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May not God complain and say, See these poor creatures ; they were once intrusted with a stock of grace in themselves; this they cast away, and themselves into the utmost misery thereby. That they might not utterly perish a second time, their portion and stock is now laid up in another; a safe treasurer; in him are their lives and comforts secured. But see their wretched negligence; they venture all, rather than they will attend to him for succour.
And what think we is the heart of Christ, when he sees his children giving way to conscience-wasting sins, without that application unto him, which the life and peace of their own souls calls upon them for. These are not sins of daily infirmity, which cannot be avoided; but their guilt is always attended with a neglect more or less, of the relief provided in Christ against them. The means of preservation from them is blessed, ready, nigh at hand; the concernment of Christ in our preservation great, of our souls unspeakable; to neglect and despise means, Christ, souls, peace, and life, must needs render guilt very guilty.
3. Much to the same purpose may be spoken about that signal provision that is made against such sins as these in the covenant of grace, as hath been already declared. But I shall not farther carry on this discourse.
And this may suffice, as to the state and condition of the soul in this psalm represented. We have seen what the depths are wherein it is entangled, and by what ways and means any one may come to be cast into them. The next thing that offers itself unto our consideration, is the deportment of a gracious soul in that state and condition; or what course it steers towards a delivery.
The duty and actings of a believer under distresses from a sense of sin.
His application unto God. To God alone. Earnestness and intention of mind therein.
The words of these two first verses declare also the deportment of the soul in the condition that we have described; that is, what it doth, and what course it steers for relief. “I have cried unto thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice; let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.'
There is in the words a general application made in a tendency unto relief; wherein is first to be considered, to whom the application is made; and that is, Jehovah. I have eried unto thee, Jehovah. God gave out that name to his people to confirm their faith in the stability of his promises ; Exod. iii. He who is Being himself, will assuredly give being and subsistence to his promises. Being to deal with God about the promises of grace, he makes his application to him under this name; I call upon thee, Jehovah.
In the application itself may be observed,
First, The anthropopathy of the expression. He prays that God would cause his ears to be attentive; after the manner of men who seriously attend to what is spoken to them, when they turn aside from that which they regard not.
Secondly, The earnestness of the soul in the work it hath in hand, which is evident both from the reduplication of his request, Lord, hear my voice; let thine ears be attentive to my voice;' and the emphaticalness of the words he maketh use of. “Let thine ears,' saith he, 'be nia wp diligently attentive.' The word signifies the most diligent heedfulness and close attention; let thine ears be very attentive; and unto what? 931305 977, to the voice of my supplication :'• deprecationum mearum' generally say interpreters; of my deprecations, or earnest prayers for the averting of evil, or punishment. But the word is from 37 Gratiosus fuit;' to be gracious or merciful; so that it signifies properly supplication for grace.
Be attentive,' saith he, O Lord, unto my supplications for grace and mercy,' which according to my extreme necessity, I now address myself to make unto thee. And in these words doth the psalmist set forth in general the frame and working of a gracious soul, being cast into depths and darkness by sin.
The foundation of what I shall farther thence pursue, lies in these two propositions :
First, The only attempt of a sinful entangled soul for relief, lies in an application to God alone. "To thee, Je-. hovah, have I cried; Lord hear.'
Secondly, Depths of sin entanglements, will put a gracious soul on intense and earnest applications unto God; • Lord hear, Lord attend.' Dying men do not use to cry out slothfully for relief.
What may be thought necessary in general for the direction of a soul in the state and condition described, shall briefly be spoken unto from these two propositions :
First, Trouble, danger, disquietment, arguing not only things evil, but a sense in the mind and soul of them, will of themselves put those in whom they are upon seeking relief. Every thing would naturally be at rest: a drowning man needs no exhortation to endeavour his own deliverance and safety. And spiritual troubles will in like manner put men on attempts for relief. To seek for no remedy, is to be senselessly obdurate, or wretchedly desperate, as Cain and Judas. We may suppose then that the principal business of every soul in depths, is to endeavour deliverance. They cannot rest in that co lition wherein they have no rest.
In this endeavour what course a gracious soul steers, is laid down in the first proposition, negatively and positively. He applies himself not to any thing but God, he applies himself unto God. An eminent instance we have of it in both parts; or both to the one side and the other ; Hos. xiv. 3. * Asshur,' says those poor distressed returning sinners, “shall not save us; we will not ride
upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods : for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy. Their application unto God, is attended with a renunciation of every other way of relief.
