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sins of our souls ?* No, no; when poor creatures have offended God, will he take a bullock out of their house, or he-goat out of their fold ? No, he desires not sacrifice.t Well then, can holy men on earth interpose ? No, though a Noah, Daniel, and Job, though a Lot, a Moses, and Samuel should stand up tospeak good for an offending people, t yet they cannot turn away God's wrath, or work upon God's heart to favour a people. Nay, suppose an angel in heaven should intercede for a sinner, he could not bring him into God's favour again, his interest with God is not sufficient to interpose betwixt an offended God, and the offending soul; he chargeth the angels with folly, to which of those holy ones then will men turn? for God's wrath will kill the foolish, || notwithstanding all that they can do for them; but even suppose these poor offending sinners should return to God with prayers, tears, and groans; alas, all their sweet incense may be abomination to him. $ But what if they fast? if they do, yet God will not hear their cry. But suppose they reform their lives, obey God's commands, live holily? that is good, and absolutely necessary, yet that will not make God amends, pacify wrath, or purchase reconciliation with God; no, no, they that are in the flesh cannot please God;** yea, though the soul be converted, and in a state of grace, yet their best righteousness is defective, and but as filthy rags; tt and without faith in Christ, the mediator, it is impossible to please God. 1 A penitent sinner is convinced, that if all the holiness of all the saints in heaven and earth centered in one soul, it could not make satisfaction to justice for the least sin, for sin is in a sort infinite, because the object offended is infinite; therefore the satisfaction must be commensurate with the evil that is in sin, and the infiniteness of God. God is a consuming fire to souls out of Christ; the soul dares not approach God, but through a mediator ; we are accepted only in the beloved ;* God is well pleased no way but in his beloved Son;t he has no friendly intercourse with sinrers any way but over the mercy-seat; there is no fellowship with God in an amicable way without a mediator. † Alas, saith the soul, I am born out of God's favour, thus have lived, and thus must die, except infinite mercy pity me; and I see as God is infinite in mercy, so in justice, and justice must be satisfied, and I see nothing in the whole creation that can satisfy it; all the creatures are insignificant ciphers; my own righteousness is a covering too narrow to wrap myself in, or to secure my naked soul from the lashes of sinavenging justice; what course must I take? what means must I use to obtain the favour of God, or to be delivered from the wrath to come ?
v. 1, 2.
* Micah vi. 7.
+ Psal. i. 9, 10. li. 16. Jer. xv. 1-3. Ezek. xiv. 14. || Job iv. 18. § Isa. i. 13, 15.
1 Jer. xiv. 12. ** Rom. vii. 8. ++ Isa. lxiv. 6.
Heb. xi. 6.
3. Hast thou made it thy main business to get an interest in Jesus Christ? This is indeed the only way of accommodation : suppose a king is offended with his subjects, and he hath declared that there is no way of reconciliation with him, but employing his son to mediate for them; if those subjects prize their sovereign's favour, they will make use of the means he hath prescribed to regain it. Thus we find, Acts xii. 20, “Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nou. Eph. i. 6.
+ Matt. xvii. 5. Exod. xxx. 6.
Deut. v. 5, 27.
rished by the king's country.” The case is ours, God is displeased with sinners; we cannot subsist here safely, nor be happy in heaven without the King of heaven's favour, it becomes us therefore to sue for peace; but no peace can be had, except the Lord Jesus, (our heavenly Blastus) be our friend to mediate for us, and the way to interest in Christ, is faith alone; Christ's satisfaction and intercession have smoothed the brows, and quenched the wrath of God Almighty, and rendered God approachable by sinners; he is the way, the truth, and life; he delivers from the wrath to come; he makes peace by the blood of his cross; he alone brings us to God.* God saith to us, as Joseph to his brethren, “ You shall not see my face except you bring your brother.”+ Now the old man hinders our closing with Christ, yet the poor soul wants supplies, and dares not go without Jesus Christ; O what contests and strugglings are there to lay hold on Christ Jesus. One while the humble penitent is as John weeping, sadly weeping, because there is none in his view found to open the scaled book, and interpret what is in the Lord's heart towards sinners; but when he is satisfied that Jesus
3 Christ the lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed, I these despairing tears are wiped off his clouded face, and he conceives some hopes, just as Elihu describes it in Job xxxiii. 19—24, “ He is chastened with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain,” and so on; at last when the ransom is found, then ver. 26, “ He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him, and he shall see his face with joy :" this indeed is the only way of obtaining favour with God; we shall behold God's reconciled face in the face of Jesus Christ. || Let men mock on, saith the poor
soul, * John xiv. 6. 1 Thess. i. 10. Col. i. 20. 1 Peter üïi. 18. + Gen. xliii. 3. # Rev. v. 4, 5. H 2 Cor. iv. 6.
