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me? my ancestors found grace in thy sight, and obtained those same good things I am craving; and am not I under the very same covenant with them ? are not the promises the same? is there not the same mediator? Lord, I come to thee in a covenant relation for a covenant mercy, and wilt thou deny me?
3. He pleads a warrant for his undertaking, appealing to God that he was in the way he had directed him to go, saying, “ Thou, Lord, which saidst unto me, return unto thy country.” Oh with what encouragement may the soul plead for assistance and protection, that is in God's way and work, according to his own appointment? thus then plead-Lord, hast not thou set me about this work? hast thou not given me a charge to do what I do? have I not a plain positive scripture warrant to bind my conscience? I dare not do otherwise. I may say, if I be deceived, thou hast deceived me, but I am sure, plain scripture is no deceiver, I cannot otherwise understand such a command. And O my God, since thou hast thus engaged me in thy work, wilt thou suffer me to miscarry therein ?
4. He pleads a particular promise, “I will deal well with thee;” surely a comprehensive word, containing in it all that Jacob wanted. Thus must a Christian search the scriptures, get hold of a promise, spread it before the Lord, whether for spiritual grace, inward comfort, or outward supply, in this way :-Lord, I find a promise in such a place, to a person in my circumstances, well adapted and pertinent to my very condition, as if it had been calculated purposely for me in this juncture; now, Lord, make it good to my soul and seed; thou hast made it good to others in my state, and why not to me? am not I an heir of promise, and must not I have a share therein ?
5. Jacob humbles himself under a sense of his own unworthiness, “I am not worthy,” saith he, "of the least of all thy mercies.” This is the property and excellency of a saint, to annihilate himself, and make God all in all; so Abraham when pleading for Sodom, calls himself dust and ashes, and the centurion judged himself not worthy that Christ should come under his roof. Thus then, abase thyself :-Lord, I am not worthy to enjoy any common mercy, not fit to lift up mine eyes to thee, being less than the least of thy mercies; behold I am vile, I am not only destitute of merits, but full of demerits; hell is my desert, I can challenge nothing as mine but sin, and the fruits thereof; Lord, I condemn myself, do not thou condemn me, nor cast me from thee.
6. He is affected with God's faithfulness in the performance of his promises ; acknowledging the truth of God shewed to his servant. There is mercy in God's making a promise to Abraham, truth in making it good to Jacob.* Well then, with Jacob, thus plead :Lord, it is true, there was nothing of desert in me to engage thee, either to make or keep thy gracious promise, but sure, the word is gone from thee, yea, and nothwithstanding all my treachery and unfaithfulness thou hast kept it to this day, O keep it still, it depends wholly on thee, let not my vanity alter the course of thy mercy, but pardon and accept, as thou hast done from the time of my deliverance from spiritual Egypt until now.
7. Jacob further recounts his former poverty, his low condition—“ With my staff I passed over this Jordan," I came hither in poor destitute circumstances, , a sorry pilgrim. Thus do you plead-truth it is, Lord, thy grace is absolutely free, there was neither wit nor wealth to move thee to do what thou hast done. I can remember the time, when I was a depraved and guilty creature, in a forlorn state. There was no capacity in me to do thee any remarkable service, thou didst not set thy love upon me for any natural or moral accomplishment, but even so, Father, because it pleased thee; and wilt thou now forsake me ? thou mightest have done that at an easier rate.
* Mic. vii. 20.
8. Here is Jacob's stone of memorial for past and present mercies—“Now,” saith he, “I am become two bands;" that is, two great companies of wives, children, servants, flocks, and herds. I may say, These, where had they been? It is strange to see poor worm Jacob thus rich. O the bounty of God! So do thou sayLord, consider what thou hast done for me ; must all this be in vain ? wilt thou throw away these good things? wilt thou not rather crown these gifts with a continuance of thy kindness ? wilt thou return to do me hurt, after thou hast done me all this good ? dost thou not remember my convictions and consolationsmy fears, tears, doubtings, and refreshments? O the passages of love betwixt thee and me! Shall I be the grave of these mercies ? Lord, forget me not !
9. Here is his sense of approaching danger-“Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brotherfor I fear him,” &c. A brother offended, is harder to be won than a strong city. Jacob's danger was a spur to his prayer. A pursued hart runs fast for shelter : so do thou, soul, when afraid; fly to the Lord, and say, O my God, I have deadly enemies within and without ; my case is forlorn and desperate; I have none to run to but thyself: hast not thou said, that “in thee the fatherless find mercy?" Other refuge fails me, no man cares for my soul : Lord relieve, deliver this sinful wretch, else I go down into the pit.
10. Once more, doth Jacob plead the promise, and enlarge on the granted charter_“ Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea ?” Thus do you ; still seek out, derive sweetness from, and put in suit the promises by earnest prayer, in this manner:-Lord, hast thou not promised a heart of flesh, a broken heart? Why then is my heart hardened from thy fear? Dost thou not say, thou wilt “ give thy Holy Spirit to them that ask it ?” This, Lord, I want, to be a spirit of truth and illumination, a spirit of prayer and supplication, a spirit of grace and sanctification, and of satisfaction. O bestow this mercy upon me! Dost thou not promise to take away my iniquities, by pardoning grace, for thine own name's sake, and to subdue my corruptions, and increase grace and bring me to glory? Lord, remember thy word unto thy servant, in which thou hast caused me to trust.
FORMING A CONCLUSION TO THE SUBJECT OF
The Exhortation of the Text enforced.
My beloved friends, I beseech you suffer the word of exhortation. You see the work before you, you see a plain scripture warrant for it, you have heard many instances of scripture patterns, you see the manner of the performance ; let none now plead ignorance, or look upon it as needless, or make excuses or evasions. Is it not equal and reasonable? Is it not worth the while to converse with your God in private ? Look over the reasons of the doctrine, and see if there be not some weight in them.
But, besides those, I shall propose to you these expostulatory motives.
1. Would you not be such as make conscience of every commanded duty ? You are no real saints unless you have respect to all God's commandments, Psal. cxix. 6. If you pick and choose in your obedience, you are hollow-hearted hypocrites. And can you deny this to be a duty? And will you stand parleying with God ?. Must he erase this sentence out of the Bible, to humour your conceits and sloth ? Is not closet prayer a christian duty ? Dare you argue against it ? Out of what topics will you fetch your arguments? And do you acknowledge it to be a duty, and will you not practise it? Your own mouths will condemn you: what need any more witnesses ? But if you be real Christians, I dare say, you do approve of it, and practise it sometimes; and why are you not constant in your obedience ? Is it not the characteristic of a saint to do righteousness at all times ? Psal. cvi. 3. O consider this, and do not either neglect a command, or omit this known duty. 2. Would you not have the truth of grace
cleared up in your souls? Surely there is no Christian but would arrive at assurance; and this is one way to evidence sincerity, being much with God in secret duty. As he grieves truly that grieves without witness ; * SO those religious actings are most evidential of grace that are least obvious to the view of men, and whereby a Christian approves his heart only to the heart-search
* Ile dolet verè qui sine teste dolet.