« AnteriorContinuar »
"earthly affections still continuing in . the "heart; and the will stubborn, rebellious, and "frequently inclining to disobedience. In "short, the mind is like the region of the "earth, while twilight is upon it. It is neither "dark nor light, but a mixture of both: no "portion of the hemisphere being so light, "but the shades of darkness are.blended with "it; and none so dark, but the tints of light "are beautifully incorporated. And this is "perfectly accountable. A state of grace is "a middle state, between that of nature and "glory. In a state of nature una wakened, "unregenerated, unrenewed, sin reigns with "unrivalled sway. In a state of glory, grace "reigns uninterrupted, and without any op"position. But the intermediate state is a "state of warfare. Every one in this state "feels and experiences the conflict. And as it "is said in allusion to this very circumstance "in the allegory, which described it, of the "bondwoman's son and the heir of promise, "so believers find it; as then he that was 'e born after the flesh persecuted him that was"bom after the spirit; even so it is now.*
"But however mortifying this doctrine is "to our nature,- (and abundantly so it hath "ever been found to the best of men,) yet as '.' it tends, under Divine grace, to make the "believer go softly all his days, as it makes "Jesus more dear, .and as it affords to the "believer one of the truest evidences of the "renewed life, he ought rather to enquire, "how,such a state may be over-ruled to God's "glory, and his own benefit; than, by a false "estimate, to question the tender mercies of "the Lord towards him in the very moment "of receiving the strongest proofs of them.— "Let me desire you to examine your own "complaints again; and to see whether in "every one of them, even in the very midst of "your groaning, under the apprehension that "there is no grace in your heart—whether "great grace is not then in exercise. You say, "that if the love of Christ was shed abroad in "your heart, you could not live so far from "Him as you do; that if you really were "under grace, you could not stay away from "a throne of mercy as you do. But say, could "you complain of the want of love to Christ, "if you had never tasted what that love is? "And if you visit not a mercy-seat so often "as you wish, say, are not these things your "continual burthen? Do you not groan under "such marks of a dead and lifeless heart? And "are not these sorrows of the soul, for the un"allowed sins of the body, very plain evidences "of the spiritual warfare? They never groan "at sin, though they may in the prospect of "the punishment of it, who have no renewed "nature. It is the believer only who dreads "the sin, more than the penalty due to it. "And if grace be thus in exercise to endear "the person of the Lord Jesus, still more in "proportion as we see our daily want of Him;
* Gal. jy. 29.
"to long for the time to come when sin shall "be rooted out; and to cause a sense of our "weakness to prompt the soul to a greater "dependence upon Divine strength; by thus "over-ruling His dispensations to His glory, "and His people's welfare % we see a needs-be "in every dispensation, and discover the beauty "and tendency of that Scripture, which says, "after that ye were illuminated, not before, '" but after, ye endured a great fight of afflict "tions.* In a word: however we may long for "an eiemption from all sin, and would pur"chase it, were it possible, with the price of a «' thousand worlds; however we may, and do, "groari under this body of sin and death, "which we carry about with us: yet, while "Jesus, who could, if he saw it right, deliver "His tried ones, whom he hath chosen in the "furnace of affliction, with a word speaking, "sees it not fit; let us not despond. If your "sense of ski, and unallowed infirmities, lead "you to a more firm reliance upon Him; if "it makes His promises dearer, his faithfulness "more evident, and His presence more de"sirable; depend upon it, by and by, your "groans will be changed into Songs of rejoic"ing, and your language will be like that of "the Apostle, Thanks be to God, who giveth "us the victory through our Lord Jesus "Christ."
* Heb. x. 32.
THE CRIES OF UNBELIEF.
There sat a man upon my right hand in the prayer-meeting, to whom the leader of this little circle next addressed himself, in order to inquire into the Lord's gracious dealings with his soul. "I hope," (said the Poor Man, calling upon him with all the freedom of one who-had been long acquainted) "I hope, said "he, that you will now be able to give us "some testimony of the word of His grace. f' I long, methinks, to hear, from an old "disciple, like you, some evidence of the "faithfulness of our Covenant-making, and "Covenant-fulfilling God."
"Alas!" (replied the other) "my language "must be much the same as you have often "heard. I still groan under the burthen of ff unbelief, and know not when I shall obtain "deliverance from it. It will be a long time, f I fear,, before I shall be able to comfort them "which are in any trouble, by the comfort "wherewith I myself am comforted of God. "I frequently compare myself to the unworthy f' spies, whom Moses sent to view the" promised "land; and fear that, like them, I shall never "attain the possession of it, through the same "besetting sin of unbelief. If I attend the "means of grace, I return, for the most part, f' unbenefited, through the suggestions of this "evil heart of unbelief. If I hear the word of ff a preached Gospel, though I know the truth "as it is in Jesus, and love to sit under the "sound of it; yet too often, like the Israelites, "it doth not profit me, not being mixed with "faith. If at any time I read the Bible,' and "turn to those exceeding great and precious "promises, which belong to the Lord's peoph, w their sweetness is lost to me, through a fear "that I have no interest in them. And how "many of the providences of my God, which "I well know to be every one of them fraught "with a sure blessing in their final issue to His "people, are perverted in their effects on me, "by the impatience and distrust of my un"believing heart! And can such a creature "say any thing by way of encouragement to "the Lord's exercised family, when he him^ "self is so faithless and unbelieving?"
"I confess" (rejoined the Poor Man) "that "such a state as you describe, cannot afford "much assistance to the cause of Christ. But "blessed be our God, this is the Christian's "charter, that, if we believe not, yet He "abideth faithful, He cannot deny Himself. "Your want of faith indeed is injurious to "your peace, but not to His cause. Unbe"lief, like a worm of the bud, cankers the "bloom and fragrancy of the sweetest flowers "of grace. And had our fathers of the "Church in the wilderness been in this frame '' of mind, instead of surrounding the Christian "pilgrim as they now do, with such a glorious « cloud of witnesses, they would have stood in. s< the highway only as so many pillars of salt, •