Contact Us

Home
Home
Why The Old Time Gospel
The Lord Jesus Christ
The Gift of Salvation
Growing in Christ

About The Old Time Gospel
The Editor
Our Mission
Doctrinal Statement
Privacy Policy
Frequently Asked Questions

Revival Studies
The Revivals
Classic Sermons
The Preachers
The Missionaries
The Hymns

Personal Devotion
Daily Devotional
King James Bible
Thomas à Kempis
Inspirational Poems
Quotes & Stories

Our Daily Bread

Bible Knowledge
Bible Studies
Eschatology
Bible Book Facts
Selected Studies
Apologetics

Bible Land Photos


Biblical Helps
Helps Index
Other Bible Subjects
Recommended Reading
Great Web Sites
News of Interest

Ministry
Men's Ministry
Women's Ministry
Youth Ministry
Children's Ministry
TOTG Site Map

We are more than conquerors
through him that loved us.

Romans 8:37

"The enemy is behind us.
The enemy is in front of us.
The enemy is to the right
and the left of us.
They can't get away this time!"


General Douglas McArthur

"My words are Spirit and Life, and not to be weighed by the understanding of man. They are not to be drawn forth for vain approbation, but to be heard in silence, and to be received with all humility and great affection."
Thomas à Kempis

Read the
Bible in a Year

"Brethren, we must preach
the doctrines;
we must emphasize
the doctrines;
we must go back to
the doctrines.

I fear that the new generation does not know the doctrines
as our fathers knew them."

John A. Broadus

Great Books and Messages
Free Downloads

Additional Subject Links

— Think About It! —
"One hundred religious persons
knit into a unity by careful
organization do no constitute a
church any more than eleven dead
men make a football team.
The first requisite is life, always."
A. W. Tozer

Great Christian Works
The deep writings of some of the greatest christian authors.

Salvation is Free
Jesus paid it all
at Calvary!

Behold, I stand at the Door and Knock

If you have a special prayer,
TOTG will pray with you.
Prayer Request

Move Me with Your Message

Move me with your message once again
It's been so long since my heart burned within
Take me back once more to Calvary
And one more time your message will move me.

More Great Old Hymns

You can now Link to
The Old Time Gospel

My Jesus, I Love Thee
"I'll love thee in life,
I will love thee in death;
And praise thee as long
as thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew
lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved thee,
My Jesus tis now."
by William R. Featherston

(Composed in 1862 at the age of 16)

The School of Christ

By T. Austin Sparks

Search the Scriptures
Acts 17:11
"...they received
the word
with all readiness
of mind,
and searched
the scriptures daily,
whether those things
were so."

The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.
A. W. Tozer

Look for this icon

for great spirit filled
mini messages.

"We shall find, when we reach the end of life, that all which God has done, however dark and mysterious it may have appeared at the time, was so connected with our good as to make it a proper subject of praise and thanksgiving."
Barnes

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: "   Psalm 103:2

"Brethren, we must preach
the doctrines;
we must emphasize
the doctrines;
we must go back to
the doctrines.

I fear that the new generation does not know the doctrines
as our fathers knew them."

John A. Broadus

The Old Time Gospel
Ministry

Over 9,600 pages
of Christian material.



"The Lord gave the word:
great was the company of
those that published it."

Psalm 68:11

A true revival means nothing
less than a revolution,
casting out the spirit
of worldliness,
making God's love
triumph in the heart.

  Andrew Murray


A Ministry dedicated to preserving the truth and accuracy of the infallible Word of God.
The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul   by Philip Doddridge

Great Christian Works  Index

THE
RISE AND PROGRESS
of
RELIGION IN THE SOUL

by Philip Doddridge, D. D.

Back to
Contents


Chapter XI.

A SOLEMN ADDRESS TO THOSE WHO WILL NOT BE PERSUADED TO FALL IN WITH THE DESIGN OF THE GOSPEL.

1. Universal success not to be expected.--2-4. Yet, as unwilling absolutely to give up any, the author addresses thou who doubt the truth of Christianity, urging an inquiry into its evidences, and directing to prayer methods for that purpose.--5 Those who determine to give it up without further examination.--6. And presume to set themselves to oppose it.--7, 8. Those who speculatively assent to Christianity as true, and yet will sit down without any practical regard to its most important and acknowledged truths. Such are dismissed with a representation of the absurdity of their conduct on their own principles.--9, 10. With a solemn warning of its fatal consequences.--11. And a compassionate prayer, which concludes this Chapter, and this part of the work.

1. I would humbly hope that the preceding Chapters will be the means of awakening some stupid and insensible sinners, the means of convincing them of their need of Gospel-salvation, and of engaging some cordially to accept it. Yet I cannot flatter myself so far as to hope this should be the case with regard to all into whose hands this book shall come. "What am I, alas! better than my fathers," (1 Kings 19:4) or better than my brethren, who have in all ages been repeating their complaint, with regard to multitudes, that they "have stretched out their hand all day long to a disobedient and gainsaying people!" (Rom. 10:21) Many such may perhaps be found in the number of my readers; many, on whom neither considerations of terror nor of love wilt make any deep and lasting impression; many, who, as our Lord learned by experience to express it, "when we pipe to them, will not dance; and when we mourn unto them; will not lament." (Matt. 11:17) I can say no more to persuade them; if they make light of what I have already said. Here, therefore, we must part: in this Chapter I must take my leave of them; and O that I could do it in such a manner as to fix, at parting, some conviction upon their hearts, that though I seem to leave them for a little while, and send them back to review again the former Chapters, as those in which alone they have any present concern, they might soon, as it were, overtake me again, and find a suitableness in the remaining part of this treatise, which at present they cannot possibly find. Unhappy creatures. I quit you as a physician quits a patient whom he loves, and is just about to give over as incurable: he returns again and again and re-examines the several symptoms, to observe whether there be not some one of them wore favorable than the rest, which may encourage a renewed application.

     2. So would I once more return to you. You do not find in yourself any disposition to embrace the Gospel, to apply yourself to Christ, to give yourself up to thee service of God, and to make religion the business of your life. But if I cannot prevail upon you to do this, let me engage you, at least, to answer me, or rather to answer your own conscience, "Why you will not do it?" is it owing to any secret disbelief of the great principles of religion? If it be, the case is different from what I have yet considered, and the cure must be different. This is not a place to combat with the scruples of infidelity. Nevertheless, I would desire you seriously to inquire "How far those scruples extend?" Do they affect any particular doctrine of the Gospel on which my argument hath turned; or do they affect the whole Christian revelation? Or do they reach yet farther, and extend themselves to natural religion, as well as revealed; so that it should be a doubt with you, whether there be any God, and providence, and future state, or not? As these cases are all different, so it will be of great importance to distinguish the one from the other; that you may know on what principles to build as certain, in the examination of those concerning which you are yet in doubt. But, whatever these doubts are, I would farther ask you, "How long have they continued, and what method have you taken to get them resolved?" Do you imagine, that, in matters of such moment, it will be an allowable case for you to trifle on, neglecting to inquire into the evidence of these things, and then plead your not being satisfied in that evidence, as an excuse for not acting according to them? Must not the principles of common sense assure you, that, if these things be true, as when you talk of doubting about them, you acknowledge it at least possible they may be, they are of infinitely greater importance than any of the affairs of life, whether of business or pleasure, for the sake of which you neglect them? Why then do you continue indolent and unconcerned, from week to week, and from month to month, which probably conscience tells you is the case?

     3. Do you ask, "What method you should take to be resolved?" It is no hard question. Open your eyes: set yourself to think: let conscience speak, and verily do I believe, that, if it be not seared in an uncommon degree, you will find shrewd forebodings of the certainty both of natural and revealed religion, and of the absolute necessity of repentance, faith, and holiness, to a life of future felicity. If you area person of any learning, you cannot but know by what writers, and in what treatises, these great truths are defended. And if you are not, you may find, in almost every town and neighborhood, persons capable of informing you in thee main evidences of Christianity, and of answering such scruples against it as unlearned minds may have met with. Set yourself, then, in the name of God, immediately to consider the matter. If you study at all, bend your studies close this way, and trifle not with mathematics, or poetry or history, or law, or physic, which are all comparatively light as a feather, while you neglect this. Study the argument as for your life; for much more than life depends on it. See how far you are satisfied, and why that satisfaction reaches no farther. Compare evidences on both sides. And, above all, consider the design and tendency of the New Testament. See to what it will lead you, and all them that cordially obey it, and then say whether it be not good. And consider how naturally its truth is connected with its goodness. Trace the character and sentiments of its authors, whose living image, if I may be allowed the expression, is still preserved in their writings; and then ask your heart, can you think this was a forgery, an impious, cruel forgery? for such it mast have been, if it were a forgery at all: a scheme to mock God, and to ruin men, even the best of men, such as reverenced Conscience, and would abide all extremities for what they apprehended to be truth. Put the question to your own heart, Can I in my conscience believe it to be such an imposture? Can I look up to an omniscient God, and say, "O Lord, thou knowest that it is in reverence to thee, and in love to truth and virtue, that I reject this book, and the method to happiness here laid down."

     4. But there are difficulties in the way. And what then? Have those difficulties never been cleared? Go to the living advocates for Christianity, to those of whose abilities, candor and piety you have the best opinion, if your prejudices will give you leave to have a good opinion of any such; tell them your difficulties; hear their solutions; weigh them seriously, as those who know they must answer it to God; and while doubts continue, follow the truth as far as it will lead you, and take heed that you do not a "imprison it in unrighteousness." (Rom. 11:8) Nothing appears more inconsistent and absurd than for a man solemnly to pretend dissatisfaction in the evidences of the Gospel, as a reason why he cannot in conscience be a thorough Christian; when at the same time he violates the most apparent dictates of reason and conscience, and lives in vices condemned even by the heathen. O sirs! Christ has judged concerning such, and judged most righteously and most wisely: "They do evil, and therefore they hate the light; neither come they to the light, lest their deeds should be made manifest, and be reproved." (John 3:20) But there is a light that will make manifest and reprove their works, to which they will be compelled to come, and the painful scrutiny of which they shall be forced to abide.

     5. In the mean time, if you are determined to inquire no farther into the matter now, give me leave, at least, from a sincere concern that you may not heap upon your head more aggravated ruin, to entreat you that you would be cautious how you expose yourself to yet greater danger. by what you must yourself own to be unnecessary; I mean attempts to prevent others from believing the truth of the Gospel. Leave them; for God's sake, and for your own, in possession of those pleasures and those hopes which nothing but Christianity can give them; and act not as if you were solicitous to add to the guilt of an infidel the tenfold damnation which they, who have been the perverters and destroyers of the souls of others, must expect to meet, if that Gospel, which they have so adventurously opposed, shall prove. as it certainly will, a serious, and to them a dreadful truth.

     6. If I cannot prevail here, (but the pride of displaying a superiority of understanding should bear on such a reader, even in opposition to his own favorite maxims of the innocence of error and the equality of all religions consistent with social virtue, to do his utmost to trample down the Gospel with contempt) I would, however, dismiss him with one proposal which I think the importance of the affair may fully justify. If you have done with your examination into Christianity, and determine to live and conduct yourself as it were assuredly false, sit down, then, and make a memorandum of that determination. Write it down:

     "On such a day of such a year, I deliberately resolved that I would live and die rejecting Christianity myself, and doing all I could to overthrow it. This day I determined, not only to renounce all subjection to, and expectation from Jesus of Nazareth, but also to make it a serious part of the business of my life to destroy, as far as I possibly can, all regard to him in the minds of others, and to exert my most vigorous efforts, in the way of reasoning or of ridicule to sink the credit of his religion, and, if it be possible, to root it out of the world; in calm, steady defiance of that day, when his followers say, He shall appear in so much majesty and terror, to execute the vengeance. threatened to his enemies."

