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not God prevented thee with his blessings of goodness? Psalm xxi. 3. How oft hath God kept thy heart and the temptation asunder? and how many times kept thee from the commission of those sins to which thou hast been inclined and engaged ?
(6.) Hath not assisting grace come in with secret and seasonable supports, according to the promise, “My grace shall be sufficient for thee ?” and according to David's experience, Psalm cxxxviii. 3, “ In the day when I cried, thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul ?” How many a time has the Lord been ready to save thee when thy heart was fainting, and flesh failing ? * O what seasonable and satisfying incomes have fetched thee again to life; surely there was rich favour in these.
(7.) Hath not God by his Spirit sometimes sealed his love to thy soul ? Look into thy heart, look back upon experience, is there never a token of love ? Hath not God's Spirit brought its own evidence along with it, and put thy soul out of doubt, as if thou hadst heard an audible voice, saying, I have loved thee, saith Jehovah : what sayest thou ? Though thou canst not expect immediate revelations, yet hast thou not been satisfied of these divine intimations and whisperings to thy heart, and of the Spirit's witnessing or sealing ?+
t especially considering,
[i.] That his favour came in the way of a promise ; this token of love was wrapped up in the word : Psal. exix. 65, “ Thou hast dealt well with thy servant according to thy word.”
[ii.] That it was conveyed to thy soul in duties after many prayers, tears, repentings, and actings of faith, When the soul hath been digging in the valley of Baca,
Isa. xxxviii. 20. Psalm lxxiii. 26. + Rom. viii. 16. Eph. i. 13.
or of weeping, God's rain of love fills the pools, and so makes it a valley of Beracah, or blessing, Psalm Ixxxiv. 6.
[iii.] The sense of God's favour came in suitably and seasonably : when thou wast at extremities, and wast saying, Will he be favourable no more? is his inercy clean gone for ever ? hath God forgotten to be gracious ?—then comes in some help which makes thee say, This is my infirmity. See Psalm lxxvii. 7-10.
[iv.] The effects of God's favour do evidence whence it proceeds: for as it is said of the king's favour, Prov. xix. 12, “ It is as the dew upon the grass ;" even so this favour of God makes souls fruitful. What kindly operations hath it upon the heart? These warm beams of divine love have a blessed influence upon the state of the mind and feelings of the breast. This leads me to
The second thing, which is thy behaviour towards God: and this may be considered both when experiencing the manifestations of God's favour, and in the general course of thy life.
1. When God manifests his favour to thee,
(1.) Dost thou gratefully welcome and hoard up the evidences of his love? Our friends' tokens of love we lay up among our chief treasures ; sealed deeds are carefully deposited; we highly value the least expression of our friends' love, yea, we value ourselves according to our friends' respects for us: Cant. viii. 10, “ Then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.” Is it thus with thy soul? Dost thou prize God's lovingkindness above life itself ? Psalm lxiii. 3.
(2.) Art thou truly afraid of losing God's favour? Dost thou charge thine own heart and others, that they stir not up, nor awake thy beloved, as the spouse? Cant. ii. 7. Dost thou feel workings of heart, as Ezra,
chap. ix. 8, 14, after favour and grace received ? Dost thou maintain thy spiritual watch ? Dost thou exercise a holy jealousy over thyself and estate, lest the Lord withdraw ?
(3.) Dost thou draw out, and make spiritual use of the sense of God's favour, to thy own good, and for the advantage of others ? How doth God help thee to recollect experience, and say as David, Psalm xlii. 6, “O my God, my soul is cast down within me, therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, from the hill of Mizar,” &c. that is, I will recollect the experience I have had of thy goodness and mercy; so for others, Psalm lxvi. 16, “Come all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul.”
