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"Be surety, 0 Lord, unto thy servant for good* 1 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 ,ny heart by thine Holy Spirit, and take up thy residence there! Dwell in me, and walk with mef; 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 shallJaint and be weary, and the young men utterly fall, I may sp 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 thp praise of ajl mine improvements in both! Amen."
• Psal. CTtix. 192. f SCor.vi. 16. J 1 Cor. vi. 19. 1 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 tooppose 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. VV ITH the utmost propriety has our divine master required 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 Godf, 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
• Lujce xiii. 23,24. f Eph. vi. 13. J 1 Cor. xvi. 13. fl G«I. v. 17.
sinful inclinations, that you have greatly increased their strength; and you will find in consequence of it, that these habits cannot be broke through without great difficulty. You will, no doubt, often recollect the strong figures, in which the prophet describes a case like yours; and you will own, that it is justly represented by that of an Ethiopian changing his skin, and the leopard his spots *. It is indeed possible, that you may find such an edge and eagerness upon your spirits, as may lead you to imagine that all opposition will immediately fall before you. But alas, I fear, that in a little time these enemies which seemed to be slain at your feet, will revive, and recover their weapons, and renew the assault in one form or another. And perhaps your most painful combats may be with such as you had thought most easy to be vanquished, and your greatest danger may arise from some of those enemies from whom you apprehended the least; particularly from pride, and from indolence of spirit; from a secret alienation of heart from God, and from an indisposition for conversing with him, through an immoderate attachment to things seen and temporal, which may be oftentimes exceeding dangerous to your salvation, though perhaps they be not absolutely and universally prohibited. In a thousand of these instances, you must learn to deny yourself, or you cannot be Christ's disciple+. §. 3. You must also lay your account, to find great difficulties from the world; from its manners, customs, and examples. The things of the world will hinder you one way, and the men of the world another. Perhaps you may meet with much less assistance in religion, than you are now ready to expect from good men. The present generation of them is ge. nerally so cautious to avoid every thing that looks like ostentation, and there seems something so insupportably dreadful in the charge of enthusiasm, that you will find most of your christian brethren studying to conceal their virtue and their piety, much more than others study to conceal their vices and their profaneness. But while, unless your situation be singularly happy, you meet with very little aid one way, you will, no doubt, find great opposition another. The enemies of religion will be bold and active in their assaults, while many of its friends seem unconcerned : and one sinner will probably exert himself more to corrupt you, than ten christians to secure and save you. They who have been once your companions in sin, will try a
* Jer. xiii. 23. +Mat. xvi. 24, WOL. I. T t
thousand artful methods to allure you back again to their forsaken society: some of them perhaps, with an appearance of tender fondness; and many more by the almost irresistible art of banter and ridicule: that boasted test of right and wrong, as it has been wantonly called, will be tried upon you, perhaps without any regard to decency, or even to common humanity. You will be derided and insulted by those, whose esteem and affection you naturally desire; and may find much more propriety than you imagine, in that expression of the apostle, the trial of cruel mockings”, which some fear more than either sword or flames. This persecution of the tongue you must expect to go through, and perhaps may be branded as a luna– tic, for no other cause, than that you now begin to exercise your reason to purpose, and will not join with those that are destroying their own souls, in their wild career of folly and madness. §. 4. And it is not at all improbable, that in the mean time satan may be doing his utmost to discourage and distress you. He will, no doubt, raise in your imagination the most tempting idea of the gratifications, the indulgence, and the companions, you are obliged to forsake; and give you the most discouraging and terrifying view of the difficulties, severities, and dangers, Awhich are (as he will persuade you) inseparable from religion. He will not fail to represent God himself, the fountain of goodmess and happiness, as an hard master, whom it is impossible to please. He will perhaps fill you with the most distressful fears, and with cruel and insolent malice glory over you as his slave, when he knows you are the Lord's freeman. At one time he will study by his vile suggestions to interrupt you in your duties, as if they gave him an additional power over you. At another time he will endeavour to weary you of your devotion, by influencing you to prolong it to an immoderate and tedious length, Hest his power should be exerted upon you when it ceases. In short, this practised deceiver has artifices, which it would require whole volumes to display, with particular cautions against each. And he will follow you with malicious arts and pursuits to the very end of your pilgrimage; and will leave no method unattempted, which may be likely to weaken your hands, and to sadden your heart, that if through the gracious interposition of God, he cannot prevent your final happiness, he may at least impair your peace and your usefulness, as you are passing to it. §. 5. This is what the people of God feel; and what you
* Heb. xi. 36.
will feel in some degree or other, if you have your lot and your portion among them. But after all be not discouraged: Christ is the captain of your salvation*. It is delightful to consider him, under this view. When we take a survey of these hosts of enemies, we may lift up our head amidst them all, and say, more and greater, is he that is with us, than all those that are against ust. Trust in the Lord, and you will be like mount 2ion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for evert. When your enemies press upon you, remember you are to fight in the presence of GodS. Endeavour therefore to act a gallant and a resolute part; endeavour to resist them stedfast in the faith|. Remember, he can give power to the faint, and increase strength to them that have no might's. He hath done it in ten thousand instances already; and he will do it in ten thousand more. How many striplings have conquered their gigantic foes in all their most formidable armour, when they have gone forth against them, though but as it were with a staff and a sling, in the name of the Lord God of Israel” How many women and children have trodden down the force of the enemy, and out of weakness have been made strong++ / S. 6. Amidst all the opposition of earth and hell, look upward, and look forward, and you will feel your heart animated by the view. Your general is near : he is near to aid you : he is near to reward you : when you feel the temptation press the hardest, think of him who endured even the cross itself for your rescue. View the fortitude of your divine leader, and endeavour to march on in his steps. Hearken to his voice, for he proclaims it aloud, Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with met!: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life SS. And Oh how bright will it shine ! and how long will its lustre last ! When the -gems that adorn the crowns of monarchs, and pass (instructive thought !) from one royal head to another through succeeding centuries, are melted down in the last flame, it is a crown of glory which fadeth not away|| 1 S. 7. It is indeed true, that such as turn aside to crooked paths, will be led forth with the workers of iniquity"I"s to that terrible execution, which the divine justice is preparing for them ; and that it would have been better for them, not to have known the way of righteousness, than after having known it,
* Heb. ii. 10. F 2 Kings vi. 16. f Psal. cxxv. 1. § Zech. x. 5. || 1 Pet. v. 9. * Isai. xl. 29. ** 1 Sam. xvii. 40–45. H. Heb. xi 34. if Rev. xxii. 12. §§ Rev. ii. 10. || 1 Pet. v. 4. . |s|Psal. cxxv. 5.
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