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I. First, then, we ought to have an honest ble direction which you can be doing with desire after light; and if we have this desire, in the mean time. You can persevere in it will not remain unproductive. There is the exercise of reading your Bible. There a connexion repeatedly announced to us in you are at the place of meeting etween Scripture between desire upon this subject, the Spirit of God and your own spirit. and its accomplishment. He that willeth You may have to wait, as if at the pool of to do the will of God shall know of my Siloam; but the many calls of the Bible to doctrine. He who hungereth and thirsteth wait upon God, to wait upon him with pashall be filled. He who lacketh wisdom and tience, to wait and to be of good courage, all is desirous of obtaining it, let him vent his prove that this waiting is a frequent and desire in prayer,--and if it be the prayer of a familiar part of that process by which a confidence in God, his desire shall be given sinner finds his way out of darkness into him. There are thousands to whom the the marvellous light of the gospel. Bible is a sealed book, and who are satis- And we have also adverted already, fied that it should remain so, who share in though in a very general way, to the difthe impetuous contempt of the Pharisees ference in point of result between the active against a doctrine to which they are alto- inquiries of a man who looks forward to gether blind, who have no understanding of the acquisition of saving truth as the natural the matter, and no wish that it should be and necessary termination of his inquiries, otherwise, -and unto them it will not be and of a man who mingles with every pergiven to know the mysteries of the king-sonal attempt after this object, the exercise dom of heaven. They have not, and from of prayer, and a reverential sense of his them therefore shall be taken away even dependence on God. The latter is just as that which they have. There are others, active, and just as inquisitive as the former. again, who have an ardent and unquencha- The difference between them does not lie ble thirst after the mysteries of the gospel ; in the one putting forth diligence without who, like the prophet in the apocalypse, a feeling of dependence, and the other feelweep much because the book is not opened ing dependence, without a putting forth of to them; who complain of darkness, like diligence. He who is in the right path tothe Apostles of old when they expostulated / wards the attainment of light, combines with their Teacher because he spoke in both these properties. parables, and, like them, who go to him with It is through the avenues of a desirous their requests for an explanation. These heart and of an exercised understanding, shall find that what they cannot do for and of sustained attention, and of faculties themselves, the Lion of the tribe of Judah | in quest of truth, and labouring after the will do for them. He will prevail to open possession of it, that God sends into the the book, and to loose the seals thereof. mind his promised manifestations. All this There is something they already have, I exercise on the one hand, without such an even an honest wish to be illuminated, and / acknowledgement of him as leads to prayer, to this more will be given. They are awake will be productive of nothing in the way to the disirableness, they are awake to the of spiritual discernment. And prayer, withnecessity of a revelation, which they have out this exercise, is the mere form and hot yet gotten,--and to them belongs the mockery of an acknowledgement. He who promise of, Awake, O sinner, and Christ calls upon us to hearken diligently, when shall give thee light.
he addresses us by a living voice, does in Secondly, We ought to have a habit of effect call upon us to read and to ponder prayer conjoined with a habit of inquiry; diligently when he addresses us by a writand to this more will be given. We have ten message. To ask truth of God, while already adverted to the circumstance, that we neglect to do for this object what he It is in the Bible, and not out of the Bible, bids us, is in fact not to recognize God, but where this light is to be met with. It is by to insult him. It is to hold out the appearthe Spirit of God, shining upon the word ance of presenting ourselves before him, of God, that his truth is reflected with while we are not doing it at the place of Clearness upon the soul. It is by his opera- | meeting, which he has assigned for us. It tion that the characters of this book are is to address an imaginary Being, whom made to stand as visibly out to the eye of we have invested with a character of our the understanding, as they do to the eye of own conception, and not the Being who the body; and therefore it is evident that it bids us search his Scriptures, and incline is not in the act of looking away from the unto his testimonies, and stir ourselves up written revelation, but in the act of looking that we may lay hold of him. Such prayer towards it, that the wished-for illumination is utterance, and nothing more. It wants will at length come into the mind of an all the substantial characters of prayer. It Inquirer. Let your present condition then I may amount to the seeking of those who