     Dare you write this, and sign it? I firmly believe that many a man, who would be thought a deist. and endeavors to increase the number, would not. And if you in particular dare not do it, whence does that small remainder of caution arise? The cause is plain. There is in your conscience some secret apprehension that this rejected, this opposed, this derided Gospel may, after all, prove true. And if there be such an apprehension, then let conscience do its office, and convict you of the impious madness of acting as if it were most certainly and demonstrably false. Let it tell you at large, how possible it is that "haply you may be found fighting against God," (Acts 5:39) that, hold as you are in defying the terrors of the Lord, you may possibly fall into his hands; may chance to hear that despised sentence, which, when: you hear it from the mouth of the eternal Judge, you will not be able to despise. I will repeat it again. In spite of all your scorn: you may hear the King say to you. "Depart, accursed. into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt. 25:41) And now, go and pervert and burlesque the Scripture, go and satirize the character of its heroes, and ridicule the sublime discourses of its prophets and its apostles, as some have done, who have left behind them but the short lived monuments of their ignorance. their profaneness. and their malice. Go and spread like them, the banners of infidelity and pride thyself in the number of credulous creatures listed under them. But take heed lest the insulted Galilean direct a secret arrow to thine heart, and stop thy licentious breath before it has finished the next sentence thou wouldst utter against him.

     7. I will turn myself from the deist or the sceptic, and direct my address to the nominal Christian; if he may upon any terms be called a Christian, who feels not, after all I have pleaded a disposition to subject himself to the government and the grace of that Savior whose name he hears: O sinner, thou art turning away from my Lord, in whose cause I speak; but let me earnestly entreat thee seriously to consider why thou art turning away; and "to whom thou wilt go," from him whom thou acknowledgst "to have the words of eternal life." (John 6:63.) You call yourself a Christian and yet will not by any means be persuaded to seek salvation in good earnest from and through Jesus Christ, whom you call your Master and Lord. How do you for a moment excuse this negligence to your own conscience? If I had urged you on any controverted point it might have altered the case. If I had labored hard to make you the disciple of any particular party of Christians, your delay might have been more reasonable; nay, perhaps your refusing to acquiesce might have been an act of apprehended duty to our common Master. But is it matter of controversy among Christians, whether there be a great, holy, and righteous God; and whether such a Being, whom we agree to own, should be reverenced and loved, or neglected and dishonored? Is it matter of controversy whether a sinner should deeply and seriously repent of his sins, or whether be should go on in them? Is it a disputed point amongst us, whether Jesus became incarnate, and died upon the cross for the redemption of sinners, or not? And if it be not, can it be disputed by them who believe him to be the Son of God and the Savior of men, whether a sinner should seek to him, or neglect hint; or whether one who professes to be a Christian should depart from iniquity, or give himself up to the practice or it? Are the precepts of our great Master written so obscurely in his word, that there should be room seriously to question whether he require a devout, holy, humble, spiritual, watchful, self-denying life, or whether he allow the contrary? Has Christ, after all big pretensions of bringing life and immortality to light, left it more uncertain than he found it, whether there be any future state of happiness and misery, or for whom these states are respectively intended? Is it a matter of controversy whether God will, or will not, "bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil?" (Eccl. 12:14) or whether, at the conclusion of that judgment, "the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal?" (Matt. 25:46) You will not I am sure, for very shame, pretend any doubt about these things, and yet call yourself a Christian. Why then will you not be persuaded to lay them to heart, and to act as duty and interest so evidently require? O sinner, the cause is too obvious, a cause indeed quite unworthy of being called a reason. It is because thou art blinded and besotted with thy vanities and thy lusts. It is because thou hast some perishing trifle, which charms thy imagination and thy senses, so that it is dearer to thee than God and Christ, than thy own soul and its salvation. It is, in a word, because thou art still under the influence of that carnal mind, which, whatever pious forms it may sometimes admit and pretend, "is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Rom. 8:7) And therefore thou art in the very case of those wretches, concerning whom our Lord said in the days of his flesh, "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life," (John 5:40) and therefore "ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:24)

     8. In this case I see not what it can signify, to renew those expostulations and addresses which I have made in the former Chapters. As our blessed Redeemer says of those who reject his Gospel, "Ye have both seen and hated both me and my Father," (John 15:24) so may I truly say with regard to you, I have endeavored to show you, in the plainest and the clearest words, both Christ and the Father; I have urged the obligations you are under to both; I have laid before you your guilt and your condemnation; I have pointed out the only remedy; I have pointed out the rock on which I have built my own eternal hopes, and the way in which alone I expect salvation. I have recommended those things to you, which, if God gives me an opportunity, I will, with my dying breath, earnestly and affectionately recommend to my own children, and to all the dearest friends that I have upon earth, who may then be near me, esteeming it the highest token or my friendship, the surest proof of my love to them. And if, believing the Gospel to be true, you resolve to reject it, I have nothing farther to say, but that you must abide the consequence. Yet as Moses, when he went out from the presence of Pharaoh for the last time, finding his heart yet more hardened by all the judgments and deliverances with which he had formerly been exercised, denounced upon him "God's passing through the land in terror to smite the firstborn with death, and warned him of that great and lamentable cry, which the sword of the destroying angel should raise throughout all his realm;" (Exod. 11:4-6) so will I, sinner, now when I am quitting thee, speak to thee yet again, "whether thou wilt hear, or whether thou wilt forbear," (Ezek. 2:7) and denounce that much more terrible judgment; which the sword of divine vengeance, already whetted and drawn, and "bathed, as it were, in heaven," (Isai. 34:5) is preparing against thee; which shall end in a much more doleful cry, though thou wert greater and more obstinate than that haughty monarch. Yes, sinner, that I may, with the apostle Paul, when turning to others who are more likely to hear me, "shake my raiment, and say, I am pure from your blood," (Acts 18.6) I will once more tell you what the end of these things will be. And, O that I could speak to purpose! O that I could thunder in thine ear such a peal of terror as might awaken thee, and be too loud to be drowned in all the noise of carnal mirth, or to be deadened by those dangerous opiates with which thou art contriving to stupify thy conscience!

     9. Seek what amusements and entertainments thou wilt, O sinner! I tell thee, if thou wert equal in dignity, and power, and magnificence, to the "great monarch of Babylon, thy pomp shalt be brought down to the grave, and all the sound of thy viols; the worm shall be spread under thee, and the worm shall cover thee;" (Isai. 14:11) yes, sinner, "the end of these things is death!" (Rom. 6:21) death in its most terrible sense to thee, if this continue thy governing temper. Thou canst not avoid it; and, if it be possible for any thing that I can say to prevent, thou shalt not forget it. Your "strength is not the strength of stones, nor is your flesh of brass." (Job 6:12) You are accessible to disease, as well as others; and if some sudden accident do not prevent it, we shall soon see how heroically you will behave yourself on a dying bed, and in the near views of eternity. You, that now despise Christ, and trifle with his Gospel, we shall see you droop and languish; shall see all your relish for your carnal recreations and your vain companions lost. And if perhaps one and another of them bolt in upon you, and is brutish and desperate enough to attempt to entertain a dying man with a gay story, or a profane jest, we shall see how you will relish it. We shall see what comfort you will have in reflecting on what is past, or what hope in looking forward to what is to come. Perhaps, trembling and astonished, you will then be inquiring; in a wild kind of consternation, "what you shall do to be saved:" calling for the ministers of Christ, whom you now despise for the earnestness with which they would labor to save your soul! and it maybe falling into a delirium, or dying convulsions, before they can come. Or perhaps we may see you flattering yourself, through a long, lingering illness, that you shall still recover, and putting off any serious reflection and conversation, for fear it should overset your spirits. And the cruel kindness of friends and physicians, as if they were in league with Satan to make the destruction of your soul as sure as possible, may perhaps abet this fatal deceit.

     10. And if any of these probable cases happen, that is, in short, unless a miracle of grace snatch you "as a brand out of the burning," when the flames have, as it were, already taken hold of you; all these gloomy circumstances, which pass in the chambers of illness and on the bed of death, are but the forerunners of infinitely more dreadful things. Oh! who can describe them? Who can imagine them? When surviving friends are tenderly mourning over the breathless corpse, and taking a fond farewell of it before it is laid to consume away in the dark and silent grave, into what hands, O sinner! will thy soul be fallen? What scenes will open upon thy separate spirit, even before thy deserted flesh be cold, or thy sightless eyes are closed? It shall then know what it is to return to God, to be rejected by him as having rejected his Gospel and his Son, and despised the only treaty of reconciliation; and that so amazingly condescending and gracious! Thou shalt know what it is to be disowned by Christ, whom thou hast refused to entertain; and what it is, as the certain and immediate consequence of that, to be left in the hands of the malignant spirits of hell. There will be no more-friendship then: none to comfort, none to alleviate thy agony and distress; but, on the contrary, all around thee laboring to aggravate and increase them. Thou shalt pass away the intermediate years of the separate state in dreadful expectation, and bitter outcries of horror and remorse. And then thou shalt hear the trumpet of the archangel, in whatever cavern of that gloomy world thou art lodged. Its sound shall penetrate thy prison, where, doleful and horrible as it is, thou shalt nevertheless wish that thou mightest still be allowed to hide thy guilty head, rather than show it before the face of that awful Judge; before whom "heaven and earth are fleeing away." (Rev. 20:11) But thou must come forth, and be reunited to a body now formed for ever to endure agonies, which in this mortal state would have dissolved it in a moment. You would not be persuaded to come to Christ before: you would stupidly neglect him, in spite of reason, in spite of conscience, in spite of all the tender solicitations of the Gospel, and the repeated admonitions of its most faithful ministers. But now, sinner, you shall have an interview; with him; if that may be called an interview, in which you will not dare to lift up your head to view the face of your tremendous and inexorable Judge. There, at least, how distant soever the time of our life and the place of our abode may have been, there shall we see how courageously your heart will endure, and how "strong your hands will be when the lord doth this." (Ezek. 22:14) There shall I see thee, O reader! whoever thou art that goest on in thine impenitency, among thousands and ten thousands of despairing wretches, trembling and confounded. There shall I hear thy cries among the rest, rending the very heavens in vain. The Judge will rise from his throne with majestic composure, and leave thee to be hurried down to those everlasting burnings, to which his righteous vengeance hath doomed thee, because thou wouldst not be saved from them. Hell shall shut its mouth upon thee for ever, and the sad echo of thy groans and outcries shall be lost, amidst the hallelujahs of heaven, to all that find mercy of the Lord in that day.

     11. This will most assuredly be the end of these things; and thou, as a nominal Christian, professest to know, and to believe it. It moves my heart at least, if it moves not thine. I firmly believe, that every one, who himself obtains salvation and glory will bear so much of his Savior's image in wisdom and goodness, in zeal for God, and a steady regard to the happiness of the whole creation, that he will behold this sad scene with calm approbation, and without any painful commotion of mind. But as yet I am flesh and blood; and therefore my bowels are troubled, and mine eyes often overflow with grief to think that wretched sinners will have no more compassion upon their own souls; to think that in spite of all admonition, they will obstinately run upon final, everlasting destruction. It would signify nothing here to add a prayer or a meditation for your use. Poor creature, you will not meditate! you will not pray! Yet as I have often poured out my heart in prayer over a dying friend, when the force of his distemper has rendered him incapable of joining with me, so I will now apply myself to God for you, O unhappy creature! And if you disdain so much as to read what my compassion dictates, yet I hope, they who have felt the power of the Gospel on their own souls, as they cannot but pity such as you, will join with me in such cordial, though broken petitions as these:

A prayer in behalf of an Impenitent Sinner, in the case just described.

