« AnteriorContinuar »
soul that rest and peace which I have lost, and which I deserve for ever to lose.
“ Behold me, () 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 me I; 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, hy a vengeance and ruin, to be distinguished even there, where all are miserable, and all hopeless.
“ () 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
* Psal. 1. 5.
+ 1 Cor. xi. 27.
| Mal. üi. 5.
ncy of thyous instance, o heard, is
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 skiess, Thy mercy, () Lord, is above the Heavens. Extend that mercy to me, () 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 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 heavinoss**! 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 rejoicett! 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 theeft: 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 $S! 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, () 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
konment of praise for shes, the oil of jon red against the
* Jer iii. 22.
Isa. i. 18.
I Jer. li. 9.
Psal. cviü. 4. ' tt Psal. li.8, 12.
t. Rev. xviii. 5.
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."
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 wbat has been amiss, $. 8, 9. lil. 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 fron the spiritual cause supposed.
8.1. I 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
* Rev. i. 6
son, or lifting up upon him the light of his countenance. This seems to carry in it an allusion to the pleasant and delightful appearance which the face of a friend has, and especially if in a superior relation of life, when he converses with those whom he loves and delights in. Thus Job, when speaking of the regard paid him by his attendants, says, If I smiled upon them, they believed it not, and the light of my countenance they cast not down*; that is, they were careful, in such an agreeable circumstance, to do nothing to displease me, or (as we speak) to cloud my brow. And David, when expressing his desire of the manifestation of God's favour to him, says, Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me ; and, as the effect of it, declares thou hast put gladness into my heart more than if corn and wine increased t. Nor is it impossible, that in this phrase, as used by David, there may be some allusion to the bright shining forth of the Shekinah, that is the lustre which dwelt in the cloud as the visible sign of the divine presence with Israel, which God was pleased peculiarly to manifest upon some public occasions, as a token of his favour and acceptance.-On the other hand, therefore, for God to hide his face, must imply the withholding the tokens of his favour, and must be esteemed a mark of his displeasure. Thus Isaiah uses it; Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear f. And again, Thou hast hid thy face from us, as not regarding the calamities we suffer, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities g. So likewise, for God to hide his face from our sins ll, signifies to overlook them, and to take no farther notice of them. The same idea is, at other times, expressed by God's hiding his eyes I from persons of a character disagreeable to him, when they come to address him with their petitions, not vouchsafing (as it were) to look towards them. This is plainly the scriptural sense of the word; and agreeable to this, it is generally used by christians in our day, and every thing which seems a token of divine displeasure towards them is expressed by it.
$. 3. It is farther to be observed here, that the things which they judge to be manifestations of divine favour towards them, or complacency in them, are not only, nor chiefly of a temporal nature, or such as merely relate to the blessings of this animal and perishing life. David, though the promises of the law had a continual reference to such, yet was taught to look farther, and describes them as preferable to, and therefore plainly distinct from, the blessings of the corn-floor or the winepress*. And if you, to whom I am now addressing, do not know them to be so, it is plain you are quite ignorant of the subject we are enquiring into, and indeed are yet to take out the first lessons of true religion. All that David says, of beholding the beauty of the Lord +, or being satisfied as with marrow and fatness, when he remembered him on his bed I, as well as with the goodness of his house, even of his holy temples, is to be taken in the same sense, and can need very little explication to the truly experienced soul. But those that have known the light of God's countenance, and the shinings of his face, will, in proportion to the degree of that knowledge, be able to form some notion of the hiding of his face, or the withdrawing of the tokens he has given his people of his presence and favour, which sometimes greatly imbitters prosperity : as where the contrary is found, it sweetens afflictions, and often swallows up the sense of them.
* Job xxix. 24.
+ Psal. iv. 6, 7.
I Isai. lix. %.
Isai, 1. 15,
$. 4. And give me leave to remind you my christian friend, (for under that character I now address my reader,) that to be thus deprived of the sense of God's love, and of the tokens of his favour, may soon be the case with you, though you may now have the pleasure to see the candle of the Lord shining upon you, or though it may even seem to be sun-shine and high noon in your soul. You may lose your lively views of the divine perfections and glories, in the contemplation of which you now find that inward satisfaction. You may think of the divine wisdom and power, of the divine mercy and fidelity, as well as of his righteousness and holiness, and feel little inward complacency of soul in the views. It may be, with respect to any lively impressions, as if it were the contemplation merely of a common object. It may seem to you, as if you had lost all idea of those important words, though the view has sometimes swallowed up your whole soul in transports of astonishment, admiration, and love. You may lose your delightful sense of the divine favour. It may be matter of great and sad doubt with you, whether you do indeed belong to God; and all the work of his blessed Spirit may be so veiled and shaded in the soul, that the peculiar characters, by which the hand of that sacred agent might be distinguished, shall be in a great measure lost; and you may be ready to imagine you have only deluded yourself in all the former hopes you have entertained. In consequence of this, those ordinances, in which you now rejoice, may grow very uncom
* Psal. iv. 7.
+ Psal. xxvii. 4.
Psal. Ixiii. 5, 6.
Psal. lxv. 4.