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proportionably to that discovery and knowledge which he hath of these things. The other is active and efficacious. The soul being acquainted with the nature of sin, with its own guilt in reference unto sin in general, as also to this or that sin, is universally influenced by that apprehension unto suitable affections and operations.
Of both these we have an instance in the same person. David, before Nathan's coming to him, had the former; afterward he had the latter also. It cannot be imagined but that before the coming of the prophet, he had a general knowledge and sense, not only absolutely of the nature of sin; but also, that himself was a sinner, and guilty of those very sins which afterward he was reproved for. To think otherwise, is to suppose, not only that he was unsainted, but unmanned also, and turned into a beast. But yet this wrought not in him any one affection suitable to his condition. And the like may be said of most sinners in the world. But now, when Nathan comes to him, and gives him the latter efficacious sense whereof we speak, we know what effects it did produce.
It is the latter only that is under consideration; and that also is twofold: 1. Legal, or antecedaneous unto conversion; 2. Evangelical, and previous to the recovery from depths, whereof we treat. How these two differ, and how they may be discerned one from the other, being both of them in their kind sincere, is not my business to declare.
Now this last, which we assign as the first duty, work, or acting of a returning soul, is a deep and practical apprehension wrought in the mind and heart of a believing sinner by the Holy Ghost, of sin and its evils, in reference unto the law and love of God, the cross and blood of Christ, the communion and consolation of the Spirit, and all the fruits of love, mercy, or grace, that it hath been made partakers of, or on gospel-ground hoped for.
First, The principal efficient cause of it is the Holy Ghost. He it is who convinceth of sin, John xvi. 8. He works indeed by means. He wrought it in David by the ministry of Nathan, and he wrought it in Peter, by the look of Christ. But his work it is; no man can work it upon his own soul. It will not spring out of men's rational considerations. Though
men may exercise their thoughts about such things, as one would think were enough to break the heart of stones, yet if the Holy Ghost put not forth a peculiar efficacy of his own, this sense of sin will not be wrought or produced. As the waters at the Pool of Bethesda were not troubled, but when an angel descended and moved them, no more will the heart for sin, without a saving elapse of the Holy Ghost,
Secondly, It is deep apprehension of sin, and the evils of it. Slight, transient thoughts about them, amount not to the sense of which we speak. “My sorrow,' saith David,‘is continually before me;' Psal. xxxviii. 17. It pressed him always and greatly. Hence he compares this sense of sin wrought by the Holy Ghost, to 'arrows that stick in the flesh,' ver. 2. They pain sorely, and are always perplexing. Sin, in this sense of it, lays hold on the soul, so that the sinner cannot look up; Psal. xl. 12. And it abides with him, making his sore run in the night without ceasing;' Psal. lxxvii. 2. and depriveth the soul of rest. “My soul,' saith he, “refused to be comforted,' This apprehension of sin, lies down, and rises with him in whom it is. Transient thoughts, attended with infrequent signs and ejaculations, little become a returning soul. And,
Thirdly, It is practical. It is not seated only in the speculative part of the mind, hovering in general noţions; but it dwells in the practical understanding, which effectually inAuenceth the will and affections. Such an apprehension as from which sorrow and humiliation are inseparable. The acts of the practical understanding, do so necessarily produce together with them suitable acts of the will and affections, that some have concluded that those are indeed proper acts of his will, which are usually ascribed to the understanding. It is so in the mind, as that the whole soul is cast into the mould and likeness of it; humiliation, sorrow, self-abhorrenoy, do live and die with it.
Fourthly, It hath in the first place, respect unto the law of God. There can be no due consideration of sin, wherein the law hath not its place. The law calls for the sinner, and he willingly gives up his sin to be judged by it. There he sees it to be exceeding sinful;' Rom. vii. 17. Though a believer be less under the power of the law than others, yet he knows more of the authority and nature of it than others. He sees more of its spirituality and holiness. And the more a man sees of the excellency of the law, the more he sees of the vileness of sin. This is done by a soul in its first endeavour of a recovery from the entanglements of sin. He labours thoroughly to know his disease, that he may be cured. It will do him no good, he knows, to be ignorant of his distemper, or his danger. He knows that if his wounds be not searched to the bottom, they will stink, and be corrupt. To the law then he brings himself and his sin. By that, he sees the vileness of the one, and the danger of the other. Most men lie still in their depths, because they would willingly escape the first step of their rising. From the bottom of their misery, they would fain at once be at the top of their felicity. The soul managed in this work by the Holy Ghost, doth not so. He converseth with the law; brings his sin unto it; and fully hears the sentence of it. When the sin is thoroughly condemned, then he farther takes care of the sinner. As ever you desire to come to rest, avoid not this entrance of your passion unto it. Weigh it well, and attend unto what the law speaks of your sin, and its desert, or you will never make a due application to God for forgive
As ever you would have your souls justified by grace, take care to have your sins judged by the law.
