Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ble : and therefore, as I have shewed already, in God's usual way of working grace, men cannot know the just day or time when they began to be in the state of grace. And though men that have long lived in profaneness, and are changed suddenly, may conjecture near at the time ; yet those that God hath been working on early in their youth, yea, or afterwards by slow degrees, cannot know the time of their first receiving the Spirit. 8. The memories of all men are so slippery, and one thought so suddenly thrust out by another, that many a thousand souls forget those particular workings which they have truly selt. 9. The memories of children are far weaker than of others; and therefore it is less probable that all the Spirit's workings should by them be remembered. 10. And the motions of grace are so various, sometimes stirring one affection, and sometimes another, sometimes beginning with smaller motions, and then moving more strongly and sensibly, that is is usual for later motions which are more deeply affecting, to make us overlook all the former, or take them for nothing. 11. God dealeth very variously with his chosen in their conversion, as to the accidentals and circumstantials of the work. Some he calleth not home till they have run a long race in the way of rebellion, in open drunkenness, swearing, worldliness and derision of holiness : these he usually humbleth more deeply, and they can better observe the several steps of the Spirit in the work; (and yet not always neither.) Others he so restraineth in their youth, that though they have not saving grace, yet they are not guilty of any gross sins, but have a liking to the people and ways of God: and yet he doth not savingly convert them till long after. It is much harder for these to discern the time or manner of their conversion; yet usually some conjectures they may make: and usually their humiliation is not so deep. Others, as is said, have the saving workings of the Spirit in their very childhood, and these can least of all discern the certain time or order. The ordinary way of God's dealing with those that are children of godly parents, and have good education, is, by giving them some liking of godly persons and ways, some conscience of sin, some repentance and recourse by prayer to God in Christ for mercy; yet youthful lusts and folly, and ill company, do usually much stifle it, till at last, by some affliction, or sermon, or

book, or good company, God setteth home the work, a. them more resolute and victorious Christians. These pe can remember that they had convictions, and stirring con when they were young, and the other forementioned works, they can remember some more notable rousings and awakenings long after, and perhaps they have had many such fits and steps, and the work hath stood at this pass for a long time, even many years together. But at which of all these changes it was that the soul began to be savingly sincere, I think is next to an impossibility to discern. According to that experience which I have had of the state of Christians, I am forced to judge the most of the children of the godly that ever are renewed, are renewed in their childhood, or much towards it then done, and that among forty Christians there is not one that can certainly name the month in which his soul first began to be sincere; and among a thousand Christians, I think not not one can name the hour. The sermon which awakened them, they may name, but not the hour when they first arrived at a saving sincerity.

My advice therefore to all Christians, is this: Find Christ by bis Spirit dwelling in your hearts, and then never trouble yourselves, though you know not the time or manner of his entrance. you

value Christ above the world, and resolve to choose him before the world, and perform these resolutions? Then need you not doubt but the Spirit of Jesus is victorious in you.

Doubt 2. · But I have oft read and heard, that a man cannot come to Christ till he feel the heavy burden of sin. It is the weary and heavy-laden that Christ calleth to him. He bindeth up only the brokenhearted; he is a Physician only to those that feel themselves sick; he brings men to heaven by the gates of hell. They must be able to say, I am in a lost condition, and in a state of damnation, and if I should die this hour I must perish forever, before Christ will deliver them. God will throw away the blood of his son on those that feel not their absolute necessity of it, and that they are undone without it. But it was never thus with me to this day.'

Answ. 1. You must distinguish carefully between repentance as it is in the mind and will, and as it shews itself in the passion of Vol. I.

62

Do

sorrow. All that have saving interest in Christ, have their judgments and wills so far changed, that they know that they are sinners, and that there is no way to the obtaining of pardon and salvation but by Christ, and the free mercy of God in him; and thereupon they are convinced that if they remain without the grace of Christ, they are undone forever. Whereupon they understanding that Christ and mercy is offered to them in the gospel, do heartily and thankfully accept the offer, and would not be without Christ, or change their hopes of his grace for all the world, and do resolve to wait upon him for the further discovery of his mercy, and the workings of his Spirit, in a constant and conscionable use of his means, and to be ruled by him, to their power. Is it not thus with you? If it be, here is the life and substance of repentance, which consisteth in this change of the mind and heart, and you have no cause to doubt of the truth of it, for want of more deep and passionate humiliation. 2. I have told you before, how uncertain and inconstant the passionate effects of grace are, and how unfit to judge by, and given you several reasons of it. Yet I doubt not but some work upon