     "Almighty God! `with thee all things are possible." (Matt. 10:26) To thee therefore do I humbly apply myself in behalf of this dear immortal soul, which thou here seest perishing in its sins, and hardening itself against that everlasting Gospel which has been the power of God to the salvation of so many thousands and millions. Thou art witness, O blessed God! thou art witness to the plainness and seriousness with which the message has been delivered. It is in thy presence that these awful words have been written; and in thy presence have they been read. Be pleased, therefore, to record it in the book of thy remembrance, that `so, if this wicked man dieth in his iniquity, after the warning has been so plainly and solemnly given him, his blood may not be required at my hand,' (Ezek. 33:8,9) nor at the hand of that Christian friend, whoever he is, by whom this book has been procured for him, with a sincere desire for the salvation of his soul. Be witness, O blessed `Jesus, in the day in which thou shalt judge the secrets of all hearts,' (Rom. 2:16) that thy Gospel hath been preached to this hardened wretch, and salvation by thy blood hath been offered him, though he continued to despise it. And may thy unworthy messenger be `unto God a sweet savor in Christ,' in this very soul, even though it should at last perish! (2 Cor. 2:15)

     "But, oh! that after all his hardness and impenitence, thou wouldst still be pleased, by the sovereign power of thine efficacious grace, to awaken and convert him! Well do we know, O thou Lord of universal nature! that he who made the soul can cause the sword of conviction to come near and enter into it. O that, in thine infinite wisdom and love, thou wouldst find out a way to interpose, and save this sinner from death, from eternal death! O that, if it be thy blessed will, thou wouldst immediately do it! Thou knowest, O God, he is a dying creature! thou knowest that if any thing be done for him, it must be done quickly! thou seest, in the book of thy wise and gracious decrees, a moment marked, which must seal him up in an unchangeable state! O that thou wouldst lay hold on him while he is yet `joined to the living, and hath hope!' (Eccl. 9:4) Thy immutable laws, in the dispensation of grace, forbid that a soul should be converted and renewed after its entrance into the invisible world: O let thy sacred Spirit work while he is yet as it were within the sphere of its operations! Work, O God, by whatever method thou pleasest; only have mercy upon him! O Lord! have mercy upon him, that he sink not into these depths of damnation and ruin, on the very brink of which he so evidently appears! O that thou wouldst bring him, if that be necessary, and seem to thee most expedient, into any depths of calamity and distress! O that, with Manasseh, he may be `taken in the thorns, and laden with the fetters of affliction,' if that may but cause him to `seek the God of his fathers.' (2 Chro. 33:11,12)

     "But I prescribe not to thine infinite wisdom. Thou hast displayed thy power in glorious and astonishing instances; which I thank thee that I have so circumstantially known, and by the knowledge of them have been fortified against the rash confidence of those who weakly and arrogantly pronounce that to be impossible, which is actually done. Thou hast, I know, done that, by a single thought in retirement, when the happy man reclaimed by it hath been far from means, and far from ordinances, which neither the most awful admonitions, nor the most tender entreaties, nor the most terrible afflictions. nor the most wonderful deliverances, had been able to effect.

     "Glorify thy name, O Lord, and glorify thy grace, in the method which to thine infinite wisdom shall seem most expedient! Only grant, I beseech thee, with all humble submission to thy will, that this sinner may be saved! or if not, that the labor of this part of this treatise may not be altogether in vain; but that if some reject it to their aggravated ruin, others may hearken and live! That those thy servants, who have labored for their deliverance and happiness may view them in the regions of glory, as the heaven, `to him who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us,' of condemned rebels, and accursed, polluted sinners, `kings and priests unto God; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever!' (Rev. 1:5,6) Amen."

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XII.

AN ADDRESS TO A SOUL SO OVERWHELMED WITH A SENSE OF THE GREATNESS OF ITS SINS, THAT IT DARES NOT APPLY ITSELF TO CHRIST WITH ANY HOPE OF SALVATION.

1--4. The case described at large.--5. As it frequently occurs.--6. Granting all that the dejected soul charges on itself.--7. The invitations and promises of Christ give hope.--8 The reader urged, under all his burdens and fears, to an humble application to him. Which is accordingly exemplified in the concluding Reflection and Prayer.

1. I have now done with those unhappy creatures who despise the Gospel, and with those who neglect it. With pleasure do I now turn myself to those who will hear me with more regard. Among the various cases which now present themselves to my thoughts, and demand my tender, affectionate, respectful care, there is none more worthy of compassion than that which I have mentioned in the title of this Chapter, none which requires a more immediate attempt of relief.

     2. It is very possible some afflicted creature may be ready to cry out, "It is enough: aggravate my grief and my distress no more. The sentence you have been so awfully describing, as what shall he passed and executed on the impenitent and unbelieving, is my sentence; and the terrors of it are my terrors. `For mine iniquities have gone up into the heavens,' and my transgressions have reached unto the clouds. (Rev. 18:5) My case is quite singular. Surely there never was so great a sinner as I. I have received so many mercies, have enjoyed so many advantages, I have heard so many invitations or Gospel grace; and yet my heart has been so hard, and my nature is so exceeding sinful, and the number and aggravating circumstances of my provocations have been such, that I dare not hope. It is enough that God hath supported me thus long; it is enough, that, after so many years of wickedness, I am yet out of hell. Every day's reprieve is a mercy at which I am astonished. I lie down, and wonder that death and damnation have not seized me in my walks the day past. I arise, and wonder that my bed has not been my grave; wonder that my soul is not separated from my flesh, and surrounded with devils and damned spirits."

     3. "I have indeed heard the message of salvation; but, alas! it seems no message of salvation to me. There are happy souls that have hope; and their hope is indeed in Christ and the grace of God manifest in him. But they feel in their hearts an encouragement to apply to him, whereas I dare not do it. Christ and grace are things in which I fear I have no part, and must expect none. There are exceeding rich and precious promises in the word of God; but they are to me as a sealed book, and are hid from me as to any personal use. I know Christ is able to save: I know he is willing to save some. But that he should be willing to save me--such a polluted, such a provoking creature, as God knows, and as conscience knows, I have been, and to this day am--this I know not how to believe; and the utmost that I can do towards believing it, is to acknowledge that it is not absolutely impossible, and that I do not lie down in complete despair; though, alas! I seem upon the borders of it, and expect every day and hour to call into it."

     4. I should not, perhaps, have entered so fully into this case, if I had not seen many in it; and I will add, reader, for your encouragement, if it be your case, several, who now are in the number of the most established, cheerful, and useful Christians. And I hope divine grace will add you to the rest, if "out of these depths you he enabled to cry unto God;" (Psa. 130:1) and though, like Jonah, you may seem to be cast out from his presence, yet still, with Jonah, you "look towards his holy temple." (Jonah 2:4)

     5. Let it not be imagined, that it is in any neglect of that blessed Spirit, whose office it is to be the great Comforter, that I now attempt to reason you out of this disconsolate frame; for it is as the great source or reason, that he deals with rational creatures; and it is in the use of rational means and considerations that he may most justly be expected to operate. Give me leave, therefore, to address myself calmly to you, and to ask you, what reason you have for all these passionate complaints and accusations against yourself? What reason have you to suggest that your case is singular, when so many have told you they have felt the same? What reason have you to conclude so hardly against yourself, when the Gospel speaks in such favorable terms? Or, what reason to imagine, that the gracious things it says are not intended for you? You know, indeed, more of the corruption of your own heart, than you know of the hearts or others; and you make a thousand charitable excuses for their visible failings and infirmities, which you make not for your own. And it may be, some of those whom you admire as eminent saints when compared with you, are on their part humbling themselves in the dust, as unworthy to be numbered among the least of God's people, and wishing themselves like you; in whom they think they see much more good, and much less of evil, than in themselves.

     6. But to suppose the worst, what if you were really the vilest sinner that ever lived upon the face of the earth? What if "your iniquities had gone up into the heavens" every day, and "your transgressions had reached unto the clouds," (Rev. 18:5) reached thither with such horrid aggravations, that earth and heaven should have had reason to detest you as a monster of impiety? Admitting all this, "is any thing too hard for the Lord?" (Gen. 18:14) Are any sins, of which a sinner can repent, of so deep a dye, that the blood of Christ cannot wash them away! Nay, though it would be daring wickedness and monstrous folly, for any "to sin that grace may abound," (Rom. 6:1) yet had you indeed raised your account beyond all that divine grace has ever yet pardoned, who should "limit the holy One of Israel?" (Psa. 78:41) or who shall pretend to say, that it is impossible that God may, for your very wretchedness, choose you out from others, to make you a monument of mercy, and a trophy of hitherto unparalleled grace? The apostle Paul strongly intimates this to have been the case with regard to himself; and why might not you likewise, if indeed "the chief of sinners," obtain mercy, that in you, as the chief, "Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them who shall hereafter believe?" (1 Tim. 1:15,16)

     7. Gloomy as your apprehensions are, I would ask you plainly, do you in your conscience think that Christ is not able to save you? What! is he not "able to save, even to the uttermost, them that come unto God by him?" (Heb. 7:25) Yes, you will say, abundantly able to do it; but I dare not imagine that he will do it. And how do you know that he will not? He has helped the very greatest sinners or all that have yet applied themselves to him; and he has made thee offers of grace and salvation in the most engaging and encouraging terms. "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink:" (John 7:37) "let him that is a-thirst come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." (Rev. 22:17) "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28) And once more, "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." (John, 4:37) "True," will you say, "none that are given him by the Father: could I know I were of that number, I could then apply cheerfully to him." But, dear reader, let me entreat you to look into the text itself, and see whether that limitation he expressly added there. Do you there read, none of them whom the Father hath given me shall be cast out? The words are in a much more encouraging form; and why should you frustrate his wisdom and goodness by such an addition of your own? "Add not to his words, lest he reprove thee;" (Prov. 30:6) take them as they stand, and drink in the consolation of them. Our Lord knew into what perplexity some serious minds might possibly be thrown by what he had before been saying, "All that the Father hath given me shall come unto me;" and therefore, as it were on purpose to balance it, he adds those gracious words, "him that cometh unto me I will in no wise," by no means, on no consideration whatsoever, "cast out."

     8. If, therefore, you are already discouraged and terrified at the greatness of your sins, do not add to their weight and number that one greater, and worse than all the rest, a distrust of the faithfulness and grace of the blessed Redeemer. Do not, so far as in you lies, oppose all the purposes of his love to you. O distressed soul! whom dost thou dread? To whom dost thou tremble to approach? Is there any thing so terrible in a crucified Redeemer, in the Lamb that was slain? If thou carriest thy soul, almost sinking under the burden of its guilt, to lay it down at his feet, what dost thou offer him, but the spoil which he bled and died to recover and possess? And did he purchase it so dearly, that he might reject it with disdain? Go to him directly, and fall down in his presence, and plead that misery of thine, which thou hast now been pleading in a contrary view, as an engagement to your own soul to make the application, and as an argument with the compassionate Savior to receive you. Go, and be assured, that "where sin hath abounded, there grace shall much more abound." (Rom. 5:20) Be assured, that, if one sinner can promise himself a more certain welcome than another, it is not he that is least guilty and miserable, but he that is most deeply humbled before God tinder a sense of that misery and guilt, and lies the lowest in the apprehension of it.

