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give it to the beasts to devour it? No; his God, as the prophet speaks, instructs him unto discretion and teacheth him; namely, what he must do, and how he must look for things in their season. And shall not we be instructed by him? Behold the husbandman,' saith James, 'waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain ;' Jam. v.7. And is light sown for them that are in darkness, and shall they stifle the seed under the clods, or spoil the tender blade that is springing up, or refuse to wait for the watering of the Spirit, that may bring it forth to perfection? Waiting is the only way to establishment and assurance; we cannot speed by our haste; yea, nothing puts the end so far away, as making too much haste and speed in our journey. The ground hereof is, that a sense of a special interest in forgiveness and acceptance, is given in to the soul by a mere act of sovereignty. It is not, it will not, be obtained by or upon any rational conclusions or deductions that we can make: all that we can do is but to apply ourselves to the removal of hinderances. For the peace and rest sought for, come from mere prerogative. When he giveth quietness, who can give trouble? and when he hideth his face, who can behold him ? Job xxxiv. 29. Now what is the way to receive that which comes from mere sovereignty and prero gative? doth not the nature of the thing require humble waiting ? If then eitherimpatience cast the soul into froward ness, or weariness make it slothful, which are the two ways whereby waiting is ruined ; let not such a one expect any com fortable issue of his contending for deliverance out of his depths. And let not any think to make out their difficulties any other way: their own reasonings will not bring them to any establishing conclusions ; for they may lay down propositions, and have no considerable objections to lie against either of them, and yet be far enough from that sweet consolation, joy, and assurance which is the product of the con clusion, when God is not pleased to give it in ; yea, a man may sometimes gather up consolation to himself upon such terms, but it will not abide. So did David, Psal. xxx. 6, 7. He thus argues with himself, He whose mountain is made strong, to whom God is a defence, he shall never be moved nor be shaken; but I am thus settled of God, therefore I
shall not be moved: and therein he rejoiceth. It is an expression of exultation that he useth ; but what is the issue of it? in the midst of these pleasing thoughts of his, God hides his face, and he is troubled; he cannot any longer draw out the sweetness of the conclusion mentioned. It was in him before from the shinings of God's countenance, and not from any arguings of his own.
No disappointment then, no tediousness or weariness, should make the soul leave waiting on God, if it intend to attain consolation and establishment. So dealeth the church, Lam. iii. 21. This I recall to mind, therefore have I hope.' What is that she calls to mind? This, that it is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not;' ver. 22. I will yet hope, I will yet continue in my expectation upon the account of never-failing compassion; of endless mercies in him, whatever my present condition be. And thence she makes a blessed conclusion, ver. 26. • It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.' And this is our third rule. It is good to hope and wait, whatever our present condition be, and not to give over, if we would not be sure to fail: whereunto I speak no more, because the close of this psalm insists wholly on this duty, which must be farther spoken unto.
Seeing, in the course of our believing and obedience, that which is chiefly incumbent on us, for our coming up to establishment and consolation, is spiritual diligence in the removal of the hinderances thereof; let the soul that would attain thereunto, make thorough work in the search of sin, even to the sins of youth ; that all scores on that account may clearly be wiped out. If there be much rubbish left in the foundation of the building, no wonder if it always shake and totter. Men's leaving of any sin unsearched to the bottom, will poison all their consolation. David knew this, , when in dealing with God in his distresses, he prays that he would not remember the sins and transgressions of his youth ;' Psal. v. 7. Youth is oftentimes a time of great vanity and unmindfulness of God; many stains and spots are therein usually brought upon the consciences of men. Childhood and youth are vanity;' Eccles. xi. 10. Not be
cause they soon pass away, but because they are usually spent in vanity, as the following advice of chap. xii. 1. to remember God in those days, doth manifest. The way of many is to wear such things out of mind, and not to walk in a sense of their folly and madness, never to make thorough work with God about them. I speak of the saints themselves; for with others that live under the means of grace, whom God intends any way to make useful and industrious in their generation, this is the usual course; by convictions, restraining grace, afflictions, love of employment and repute, God gives them another heart than they had for a
Another heart, but not a new heart. Hence, another course of life, another profession, other actions than formerly do flow; with this change they do content themselves; they look on what is past perhaps with delight, or as things fit enough for those days, but not for those they have attained unto; here they rest, and therefore never come to rest.