the affections there is, as well as on the will and understanding; but with so great diversity of manner and degrees, that it is not safe judging by it only or chiefly. Is there no degree of sorrow or trouble that hath touched your heart for your sin or misery? If your affections were no whit stirred, you would hardly be moved to action, to use means, or avoid iniquity, much less would you so oft complain as you do. 3. If God prevented those heinous sins in the time of your unregeneracy, which those usually are guilty of who are called to so deep a degree of sorrow, you should rather be thankful that your wound was not deeper, than troubled that the cure cost you no dearer. Look well whether the cure be wrought in the change of your heart and life from the world to God by Christ, and then you need not be troubled that it was wrought so easily. 4. Were you not acquainted with the evil of sin, and danger and misery of sinners, in your very childhood, and also of the necessity of a Saviour, and that Christ died to save all sinners that will believe and repent? And hath not this fastened on your heart, and been working in you by degrees ever since? If it be so, then you cannot expect that you should have such deep terrors as those

that never hear of sin and Christ till the news come upon them suddenly in the ripeness of their sin. There is a great deal of difference betwixt the conversion of a Jew, or any other infidel, who is brought on the sudden to know the doctrine of sin, misery and salvation by Christ; and the conversion of a professor of the Christian religion, who hath known this doctrine in some sort from his childhood, and who hath a sound religion, though he be not sound in his religion, and so needs not a conversion to a sound faith, but only a soundness in the faith. The suddenness of the news must needs make those violent commotions and changes in the one, which cannot ordinarily be expected in the other, who is acquainted so early with the truth, and by such degrees. 5. But suppose you heard nothing of sin and misery, and a Redeemer in your childhood, or at least understood it not (which yet is unlikely,) yet let me ask you this: Did not that preacher, or that book, or whatever other means God used for your conversion, reveal to you misery and mercy both together? Did not you hear and believe that Christ died for sin, as soon as you understood your sin and misery? Sure I am that the Scripture reveals both together; and so doth every sound preacher, and every sound writer (notwithstanding that the slanderous Antinomians do shamefully proclaim that we preach not Christ, but the law.) This being so, you must easily apprehend that it must needs abate very much of the terror, which would else have been unavoidable. If you had read or heard that you were a sinner, and the child of hell, and of God's wrath, and that there was no remedy, (which is such a preaching of the law, as we must not use to any in the world, nor any since the first promise to Adam, must receive ;) yea, or if you had heard nothing of a Saviour for a year, or a day, or an hour after you had heard that you were an heir of hell, and so the remedy had been but concealed from you, though not denied (which ordinarily must not be done,) then you might in all likelihood have found some more terrors of soul that hour. But when

you
heard that

your

sin was pardonable, as soon as you heard that you were a sinner, and heard that your misery had a sufficient remedy provided, if you would accept it, or at least that it was not remediless, and this as soon as you heard of that misery, what wonder is it if this exceedingly

abate your fears and troubles! Suppose two men go to visit two several neighbors that have the plague, and one of them saith, It is the plague that is on you; you are but a dead man. The other saith to the other sick person, It is the plague that you have ; but here is our physician at the next door that hath a receipt that will cure it as infallibly and as easily as if it were but the prick of a pin, he hath cured thousands, and never failed one that took his receipt, but if you will not send to him, and trust him, and take his receipt, there is no hopes of you.' Tell ine now whether the first of these sick persons be not like to be more troubled than the other? And whether it will not remove almost all the fears and troubles of the latter, to hear of a certain remedy as soon as he heareth of the disease? Though some trouble he must needs have to think that he hath a disease in itself so desperate or loathsome, Nay, let me tell you, so the cure be but well done, the less terrors and despairing fear you were put upon, the more credit is it to your physician and his apothecary, Christ and the preacher, or instrument, that did the work; and therefore you should rather praise your physician, than question the cure.

Doubt. 3. But it is common with all the world to consent to the religion that they are bred up in, and somewhat affected with it, and to make conscience of obeying the precepts of it. So do the Jews in theirs; the Mahometans in theirs. And I fear it is no other work on my soul but the mere force of education, that maketh me religious, and that I had never that great renewing work of the Spirit upon my soul; and so that all my religion is but mere opinion, or notions in my brain.'

Answ. 1. All the religions in the world, besides the Christian religion, have either much error and wickedness mixed with some truth of God, or they contain some lesser parcel of that truth alone (as the Jews ;) only the Christian religion hath that whole truth which is saving. Now so much of God's truth as there is in any of these religions, so much it may work good effects upon their souls; as the knowledge of the Godhead, and that God is holy, good, just, merciful, and that he sheweth them much undeserved mercy in his daily providences, &c. But mark these two things, (1.) That all persons of false religions do more easily and greedily

« ZurückWeiter »