« AnteriorContinuar »
cuses, not by objecting to the manner in which others may have treated you ; as if the least excess of rigour in a faithful admonition were a crime equal to some great immorality that occasioned it. This can only proceed from the madness of pride and self-love : it is the sensibility of a wound, which is hardened, swelled, and inflamed ; and it must be reduced, and cooled and suppled, before it can possibly be cured. To be censured, and condemned by men, will be but a little grievance, to a soul thoroughly humbled and broken under a sense of having incurred the condemning sentence of God. Such a one will rather desire to glorify God, by submitting to deserved blame; and will fear deceiving others into a more favourable opinion of him, than he inwardly knows himself to deserve. These are the sentiments which God gives to the sincere penitent in such a case; and by this means he restores him to that credit and regard among others, which he does not know how to seek, but which nevertheless, for the sake both of his comfort and usefulness, God wills that he should have ; and which it is, humanly speaking, impossible for him to recover any other way. But there is something so honourable in the frank acknowledgment of a fault, and in deep humiliation for it, that all who see it must needs approve it. They pity an offender, who is brought to such a disposition; and endeavour to comfort him with returning expressions, not only of their love, but of their esteem too. §. 7. Excuse this digression, which may suit some cases; and which would suit many more, if a regular discipline were to be exercised in churches: for on such a supposition, the Lord's supper could not be approached after visible and scandalous falls, without solemn confession of the offence, and declarations of repentance. On the other hand, there may be instances of sad apostacy, where the crime, though highly aggravated before God, may not fall under human notice. In this case, remember, that your business is with him, to whose piercing eye every thing appears in its just light: before him therefore prostrate your soul, and seek a solemn reconciliation with him, confirmed by the memorials of his dying Son. And when this is done, imagine not, that because you have received the tokens of pardon, the guilt of your apostacy is to be forgot at once. Bear it still in your memory for future caution: lament it before God, in the frequent returns of secret devotion especially : and view with humiliation the scars of those wounds which your own folly occasioned, even when by divine grace they are thoroughly healed. For God establishes his covenant, not to remove the sense of every past abomination, but that thou mayest remember thy ways, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, even when I am pacified towards thee Jor all that thou hast done, saith the Lord.*
§. 8. And now, upon the whole, if you desire to attain such a temper, and to return by such steps as these, then immediately fall down before God, and pour out your heart in his presence, in language like this.
A Prayer for one who has fallen into gross Sin, after Religious Resolutions and Engagements.
“O MOST Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God! When I seriously reflect on thy spotless purity, and on the strict and impartial methods of thy steady administration, together with that almighty power of thine, which is able to carry every thought of thine heart into immediate and full execution, I may justly appear before thee this day with shame and terror, in confusion and consternation of spirit. This day, O my God, this dark mournful day, would I take occasion to look back to that sad source of our guilt, and our misery, the apostacy of our common parents, and say with thine offending servant David, Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive met. This day would I lament all the fatal consequences of such a descent, with regard to myself. And Oh how many have they been — The remembrance of the sins of my unconverted state, and the failings and infirmities of my after life, may justly confound me! How much more such a scene, as now lies before my conscience, and before thine all-seeing eye! For thou, O Lord, knowest my foolishness, and all my sins are not hid from theef. Thou tellest all my wanderings from thy statutes §: thou seest, and thou recordest, every instance of my disobedience to thee, and of my rebellion against thee: thou seest it in every aggravated circumstance which I can discern, and in many more which I have never observed or reflected upon. How then shall I appear in thy presence, or lift up my face to thee |! I am full of confusion I, and feel a secret regret in the thought of applying to thee: But, O Lord, to whom should I go, but unto thee *** Unto thee, on whom depends my life or my death; unto thee, who alone canst take away the burden of guilt, which now presses me down to the dust; who alone canst restore to my soul that rest and peace which I have lost, and which I deserve for ever to lose. “Behold me, O Lord God, falling down at thy feet! Behold me pleading guilty in thy presence, and surrendering myself to that justice which I cannot escape! I have not one word to offer in my own vindication, in my own excuse. Words, far from being able to clear up my innocence, can never sufficiently describe the enormity and demerit of my sin. Thou, O Lord, and thou only knowest to the full, how heinous and how aggravated it is. Thine infinite understanding alone, can fathom the infinite depth of its malignity. I am, on many accounts, most unable to do it. I cannot conceive the glory of thy sacred Majesty, whose authority I have despised, nor the number and variety of those mercies, which I have sinned against. I cannot conceive the value of the blood of thy dear Son, which I have ungratefully trampled under my feet; nor the dignity of that blessed spirit of thine, whose agency I have, as far as I could, been endeavouring to oppose, and whose work I have been, as with all my might, labouring to undo, and to tear up (as it were) that plantation of his grace, which I should rather have been willing to have guarded with my life, and watered with my blood. Oh the baseness and madness of my conduct! That