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my soul may acquiesce. Yea, Lórd, I would praise thee, that thou wilt shew so much regard to me, as to apply such remedies as these to the diseases of my mind, and art thus kindly careful to train me up for glory. I have no objection against being afflicted, against being afflicted in this particular way. The cup which my Father puts into mine hand, shall I not drink it * * By thine assistance and support I will. Only be pleased, O Lord, to stand by me, and sometimes to grant me a favourable look in the midst of my sufferings Support my soul, I beseech thee, by thy consolations mingled with my tribulations; and I shall glory in those tribulations, that are thus allayed It has been the experience of many, who have reflected on afflicted days with pleasure, and have acknowledged that their comforts have swallowed up their sorrows. And after all that thou hast done, are thy mercies restrained: 2 Is thy hand wared short to or canst thou not still do the same for me “If my heart be less tender, less sensible, thou canst cure that disorder, and canst make this affliction the means of curing it. Thus let it be; and at length in thine own due time, and in the way which thou shalt chuse, work out deliverance for me; and shew me thy marvellous loving-kindness, 0 thou that savest by thy right hand them that put their trust in thee §1 For Iwell know, that how dark soever this night of affliction seem, if thou sayest, Let there be light, there shall be light. But I would urge nothing, before the time thy wisdom and goodness shall appoint. I am much more concerned that my afflictions may be sanctified, than that they may be removed. Number me, O God, among the happy persons, whom whilst thou chastenest, thou teachest out of thy law || | Shew me, I beseech thee, wherefore thou contendest with me"; and purify me by the fire which is so painful to me, while I am passing through it! Dost thou not chasten thy children for this very end, that they may be partakers of thy holiness**! Thou knowest, O God, it is this my soul is breathing after. I am partaker of thy bounty, every day and moment of my life: I am partaker of thy gospel, and I hope in some measure too, a partaker of the grace of it operating on my heart: Oh may it operate more and more, that I may largely partake of thine holiness too; that I may come nearer and nearer in the temper of my mind to thee, O blessed God, the supreme model of perfection! Let my soul be (as it were) melted, though with the intensest heat of the furnace, if I may but
* John xviii. 11. HIsai. lxiii. 15. Numb. xi. 23. § Psal. xvii. 7. | Psal. xciv. 12. *I Job x. 2. ** Heb. xii. 10.
thereby be made fit for being delivered into the mould of thy gospel, and bearing thy bright and amiable images
“O Lord, my soul longeth for thee; it crieth out for the living God” I In thy presence, and under the support of thy love, I can bear any thing; and am willing to bear it, if I may grow more lovely in thine eyes, and more meet for thy kingdom. The days of my affliction will have an end; the hour will at length come, when thou wilt wipe away all my tearst. Though it tarry, I would wait for it t. My foolish heart, in the midst of all its trials, is ready to grow fond of this earth, disappointing and grievous as it is: and graciously, O God, dost thou deal with me, in breaking these bonds that would tie me faster to it. O let my soul be girding itself up, and (as it were) stretching its wings in expectation of that blessed hour, when it shall drop all its sorrows and incumbrances at once, and soar away to expatiate with infinite delight in the regions of liberty, peace, and joy! -Amen.”
The Christian assisted in examining into his Growth in Grace.
The Examination important, $. 1. False Marks of Growth to be avoided, §. 2. True Marks proposed; such as, (1.) Increasing Love to God, $.3. (2.) Benevolence to Men, §. 4. (3.) Candour of Disposition, Ş. 5. (4.) Meekness under Injuries, §. 6. (5.) Serenity amidst the Uncertainties of Life, 3.7. (6.) Humility, Ś. 8. especially as expressed in evangelical Exercises of Mind towards Christ and the Spirit, $.9. (7.) Zeal for the divine Honour, S. 10. (8.) IIabitual and cheerful Willingness to exchange Worlds, whenever God shall appoint it,8. 11. Conclusion, §. 12. The Christian breathing after Growth in Grace.
§. ..If by divine grace you have been born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible $, even by that word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever, not only in the world and the church, but in particular souls in which it is sown; you will, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby|. And though in the most advanced state of religion on earth, we are but infants, in comparison of what we hope to be, when in the heavenly world, we arrive unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ's, yet as we have some exercise of a sanctified reason, we shall be solicitous that we may be growing and thriving infants. And you, my reader, if so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious*, will, I doubt not, feel this solicitude. I would therefore endeavour to assist you in making the enquiry, whether religion be on the advance in your soul. And here, I shall warn you against some false marks of growth; and then, shall endeavour to lay down others on which you may depend as mote solid.—In this view I would observe, that you are not to measure your growth in grace, only or chiefly by your advances in knowledge, or in zeal, or any other passionate impression of the mind; no, nor by the fervour of devotion alone; but by the habitual determination of the will for God, and by your prevailing disposition to obey his commands, to submit to his disposals, and to subserve his schemes in the world.
* Psal. Ixxxiv. 2. + Rev. xxi. 4. † Hab. ii. 3. § 1 Pet. i. 23. || 1 Pet. ii. 2. as Eph. iv. 13.