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shall not be able to enter the strait gate. It crisy. If he both read and pray, it is far falls short of the striving of those who take more likely that he will be brought unto the the kingdom of heaven by force, and of condition of a man being justified through whom that kingdom suffereth violence. faith in Christ, than that he will rest his
He who without prayer looks confidently hopes before God in the mere exercise of forward to success as the fruit of his own reading. If he both do and pray, it is far investigations, is not walking humbly with more likely that he will come to be estaGod. If he were humble he would pray.blished in the righteousness of Christ, as But whether is he the more humble, who the foundation of all his trust, than that he joins with a habit of prayer all those ac- will rest upon his own righteousness. For companying circumstances which God hath' a man to give up sin at the outset, is just to prescribed, or he who, in neglect of these do what God wills him at the outset. For a circumstances, ventures himself into his man at the commencement of his inquiries, presence in the language of supplication ? to be strenuous in the relinquishment of all There may be the show of humility in con- that he knows to be evil, is just to enter on fiding the whole cause of our spiritual and the path of approach towards Christ, in the saving illumination to the habit of praying very way that Christ desires him. He who for it to God. But if God himself tells us, cometh unto me must forsake all. For a that we must read, and seek, and meditate, man to put forth an immediate hand to the then it is no longer humility to keep by the doing of the commandments, while he is solitary exercise of praying. It is, in fact, groping his way towards a firm basis on keeping pertinaciously by our own way, which he might rear his security before heedless of his will and his way altogether. God, is not to deviate or diverge from the It is approaching God in the pride of our Saviour. He may do it with an eye of most own understanding. It is detaching from intense earnestness towards the Saviour,the whole work of seeing after him some and while the artificial interpreter of Christ's of those component parts which he himself doctrine holds him to be wrong, Christ himhath recommended. In the very act of self may recognize him to be one of those making prayer stand singly out as alone who keep his sayings, and to whom thereinstrument of success, we are in fact draw-fore he stands pledged to manisest himself. ing the life and the spirit out of prayer The man in fact by strenuously doing, is itself; and causing it to wither into a thing just the more significantly and the more of no power and no significancy in the sight energetically praying. He is adding one inof God. It is not the prayer of acknow-gredient to the business of seeking, without ledgement, unless it comes from him who which the other ingredient would be in acknowledges the will of God in other things God's sight an abomination. He is strugas well as in prayer. It is not the prayer gling against all regard to iniquity in his of submission unless it comes from the heart heart, seeing that if he have this regard God of a man who manifests a principle of sub- will not hear him. To say, that it is dangermission in all things.
ous to tell a man in these circumstances to Thirdly, We ought to do all that we do, lest he rest in his doings, and fall short know to be God's will; and to this habit of of the Saviour, is to say, that it would be humble earnest desirous reformation, more dangerous to place a man on the road to his will be given.
| wished for home, lest, when he has got upon We trust that what has been said will the road, he should stand stilland be satisfied. prepare you for the reception of another. The more, in fact, that the man's conscience advice besides that of reading or praying is exercised and enlightened (and what more for the attainment of that manifestation fitted than wilful sin to deasen the voice of which you are in quest of,--and that is conscience altogether?) the less will it let doing. There is an alarm raised in many him alone, and the more will it urge him a heart at the very suggestion of doing for onward to that righteousness which is the an inquirer, lest he should be misled as to only one commensurate to God's law, and the ground of his justification ; lest among in which alone the holy and inflexible God the multitude or the activity of his works, can look upon him with complacency. Let he should miss the truth, that a man is ac- | bim humbly betake himself, then, to the cepted, not through the works of the law, prescribed path of reading, and prayer, and but by faith in Jesus Christ; lest by every obvious reformation,--and let us see if there one performance of duty, he should just be do not evolve upon his mind, in the prosecuadding another stone to the fabric of a de- tion of it, the worthlessness of all that man lusive confidence, and presumptuously try can do for his meritorious acceptance with to force his own way to heaven, without the Lawgiver--and the deep ungodliness the recognition of the gospel or any of its) of character which adheres to him-and peculiarities. Now, doing stands precisely the suitableness of Christ's atonement to all in the same relation to prayer that reading his felt necessities, and all his moral aspidoes. Without the one or the other it is rations--and the need in which he stands the prayer either of presumption or hypo-l of a regenerating influence, to make him a