this is my only way for God's favour, and my chief care is to get a title to Christ, this the word tells me is by believing, O that I had this faith! Lord, begin and carry on the work of faith with power; farewell all for Christ; I count all things but dung that I may win Christ and be found in him;* let all go, riches, honours, the friendship of the world, and favour of dearest relations for Christ; I will venture upon the displeasure of men, but I must have God's favour, whose favour soever I lose; therefore I must have the blessed Jesus, he is the chief of ten thousand. But a carnal heart loves the favour of men more than God's, as the Pharisees of old, John xii. 43.
4. What is God's conduct towards thee, and thy behaviour towards God ? This mutual, reciprocal conduct, will be the best discovery of favour, as it is amongst friends.
First, For God's conduct towards thee, observe,
(1.) Doth not God's word single thee out by conviction? When thou hast read a chapter, or heard a sermon, hath not the Spirit of God set it home upon thy conscience, as if he had called thee by name, saying, thou art the man? so that as the unlearned Corinthian, thou hast fallen down, and said, God is in this ordinance of a truth. This hath set thy soul a trembling under the word, and it followed thee, and would not suffer thee to rest in sin, till it awaked thy conscience, and shook thee out of thy security; though this was sharp, yet bless God for it, as a precious result of his favour.
(2.) Dost thou not find some gracious operations of God's Spirit in secret duties, such as prayer, meditation, and self-examination ? doth not God's spirit draw out faith, love, repentance, and desires ? doth it not some* Phil. iii. 8, 9.
+ I Cor. xiv. 24, 25.
times help thy infirmities wih sighs and groans that cannot be expressed ?* None can tell what warnings, meltings, and quickenings there are at some seasons in thy heart; God knows the meaning of his Spirit within thee, (), whence proceed all these operations? surely not from flesh and blood, nature could not stir up thy heart in this sort.
(3.) Doth not God's Spirit open thy eyes to behold, and raise thy heart to desire, the ways of God? Is not religion in its most uninviting dress to flesh and blood, most lovely in thy eyes, as it was in Moses's ?f Hath not the Lord engaged thy affections with the beauty of wisdom's ways ? | Hath not wisdom entered into thy heart, and knowledge been sweet to thy soul ? || Hast thou not found more spiritual acquaintance with gospel mysteries, and more real content in holy duties, so that it may be said, “ Flesh and blood have not revealed these things to thee, but our Father which is in heaven?" Matt. xvi. 17.
(4.) Dost thou not find sometimes a comfortable re. turn of thy poor prayers ? Canst thou not say, that some mercies which God hath given, have this im. pressed upon them, Prayer answered ? so that thou canst truly call them Samuels, that is, God's hearing : Psalm xxxiv. 4, “ I sought the Lord, and he heard
“ me.” And this answer of prayer is a clear evidence that God is with us, Psalm lvi. 9. When God prepares the heart, and bows his ear, is not that a great token of his special favour? Psalm x, 17.
(5.) Hath not preventing grace seasonably stepped in to keep thy soul from sin ? Just as thou hast been entering upon temptation, upon the brink ready to fall, hath not the mercy of God held thee up ? hath * Rom. viii. 26. + Heb. xi. 26.
Prov. ii. 17. | Prov. ii. 10. $ Psalın xxxviij. 15–17.