§. 2. It must be allowed, that knowledge and affection in religion, are indeed desirable. Without some degree of the former, religion cannot be rational; and it is very reasonable to believe, that without some degree of the latter that it cannot be sincere, in creatures whose natures are constituted like ours. Yet there may be a great deal of speculative knowledge, and a great deal of rapturous affection, where there is no true religion at all; and therefore much more, where there is no advanced state in it. The exercise of our rational faculties, upon the evidences of divine revelation, and upon the declaration of it as contained in scripture, may furnish a very wicked man with a well-digested body of orthodox divinity in his head, when not one single doctrine of it has ever reached his heart. An eloquent description of the sufferings of Christ, of the solemnities of judgment, of the joys of the blessed, and the miseries of the damned, might move the breast even of a man who did not firmly believe them; as we often find ourselves strongly moved by well-wrought narrations, or discourses, which at the same time we know to have their foundation in fiction. Natural constitution, or such accidental causes as are some of them too low to be here mentioned, may supply the eyes with a flood of tears, which may discharge itself plenteously upon almost any occasion that shall first arise. And a proud impatience of contradiction, directly opposite as it is to the gentle spirit of christianity, may make a man's blood boil, when he hears the notions he has entertained, and especially those which he has openly and vigorously espoused, disputed and opposed. This may possibly lead him, in terms of strong
* 1 Pet. u. 3.
indignation, to pour out his zeal and his rage before God, in a fond conceit, that as the God of truth, he is the patron of those favourite doctrines, by whose fair appearances perhaps he himself is misled. And if these speculative refinements, or these affectionate sallies of the mind, be consistent with a total absence of true religion, they are much more apparently consistent with a very low estate of it. I would desire to lead you, my friend, into sublimer notions, and juster marks; and refer you to other practical writers, and above all to the book of God, to prove how material they are. I would therefore intreat you to bring your own heart to answer, as in the presence of God, to such enquiries as these. § 3. Do you find “divine love, on the whole, advancing in your soul ?”—Do you feel yourself more and more sensible of the presence of God; and does that sense grow more delightful to you, than it formerly was Can you, even when your natural spirits are weak and low, and you are not in any frame for the ardours and ecstacies of devotion, nevertheless find a pleasing rest, a calm repose of heart, in the thought that God is near you, and that he sees the secret sentiments of your soul; while you are, as it were, labouring up the hill, and casting a longing eye towards him, though you cannot say you enjoy any sensible communications from him Is it agreeable to you to open your heart to his inspection and regard, to present it to him laid bare of every disguise, and to say with David, Thou, Lord, knowest thy servant*! Do you find a growing esteem and approbation of that sacred law of God, which is the transcript of his moral perfections Do you inwardly esteem all his precepts concerning all things to be right to Do you discern, not only the necessity, but the reasonableness, the beauty, the pleasure of obedience; and feel a growing scorn and contempt of those things, which may be offered as the price of your innocence, and would tempt you to sacrifice or to hazard your interest in the divine favour and friendship Do you find an ingenuous desire to please God; not only because he is so powerful, and has so many good and so many evil things entirely at his command ; but from a veneration of his most amiable nature and character; and do you find your heart habitually reconciled to a most humble subjection, both to his commanding and to his disposing will Do you perceive, that your own will is now more ready and disposed, in every circumstance, to bear the yoke, and to submit to the divine determination, whatever he appoints to be borne, or forborne Can you in patience possess your soul”? Can you maintain a more steady calmness and serenity, when God is striking at your dearest enjoyments in this world, and acting most directly contrary to your present interests, to your natural passions and desires If you can, it is a most certain and noble sign, that grace is grown up in you to a very vigorous state. §. 4. Examine also, “ what affections you find in your heart towards those who are round about you, and towards the rest of mankind in general.”—Do you Glad your heart overflow with undissembled and unrestrained benevolence Are you more sensible than you once were, of those most endearing bonds which unite all men, and especially all christians, into one community; which make them brethren and fellow-citizens? Do all the unfriendly passions die and wither in your soul, while the kind social affections grow and strengthen And though self-love was never the reigning passion, since you became a true christian ; yet as some remainders of it are still too ready to work inwardly, and to shew themselves, especially as sudden occasions arise, do you perceive that you get ground of them Do you think of yourself only as one of a great number, whose particular interes.s and concerns are of little importance when compared with those of the community, and ought by all means, on all occasions, to be sacrificed to them * §. 5. Reflect especially “ on the temper of your mind towards those, whom an unsanctified heart might be ready to imagine it had some just excuse for excepting out of the list of those it loves, and towards whom you are ready to feel a secret aversion, or at least an alienation from them.”—How does your mind stand affected towards those who differ from you in their religious sentiments and practices I do not say that christian charity will require you to think every error harmless. It argues no want of love to a friend in some cases, to fear lest his disorder should prove more fatal than he seems to imagine; nay sometimes, the very tenderness of friendship may increase that apprehension. But to hate persons because we think they are mistaken, and to aggravate every difference in judgment or practice into a fatal and damnable error, that destroys all christian communion and love, is a symptom generally much worse than the evil it condemns. Do you love the image of Christ in a person who , thinks himself obliged in conscience to profess and worship in a
*2 Sam. vii. 29. + Psal. cxix. 128.