Reflections on these Encouragements, ending in an humble and earnest Application to Christ for Mercy.

     "O my soul! what sayest thou to these things? Is there not at least a possibility of help from Christ? And is there a possibility of help any other way? Is any other name given under heaven, whereby we can be saved? I know there is none. (Acts 4:12) I must then say, like the lepers of Israel, (2 Kings 7:4) `If I sit here, I perish; and if I make my application in vain, I can but die.' But peradventure he may save my soul alive. I will therefore arise, and go 'into him; or rather, believing him here, by his spiritual presence, sinful and miserable as I am, I will this moment fall down on my face before him, and pour out my soul unto him.

     "Blessed Jesus, I present myself unto thee, as a wretched creature, driven indeed by necessity to do it. For surely, were not that necessity urgent and absolute, I should not dare, for very shame, to appear in thine holy and majestic presence. I am fully convinced that my sins and my follies have been inexcusably great, more than I can express, more than I can conceive. I feel a source of sin in my corrupt and degenerate nature, which pours out iniquity as a fountain sends out its water, and makes me a burden and a terror to myself. Such aggravations have attended my transgressions, that it looks like presumption so much as to ask pardon for them. And yet, would it not be greater presumption to say, that they exceed thy mercy, and the efficacy of thy blood; to say, that thou host power and grace enough to pardon and save only sinners of a lower order, while such as I lie out of thy reach? Preserve me from that blasphemous imagination! Preserve me from that unreasonable suspicion! Lord, thou canst do all things, neither is there any thought of mine heart withholden from thee. (Job 42:2) Thou art indeed, as thy word declares able to save unto the uttermost. (Heb. 7:25) And therefore, breaking through all the oppositions of shame and fear that would keep me from thee, I come and lie down as in the dust before thee. Thou knowest, O Lord! all my sins, and all my follies. (Psa. 69:5) I cannot, and I hope! may say, I would not disguise them before thee, or set myself to find out plausible excuses. Accuse me, Lord, as thou pleasest; and I will ingenuously plead guilty to all thine accusations. I will own myself as great a sinner as thou callest me; but I am still a sinner that comes unto thee for pardon. If I must die, it shall be submitting, and owning the justice of the fatal stroke. If I perish, it shall be laying hold, as it were, on the horns of the altar: laying myself down at thy foot-stool, though I have been such a rebel against thy throne. Many have received a full pardon there; have met with favor even beyond their hopes. And are all thy compassions, O blessed Jesus! exhausted? And wilt thou now begin to reject an humble creature who flies to thee for life, and pleads nothing but mercy and free grace? Have mercy upon me, O most gracious Redeemer! have mercy upon me, and let my life be precious in thy sight! (2 Kings 1:14) O do not resolve to send me down to that state of final misery and despair from which it was thy gracious purpose to deliver and save so many!

     "Spurn me not away, O Lord! from thy presence, nor be offended when I presume to lay hold on thy royal robe, and say that I cannot and will not let thee go till my suit is granted! (Gen. 32:26) Oh! remember that my eternity is at stake! Remember, O Lord, that all my hopes of obtaining eternal happiness, and avoiding everlasting, helpless, hopeless destruction, are anchored upon thee; they hang upon thy smiles, or drop at thy frown,. O have mercy upon me, for the sake of this immortal soul of mine! Or if not for the sake of mine alone, for the sake of many others, who may, on the one hand, be encouraged by thy mercy to we, or, on the other, may be greatly wounded and discouraged by my helpless despair! I beseech thee, O Lord, for thine own sake, and for the display of thy Father's rich and sovereign grace! I beseech thee by the blood thou didst shed on the cross! I beseech thee by the covenant of grace and peace, into which the Father did enter with thee for the salvation of believing and repenting sinners! save me, save me, O Lord, who earnestly desire to repent and believe! I am indeed a sinner, in whose final and everlasting destruction thy justice might be greatly glorified; but oh! if thou wilt pardon me, it will be a monument raised to the honor of thy grace and the efficacy of thy blood, in proportion to the degree in which the wretch, to whom thy mercy is extended, was mean and miserable without it. Speak, Lord, by thy blessed Spirit, and banish my fears! Look unto me with love and grace in thy countenance, and say to me, as in the days of thy flesh thou didst to many an humble supplicant, `Thy sins are forgiven thee, go in peace.'"

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XIII.

THE DOUBTING SOUL MORE PARTICULARLY ASSISTED IN ITS INQUIRIES AS TO THE SINCERITY OF ITS FAITH AND REPENTANCE.

1. Transient impressions liable to be mistaken for conversion, which would be a fatal error.--2. General scheme for self-examination.--3. Particular inquiries--what views there have been of sin?--4. What views there have been of Christ?--5. As to the need the soul has of him;--6. And its willingness to receive him with a due surrender of heart to his service.--7. Nothing short of this sufficient. The soul submitting to Divine examination the sincerity of its faith and repentance.

1. IN consequence of all the serious things which have been said in the former Chapters, I hope it will be no false presumption to imagine that some religious impressions may be made on hearts which had never felt them before; or may be revived where they have formerly grown cold and languid. Yet I am very sensible, and I desire that you may be so, how great danger there is of self-flattery on this important head, and how necessary it is to caution men against too hasty a conclusion that they are really converted, because they have felt some warm emotions on their minds, and have reformed the gross irregularities of their former conduct. A mistake here may be infinitely fatal; it may prove the occasion of that false peace which shall lead a man to bless himself in his own heart, and to conclude himself secure, while "all the threatenings and curses of God's law" are sounding in his ears, and lie indeed directly against him: (Deut. 19:19,20) while in the mean time he applies to himself a thousand promises in which he has no share; which may prove therefore like generous wines to a man in a high fever, or strong opiates to one in a lethargy. "The stony ground hearers received the word with joy," and a promising harvest seemed to be springing up; yet "it soon withered away," (Matt. 13:5,6) and no reaper filled his arms with it. Now, that this may not he the case with you, that all my labors and yours hitherto may not be lost, and that a vain dream of security and happiness may not plunge you deeper into misery and ruin, give me leave to lead you into a serious inquiry into your own heart, that so you may be better able to judge of your ease, and to distinguish between what is at most being only near the kingdom of heaven, and becoming indeed a member of it.

     2. Now this depends upon the sincerity of your faith in Christ, when faith is taken in the largest extent, as explained above: that is, as comprehending repentance, and that steady purpose of new and universal obedience, of which, wherever it is real, faith will assuredly be the vital principle. Therefore, to assist you in judging of your state, give me leave to ask you, or rather to entreat you to ask yourself, what views you have had, and now have, of sin and of Christ? and what your future purposes are with regard to your conduct in the remainder of life that may lie before you? I shall not reason largely upon the several particulars I suggest under these heads, but rather refer you to your own reading and observation, to judge how agreeable they are to the word of God, the great rule by which our characters must quickly be tried, and out eternal state unalterably determined.

     3. Inquire seriously, in the first place, "what views you have had of sin, and what sentiments you have felt in your soul with regard to it?" There was a time when it wore a flattering aspect, and made a fair, enchanting appearance, so that all your heart was charmed with it, and it was the very business of your life to practice it. But you have since been undeceived. You have felt it "bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder." (Prov. 23:32) You have beheld it with an abhorrence far greater than the delight which it ever gave you. So far it is well it is thus with every true penitent, and with some, I fear, who are not of that number. Let me therefore inquire farther, whence arose this abhorrence? Was it merely from a principle of self-love? Was it merely because you had been wounded by it? Was it merely because you had thereby brought condemnation and ruin upon your own soul? Was there no sense of its deformity, of its baseness, of its malignity, as committed against the blessed God, considered as a glorious, a bountiful, and a merciful Being? Were you never pierced by the apprehension of its vile ingratitude? And as for those purposes which have arisen in your heart against it, let me beseech you to reflect how they have been formed, and how they have hitherto been executed. Have they been universal? Have they been resolute? And yet, amidst all that resolution, have they been humble? When you have declared war with sin, was it with every sin? And is it an irreconcilable war which you determine, by divine grace, to push on till you have entirely conquered it, or die in the attempt? And are you accordingly active in your endeavors to subdue and destroy it? If so, what are "the fruits worthy of repentance which you bring forth?" (Luke 3:8) It does not, I hope, all flow away in floods of grief. Have you "ceased to do evil?" Are you "learning to do well?" (Isa. 1:16,17) Doth your reformation show that you repent of your sins? or do your renewed relapses into sin prove that you repent even of what you call your repentance? Have you an inward abhorrence of all sin, and an unfeigned zeal against it? And doth that produce a care to guard against the occasions of it, and temptations to it? Do you watch against the circumstances that have ensnared you? and do you particularly double your guard against "that sin which does most easily beset you?" (Heb. 12:1) Is that laid aside, that the Christian race may be run: laid aside with firm determination that you will return to it no more, that you hold no more parley with it, that you will never take another step toward it?

     4. Permit me also farther to inquire, "what your views of Christ have been? What think you of him, and your concern with him?" Have you been fully convinced that there must be a correspondence settled between him and your soul? And do you see and feel, that you are not only to pay him a kind of distant homage, and transient compliment, as a very wise, benevolent, and excellent person, for whose name and memory you have a reverence; but that, as he lives and reigns, as he is ever near you, and always observing you, so you must look to him, must approach him, must humbly transact business with him, and that business of the highest importance, on which your salvation depends?

     5. Yon have been brought to inquire, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the most high God? (Mic. 6:6) And once perhaps you were thinking of sacrifices which your own stores might have been sufficient to furnish out. Are you now convinced they will not suffice; and that you must have recourse to the Lamb which God has provided? Have you had a view of "Jesus as taking away the sin of the world?" (John 1:29) "as made a sin-offering for us, though he knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him?" (2 Cor. 5:21) Have you viewed him as perfectly righteous in himself; and, despairing of being justified by any righteousness of your own, have you "submitted to the righteousness of God?" (Rom. 10:3) Has your heart ever been brought to a deep conviction of this important truth, that if ever you are saved at all, it must be through Christ; that if ever God extends mercy to you at all, it must be for his sake; that if ever you are fixed in the temple of God above, you must stand there as an everlasting trophy of that victory which Christ has gained over the powers of hell, who would otherwise have triumphed over you?

     6. Our Lord says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved." (Isai. 45:22) He says, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me." (John 12:32) Have you looked to him as the only Savior, have you been drawn unto him by that sacred magnet, the attracting influence of his dying love? Do you know what it is to come to Christ, as a poor "weary and heavy laden sinner, that you may find rest?" (Matt. 11:28) Do you know what it is, in a spiritual sense, "to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man;" (John 6:53) that is, to look upon Christ crucified as the great support or your soul, and to feel a desire after bitterness as the appetite of nature after its necessary food? Have you known what it is cordially to surrender yourself to Christ, as a poor creature whom love has made his property? Have you committed your immortal soul to him, that he may purify and save it; that he may govern it by the dictates of his word and the influences of his Spirit; that be may use it for his glory; that he may appoint it to what exercises and discipline he pleases, while it dwells wells here in flesh; and that he may receive it at death, and fix it among those spirits, who with perpetual songs of praise surround his throne, and are his servants forever? Have you heartily consented to this? And do you, on this account of the matter, renew your content! Do you renew it deliberately and determinately, and feel your whole soul, as it were, saying Amen, while you read this? If this be the case, then I can, with great pleasure, give you, as it were, the right hand of fellowship, and salute and embrace you as a sincere disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ; as One who is delivered from the powers of darkness, and is "translated into the kingdom of the Son of God." (Col. 1:13) I can then salute you in the Lord, as one to whom, as a minister of Jesus, I am commissioned and charged to speak comfortably, and tell you not that I absolve you from your sins, for it is a small mall matter to be judged of man's judgment, but that the blessed God himself absolveth you: that you are one to whom he hath said in his Gospel, and is continually saying, "Your sins are forgiven you;" (Luke 7:48) therefore go in peace, and take the comfort of it.