willing and a spiritual subject of God. Let to be found of those who seek after it. The
Be assured, then, that it will be for want Though to the natural eye, then, the doc- of seeking, if you do not find. It will trine of Christ be not plain, the way is plain be for want of learning, if you are not by which we arrive at it. Though, ere we taught. It will be for want of obedience see the things of Christ, the Spirit must to the movements of your own conscience, take of them and show them unto us--yet if the Holy Ghost, who prompts and who this Spirit deals out such admonitions to all, stimulates the conscience to all its movethat, if we follow them, he will not cease toments, be not poured upon you, in one large enlarge, and to extend his teaching, till we and convincing manifestation. It may still have obtained a saving illumination. He is be the day of small things with you-a day given to those who obey him. He abandons despised by the accomplished adepts of a those who resist him. When conscience systematic and articled theology. But God tells us to read, and to pray, and to reform, will not despise it. He will not leave your it is he who is prompting this faculty. It is longings for ever unsatisfied. He will not he who is sending through this organ, the keep you standing always at the threshold whispers of his own voice to the ear of the of vain desires and abortive endeavours. inner man. If we go along with the move- That faith, which is the gift of God, you ment, he will follow it up by other move-have already attained, in a degree, if you ments. He will visit him who is the willing have obtained a general conviction of the subject of his first influences by higher de importance and the reality of the whole monstrations. He will carry forward his matter. He will increase that faith. Act own work in the heart of that man, who, up to the light that you have gotten by while acting upon the suggestions of his reading earnestly, and praying importuown moral sense, is in fact acting in con- nately, and striving laboriously,-and to formity to the warnings of this kind and you more will be given. You will at length faithful monitor. So that the Holy Spirit obtain a clear and satisfying impression will connect his very first impulses on the of the things of God, and the things of mind of that inquirer, who, under the reign salvation. Christ will be recognised in all of earnestness, has set himself to read his his power and in all his preciousness. You Bible, and to knock with importunity at the will know what it is to be established upon door of heaven, and to forsake the evil of him. The natural legality of your hearts his ways, and to turn him to the practice will give way to the pure doctrine of accepof all that he knows to be right,-the Spirit tance with God, through faith in the blood will connect these incipient measures of a of a crucified Saviour. The sanctifying inseeker after Zion, with the acquirement of fluence of such a faith will not merely be Wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of talked of in word, but be experienced in Christ.
power; and you will evince that you are Let it not be said, then, that because the God's workmanship in Christ Jesus, by doctrine of Christ is shrouded in mystery | your abounding in all those fruits of righto the general eye of the world, it is such a teousness which are through him, to the mystery as renders it inaccessible to the praise and glory of the Father. men of the world. Even to them does the II. We shall now attempt to explain. rumpet os invitation blow a certain sound. how it is that the mysteries of the gospel They may not yet see the arcana of the are, in many cases, evolved upon the temple, but they may see the road which mind in a clear and convincing manifestaleads to the temple. If they are never to tion, obtain admission there, it is not because And here let it be distinctly understood, they cannot, but because they will not, that the way in many cases may be very come to it. “Ye will not come to me,” | far from the way in all cases. The expesays the Saviour, " that ye might have life," rience of converts is exceedingly various, Reading, and prayer, and reformation, these nor do we know a more frequent, and at are all obvious things; and it is the neglect the same time a more groundiess cause of of these obvious things which involves them anxiety, than that by which the mind of an in the guilt and the ruin of those who ne- inquirer is often harassed, when he atglect the great salvation. This salvation is itempts to realize the very process by which
another has been called out of darkness to rounded as we are by the gifts of nature the marvellous light of the gospel.