But I speak of the saints themselves, who make not such thorough, full, close work in this kind as they ought. An after-reckoning may come in on this hand to their own disturbance, and an unconquerable hinderance of their peace and settlement be brought in, on this account. So was it with Job, chap. xiii. 26. 'He makes me possess the sins of my youth.' God filled his heart, his thoughts, his mind with these sins; made them abide with him, so that he possessed them; they were always present with him. He made the sins of his youth the sufferings of his age. And it is a sad thing, as one speaks, when young sins and old bones meet together; as Zophar, chap. xx. 11. His bones are filled with the sins of his youth.' The joyous frame of some men's youth, makes way for sad work in their age. Take heed young ones, you are doing that which will abide with you to
age, if not to eternity. This possessing of the sins of youth, Job calls, the writing of bitter things against him.' As indeed it is impossible but that sin should be bitter one time or other. God calls it a 'root that beareth gall and wormwood;' Deut. xxix. 18. 'A root of bitterness springing up into defilement;' Heb. xii. 15. This then is to be searched out to the bottom. Israel will not have success nor peace
whilst there is an Achan in the camp. Neither success in temptation, nor consolation in believing is to be expected, whilst any Achan, any sin unreckoned for, lies in the conscience.
Now for them who would seriously accomplish a diligent search in this matter, which is of such importance unto them, let them take these two directions.
1. Let them go over the consideration of those sins, and others of the like nature, which may be reduced unto the same general heads with them which we laid down before, as the sins which generally cast men into depths and entanglements. And if they find they have contracted the guilt of any of them, let them not think strange that they are yet bewildered in their condition, and do come short of a refreshing sense of peace with God, or an interest in forgiveness. Rather let them admire the riches of patience, grace, and forbearance, that they are not cast utterly out of all hopes of a recovery. This will speed an end unto their trouble, according to the direction given.
2. Let them cast the course of their times under such heads and seasons as may give them the more clear and distinct view and apprehension of the passages in them between God and their souls, which may have been provoking unto him. As,
First, For the state of their inward man, let them consider,
First, The unregenerate part of their lives, that which was confessedly so, before they had any real work of God upon their hearts, and therein inquire after two things.
1. If there were then any great and signal eruptions of sins against God; for of such God requires that a deep sense be kept on our souls all our days. How often do we find Paul calling over the sins of his life and ways before his conversion ? ‘I was,' saith he, injurious, and a blasphemer.' Such reflections ought persons to have on any great provoking occasions of sin, that may keep them humble, and necessitate them constantly to look for a fresh sense of pardon through the blood of Christ. If such sins lie neglected, and not considered according to their importance, they will weaken the soul in its comforts whilst it lives in this world.
2. If there were any signal intimations made of the good will and love of God to the soul, which it broke off from through the power of its corruption and temptation, they require a due humbling consideration all our days; but this hath been before spoken unto.
Secondly, In that part of our lives, which upon the call of God we have given up unto him. There are two sorts of sins that do effectually impeach our future peace and comfort, which ought therefore to be frequently renewed and issued in the blood of Christ. 1. Such as by reason of any aggravating circumstances have been accompanied with some especial unkindness towards God. Such are sins after warnings, communications of a sense of love, after particular engagements against them, relapses, omissions of great opportunities and advantages for the furtherance of the glory of God in the world. These kinds of sins have much unkindness attending them, and will be searched out if we cover them. 2. Sins attended with scandal towards fewer, or more, or any one single person who is or may be concerned in us. The aggravations of these kind of sins are commonly known.
Thirdly, The various outward states and conditions which we have passed through, as of prosperity and afflictions, should in like manner fall under this search and consideration. It is but seldom that we fill up our duty, or answer the mind of God in any dispensation of providence. And if our neglect herein be not managed aright, they will undoubtedly hinder and interrupt our peace.
The fifth rule. Distinction between unbelief and jealousy. The sixth rule.
Distinction between faith and spiritual sense. LEARN to distinguish between unbelief and jealousy. There is a twofolđ unbelief. 1. That which is universal and privative, such as is in all unregenerate persons; they have no faith at all, that is, they are dead men and have no principles of spiritual life. This I speak not of, it is easily distinguished from any grace, being the utter enemy and privation as it were of them all. 2. There is an unbelief partial and negative, consisting in a staggering at, or questioning of, the promises.