I should thus, as it were, rend open the wounds of my soul, of which I had died long e'er this, had not thine own hand applied a remedy, had not thine only Son bled to prepare it! That I should violate the covenant I have made with thee by sacrifice", by the memorials of such a sacrifice too, even of Jesus, my Lord, whereby I am become guilty of his body and blood+! That I should bring such dishonour upon religion too, by so unsuitable a walk, and perhaps open the mouths of its greatest enemies to insult it upon my account, and prejudice some against it to their everlasting destruction! I wonder, O Lord God, that I am here to own all this. I wonder, that thou hast not long ago appeared as a swift witness against met; that thou hast not discharged the thunderbolts of thy flaming wrath against me, and crushed me into Hell; making me there a terror to all about me, as well as to myself, by a vengeance and ruin, to be distinguished even there, where all are miserable, and all hopeless. “O God, thy patience is marvellous! But how much more marvellous is thy grace, which after all this, invites me to thee! While I am here giving judgment against myself, that I deserve to die, to die for ever, thou art sending me the words of everlasting life, and calling me, as a backsliding child, to return unto thee”. Behold therefore, O Lord, invited by thy word, and encouraged by thy grace, I come; and great as my transgressions are, I humbly beseech thee, freely to pardon them: because I know, that though my sins have reached unto Heavent, and are lifted up even unto the skies!, Thy mercy, O Lord, is above the Heavenss. Extend that mercy to me, O heavenly Father; and display, in this illustrious instance, the riches of thy grace, and the prevalency of thy Son's blood For surely, if such crimson sins as mine, may be made white as snow, and as wool ||, and if such a revolter as I am be brought to eternal glory, earth must, so far as it is known, be filled with wonder, and Heaven with praise; and the greatest sinner may cheerfully apply for pardon, if I, the chief of sinners, find it. And Oh that, when I have lain mourning, and as it were bleeding at thy feet, as long as thou thinkest proper, thou wouldst at length heal this soul of mine's which has sinned against thee; and give me beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness **! Oh that thou wouldst at length restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and 'make me to hear songs of gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice++! Then, when a sense of thy forgiving love is shed abroad upon my heart, and it is cheered with the voice of pardon, I will proclaim thy grace to others; I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto theets: those that have been backsliding from thee, shall be encouraged to seek thee by my happy experience, which I will gladly proclaim for thy glory, though it be to my own shame and confusion of face. And may this joy of the Lord be my strength SS! so that in it I may serve thee hence-forward with a vigour and zeal far beyond what I have hitherto known “This I would ask with all humble submission to thy will; for I presume not to insist upon it. If thou shouldst see fit to make me a warning to others, by appointing that I should walk all my days in darkness, and at last die under a cloud, Thy will be done; But, O God, extend mercy for thy Son's sake, to this sinful soul at last; and give me some place, though it were at the feet of all thine other servants, in the regions of glory ! Oh bring me at length, though it should be through the gloomiest valley that any have ever passed, into that blessed world, where I shall depart from God no more, where I shall wound my own conscience, and dishonour thy holy name no more! Then shall my tongue be loosed, how long soever it might here be bound under the confusion of guilt; and immortal praises shall be paid to that victorious blood, which has redeemed such an infamous slave of sin, as I must acknowledge myself to be, and brought me, from returns into bondage and repeated pollution, to share the dignity and holiness of those, who are kings and priests unto God*. Amen."
* Ezek. xvi. 63. + Psal. li. 5. t Psal. lxix. 5. § Psal, lvi. 8. | Ezra. ix. 6. | Job x. 15. ** John vi. 68.
WOL. I. 3 D
* Jer iii. 22. + Rev. xviii. 5. * Jer. Ii. 9. § Psal. cviii. 4. ' | Isa. i. 18. • Psal xli. 4. ** Isa. lxi. 3. ft Psal. li. 8, 12. ji Psal. ii 13, §§ Neh. viii. 10.
The Case of the Christian under the Hidings of God's Face.
The Phrase scriptural, §. 1. It signifies the withdrawing the Tokens of the divine Favour, §. 2. chiefly as to spiritual Considerations, §. 3. This may become the Case of any Christian, §. 4. and will be found a very sorrowful one, §. 5. The following Directions, therefore, are given to those who suppose it to be their own: I. To enquire whether it be indeed a Case of spiritual Distress, or whether a disconsolate Frame may not proceed from Indisposition of Body, §. 6. or Difficulties, as to worldly Circumstances, §. 7. If it be found to be indeed such, as the Title of the Chapter proposes, be advised. II. To consider it as a merciful Dispensation of God, to awaken and bestir the Soul; and excite to a strict Examination of Conscience, and Reformation of what has been amiss, §. 8,9. III. To be humble and patient while the Trial continues, §. 10. IV. To go on steadily in the Way of Duty, §, 11. V. To renew a believing Application to the Blood of Jesus, §. 12. An humble Supplication for one under these mournful Exercises of Mind, when they are found to proceed from the spiritual cause supposed.
§. 1. JL HERE is a case which often occurs in the christian life, which they who accustom themselves much to the exercise of devotion, have been used to call the hiding of God's face. It is a phrase borrowed from the word of God, which I hope may shelter it from contempt at the first hearing. It will be my business in this chapter to state it as plainly as I can, and then to give some advice as to your own conduct when you fall into it, as it is very probable you may before you have finished your journey through this wilderness.
$. 2. The meaning of it may partly be understood by the opposite phrase of God's causing his face to shine upon a per