     7. But if you are a stranger to these experiences, and to this temper which I have now described, the great work is yet undone: you are an impenitent and unbelieving sinner, and "the wrath of God abideth on you." (John 3:36) However you may have been awakened- and alarmed, whatever resolutions you may have formed for amending your life, how right soever your notions may be, how pure soever your forms of worship, how ardent soever your zeal, how severe soever your mortification, how humane soever your temper, how inoffensive soever your life may be, I can speak no comfort to you. Vain are all your religious hopes, if there has not been a cordial humiliation before the presence of God for all your sins; if there has not been this avowed war declared against every thing displeasing to God; if there has not been this sense of your need of Christ, and of your ruin without him; if there has not been this earnest application to him, this surrender of your soul into his hands by faith, this renunciation of yourself, that you might fix on Him the anchor of your hope: if there has not been this unreserved deification of yourself, to be at all times, and in an respects, the faithful servant of God through him; and if you do not with all this acknowledge, that you are an unprofitable servant, who have no other expectations of acceptance or of pardon but only through his righteousness and blood, and through the riches of divine grace in Him; I repeat it to you again, that all your hopes are vain, and you are "building on the sand." (Matt. 7:26) The house you have already raised must ho thrown down to the ground, and the foundation be removed and laid anew, or you, and all your hopes, will shortly be swept away with it, and buried under it in everlasting ruin.

The soul submitting to Divine Examination the Sincerity of its Repentance and Faith.

     Lord God! thou searchest all hearts. and triest the reins of the children of men! (Jer. 17:10) Search me, O Lord, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psa. 139:23,24) Doth not conscience, Lord! testify in thy presence, that my repentance and faith are such as have been described, or at least that it is my earnest prayer that they may be so? Come, therefore, O thou blessed Spirit! who art the author of all grace and consolation, and work this temper more fully in my soul. O represent sin to mine eyes in all its most odious colors, that I may feel a mortal and irreconcilable hatred to it! O represent the majesty and mercy of the blessed God in such a manner that my heart may be alarmed, and that it may be melted! Smite the rock, that the waters may flow: (Psa. 78:20) waters of genuine, undissembled, and filial repentance! Convince me, O thou blessed Spirit! of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment! (John 16:8) Show me that I have undone myself; but that my help is found in God alone, (Hos. 13:9) in God through Christ, in whom alone he will extend compassion and help to me! According to thy peculiar office, take of Christ and show it unto me. (John 16:15) Show me his power to save! Show me his willingness to exert that power I teach my faith to behold him as extended on the cross, with open arms, with a pierced, bleeding side; and so telling me, in the most forcible language, what room there is in his very heart for me! May I know what it is to have my whole heart subdued by love; so subdued as to be crucified with him; (Rom. 6:6) to he dead to sin and dead to the world, but alive unto God. through Jesus Christ. (Rom. 6:11) In his power and love may I confide! To him may I without any reserve commit my spirit! His image may I bear! His laws may I observe! His service may I pursue! And may I remain, through time and eternity, a monument of the efficacy or his Gospel, and a trophy of his victorious grace!

     "O blessed God! if there be any thing wanting towards constituting me a sincere Christian, discover it to me, and work it in me! Beat down, I beseech thee, every false and presumptuous hope, how costly soever that building may have been which it thus laid in ruins, and how proud soever I may have been of its vain ornaments! Let me know the worst of my case, be that knowledge edge ever so distressing; and if there be remaining danger, O let my heart be fully sensible of it, sensible while yet there is a remedy!

     "If there be any secret sin yet lurking in my soul, which I have not sincerely renounced, discover it to me, and rend it out of my heart, though it may have shot its roots ever so deep, and have wrapped them all around it, so that every nerve shall be pained by the separation! Tear it away, O Lord, by a hand graciously severe! And by degrees, yea, Lord, by speedy advances, go on, I beseech thee, to perfect what is still lacking in my faith. (l Thess. 3:10) Accomplish in me all the good pleasure of thy goodness. (2 Thess. 1:11) Enrich me, O Heavenly Father, with all the graces of thy Spirit; form me to the complete image of thy dear Son; and then, for his sake, come unto me, and manifest thy gracious presence in my soul, (John, 14:21,28) till it is ripened for that state of glory for which all these operations are intended to prepare it Amen."

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XIV.

A MORE PARTICULAR VIEW OF THE SEVERAL BRANCHES OF THE CHRISTIAN TEMPER, BY WHICH THE READER MAY BE FARTHER ASSISTED IN JUDGING WHAT HE IS, AND WHAT HE SHOULD ENDEAVOR TO BE.

1, 2. The importance of the case engages to a more particular survey what manner of spirit we are of.--3. Accordingly the Christian temper is described, by some general views of it, as a new and divine temper.--4. As resembling that of Christ.--5. And as engaging us to be spiritually minded, and to walk by faith.--6. A plan of the remainder.--7. In which the Christian temper is more particularly considered-with regard to the blessed God: as including fear, affection, and obedience.--8, 9. Faith and love to Christ.--10. Joy in Him.--11-13. And a proper temper towards the Holy Spirit, particularly as a spirit of adoption and of courage.--14. With regard to ourselves; as including preference of the soul to the body, humility, purity.--15. Temperance.--16. Contentment.--17. And Patience.--18. With regard to our fellow creatures; as including Love.--19. Meekness.--20. Peaceableness.--21. Mercy.--22. Truth.--23. And candor in judging.--24. General qualifications of each branch.--25. Such as Sincerity.--26. Constancy.--27. Tenderness.--28. Zeal.--29. And Prudence.--30. These things should frequently be recollected.--A review of all in a scriptural prayer.

1. WHEN I consider the infinite importance of eternity, I find it exceedingly difficult to satisfy myself in any thing which I can say to men, where their eternal interests are concerned. I have given you a view, I hope I may truly say, a just as well as a faithful view, of a truly Christian temper already. Yet, for your farther assistance, I would offer it to your consideration in various points of light, that you maybe assisted in judging of what you are and what you ought to be. And in this I aim, not only at your conviction, if you are yet a stranger to real religion, but at your farther edification, if, by the grace of God, you are by this time experimentally acquainted with it. Happy you will be, happy beyond expression, if, as you go on from one article to another, you can say, "This is my temper and character." Happy in no inconsiderable degree, if you can say, "This is what I desire, what I pray for, and what I pursue, in preference to every opposite view, though it be not what I have as yet attained."

     2. Search, then, and try "what manner of spirit you are of" (Luke 9:55) And may he that searcheth all hearts direct the inquiry, and enable you "so to judge yourself; that you may not be condemned of the Lord." (1 Cor. 11:31,32)

     3. Know in the general, "that, if you are a Christian indeed, you have been `renewed in the spirit of your mind,' (Eph. 4:23) so renewed as to be regenerated and born again." It is not enough to have assumed a new name, to have been brought under some new restraints, or to have made a partial change in some particulars of your conduct. The change must be great and universal. Inquire, then, whether you have entertained new apprehensions or things, have formed a practical judgment different from what you formerly did; whether the ends you propose, the affections which you feel working in your heart, and the course of action to which, by those affections, you are directed, be, on the whole, new or old. Again, "If you are a Christian indeed, you are a `partaker of a divine nature,' (2 Pet. 1:4) divine in its original, its tendency, and its resemblance." Inquire, therefore, whether God hath implanted a principle in your heart, which tends to him, and which makes you like him. Search your soul attentively, to see if you have really the image there of God's moral perfections, of his holiness and righteousness his goodness and fidelity; for "the new man is, after God, created in righteousness and true holiness," (Eph. 4:24) "and is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." (Col. 3:10)

     4. For your farther assistance, inquire "whether `the same mind be in you which was always in Christ.' (Phil. 2:5) Whether you bear the image of God's incarnate Son, the brightest and fairest resemblance of the Father which heaven or earth has ever beheld." The blessed Jesus designed himself to be a model for all his followers; and he is certainly a model most fit for our imitation: an example in our own nature and in circumstances adapted to general use: an example recommended to us at once by its spotless perfection, and by the endearing relations in which he stands to us, as our Master, our Friend, and our Head; as the person by whom our everlasting state is to be fixed, and in resemblance to whom our final happiness is to consist, if ever we are happy at all. Look then, into the life and temper of Christ, as described and illustrated in the Gospel, and search whether you can find any thing like it in your own. Have you any thing of his devotion, love, and resignation to God? Any thing of his humility, meekness, and benevolence to men? Any thing of his purity and wisdom, his contempt of the world, his patience, his fortitude, his zeal? And indeed all the other branches of the Christian temper, which do not imply previous guilt in the person by whom they are exercised, may be called in to illustrate and assist your inquiries under this head.

     5. Let me add, "If you are a Christian, you are in the main `spiritually-minded,' as knowing `that is life and peace;' whereas, `to be carnally-minded is death.'" (Rom. 8:6) Though you "live in the flesh, you will not war after it," (2 Cor. 10:3) you will not take your orders and your commands from it. You will indeed attend to its necessary interests as matter of duty; but it will still be with regard to another and a noble? interest, that of the rational and immortal spirit. Your thoughts, your affections, your pursuits, your choice, will be determined by a regard to things spiritual rather than carnal. In a word, "you will walk by faith, and not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7) Future, invisible, and in some degree incomprehensible objects, will take up your mind. Your faith will act on the being of God, his perfections, his providences his precepts, his threatenings, and his promises. It will act upon Christ, "whom having not seen," you will "love and honor." (1 Pet. 1:8) It will act on that unseen world, which it knows to be eternal, and therefore infinitely more worthy of your affectionate regard than any of "those things which are seen and are temporal." (2 Cor. 4:18)

     6. These are general views of the Christian temper on which I would entreat you to examine yourself; and now I would go on to lead you into a survey of the grand branches of it, as relating to God, our neighbor, and ourselves; and of those qualifications which must attend each of these branches; such as sincerity, constancy, tenderness, zeal and prudence. And I beg your diligent attention, while I lay before you a few hints with regard to each, by which you may judge the better, both of your state and your duty.

     7. Examine, then, I entreat you. "the temper of your heart with regard to the blessed God." Do you find there a reverential fear, and a supreme love and veneration for his incomparable excellencies, a desire after him as the highest good, and a cordial gratitude towards him as your supreme benefactor? Can you trust his care? Can you credit his testimony? Do you desire to pay an unreserved obedience to all that he commands, and an humble submission to all the disposals of his providence? Do you design his glory as your noblest end, and make it the great business of your life to approve yourself to him? Is it your governing care to imitate him, and to "serve him in spirit and in truth?" (John, 4:24)

     8. Faith in Christ I have already described at large, and therefore shall say nothing farther, either of that persuasion of his power and grace, which is the great foundation of it, or of that acceptance of Christ under all his characters, or that surrender of the soul into his hands, in which its peculiar and distinguishing nature consists.

