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grain and fruits, by which the earth is adorned, and our life supported. You will yet be more sensible of this, if you reflect on the violent opposition which this happy work must expect to meet with, of which I shall presently warn you more largely, and which if you have not already experienced, it must be because you have but very lately begun to think of religion.
§. 4. Accordingly, if you give yourself leave to consult scripture on this head, (and if you would live like a christian, you must be consulting it every day, and forming your notions and actions by it ;) you will see, that the whole tenor of it teaches that dependence upon God, which I am now recommending. You will particularly see, that the production of religion in the soul is matter of divine promise; that when it has been effected, scripture ascribes it to a divine agency; and that the increase of grace and piety in the heart of those who are truly regenerate, is also spoken of as the work of God, who begins and carries it on until the day of Jesus Christ*.
§. 5. In consequence of all these views, lay it down to yourself as a most certain principle, "that no attempt in religion is to be made in your own strength." If you forget this, and God purposes finally to save you, he will humble you by repeated disappointments till he teach you better. You will be ashamed of one scheme and effort, and of another, till you settle upon the true basis. He will also probably shew you, not only in the general, that your strength is to be derived from heaven; but particularly, that it is the office of the blessed spirit, to purify the heart, and to invigorate holy resolutions; and also, that in all these operations he is to be considered as the spirit of Christ, working under his direction, and as a vital communication from him, under the character of the great head of the church, the grand treasurer and dispenser of these holy and beneficial influences. On which account it is called the supply of the spirit of Jesus Christ, who is exalted at the right hand of the Father, to give repentance and remission of sinst; in whose grace alone we can be strong and of whose fulness we receive, even grace for grace.§
§. 6. Resolve therefore strenuously for the service of God, and for the care of your soul; but resolve modestly and humbly. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the. young men utterly fall; but they who wait on the Lord, are the persons who renew their strength¶. When a soul is almost
* Phil. i. 6.
|| 2 Tim ii. 1.
+ Phil. i. 19.
§ John i. 16.
Acts v. 31.
Isai. xl. 30, 31.
afraid to declare in the presence of the Lord, that it will not do this, or that, which has formerly offended him; when it is afraid absolutely to promise, that it will perform this, or that duty, with vigour and constancy; but only expresses its humble earnest desire, that it may by grace be enabled to avoid the one, or pursue the other; then so far as my observation and experience have reached, it is in the best way to learn the happy art of conquering temptation, and of discharging duty.
§. 7. On the other hand, let not your dependence upon this spirit, and your sense of your own weakness and insufficiency for any thing spiritually good without his continual aid, discourage you from devoting yourself to God, and engaging in a religious life, considering "what abundant reason you have to hope, that these gracious influences will be communicated to you."-The light of nature, at the same time that it teaches the need we have of help from God in a virtuous course, may lead us to conclude, that so benevolent a being, who bestows on the most unworthy and careless part of mankind so many blessings, will take a peculiar pleasure in communicating to such as humbly ask them, those gracious assistances, which may form their deathless souls into his own resemblance, and fit them for that happiness to which their rational nature is suited, and for which it was in its first constitution intended.-The word of God will much more abundantly confirm such an hope. You there hear divine wisdom crying even to those who had long trifled. with her instructions, Turn ye at my reproof, and I will pour out my spirit upon you*. You hear the apostle saying, Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in every time of need. Yea, you there hear our Lord himself, arguing in this sweet and convincing manner; If ye being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give his holy spirit unto them that ask him? This gift and promise of the spirit was given unto Christ, when he ascended up on high, in trust for all his true disciples. God hath shed it abroad abundanly upon us in him. And I may add, that the very desite you feel after the farther communication of the Spirit, is the result of the first-fruits of it already given: so that you may with peculiar propriety interpret it as a special call, to open your mouth wide, that he may fill it§. You thirst, and therefore you may cheerfully plead, that Jesus hath invited you to come
Pov. i. 23. + Heb. iv. 16. Luke xi. 13. Tit. iii. 6. § Psal. lxxxi.10.
unto him and drink; with a promise, not only that you shall drink if you come unto him, but also that out of your belly shall flow, as it were, rivers of living water, for the edification and refreshment of others.
§. 8. Go forth therefore, with humble cheerfulness, to the prosecution of all the duties of the christian life. Go, and prosper, in the strength of the Lord, making mention of his righteousness, and of his only. And as a token of farther communications, may your heart be quickened to the most earnest desire, after the blessings I have now been recommending to your pursuit! May you be stirred up to pour out your soul before God, in such holy breathings as these! and may they be your daily language in his gracious presence.
An humble Supplication for the Influences of Divine Grace, to form and strengthen Religion in the Soul.
"BLESSED God! I sincerely acknowledge before thee, mine own weakness and insufficiency for any thing that is spiritually good. I have experienced it a thousand times; and yet my foolish heart would again trust itself, and form resolutions in its own strength. But let this be the first-fruits of thy gracious influence upon it, to bring it to an humble distrust of itself, and to a repose on thee!