(4.) Do not these favours make thy soul long for the manifestations of God's favour in his immediate presence in heaven, where thou shalt be above danger of offending him, or of losing his presence? Doth not thy soul long for, and love Christ's appearing ? * Is it not thy language, 0 when shall my soul be with God? How long shall I dwell in Meshech, and sojourn in the tents of Kedar? when shall I be in his presence, where there is fulness of joy, when shall I be satisfied with his likeness ? f O those joys, those comforts, that
+ light of the King's countenance wherein is life, true life, lasting life! If God's favour be so sweet here, when only partially enjoyed, () what will be the full vision of God in glory? when I shall see him encircled with the splendours of celestial majesty, not through a glass darkly, but face to face, and know as also I am known. I O blessed day! O welcome day! when shall that day dawn? when shall my soul take her flight above yonder sun, moon, and stars, into my Saviour's * 2 Tim. iv. 8.
+ Psalm xvi. ll. xvii. 15. * 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
presence, where there will be no need of them, for the glory of God doth lighten the holy city, and the Lamb is the light thereof? * O blessed day, O happy state, O secure and delightful place!
2. What is thy behaviour God-wards in the general course of thy life? for if God had a peculiar regard for thee, it will be evident from the discharging of thy duty towards God, both in the frame of thy spirit, and in thy conversation, according to this rule : you may discern the workings of God's heart towards you by the movements of your hearts towards God. Well then, let me ask thee these questions, I can but briefly propound them, and leave them to thy meditations.
(1.) Art thou afraid of doing any thing that may provoke the Lord? thou therefore hatest all sin because it is offensive to him, and sayest, “How shall I do this wickedness, and sin against God?” | Away with occasions of sin, God forbid that I should ever meddle with sin again, not because it is destructive to me, but because it is offensive to God; nor only as provoking his wrath, but as grieving his Spirit. Thus the soul fears the Lord and his goodness. I
(2.) Dost thou daily. walk in all ways well-pleasing to God, keeping close to his commands, yielding to the impressions of his blessed Spirit, resolving upon new obedience, with full purpose of heart cleaving to the Lord ? Is it not thy main care and prayer that thou mayest walk worthy of him to all pleasing? Thou dost not matter for pleasing of men, so that thou mayest approve thy heart to God, exercising thyself to have a conscience void of offence towards God and man. ||
(3.) Dost thou make it thy work to attend upon him where he is wont to distribute his favours, especially
• Rev. xxi. 23. + Gen. xxxix. 9. I Hosea iij. 5. || Acts xi. 23. Col. i. 10. Gal i. 10. Acts xxiv. 16.
in all public ordinances, hearing the word, offering prayer, and receiving the seals of the covenant ? Dost thou make it thy business to hold communion with God? Thou art grieved when thou missest an opportunity of enjoying God, yea, thou makest this thy object in all duties, to seek and see God's face, Psalm xxvii. 4, 8, 9.
(4.) Is not thy soul troubled when God withdrawg froin thee the sense of his favour? When thou hast provoked him, and he goeth, doth not thy heart fail ? art thou not sick of love ? * how dost thou take it ? Dost thou carry thyself as Esau, when he had sold his birth-right, that ate and drank, rose up, and went away? f or dost thou lay it deeply to heart, languish, and faint ? art thou filled with anguish and pain, and canst rest no where, till God's favour be regained ? This is a child-like frame.
(5.) Hast thou not a regard for all those whom God regards ? dost thou not highly prize, and dearly love the saints that are excellent in the earth, in whom is all thy delight? | dost thou not honour them that fear the Lord ? Thou couldst indeed put these in thy bosom, not because they are outwardly amiable by reason of external accomplishments, or because they are of thy sentiments, but because the image of God is upon them ; || grace is in their hearts, therefore they are lovely in thine eyes.
(6.) Dost thou feel the body of sin within thee thy greatest burden ? Where are thy groans under it, thy griefs for it? art thou weary with it, striving against it? dost thou cry out daily with Paul, “ Who shall deliver me?” Art thou still casting off every weight, and that sin which so easily besets thee? art thou still • Cant. v. 6, 8.
t Gen. xxv. 34. Psalın xvi. 3.
Il 1 John iii. 13, 14.