     9. If this faith in Christ be sincere, "it will undoubtedly produce a love to him:" which will express itself in affectionate thoughts of him; in strict fidelity to him; in a careful observation of his charge; in a regard to his spirit, to his friends, and to his interests; in a reverence to the memorials of his dying love which he has instituted; and in an ardent desire after that heavenly world where he dwells, and where he will at length "have all his people to dwell with him." (John 17:2)

     10. I may add, agreeably to the word or God, "that thus believing in Christ and loving him, you will also rejoice in him:" in his glorious design, and in his complete fitness to accomplish it; in the promises of his word, and in the privileges of his people. It will be matter of joy to you, that such a Redeemer has appeared in this world of ours; and your joy for yourself will be proportionable to the degree of clearness with which you discern your interest in him, and relation to him.

     11. Let me farther lead you into some reflections on "the temper of your heart towards the blessed Spirit." If "we have not the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his. (Rom. 8:19) If we are not "led by the Spirit of God, we are not the children of God." (Rom. 8:14) You will then, if you are a real Christian, desire that you may "be filled with the Spirit;" (Eph. 5:18) that you may have every power of your soul subject to his authority; that his agency on your heart may be more constant, more operative, and more delightful. And to cherish these sacred influences, you will often have recourse to serious consideration and meditation: you will abstain from those sins which tend to grieve him; you will improve the tender seasons, in which he seems to breathe upon your soul; you will strive earnestly with God in prayer, that you may have him "shed on you still more abundantly through Jesus Christ;" (Tit. 3:6) and you will be desirous to fall in with the end of his mission, which was to glorify Christ, (John, 16:14) and to establish his kingdom. "You will desire his influences as the Spirit of adoption," to render your acts of worship free and affectionate, your obedience vigorous, your sorrow for sin overflowing and tender, your resignation meek, and your love ardent: in a word, to carry you through life and death with the temper of a child who delights in his father, and who longs for his more immediate presence.

     12. Once more, "if you are a Christian indeed, you will be desirous to obtain the spirit of courage." Amidst all that humility of soul to which you will be formed, you will wish to commence a hero in the cause of Christ, opposing, with a rigorous resolution, the strongest efforts of the powers of darkness, the inward corruptions of your own heart, and all the outward difficulties you may meet with in the way of your duty, while in the cause and in the strength or Christ you go on "conquering and to conquer."

     13. All these things may be considered as branches of godliness; of that godliness which is "profitable unto all things," and hath the "promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come." (1. Tim. 4:8)

     14. Let me now farther lay before you some branches of the Christian temper "which relate more immediately to ourselves." And here, if you are a Christian indeed, you will undoubtedly prefer the soul to the body, and things eternal to those that are temporal. Conscious of the dignity and value of your immortal part, you will come to a firm resolution to secure its happiness, whatever is to be resigned, whatever is to be endured in that view. If you are a real Christian, you will be so "clothed with humility." (1 Pet. 5:5) You will have a deep sense of your own imperfections, both natural and moral; of the short extent of your knowledge; of the uncertainty and weakness of your resolutions; and of your continual dependence upon God, and upon almost every thing about you. And especially will you be deeply sensible of your guilt; the remembrance of which will fill you with shame and confusion, even when you have some reason to hope it is forgiven. This will forbid all haughtiness and insolence of your behavior to your fellow-creatures. It will teach you, under afflictive providences, with all holy submission to bear the indignation of the Lord as those that know they "have sinned against him." (Mic. 7:9) Again, if you are a Christian indeed, "you will labor after purity of soul," and maintain a fixed abhorrence of all prohibited sensual indulgence. A recollection of past impurities will fill you with shame and grief, and you will endeavor for the future to guard your thoughts and desires, as well as your words and actions, and to abstain, not only from the commission of evil, but "from the" distant "appearance" and probable occasions "of it:" (1 Thess. 5:22) as conscious of the perfect holiness of that God with whom you converse, and of the "purifying nature of that hope," (1 John 3:3) which by his Gospel he hath taught you to entertain.

     15. With this is nearly allied "that amiable virtue of temperance" which will teach you to guard against such a use of meats and drinks as indisposes the body for the service of the soul; or such an indulgence in either, as will rob you of that precious jewel, your time, or occasion an expense beyond what your circumstances will admit, and beyond what will consist with what you owe to the cause of Christ, and those liberalities to the poor which your relation and theirs to God and each other will require. In short, you will guard against whatever has a tendency to increase a sensual disposition against whatever would alienate the soul from communion with God, and would diminish its zeal and activity in his service.

     16. The divine philosophy of the blessed Jesus will also teach you "a contented temper." It will moderate your desires of those worldly enjoyments after which many feel such an insatiable thirst, ever growing with indulgence and success. You will guard against an immoderate care about those things which would lead you into a forgetfulness of your heavenly inheritance. If Providence disappoint your undertakings, you will submit; if others be more prosperous you will not envy them, but rather will be thankful for what God is pleased to bestow upon them, as well as for what he gives you. No unlawful methods will be used to alter your present condition; and whatever it is, you will endeavor to make the best of it, remembering it is what infinite wisdom and goodness have appointed you, and that it is beyond all comparison better than you have deserved; yea, that the very deficiencies and inconveniences of it may conduce to the improvement of your future and complete happiness.

     17. With contentment, if you are a disciple of Christ, "you will join patience too," and "in patience will possess your soul." (Luke 21:19) You cannot indeed be quite insensible either of afflictions or injuries; but your mind will be calm and composed under them, and steady in the prosecution of proper duty, though afflictions press, and though your hopes, your dearest hopes and prospects be delayed. Patience will prevent hasty and rash conclusions, and fortify you against seeking irregular methods of relief; disposing you, in the mean time, till God shall be pleased to appear for you, to go on steadily in the way of your duty; "committing yourself to him in well-doing." (1 Pet. 4:19) You will also be careful that "patience may have its perfect work," (Jam. 1:4) and prevail in proportion to those circumstances which demand its peculiar exercise. For instance, when the successions of evil are long and various, so that "deep calls to deep," and "all God's waves and billows seem to be going over you," one after another; (Psa. 42:7) when God touches you in the most tender part; when the reasons of his conduct to you are quite unaccountable; when your natural spirits are weak and decayed; when unlawful methods of redress seem near and easy; still your reverence for the will of your heavenly Father will carry it against all, and keep you waiting quietly for deliverance in his own time and way.

     18. I have thus led you into a brief review of the Christian temper, with respect to God and ourselves: permit me now to add, "that the Gospel will teach you another set of very important lessons with respect to your fellow-creatures." They all are summed up in this, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;" (Rom. 13:9) and whatsoever thou wouldst (that is, whatsoever thou couldst, in an exchange of circumstances, fairly and reasonably desire) that others should do unto thee, do thou like-wise the same unto them." (Matt. 7:12) The religion of the blessed Jesus, when it triumphs in your soul, will conquer the predominancy of an irregular self-love, and will teach you candidly and tenderly to look upon your neighbor as another self. As you are sensible of your own rights, you will be sensible of his: as you support your own character you will support his. You will desire his welfare, and be ready to relieve his necessity, as you would have your own consulted by another. You will put the kindest construction upon his most dubious words and actions. You will take pleasure in his happiness; you will feel his distress, in some measure, as your own. And most happy will you be, when this obvious rule is familiar to your mind, when this golden law is written upon your heart, and when it is habitually and impartially consulted by you upon every occasion, whether great or small.

     19. The Gospel will also teach you "to put on meekness," (Col. 3:12) not only with respect to God, submitting to the authority of his word, and the disposal of his providence, as was urged before; but also with regard to your brethren of mankind. Its gentle instructions will form you to calmness of temper under injuries and provocations, so that you may not be angry without, or beyond just cause. It will engage you to guard your words, lest you provoke and exasperate those you should rather study by love to gain, and by tenderness to heal. Meekness will render you slow in using any rough and violent methods, if they can by any means be lawfully avoided; and ready to admit, and even to propose a reconciliation, after they have been entered into, if there may yet be hope of succeeding. So far as this branch of the Christian temper prevails in your heart, you will take care to avoid every thing which might give unnecessary offence to others; you will behave you yourself in a modest manner, according to your station; and it will work, both with regard to superiors and inferiors, teaching you duly to honor the one, and not to overbear or oppress, to grieve or insult the other. And in religion itself; it will restrain all immoderate sallies and harsh censure; and will command down "that wrath of man, which, instead of working, so often opposes the righteousness of God," (Jam. 1:20) and shames and wounds that good badge, in which it is boisterously and furiously engaged.

     20. With this is naturally connected "a peaceful disposition." If you are a Christian indeed, you will have such a value and esteem for peace, as to endeavor to obtain, and to preserve it, "as much as lieth in you," (Rom. 12:18) as much as you fairly and honorably can. This will have such an influence upon your conduct, as to make you not only cautious of giving offence, and slow in taking it, but earnestly desirous to regain peace as soon as may be, when it is in any measure broken, that the wound may be healed while it is green, and before it begins to rankle and fester. And more especially, this disposition will engage you "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," (Eph. 4:3) "with all that in every very place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," (1 Cor. 1:2) whom if you truly love, you will also love all those whom you have reason to believe to he his disciples and servants.

     21. If you be yourselves indeed of that number, "you will also put on bowels of mercy." (Col. 3:12) the mercies of God, and those of the blessed Redeemer, will work on your heart, to mould it to sentiments of compassion and generosity, so that you will feel the wants and sorrows of others; you will desire to relieve their necessities; and as you have an opportunity, you will do good, both to their bodies and their souls; expressing your kind affections in suitable actions, which may both evidence their sincerity and render them effectual

     22. As a Christian, "you will also maintain truth inviolable," not only in your solemn testimonies, when confirmed by an oath, but likewise in common conversation. You will remember, too, that your promises bring an obligation upon you, which you are by no means at liberty to break through. On the whole, you will be careful to keep a strict correspondence between your words and your actions, in such a manner as becomes a servant of the God of truth.

     23. Once more, as, amidst the strictest care to observe all the divine precepts, you will still find many imperfections on account of which you will be obliged to pray, that "God would not enter into strict judgment with you," as well knowing "that in his sight you cannot be justified," (Psa. 143:2) you will be careful not to judge others "in such a manner as should awaken the severity of `his judgment against yourself.'" (Matt. 7:1,2) You will not, therefore. judge them impertinently, when you have nothing to do with their actions; nor rashly, without inquiring into circumstances; nor partially, without weighing them attentively and fairly; nor uncharitably. putting the worst construction upon things in their own nature dubious; deciding upon intentions as evil, farther than they certainly appear to be so; pronouncing on the state of men, or on the whole of their character, from any particular action, and involving the innocent with the guilty. There is a moderation contrary to all these extremes, which the Gospel recommends; and if you receive the Gospel in good earnest into your heart, it will lay the ax to the root of such evils as these.

     24. Having thus briefly illustrated the principal branches of the Christian temper and character, I shall conclude the representation. with reminding you of "some general qualifications which must be mingled with all, and give a tincture to each of them; such as sincerity, constancy, tenderness, zeal, and prudence."