Abundantly do I rejoice, O Lord, in the kind assurances which thou givest me of thy readiness to bestow liberally and richly so great a benefit. I do therefore, according to thy condescending invitation, come with boldness to the throne of grace, that I may find grace to help in every time of needs. I mean not, O Lord God, to turn thy grace into wantonness, or perverseness, or to make my weakness an excuse for negligence and sloth. I confess thou hast already given me more strength than I have used; and I charge it upon myself, and not on thee, that I have not long since received still more abundant supplies. I desire for the future to be found diligent in the use of all appointed means; in the neglect of which, I well know, that petitions like these would be a profane mockery, and might much more probably provoke thee to take away what I have, than prevail upon thee to impart more. But firmly resolving to exert myself to the utmost, I earnestly intreat the communications of thy grace, that I may be enabled to fulfil that resolution.
* John vii. 37, 38.
Psal. lxxi. 16.
Prov. xxviii. 26.
"Be surety, O Lord, unto thy servant for good */ Be pleased to shed abroad thy sanctifying influences on my soul, to form me for every duty thou requirest! Implant, I beseech thee, every grace and virtue deep in mine heart; and maintain the happy temper in the midst of those assaults, from within and from without, to which I am continually liable, while I am still in this world, and carry about with me so many infirmities! Fill my breast, I beseech thee, with good affections towards thee, my God, and towards my fellow-creatures! Remind me always of thy presence; and may I remember, that every secret sentiment of my soul is open to thee! May I therefore guard against the first risings of sin, and the first approaches to it! And that satan may not find room for his evil suggestions, I earnestly beg thou, Lord, wouldst fill my heart by thine Holy Spirit, and take up thy residence there! Dwell in me, and walk with met; and let my body be the temple of the Holy Ghost‡ !
"May I be so joined to Christ Jesus my Lord, as to be one spirit with him, and feel his invigorating influences continually bearing me on, superior to every temptation, and to every corruption! That while the youth shall faint and be weary, and the young men utterly fall, I may so wait upon the Lord, as to renew my strength§; and may go on from one degree of faith, and love, and zeal, and holiness, to another, till I appear perfect before thee in Zion¶, to drink in immortal vigour and joy, from thee, as the everlasting fountain of both, through Jesus Christ my Lord, in whom I have righteousness and strength**, and to whom I desire ever to ascribe the praise of all mine improvements in both! Amen."
Psal. cxix. 122.
† 2 Cor. vi. 16.
1 Cor. vi. 19.
1 Cor. vi. 17,
The Christian Convert warned of, and animated against, those Discouragements which he must expect to meet with, when entering on a religious Course.
Christ has instructed his Disciples to expect opposition and Difficulties in the Way to Heaven, §. 1. Therefore, [I.] A more particular View of them is taken, as arising, (1.) From the Remainders of indwelling Sin, §. 2. (2.) From the World, and especially from former sinful Companions, §. 3. (3.) From the Temptations and Suggestions of Satan, §. 4. [II.] The Christian is animated and encouraged by various Considerations to oppose them; particularly, by-the Presence of God,-the Aids of Christ,the Example of others, who though feeble have conquered,—and the Crown of Glory to be expected, §. 5, 6. Therefore, though A postacy would be infinitely fatal, the Christian may press on cheerfully, §. 7. Accordingly the Soul alarmed by these Views, is represented as committing itself to God, in the Prayer which concludes the Chapter.
§. 1. WITH the utmost propriety has our divine master re
quired us to strive to enter in at the straight gate*; thereby (as it seems) intimating, not only that the passage is narrow, but that it is beset with enemies; beset on the right-hand, and on the left, with enemies cunning and formidable. And be assured, O reader, that whatever your circumstances in life are, you must meet and encounter them. It will therefore be your prudence, to survey them attentively in your own reflections, that you may see what you are to expect; and may consider in what armour it is necessary you should be clothed, and with what weapons you must be furnished to manage the combat. You have often heard them marshalled, as it were, under three great leaders, the flesh, the world, and the devil; and according to this distribution, I would call you to consider the forces of each, as setting themselves in array against you. Oh that you may be excited to take to yourself the whole armour of Godt, and to acquit yourself like a man and a christian ‡!
§. 2. Let your conscience answer, whether you do not carry about with you a corrupt, and degenerate nature? You will I doubt not, feel its effects. You will feel, in the language of the apostle, (who speaks of it as the case of christians themselves,) the flesh lusting against the spirit, so that you will not be able, in all instances, to do the things that you would. You brought irregular propensities into the world along with you; and you have so often indulged those
Luke xiii. 23, 24. + Eph. vi. 13.
1 Cor. xvi. 13.
|| Gal. v. 17.