and of providence, all of which are his, the Referring, then, to those grounds of mys- giver is meanwhile forgotten, and, amid the teriousness which we have already specified enjoyments of his bounty, we live without in a former discourse, -God may so mani- him in the world. If it indeed be true, that sest himself to the mind of an inquirer, as it is his sun which lights us on our path, and to convince him, that all those analogies of his earth on which we tread so firmly, and common life which are taken from the re- his air which circulates a freshness around lation of a servant to his master, or of a our dwellings, and his rain which produces son to his father, or of a subject to his sove all the luxuriance that is spread around us, reign, utterly fail in the case of man, as he and drops upon every field the smiling prois by nature, in relation to his God. A ser-mise of abundance for all the wants of his vant may discharge all his obligations; a dependent children, --if all this be true, can son may acquit himself of all his duties, or it at the same time be right, that this allmay, with his occasional failures, and his providing God should have so little a place occasional chastisements, still keep his in our remembrance? that the whole man place in the instinctive affection of his pa- should be otherwise engaged than with a rents; and a subject may persevere in un- sense of him, and the habitual exercise of seduced loyalty to the earthly government acknowledgment to him? that in fact the under which he lives. But the glaring and full play of his regards should be expended the demonstrable fact with regard to man, on the things which are formed, and through viewed as a creature, is, that the habit of the whole system of his conduct and his his heart is one continued habit of dislike affairs, there should be so utter a neglect of and resistance to the Creator who gave hiin him who formed them? Surely if this be birth.
the true description of man, and the chaThe earthly master may have all those racter of his heart in reference to God, then services rendered to which he has a right, it is a case of too peculiar a nature to be and so be satisfied. The earthly father may illustrated by any of the analogies of human have all the devotedness, and all the attach- society. It must be taken up on its own ment from his family, which he can desire, grounds; and should the injured and ofand so be satisfied. The earthly sovereign fended Lawgiver offer to make it the subject may have all that allegiance from a loyal of any communication, it is our part humsubject, who pays his taxes, and never bly to listen and implicitly to follow it. transgresses his laws, which he expects or And here it is granted, that amongst the cares for, and so be satisfied. But go up- men who are utter strangers to this comward from them to the God who made us, munication, you meet with the better and to the God who keeps us to the God in the worse; and that there is an obvious whom we live, and move, and have our line of distinction which marks off the base being,-to the God whose care and whose and the worthless amongst them, from those presence are ever surrounding us, who, of them who are the valuable and the acfrom morning to night, and from night complished members of society. And yet to morning, watches over us, and tends us do we aver that one may step over that line while we sleep, and guides us in our waking and not be nearer than he was to God, moments, and follows us to the business of that, between the men on either side of it, the world, and brings us back in safety to and Him who created them, there lies an our homes, and never for a single instant, untrodden gulf of separation, that, with of time withdraws from us the superintend- all the justice which rules their transacence of an eye that never slumbers, and of tions, and all the honour which animates a hand that is never weary. Now, all we their bosoms, and all the compassion which require is a fair estimate of the claims of warms their hearts, and streams forth such a God. Does he ask too much, when either in tears of pity, or in acts of kindhe asks the affections of a heart that receives ness, upon the miserable with all these its every beat, and its every movement, virtues which they do have, and which from the impulse of his power? Does he serve both to bless and to adorn the condiask too much, when he asks the devoted - tion of humanity, there is one virtue, which, ness of a life, which owes its every hour prior to the reception and the influence of and its every moment to him, whose right the gospel of Christ, they most assuredly hand preserves us continually ? Has he do not have,-they are utterly devoid of no right to complain, when he knocks at the godliness. They have no desire, and no door of our hearts, and trying to possess inclination towards God. There may be himself of the love and the confidence of the dread of him, and the occasional rehis own creatures, he finds that all their membrance of him; but there is no affecthoughts, and all their pursuits, and all tion for him. likings, are utterly away from him? Is This is the charge which we carry round there no truth, and no justice in the charge amongst all the sons and daughters of which he prefers against us, when, sur-| Adam, who have not submitted themselves
to the only name that is given under hea- | the lofty standard of a law which offers
spiritual and intelligent morality, are as Now, if a man do not see this case made chargeable with rebellion against your out against himself in all its enormity, he Maker, as if some apostate angel had been will feel that the man who talks of it, and your champion, and you warred with God, who proposes the gospel application to it, under the waving standards of defiance. talketh mysteriously. If the Spirit have It was to clear away the guilt of this monnot convinced him of sin, and he have strous iniquity that Christ djed. It was to not learned to submit his character to make it possible for God, with his truth