     25. Always remember, that "sincerity is the very soul of true religion." A single intention to please God, and to approve ourselves to him, must animate and govern all that we do in it. Under the influence of this principle you will impartially inquire into every intimation of duty, and apply to the practice of it so far as it is known to you. Your heart will be engaged in all you do. Your conduct, in private and in secret, will be agreeable to your most public behavior. A sense of the Divine authority will teach you "to esteem all God's precepts concerning all things to be right, and to hate every false way." (Psa. 119:128)

     26. Thus are you, "in simplicity and godly sincerity to have your conversation in the world." (2 Cor. 1:12) And "you are also to charge it upon your soul `to be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.'" (1 Cor. 15:58) There must not only be some sudden fits and starts of devotion, or of something which looks like it, but religion must be an habitual and permanent thing. There must be a purpose to adhere to it at all times. It must be made the stated and ordinary business of life. Deliberate and presumptuons sins must be carefully avoided; a guard must be maintained against the common infirmities of life; and falls of one kind or of another must be matter of proportionable humiliation before God, and must occasion renewed resolution for his service. And thus you are to go on to the end of your life, not discouraged by the length and difficulty of the way, nor allured on the one hand, or terrified on the other, by all the various temptations which may surround and assault you. Your soul must be fixed on this basis, and you are still to behave yourself as one who knows he serves an unchangeable God, and who expects from him "a kingdom which cannot be moved." (Heb. 12:28)

     27. Again, so far as the Gospel prevails in your heart, "your spirit will be tender, and the stone will be transformed into flesh." You will desire that your apprehensions of divine things may be quick, your affections ready to take proper impressions, your conscience always easily touched, and, on the whole, your resolutions pliant to the divine authority, and cordially willing to be, and to do whatever God shall appoint. You will have a tender regard to the word of God, a tender caution against sin, a tender guard against the snares of prosperity, a tender submission to God's afflicting hand: in a word, you will be tender wherever the divine honor is concerned; and careful, neither to do anything yourself; nor to allow any thing in another, so far as you can influence, by which God should be offended, or religion reproached.

     28. Nay, more than all this, you will, so far as true Christianity governs in your mind, "exert a holy zeal in the service of your Redeemer and your Father." You will be "zealously affected in every good thing," (Gal. 4:18) in proportion to its apprehended goodness and importance. You will be zealous, especially, to correct what is irregular in yourself; and to act to the utmost of your ability for the cause of God. Nor will you be able to look with an indifferent eye on the conduct of others in this view; but, so far as charity, meekness, aid prudence will admit, you will testify your disapprobation of every thing in it which is dishonorable to God and injurious to men. And you will labor, not only to reclaim men from such courses, but to engage them to religion, and quicken them in it.

     29. And once more, you will desire "to use the prudence which God bath given you," in judging what is, in present circumstances, your duty to God, your neighbor, and yourself; what will be, on the whole, the most acceptable manner of discharging it, and how far it may be most advantageously pursued; as remembering that he is indeed the wisest and the happiest man, who, by constant attention of thought, discovers the greatest opportunities of doing good, and with ardent and animated resolution breaks through every opposition, that he may improve those opportunities.

     30. This is such a view of the Christian temper as could conveniently be thrown within such narrow limits; and I hope it may assist many in the great and important work of self-examination. Let your own conscience answer, how far you have already attained it, and how far you desire it; and let the principal topics here touched upon be fixed in your memory and in your heart, that you may be mentioning them before God in your daily addresses to the throne of grace, in order to receive from him all necessary assistance for bringing them into practice.

A Prayer, chiefly in Scripture Language, in which the several Branches of the Christian temper are more briefly enumerated in the order laid down above.

     "Blessed God, I humbly adore thee as the great Father of lights, and the Giver of every good and every perfect gift. (Jam. 1:17) From thee, therefore, I seek every blessing, and especially those which may lead me to thyself, and prepare me for the eternal enjoyment of thee. I adore thee as the God who searches the hearts and tries the reins of the children of men. (Jer. 17:10) Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psa. 139:23,24) May I know what manner of spirit I am of; (Luke 9:55) and be preserved from mistaking, where the error might be infinitely fatal!

     "May I, O Lord, be renewed in the spirit of my mind. (Eph. 4:24) A new heart do thou give me, and a new spirit do thou put within me. (Ezek. 34:26) Make me partaker of divine nature; (2 Pet. 1:4) and as he who hath called me is holy, may I be holy in all manner of conversation. (1 Pet. 1:15) May the same mind be in me which was also in Christ Jesus; (Phil. 2:5) may I so walk even as he walked. (1 John 2:6) Deliver me from being carnally-minded, which is death; and make me spiritually-minded, since that is life and peace. (Rom. 8:6) And may I, while I pass through this world of sense, walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7) and be strong in faith, giving glory to God. (Rom. 4:20)

     "May thy grace, O Lord, which hath appeared unto all men, and appeared to me with such glorious evidence and lustre, effectually teach me to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly. (Tit. 2:11,12) Work in my heart that godliness which is profitable unto all things; (1 Tim. 4:8) and teach me by the influence of thy blessed Spirit, to love thee, the Lord my God, with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and with all my strength. (Mark 12:30) May I yield myself unto thee, as alive from the dead, (Rom. 6:13) and present my body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable in thy sight, which is my most reasonable service! (Rom. 12:1) May I entertain the most faithful and affectionate regard to the blessed Jesus, thine incarnate Son, the brightness of thy glory, and the express image of thy person. (Heb. 1:3) Though I have not seen him, may I love him; and in him, though now I see him not, yet believing, may I rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, (1 Pet. 1:8) and may the life which I live in the flesh be daily by the faith of the Son of God. (Gal. 2:20) May I be filled with the Spirit, (Eph. 5:18) and may I be led by it; (Rom. 8:14) and so may it be evident to others, and especially to my own soul, that I am a child of God, and an heir of glory. May I not receive the spirit of bondage unto fear, but the spirit of adoption, whereby I may be enabled to cry, Abba, Father. (Rom. 8:15) May he work in me, as the spirit of love, and of power, and of a sound mind, (2 Tim. 1:17) that so I may add to my faith virtue. (2 Pet. 1:5) May I be strong, and very courageous. (Josh. 1:7) and quit myself like a man, (1 Cor. 14:13) and like a Christian, in the work to which I am called, and in that warfare which I had in view when I listed under the banner of the great Captain of my salvation.

     "Teach me, O Lord, seriously to consider the nature of my own soul, and to set a suitable value upon it. May I labor, not only or chiefly, for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth to eternal life. (John, 6:27) May I humble myself under thy mighty hand, and be clothed with humility, (1 Pet. 5:5,6) decked with the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price. (1 Pet. 3:4) May I be pure in heart, that I may see God, (Matt. 5:8) mortifying my members which are on the earth, (Col. 3:5) so that if a right eye offend me, I may pluck it out, and if a right hand offend me, I may cut it off. (Matt. 5:29,30) May I be temperate in all things, (1 Cor. 9:25) content with such things as I have, (Heb. 13:5) and instructed to be so in whatever state I am. (Phil. 4:11) May patience also have its perfect work in me, that I may be in that respect complete, and wanting nothing. (Jam. 1:4)

     "Form me, O Lord, I beseech thee, to a proper temper toward my fellow-creatures! May I love my neighbor as myself, (Gal. 5:14) and whatsoever I would that others should do unto me, may I also do the same unto them. (Matt. 7:12) May I put on meekness under the greatest injuries and provocations, (Col. 3:12) and, if it be possible, as much as lieth in me, may I live peaceably with all men. (Rom. 12:18) May I be merciful, as my Father in heaven is merciful. (Luke 6:36) May I speak the truth from my heart; (Psa. 15:2) and may I speak it in love, (Eph. 4:15) guarding against every instance of a censorious and malignant disposition; and taking care not to judge severely, as I would not be judged with the severity which thou, Lord, knowest, and which mine own conscience knows, I should not be able to support.

     "I entreat thee, O Lord, to work in me all those qualifications of the Christian temper which may render it peculiarly acceptable to thee, and may prove ornamental to my profession in the world. Renew, I beseech thee, a right spirit within me, (Psa. 51:10) make me an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no allowed guile. (John 1:47) And while I feast on Christ, as my passover sacrificed for me, may I keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:7,8) Make me, I beseech thee, O thou Almighty and unchangeable God! steadfast and immovable, always abounding in thy work, as knowing that my labor in the Lord shall not be finally in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58) May my heart be tender, (2 Kin. 17:19) easily impressed with thy word and providence, touched with an affectionate concern for thy glory, and sensible of every impulse of thy Spirit. May I be zealous for my God, (Num. 25:13) with a zeal according to knowledge and charity, (1 Cor. 14:14) and teach me in thy service to join the wisdom of the serpent with the boldness of the lion and the innocence of the dove. (Matt. 10:16) Thus render me, by thy grace, a shining image of my dear Redeemer; and at length bring me to wear the bright resemblance of his holiness and his glory, in that world where he dwells; that I may ascribe everlasting honors to him, and to thee, O thou Father of mercies, whose invaluable gift he is, and to thine Holy Spirit, through whose gracious influence, I would humbly hope, I may call thee my Father, and Jesus my Savior! Amen."

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XV.

THE READER REMINDED HOW MUCH HE NEEDS THE ASSISTANCE OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD TO FORM HIM TO THE TEMPER DESCRIBED ABOVE, AND WHAT ENCOURAGEMENT HE HAS TO EXPECT IT.

1. Forward resolutions may prove ineffectual.--2. Yet religion is not to be given up in despair, but Divine grace to be sought.--3. A general view of its reality and necessity, from reason.--4. And Scripture.--5. The spirit to be sought as the spirit of Christ.--6. And in that view the great strength of the soul.--7. The encouragement there is to hope for the communication of it.--8. A concluding exhortation to pray for it. And an humble address to God pursuant to that exhortation.

I HAVE now laid before you a plan of that temper and character which the Gospel requires, and which, if you are a true Christian, you will desire and pursue. Surely there is, in the very description of it, something which must powerfully strike every mind which has any taste for what is truly beautiful and excellent. And I question not, but you, my dear render, will feel some impression of it upon your heart. You will immediately form some lively purpose of endeavoring after it; and perhaps you may imagine, you shall certainly and quickly attain to it. You see how reasonable it is, and what desirable consequences necessarily attend it, and the aspect which it bears on your present enjoyment and your future happiness; and therefore are determined you will act accordingly. But give me leave seriously to remind you how many there have been, (would to God that several such instances had not happened within the compass of my own personal observation!) whose goodness hath been "like a morning cloud and the early dew," which soon "passeth away." (Hos. 6:4) There is not room indeed absolutely to apply the words of Joshua, taken in the most rigorous sense, when he said to Israel, that he might humble their too hasty and sanguine resolutions, "You cannot serve the Lord." (Josh. 24:12) But I will venture to say, you cannot easily do it. Alas! you know not the difficulties you have to break through; you know not the temptations which Satan will throw in your way; you know not how importunate your vain and sinful companions will be, to draw you back into the snare you may attempt to break; and, above all, you know not the subtle artifices which your own corruptions will practice upon you in order to recover their dominion over you. You think the views you now have of things will be lasting, because the principles and objects to which they refer are so: but perhaps tomorrow may undeceive you, or rather deceive you anew: tomorrow may present some trifle in a new dress, which shall amuse you into a forgetfulness of all this. Nay, perhaps before you lie down on your bed, the impressions you now feel may wear off. The corrupt desires of your own heart, now perhaps a little charmed down, and lying as if they were dead, may spring up again with new violence, as if they had slept only to recruit their vigor; and if you are not supported by a better strength than your own, this struggle for liberty will only make your future chains the heavier, the more shameful, and the more fatal.

     2. What then is to be done? Is the convinced sinner to lie down in despair? to say, "I am a helpless captive, and by exerting myself with violence, may break my limbs sooner than my bonds, and increase the evil I would remove?" God forbid! You cannot, I am persuaded, be so little acquainted with Christianity, as not to know "that the doctrine of divine assistance bears a very considerable part in it." You have often, I doubt not, read of "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, as making us free from the law of sin and death," (Rom. 8:2) and have been told, "that through the Spirit we mortify the deeds of the body." (Rom. 8:13) You have read of "doing all things through Christ, who strengtheneth us," (Phil. 4:15) whose grace "is sufficient for us," and whose "strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9) Permit me, therefore, flow to call your attention to this, as a truth of the clearest evidence, and of the utmost importance.

