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* The laws of men spare for the fruit's fake, and wilt thou not spare me also, my God, if there be found in me a blessing in the bud, Isa. lxv. 8.
4. To conclude, what a serious reflection should this occasion in every dispenser of the gospel? How should he say cr, * , ,
when he goes to preach the gospel, I am going to , Janpreach that word which is to be a savour of life or «
death unto these souls ■, upon how many of my poor hearers may the curse of perpetual barrenness be executed this day! O how should such a thought melt his heart into compassion over them, and make him beg hard, and plead earnestly with God for a better issue of the gospel than this upon them.
YOU that besides your pleasant fruitful fields,
Think when you view them, why the Lord hath chose
These, as the emblem to decipher those
That under gospel-grace grow worse and worse;
For means are fruitless when the Lord doth curse.
Even so, the dews of grace that sweetly fall,
From gospel-clouds, are not alike to all.
The gracious soul doth germinate and bud,
But to the reprobate it doth no good.
He's like the wither'd fig-tree, void of fruit;;
A fearful curie hath smote his very root.
The heart's made fat, the eyes with blindness seal'd;
The piercing'st truths the gospel e'er reveal'd, *
* The Roman laws defer punishing a woman with child. Cbryfl.
Shall be to him but as the fun and rain
Are to obdurate rocks, fruitless and vain.
Upon the plowing of Corn-land.
1 The plowman guides his plow with care andjhill; So doth the Spirit infound conviBionJlill.
IT requires not only strength, but much skill and judgment, to manage and guide the plow. The Hebrew word um which we translate to plow, signifies to be intent, as an artificer is about some curious piece of work. The plow must neither go too shallow, nor too deep in the earth; it must not indent the ground, by making crooked furrows, nor leap and make baulks in the good ground ; but be guided as to a just depth of earth, to to cast the furrow in a straight line, that the floor or surface of the field may be made plain, as it is Isa. xxxviii. 25. And hence that expression, Luke ix. 62. "He that "puts his hand to the plow, and looks back, is not fit for the king«' dom of heaven." The meaning is, that as he that plows must have his eyes always forward, to guide and direct his hand in calling the furrows straight and even; (for his hand will be quickly out when his eye is offs) so he that heartily resolved for heaven, must addict himself wholly and intently to the business of religion, and not have his mind entangled with the things of this world, which he hath left behind him; whereby it appears, that the right management of the plow requires as much skill as strength.
THIS observation in nature serves excellently to shadow forth this proposition in divinity; that the work of the Spirit in convincing and humbling the heart of a sinner, is a work wherein much of the wisdom, as well as power of God, is discovered. The work of repentance, and saving contrition, is set forth in Scripture by this metaphor of plowing", Jer. iv. 3. Hos. x. 12. "Plow up your *' fallow ground;" that is, be convinced, humbled, and brokenhearted for sin. And the resemblance betwixt both these works appears in the following particulars.
(i.) It is a hard and difficult work to plow, it is reckoned one of the painfullest manual labours; it is also a very hard thing to convince and humble the heart of a secure, stout, and proud sinner, indurate in wickedness. What Luther faith of a dejected soul, 'That 'it is as easy to raise the dead, as to comfort such a one.' The same I may say of the secure, confident dinner ; it is as easy to rend the rocks, as to work saving contrition upon such a heart, Citius ex pumice aquam; all the melting language, and earnest entreaties of the gospel, cannot urge such a heart to shed a tear : Therefore it is called a heart of stone, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. a firm rock, Amos vi. 12. *' Shall horses run upon the rock? Will one plow there with oxen?" Yet when the Lord comes in the power of his Spirit, these rocks do rend, and yield to the power of the word.
(2.) The plow pierces deep into the bosom of the earth, makes, as it were, a deep gash or wound in the heart of it. So doth the Spirit upon the hearts of sinners, he pierces their very fouls by conviction. Acts ii. 37. "When they heard this they were pricked, (or* "pierced point blank) to the heart.''" "Then the word divides the "soul and spirit," Heb. iv. 12. It comes upon the conscience with such piercing dilemmas, and tilts the sword of conviction so deep into their souls, that there is no staunching the blood, no healing this wound, till Christ himself come, and undertake the cure. Hxret lateri lethalii aruudo; this barbed arrow cannot be pulled out of their hearts by any, but the hand that shot it in. Discourse with such a soul about his troubles, and he will tell you, that all the sorrowsthat ever he had in this world, loss of eflate, health, children, or whatever else, are but flea-bitings to this; this swallows up all other troubles. See how that Christian Niobc, Lukevii. 38. is dissolved into tears; " New deep calleth unto deep at the noise of his water-spouts, *' when the waves and billows of God go over the soul." Spiritual sorrows are deep waters, in which the stoutest and most magnaninious soul would sink and drown, did not Jesus Christ, by a secret and supporting hand, hold it up, and preserve it.
