Imágenes de páginas

the soul comes short of a due performance of this duty. Consider how the case stood with David; Psal. xxxii. 3. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. How could David keep silence, and yet roar all the day long? What is that silence which is consistent with roaring? It is a mere negation of that duty, which is expressed, ver. 5. that is intended. “I acknowledge my sins unto thee, and mine iniquities I have not hid. It was not a silence of submission and waiting on God that he intends; that would not have produced a wasting of his spiritual strength, as he complains this silence did ; ‘My bones waxed old.' Nor yet was it a sullen, stubborn, and contumacious frame that was upon him; but he notes, saith Calvin (and he says well), 'Affectum qui medius est inter tolerantiam et contumaciam, vitio et virtuti affinis ;' .An affection between patience and stubbornness, bordering on the one and other.' That is, he had a deep sense of sin; this disquieted and perplexed him all the day long; which he calls his roaring. It weakened and wearied him, making his bones wax old, or his strength decay ; yet was he not able to bring his heart to that ingenuous, gracious acknowledgment, which, like the lancing of a festered wound, would have given at least some ease to his soul. God's children are ofttimes in this matter like ours. Though they are convinced of a fault, and are really troubled at it, yet they will hardly acknowledge it. So do they. They will go up and down, sigh and mourn, roar all the day long ; but an evil and untoward frame of spirit under the power of unbelief and fear, keeps them from this duty.

Now, that this acknowledgment may be acceptable unto God, it is required, first, that it be free, then, that it be full.

1. It must be free and spiritually ingenuous. Cain, Pharaoh, Ahab, Judas, came all to an acknowledgment of sin; but it was whether they would or no. It was pressed out of them; it did not flow from them. The confession of a person under the convincing terrors of the law, or dread of eminent judgments, is like that of malefactors on the rack, who speak out that for which themselves and friends must die. What they say, though it be the truth, is a fruit of force and torture, not of any ingenuity of mind. So is it with merely convinced persons. They come not to the ac


knowledgment of sin with any more freedom. And the reason is, because all sin hath shame; and for men to be free unto shame, is naturally impossible, shame being nature’s shrinking from itself, and the posture it would appear in. But now the returning soul hath never more freedom, liberty, and aptitude of spirit, than when he is in the acknowledgment of those things whereof he is most ashamed. And this is no small evidence that it proceeds from that spirit which is attended with that liberty; for where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty ;' 2 Cor. iii. 17. When David was delivered from his silence, he expresseth this frame in the performance of his duty, Psal. xxxii. 5. •I acknowledged my sin, and mine iniquities I have not hid : I said, I will confess my transgression. His mouth is now open, and his heart enlarged. And he multiplies one expression upon another, to manifest his enlargement. So doth a soul rising out of its depths, in this beginning of this address unto God. Having the sense of sin before described, wrought in him by the Holy Ghost, his heart is made free and enlarged unto an ingenuous acknowledgment of his sin before the Lord. Herein he pours out his soul unto God ; and hath not more freedom in any thing than in dealing about that whereof he is most ashamed.

2. Full also it must be. Reserves ruin confession. If the soul have any secret thought of rolling a sweet morsel under its tongue, of a bow in the house of Rimmon, it is like part of the price kept back, which makes the whole robbery, instead of an offering. If there be remaining a bitter root of favouring any one lust or sin, of any occasion of, or temptation unto, sin, let a man be as open, free, and earnest as can be imagined in the acknowledgment of all other sins and evils, the whole duty is rendered abominable. Some persons, when they are brought into depths and anguish about any sin, and are thereon forced to the acknowledgment of it, at the same time they are little concerned with their other follies and iniquities, that, it may be, are no less provoking unto God, than that is from whence their present trouble doth arise. "Let not,' as James speaks in another case,' such a man think that he shall receive any thing from God.' . It must be full and comprehensive, as well as free and ina genuous.

And of such importance is the right performance of this duty, that the promise of pardon is ofttimes peculiarly annexed unto it, as that which certainly carries along with it the other duties which make up a full returnal unto God; Prov. xxviii. 13. 1 John i. 9. and that place in Job is remarkable, chap. xxxiii. 27, 28. “He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.' He shall not only be made partaker of pardon, but of consolation also, and joy in the light of God's countenance.

Thirdly, There yet remains self-condemnation with the justification of God, which lies expressly in the words of the verse under consideration; and hereof are two parts.