Several things there are that sinners are apt to apply themselves unto for relief in their perplexities, which prove unto them as waters that fail. How many things have the Romanists invented to deceive souls withal ? Saints and angels, the blessed Virgin, the wood of the cross, confessions, penances, masses, pilgrimages, -dirges, purgatories, papal pardons, works of compensation, and the like, are made entrances for innumerable souls into everlasting ruin. Did they know the terror of the Lord, the nature of sin, and of the mediation of Christ, they would be ashamed and confounded in themselves for these abominations; they would not say unto these their idols, Ye are our gods, come and
How short do all their contrivances come of his, that would fain be offering rivers of oil, “yea, the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul, his first-born for his transgression ;' Micah vi. 7. who yet gains nothing, but an aggravation of his sin and misery thereby. Yea, the heathens went beyond them in devotion and expense. It is no new inquiry what course sin-perplexed souls should take for relief. From the foundation of the world, the minds of far the greatest part of mankind have been exercised in it. As was their light or darkness, such was the course they took. Among those who were ignorant of God, this inquiry brought forth all that diabolical superstition which spread itself over the face of the whole world. Gentilism being destroyed by the power and efficacy of the gospel, the same inquiry working in the minds of darkened men in conjunction with other lusts, brought forth the papacy. When men had lost a spiritual acquaintance with the covenant of grace, and mystery of the gospel, the design of eternal love, and efficacy of the blood of Christ, they betook themselves in part, or in whole, for relief under their entanglements, unto the broken cisterns mentioned. They are of two sorts : self, and other things. For those other things which belong unto their false worship, being abominated by all the saints of God, I shall not need to make any farther mention of them. That which relates unto self, is not confined unto popery, fines itself to the limits of human nature, and is predominate over all that are under the law; that is, to seek for relief in sin-distresses by self-endeavours, self-righteousness. Hence many poor souls in straits apply themselves to themselves. They expect their cure from the same hand that wounded them. This was the life of Judaism, as the apostle informs us, Rom. x. 3. And all men under the law, are still animated by the same principle. They return, but not unto the Lord. Finding themselves in depths, in distresses about sin, what course do they take? This they will do, that they will do no more; this shall be their ordinary course, and that they will do in an extraordinary manner; as they have offended, whence their trouble ariseth, so they will amend, and look that their peace should spring from thence, as if God and they stood on equal terms. In this way some spend all their days; sinning and amending, amending and sinning, without once coming to repentance and peace. This the souls of believers watch against. They look on themselves as fatherless; 'in thee the fatherless findeth mercy;' that is, helpless; without the least ground of hopes in themselves, or expectation from themselves. They know their repentance, their amendment, their supplications, their humiliations, their fastings, their mortifications, will not relieve them. Repent they will, and amend they will, and pray, and fast, and humble their souls, for they know these things to be their duty; but they know that their goodness extends not to him with whom they have to do, nor is he profited by their righteousness. They will be in the performance of all duties, but they expect not deliverance by any duty. It is God, say they, with whom we have to do : our business is to hearken what he will
unto us. There are also other ways whereby sinful souls destroy themselves by false reliefs. Diversions from their perplexing thoughtfulness pleaseth them. They will fix on something or other that cannot cure their disease, but shall only make them forget that they are sick. As Cain under the terror of his guilt, departed from the presence of the Lord, and sought inward rest in outward labour and employment; • he went and built a city ;' Gen. iv. 6. Such courses Saul fixed on; first music, then a witch. Nothing more ordinary than for men thus to deal with their convictions. They see their sickness, feel their wound, and go to the Assyrian; Hos. v. 13. And this insensibly leads men into atheism. Frequent applications of creature diversions unto convictions of sin, are a notable means of bringing on final impenitency. Some drunkards had, it may be, never been so, had they not been first convinced of other sins. They strive to stifle the guilt of one sin with another. They fly from themselves unto themselves, from their consciences unto their lusts ; and seek for relief from sin by sinning. This is so far from believers, that they will not allow lawful things to be a diversion of their distress. Use lawful things they may and will, but not to divert their thoughts from their distresses. These they know must be issued between God and them. Wear off they will not, but must be taken away. These rocks, and the like whereof there are innumerable, I say, a gracious soul takes care to avoid. He knows it is God alone who is the Lord of his conscience, where his depths lie; God alone, against whom he hath sinned ; God alone, who can pardon his sin. From dealing with him he will be neither enticed, nor diverted. “To thee, O Lord,'