happiness, and avoiding everlasting, helpless, hopeless destruction, are anchored upon thee; they hang upon thy smiles, or drop at thy frown. Oh have mercy upon me, for the sake of this immortal soul of mine! Or if not for the sake of mine alone, for the sake of many others, who may, on the one hand, be encouraged by thy mercy to me, or on the other, may be greatly wounded and discouraged by my helpless despair! I beseech thee, O Lord, for thine own sake, and for the display of thy Father's rich and sovereign grace! I beseech thee, by the blood thou didst shed on the cross! I beseech thee by the covenant of grace and peace, into which the Father did enter with thee for the salvation of believing and repenting sinners, save me! save me, O Lord, who earnestly desire to repent and believe! I am indeed a sinner, in whose final and everlasting destruction thy justice might be greatly glorified: But Oh! if thou wilt pardon me, it will be a monument raised to the honour of thy grace, and the efficacy of thy blood, in proportion to the degree in which the wretch, to whom thy mercy is extended, was mean and miserable without it. Speak, Lord, by thy blessed spirit, and banish my fears! Look unto me with love and grace in thy countenance, and say to me, as in the days of thy flesh thou didst to many an humble suppliant, thy sins are forgiven thee, go in peace!"
* 2 Kings i. 14.
+ Gen. xxxii. 26.
The doubting Soul more particularly assisted in its Enquiries as to the Sincerity of its Faith and Repentance.
Transient Impressions liable to be mistaken for Conversion which would be a fatal Error, §. 1. General Schemes for Self-Examination, §. 2. Particular Enquiries? (1.) What Views there have been of Sin? §. 3. (2.) What Views there have been of Christ? §. 4. As to the Need the Soul has of Him; §. 5. And its Willingness to receive Him, with a due Surrender of Heart to his Service, §. 6. Nothing short of this, sufficient, §. 7. The soul submitting to divine Examination, the Sincerity of its Faith and Repentance.
§. 1. IN consequence of all the serious things, which have been
said in the former chapters, I hope it will be no false presumption to imagine, that some religious impressions may be made on hearts which had never felt them before; or may be revived, where they have formerly grown cold and languid. Yet I am very sensible, and I desire that you may be so, how great danger there is in self flattery on this important head ; and how necessary it is to caution men, against too hasty a conclusion that they are really converted, because they have felt some warm emotions on their minds, and have reformed the gross irregularities of their former conduct. A mistake here might be infinitely fatal: It may prove the occasion of that false peace, which shall lead a man to bless himself in his own heart, and to conclude himself secure, while all the threatenings and curses of God's law are sounding in his ears, and lie indeed directly against him*; while in the mean time he applies to himself a thousand promises in which he has no share; which may prove therefore like generous wine to a man in a high fever, or strong opiates to one in a lethargy. The stony ground received the word with joy, and a promising harvest seemed to be springing up; yet it soon withered away†, and no reaper filled his arms with it. Now that this may not be the case with you, that all my labours and yours hitherto may not be lost, and that a vain dream of security and happiness may not plunge you deeper in misery and ruin, give me leave to lead you into a serious enquiry into your own heart; that so you may be better able to judge of your case, and to distinguish between what is at most being only near the kingdom of heaven, and becoming indeed a member of it.
+ Matt. xiii. 5, 6.
* Deut. xxix. 19. 20.
§. 2. Now this depends upon the sincerity of your faith in Christ, when faith is taken in its largest extent, as explained above; that is, as comprehending repentance, and that steady purpose of new and universal obedience, of which, wherever it is real, faith will assuredly be the vital principle. Therefore to assist you in judging of your state, give me leave to ask you, or rather to intreat you to ask yourself, What views you have had, and now have, of sin, and of Christ? And what your future purposes are, with regard to your conduct in the remainder of life that may lie before you? I shall not reason largely upon the several particulars I suggest under those heads, but rather refer you to your own reading and observation, to judge how agreeable they are to the word of God, the great rule by which our characters must quickly be tried, and our eternal state unalterably determined.
§. 3. Enquire seriously, in the first place, what views you have had of sin, and what sentiments you have felt in your soul with regard to it: there was a time, when it wore a flattering aspect, and made a fair inchanting appearance, so that all your heart was charmed with it, and it was the very business of your life to practise it. But you have since been undeceived. You have felt it bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder.* You have beheld it with an abhorrence, far greater than the delight which it ever gave you. So far it is well. So far it is well. It is thus with every true penitent, and with some, I fear, who are not of that number. Let me therefore enquire farther, whence arose this abhorrence? Was it merely from a principle of self-love? Was it merely because you had been wounded by it? Was it merely because you had thereby brought condemnation and ruin upon your own soul? Was there no sense of its deformity, of its baseness, of its malignity, as committed against the blessed God, considered as a glorious, a bountiful, and a merciful being? Were you never pierced by the apprehension of its vile ingratitude? And as for those purposes which have arisen in your heart against it, let me beseech you to reflect, how they have been formed, and how they have hitherto been executed. Have they been universal? Have they been resolute? And yet amidst all that resolution, have they been humble? When you declared war with sin, was it with every sin? And is it an irreconcileable war, which you determine, by divine grace, to push on till you have entirely conquered it, or die in the attempt? And are you accordingly active in your endeavours to subdue
* Prov. xxiii. 32.