(3.) The plow rends the earth in parts and pieces, which before was united, and makes those parts hang loose, which formerly lay close. Thus doth the Spirit of conviction rend asunder the heart and its most beloved lusts. Joel ii. 13. «' Rend your hearts, and not your "garments." That is, rather than Fur garments; for the fense it
• GUfflui Rbct. Sacra, p. 300.
comparative, though the expression be negative. And this renting implies not only acute pain, flesh cannot be rent asunder without anguish, nor yet only force and violence; the heart is a stubborn andknotty piece, and will not easily yield; but it also implies a disunion of parts united. As when a garment, or the earth, or any contiguous body is rent, those parts are separated which formerly cleaved together. Sin and the soul were glewed fail together before, there was no parting of them, they would as soon part with their lives as with their lusts; but now when the heart is rent from them truly, it is also rent from them everlastingly, Ezek. vii. 15, to 19.
(4.) The plow turns up and discovers such things as lay hid in the bosom of the earth before, and were covered under a fair green furface, from the eyes of men. Thus when the Lord plows up the heart of a sinner by conviction, then the secrets of his heart are made manifest, 2'Cor. xiv. 24, 25. the most secret and shameful sins will then out; for " the word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any "two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of the foul and <l spirit, the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts '.' and secret intents of the heart," Heb. iv. 12. It makes the fire burn inwardly, so that the soul hath no rest till confession give a vent to trouble. Fain would the Ihuflling sinner conceal and hide his shame, but the word follows him through all his sinful shifts, and brings him at last to be his own, both accuser, witness, and judge.
(p) The work of the plow is but tptu ordlnabile, a preparative work in order to fruit. Should the husbandman plow his ground ever so often, yet if the feed be not cast in, and quickened, in vain is the harvest expected. Thus conviction also is but a preparative to a farther work upon the foul of a sinner; if it stick there, and goes no farther, it proves but an abortive, or untimely birth. Many have gone thus far, and there they have stuck; they have been like a field plowed, but not sowed, which is a matter of trembling consideration •, for hereby their sin is greatly aggravated, and their eternal misery, so much the more increased. O when a poor damned creature shall with horror reflect upon himself in hell, How near was I once, under such a sermon, to conversion! my sins were set in order before me,my conscience awakened, and terrified me with the guilt of them : many purposes and resolves I had then to turn to God, which had they been perfected by answerable executions, I had never come to this place of torment; but there I stuck, and that was my eternal undoing. Many souls have I known so terrified with the guilt of sin, that they have come roaring under horrors of conscience to the preacher; so that one would think such a breach bad been made betwixt them and sin, as could never be reconciled; and yet as angry as they were in that fit with fin, they have hugged and embraced it again.
(6.) It is best plowing when the earth is prepared and mollified by
the shows rs of rain ; then the work goes on sweetly and easily, and never doth the heart so kindly melt, as when the gospel-clouds dissolve, and the free grace and love of Jesus Christ comes sweetly lhowering down upon it; then it relents and mourns ingenuously, Ezek. xvi. 63. "That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, •• and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when •* I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done." So it was with that poor penitent, Luke vii. 38. when the Lord Jesus had discovered to her the superabounding riches of his grace, in the pardon of her manifold abominations, her heart melted within her, she washed the feet of Christ with tears. And indeed, there is as much difference betwixt the tears which are forced by the terrors of the law, and those which are extracted by the grace of the gospel, as there is betwixt those of a condemned malefactor, who weeps to consider the misery he is under, and those of a pardoned malefactor, that receives his pardon at the foot of the ladder, and is melted by the mercy and clemency of his gracious prince towards him.
(p) The plow kills those rank weeds which grow in the field, turns them up by the roots, buries and rots them. So doth saving conviction kill sin at the root, makes the foul sick of it, begets indignation in the heart against it, 2 Cor. vii. 11. The word *Ay*»axTn«-i»> there signifies the rising of the stomach, and being angry even unto sickness; religious wrath is the fiercest wrath, now the foul cannot endure sin, it trembles at it. "I find a woman more "bitter than death," (faith penitent Solomon) Eccl. vii. 16. Conviction, like a surfeit, makes the foul to lothe what it formerly loved and delighted in.
(8.) That field is not well plowed, where the plow jumps and skips over good ground and makes baulks, it must run up the whole field alike; and that heart is not savingly convicted, where any lust is spared, and left untouched Saving conviction extends itself to all sins, not only to sin in general, with this cold conseflion, lam astnniv; but to the particulars of sin, yea, to the particular circumstances and aggravations of time, place, manner, occasions, thus and thus have I done; to the fin of nature, as well as practice. "Behold I «* wasshapen in iniquity," Psal. li. 5. There must be no bauking of any sin; the (paring of one sin, is a sure argument that thou art not truly humbled for any sin. So far is the convinced foul from a studious concealment ot a beloved sin, that it weeps over that more than over any other actual sin.
(p) New ground is much more easily plowed, than that which by long lying out of tillage is more consolidated, and clung together, by deep-rooted thorns and brambles, which render it difficult to the plowman. This old ground is like an old sinner, that hath lain a long time hardening under the means of grace. O the difficulty of convincing such a person! sin hath got such rooting in his heart, he is so habituated to the reproofs and calls of the word, that few fuck