2. There is a respect in it to the love of God. And this breaks the hearts of the poor returning sinner. Sorrow from the law, shuts itself up in the soul, and strangleth it. Sorrow from the thoughts of the love of God opens it, and causeth it to Aow forth. Thoughts of sinning against the love of God, managed by the Holy Ghost; what shall I say? their effects in the heart are not to be expressed. This made Ezra cry out, O, my God, I blush, and am ashamed to lift up my face to thee ;' chap. ix. 6. and ver. 10. What shall we say after this ?' After what? why all the fruits of love and kindness they had been made partakers of. Thoughts of love and sin laid together, make the soul blush, mourn, be ashamed and confounded in itself. So Ezek. xxxvi. 31. •Then shall you remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good;' when shall they do so ? when thoughts and apprehensions of love shall be brought home to them; and saith he, then shall you lothe yourselves in your own sight.' The soul now calls to mind, what love, what kindness, and
what mercy, what grace, what patience hath been exercised towards it, and whereof it hath been made partaker. The thoughts of all these now come in upon him as streams of water. Such mercy, such communion, such privileges, such hopes of glory; such tastes of heaven, such peace, such consolation, such joy, such communications of the Spirit, all to a poor, wretched, cursed, lost, forlorn sinner; and all this despised, neglected, the God of them all provoked, forsaken. Ah, saith the soul, · Whither shall I cause my sorrow to go ?' This fills him with shame and confusion of face; makes him mourn in secret, and sigh to the breaking of the loins. And then,
Thirdly, The blood and cross of Christ is also brought to remembrance by the Holy Ghost. Ah, saith the soul, have I thus requited the wonderful, astonishing love of my Redeemer? Is this the return, the requital, I have made unto him? Are not heaven and earth astonished at the despising of that love, at which they are astonished? This brake Peter's heart, upon the look of Christ. Such words as these from Christ, will, in this condition, sound in the ears of the soul; Did I love thee, and leave my glory to become a scorn and reproach for thy sake? Did I think my life, and all that was dear unto me, too good for thee, to save thee from the wrath to come? Have I been a wilderness unto thee, or a land of darkness ? What could I have done more for thee; when I had nothing left but my life, blood, and soul, they went all for thee that thou mightest live by my death, be washed in my blood, and be saved through my soul's being made an offering for thee? And hast thou thus requited my love? to prefer a lust before me, or by mere sloth and folly to be turned away from me? Go, unkind and unthankful soul, and see if thou canst find another Redeemer. This overwhelms the soul, and even drowns it in tears and sor
And then the bitterness also of the sufferings of Christ are brought to mind. They look on him whom they have pierced, and mourn;' Zech. xii. 10. They remember his gall and wormwood ; his cry and tears; his agony and sweat ; his desertion and anguish ; his blood and death; the sharpness of the sword that was in his soul, and the bitterness of the cup that was put into his hand. Such a soul now looks on Christ, bleeding, dying, wrestling with wrath and curse
for him, and seeth his sin in the streams of blood that issued from his side. And all this increaseth that sepse of sin whereof we speak. Also,
Fourthly, It relates to the communion and consolations of the Holy Ghost, with all the privileges and fruits of love we are by him made partakers of. The Spirit is given to believers upon the promise of Christ to dwell in them. He takes up their hearts to be his dwelling-place; to what ends and purposes ? that he may purify and sanctify them; make them holy, and dedicate them to God; to furnish them with grace and gifts, to interest them in privileges ; to guide, lead, direct, comfort them; to seal them unto the day of redemption. Now this Spirit is grieved by sin, Eph. iv. 30. and his dwelling-placë defiled thereby; 1 Cor. vi. 19. iii. 17. Thoughts hereof greatly sharpen the spiritual sense of sin in a recovering soul. He considers what light, what love, what joy, what consolation, what privileges it hath by him been made partaker of; what motions, warnings, workings to keep it from sin, it hath found from him ; and says within itself, What have I done, whom have I grieved, whom have I provoked? what if the Lord should now for my folly and ingratitude utterly take his Holy Spirit from me? What if I should have so grieved him, that he will dwell in me no more, delight in me no more? What dismal darkness and disconsolation ; yea, what utter ruin should I be left unto? However, what shame and confusion of face belongs to me for my wretched disingenuity, and ingratitude towards him?
This is the first thing that appears in the returning soul's actings and frame ; a sincere sense of sin on the account mentioned, wrought in it by the Holy Ghost. And this a soul, in the depths described, must come unto, if ever it expects or looks for deliverance, and a recovery. Let not such persons expect to have a renewed sense of mercy, without a revived sense of sin.
Secondly, From hence proceedeth an ingenuous, free, gracious acknowledgment of sin. Men may have a sense of sin, and yet suffer it to lie burning as a fire shut up in their bones, to their continual disquietment, and not be able to come off unto a free soul-opening acknowledgment. Yea, confession may be made in general, and mention therein of that very
sin wherewith the soul is most entangled, and yet