1. Self-abhorrency, or dislike. The soul is now wholly displeased with itself, and reflects upon itself with all affections of regret and trouble. So the apostle declares it to have been with the Corinthians, when their godly sorrow was working in them; 2 Cor. vii. 11. among other things, it wrought in them indignation and revenge ; or a reflection on themselves with all manner of dislike and abhorrency. In the winding up of the controversy between God and Job, this is the point he rests in. As he had come in general to a free, full, ingenuous acknowledgment of sin, chap. xl. 4,5. so in particular he gives his whole contest in this abhorrency of himself, chap. xlii. 6. 'I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. What a vile wretched creature have I been, saith the soul; I blush and am ashamed to think of my folly, baseness, and ingratitude. Is it possible that I should deal thus with the Lord ? I abhor, I loathe myself, I would fly any where from myself, I am so vile and loathsome; a thing to be despised of God, angels, and men.

And 2. There is self-judging in it also. This the apostle invites the Corinthians unto, 1 Ep. chap. xi. 31. . If we would judge ourselves we should not be judged. This is a person pronouncing sentence on himself according to the tenor of the law. The soul brings not only its sin, but itself also to the law. It puts itself as to merit and desert under the stroke and severity of it. Hence ariseth a full justification of God, in what sentences soever he shall be pleased to pronounce in the case before him. And these three things which we

[blocks in formation]

have passed through, compose the frame and first actings of a gracious soul, rising from its depths. They are all of them signally expressed in that place where we have a signal recovery exemplified; Hos. xiv. 1-4. And this makes way for the exaltation of grace, the great thing in all this dispensation aimed at by God; Eph. i. 6. That which he is now doing, is to bring the soul to glory in him, 1 Cor.i.31. which is all the return he hath from his large and infinitely bountiful expenses of grace and mercy. Now nothing can render grace conspicuous and glorious, until the soul come to this frame. Grace will not seem high, until the soul be laid very low. And this also suits or prepares the soul for the receiving of mercy, in a sense of pardon, the great thing aimed at on the part of the sinner. And it prepares it for every duty that is incumbent on him in that condition wherein he is. This brings the soul to waiting with diligence and patience. If things presently answer not our expectation, we are ready to think we have done what we can; if it will be no better we must bear it as we are able; which frame God abhors. The soul in this frame is contented to wait the pleasure of God, as we shall see in the close of the psalm. Oh, saith such a one, if ever I obtain a sense of love, if ever I enjoy one smile of his countenance more, it is of unspeakable grace. Let him take his own time, his own season; it is good for me quietly to wait, and to hope for his salvation. And it puts the soul on prayer; yea, a soul always in this frame, prays always. And there is nothing more evident, than that want of a thorough engagement into the performance of these duties, is the great cause why so few come clear off from their entanglement all their days. Men heal their wounds slightly; and therefore, after a new, painful festering, they are brought into the same condition of restlessness and trouble, which they were in before.

[ocr errors]

Grounds of miscarriages when persons are convinced of sin and humbled.

Resting in that state. Resting on it. FOURTHLY, The soul is not to be left in the state before described. There is other work for it to apply itself unto, if it intend to come unto rest and peace. It hath obtained an eminent


advantage for the discovery of forgiveness. But to rest in that state wherein it is, or to rest upon it, will not bring it into its harbour. Three things we discovered before in the soul's first serious address unto God for deliverance ; sense of sin, acknowledgment of it, and self-condemnation. Two evils there are which attend men oftentimes, when they are brought into that state. Some rest in it, and press no farther; some rest upon it, and suppose that it is all which is required of them. The psalmist avoids both these, and notwithstanding all his pressures reacheth out towards forgiveness, as we shall see in the next verse. I shall briefly unfold these two evils, and shew the necessity of their avoidance.

First, By resting or staying in it; I mean the soul's desponding, through discouraging thoughts that deliverance is not to be obtained. Being made deeply sensible of sin, it is so overwhelmed with thoughts of its own vileness and unworthiness, as to sink under the burden; such a soul is afflicted and tossed with tempests, and not comforted,' Isa. liv. 11. until it is quite weary. As a ship in a storm at sea, when all means of contending are gone, men give up themselves to be driven and tossed by the winds and seas at their pleasure. This brought Israel to that state wherein he cried out, ' My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God;' Isa. xl. 27. and Sion, “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me;' chap. xlix. 14. The soul begins secretly to think there is no hope, God regardeth it not; it shall one day perish, relief is far away, and trouble nigh at hand. These thoughts do so oppress them, that though they forsake not God utterly to their destruction, yet they draw not nigh unto him effectually to their consolation.

This is the first evil that the soul in this condition is enabled to avoid. We know how God rebukes it in Sion. “Sion, said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me;' Isa. xlix. 14. But how foolish is Sion, how froward, how unbelieving in this matter! What ground hath she for such sinful despondencies, such discouraging conclusions ? • Can a woman,' saith the Lord, forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, but I will not forget thee.' The like reproof he gives to Jacob upon the like complaint,

« AnteriorContinuar »