     3. Reason, indeed, as well as the whole tenor of Scripture, agrees with this, The whole created world has a necessary dependence on God: from him ever, the knowledge of "natural things" is derived, (Psa. 94:10) and "skill in them is to be ascribed to him." (Exod. 31:3-6) Much more loudly does so great and excellent a work, as the new-forming the human mind, bespeak its divine Author. When you consider how various the branches of the Christian temper are, and how contrary many of them also are to that temper, which hath prevailed in your heart, and governed your life in time past, you must really see divine influences as necessary to produce and nourish them, as the influences of the sun and rain are to call up the variety of plants and flowers, and grains and fruits, by which the earth is adorned, and our life supported. You will be yet more sensible of this, if you reflect on the violent opposition which this happy work must expect to meet with; of which I shall presently warn you more largely, and which if you have not already experienced, it must be because you have but very lately begun to think of religion.

     4. Accordingly, if you give yourself leave to consult Scripture on this head, (and if you would live like a Christian, you must be consulting it every day, and forming your notions and actions by it) you will see that the whole tenor of it teaches that dependence upon God which I am now recommending. You will particularly see, that the production of religion in the soul is matter of divine promise; that when it has been effected, Scripture ascribes it to a divine agency; and that the increase of grace and piety in the heart of those who are truly regenerate, is also spoken of as the word of God, who begins and "carries it on until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6)

     5. Inconsequence of all these views, lay it down to yourself as a most certain principle, that no attempt in religion is to be made in your own strength. If you forget this, and God purposes finally to save you, he will humble you by repeated disappointments, till he teach you better. You will be ashamed of one scheme and effort, and of another, till you settle upon the true basis. He will also probably show you, not only in the general, that your strength is to be derived from heaven, but particularly that it is the office of the blessed Spirit to purify the heart, and to invigorate holy resolutions; and also that, in all these operations, he is to be considered as the Spirit of Christ, working under his direction, and as a vital communication from him under the character of the great Head of the Church, the grand Treasurer and Dispenser of these holy and beneficial influences. On which account it is called "the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ," (Phil. 1:19) who is "exalted at the right hand" of the Father, "to give repentance and remission of sins," (Acts 5:31) "in whose grace alone we can be strong," (2 Tim. 2:1) and "of whose fullness we receive even grace for grace." (John 1:16)

     6. Resolve, therefore, strenuously for the service of God, and for the care of your soul: but "resolve modestly and humbly." Even "the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men utterly fall; but they who wait on the Lord" are the persons who "renew their strength." (Isai. 40:30,31) When a soul is almost afraid to declare, in the presence of the Lord, that it will not do this or that, which has formerly offended him; when it is afraid absolutely to promise that it will perform this or that duty with vigor and constancy, but only expresses its humble and earnest desire that it may by grace be enabled to avoid the one or pursue the other; then, so far as my observation and experience have reached, it is in the best way to learn the happy art of conquering temptation, and of discharging duty.

     7. On the other hand, let not your dependence upon this Spirit, and your sense of your own weakness and insufficiency for any thing spiritually good, without his continual aid, discourage you from devoting yourself to God, and engaging in a religious life, considering "what abundant reason you have to hope that these gracious influences will be communicated to you." The light of nature, at the same time that it teaches the need we have of help from God in a virtuous course, may lead us to conclude that so benevolent a Being, who bestows on the most unworthy and careless part of mankind so many blessings, will take a peculiar pleasure in communicating to such as humbly ask them, those gracious assistances which may form their deathless souls into his own resemblance, and fit them for that happiness to which their rational nature is suited, and for which it was in its first constitution intended. The word of God will much more abundantly confirm such a hope. You there hear divine wisdom crying even to those who bad long trifled with her instructions, "Turn ye at my reproof, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you" (Prov 1:23) You hear the apostle saying, "Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in every time of need." (Heb. 4:16) Yea, and you there hear our Lord himself arguing in this sweet and convincing manner: "If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit unto them that ask him?" (Luke 11:13) This gift and promise of the Spirit was given unto Christ when he ascended up on high, in trust for all his true disciples. God hath "shed it abroad abundantly upon us in him." (Tit. 3:6) And I may add, that the very desire you feel after the farther communication of the Spirit, is the result of the fruits of it already given; so that you may, with peculiar propriety, interpret it as a special call "to open your mouth wide, that he may fill it." (Psa. 81:10) You thirst, and therefore you may cheerfully plead, that Jesus has "invited you to come unto him and drink;" with a promise not only that you shall drink if you come unto him, but also that "out of your belly shall flow," as it were, "rivers of living water," for the edification and refreshment of others. (John, 7:37,38)

     8. Go forth, therefore, with humble cheerfulness, to the prosecution of all the duties of the Christian life. Go and prosper "in the strength of the Lord, making mention of his righteousness, and of his only." (Psa. 71:16) And as a token of farther communication, may your heart be quickened to the most earnest desire after the blessings I have been now recommending to your pursuit!" May you be stirred up to pour out your soul before God in such holy breathings as these! and may they he your daily language in his gracious presence!

An humble Supplication for the Influences of Divine Grace, to form and strengthen Religion in the Soul.

     "Blessed God! I sincerely acknowledge before thee my own weakness and insufficiency for any thing that is spiritually good. I have experienced it a thousand times; and yet my foolish heart would again `trust itself,' (Prov. 28:26) and form resolutions in its won strength. But let this be the first fruits of thy gracious influence upon it, to bring it to an humble distrust of itself, and to a repose on thee!

     "Abundantly do I rejoice, O Lord, in the kind assurances which thou givest me of thy readiness to bestow libera1ly and richly so great a benefit. I do therefore, according to thy condescending invitation, come with boldness to the throne of grace, that I may find grace to help in every time of need. (Heb. 4:16) I mean not, O Lord God, to turn thy grace into wantonness or perverseness (Jude, ver. 4) or to make my weakness an excuse for negligence and sloth. I confess that thou hast already given me more strength than I have used; and I charge it upon myself, and not on thee, that I have not long since received still more abundant supplies. I desire for the future to be found diligent in the use of all appointed means; in the neglect of which I well know that petitions like these would be a profane mockery, and might much more probably provoke thee to take away what I have, than prevail upon thee to impart more. But firmly resolving to exert myself to the utmost, I earnestly entreat the communication of thy grace, that I may be enabled to fulfil that resolution.

     "Be surety, O Lord! unto thy servant for good. (Psa. 119:122) Be pleased to shed abroad thy sanctifying influences on my soul, to form me for every duty thou requirest. Implant, I beseech thee; every grace and virtue deep in my heart, and maintain the happy temper in the midst of those assaults from within and from without, to which I am continually liable while I am still in this world and carry about with me so many infirmities. Fill my breast, I beseech thee, with good affections towards thee, my God, and towards my fellow-creatures. Remind me always of thy presence, and may I remember that every secret sentiment of my soul is open to thee. May I therefore guard against the first risings of sin, and the first approaches to it; and that Satan may not find room for his evil suggestions, I earnestly beg that thou, Lord, wouldst fill my heart with thine Holy Spirit, and take up thy residence there. Dwell in me, and walk with me, (2 Cor 6:16) and let my body be the temple of the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. 6:19)

     "May I be so joined to Christ Jesus my Lord, as to be one spirit with him, (1 Cor. 6:17) and feel His invigorating influences continually bearing me on, superior to every temptation, and to every corruption; that while the youths shall faint and he weary, and the young men utterly fall; I may so wait upon the Lord as to renew my strength, (Isai. 40:30,31) and may go on from one degree of faith, and love, and zeal, and holiness, to another, till I appear perfect before thee in Zion; (Psa. 84:7) to drink in immortal vigor and joy from thee, as the everlasting fountain of both, through Jesus Christ my Lord, in whom I have righteousness and strength, (Isai. 45:24) and to whom I desire ever to ascribe the praise of all my improvements in both. Amen."

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XVI.

THE CHRISTIAN CONVERT WARNED OF, AND ANIMATED AGAINST THOSE DISCOURAGEMENTS WHICH HE MUST EXPECT TO MEET WHEN ENTERING ON A RELIGIOUS COURSE.

1. Christ has instructed his disciples to expect opposition and difficulties in the way to heaven.--2. Therefore a more particular view of them is taken, as arising-from the remainder of indwelling sin.--3. From the world, and especially from former sinful companions.--4. From the temptations and suggest ions of Satan.--5, 6. The Christian is animated and encouraged, by various considerations, to oppose them; particularly by the presence of God; the aids of Christ; the example of others, who, though feeble, have conquered; and the crown of glory to be expected.--7. Therefore, though apostacy be infinitely fatal, the Christian may press on cheerfully. Accordingly the soul, alarmed by these view; is represented as committing itself to God, in the prayer which concludes the Chapter.

1. WITH the utmost propriety has our Divine Master required us "to strive to enter in at the strait gate," (Luke 13:23) thereby intimating, not only that the passage is narrow, but that it is beset with enemies; beset on the right hand and on the left with enemies cunning and formidable. And be assured, O reader! that whatever your circumstances in life are, you must meet and: encounter them. It will therefore be your prudence to survey them attentively in your own reflections, that you may see what you are to expect; and may consider in what armor it is necessary you shall be clothed, and with what weapons you must be furnished to manage the combat. You have often heard them marshalled, as it were, under three great leaders, the flesh, the world, and the devil; and; according to this distribution, I would call you to consider the forces of each, as setting themselves in array against you. O that you may be excited "to take to yourself the whole armor of God," (Eph. 6:13) and to "acquit yourself like a man," and a Christian! (1 Cor. 16:13)

     2. Let your conscience answer, whether do you not carry about with you a corrupt and degenerate nature? You will, I doubt not, feel its effects. You will feel, in the language of the apostle, who speaks of it as the case of Christians themselves, "the flesh lusting against the spirit, so that you will not be able," in all instances, "to do the things that you would." (Gal. 5:17) You brought irregular propensities into the world along with you; and you have so often indulged those sinful inclinations, that you have greatly increased their strength; and you will find, in consequence of it, that these habits cannot be broken through without great difficulty. You will, no doubt, often recollect the strong figures in which the prophet describes a case like yours; and you will own that it is justly represented by that "of an Ethiopian changing his skin, and the leopard his spots." (Jer. 13:23) It is indeed possible, that, at first, you may find such an edge and eagerness upon your spirits, as may lead you to imagine that all opposition will immediately fall before you. But, alas! I fear that in a little time these enemies, which seemed to be slain at your feet, will revive, and recover their weapons, and renew the assault in one form or another. And perhaps your most painful combats may be with such as you had thought most easy to be vanquished; and your greatest danger may arise from some of those enemies from whom you apprehended the least, particularly from pride and from indolence of spirit; from a secret alienation or heart from God, and from an indisposition for conversing with him, through an immoderate attachment to "things seen and temporal," which may be oftentimes exceedingly dangerous to your salvation, though perhaps they be not absolutely and universally prohibited. In a thousand of these instances you must learn to deny yourself, or you "cannot be Christ's disciple." (Matt. 16:24)

     3. You must also lay your account to find great difficulties from the world, from its manners, customs, and examples. The things of the world will hinder you one way, and the men of the world another. Perhaps you may meet with much less assistance in religion than you are now ready to expect from good men. The present generation of them is generally so cautious to avoid every thing that looks like ostentation, and there seems something so insupportably dreadful in the charge of enthusiasm, that you will find most of your Christian brethren studying to conceal their virtue and their piety, much more than others study to conceal their vices and their profaneness. But while, unless your situation be singularly happy, you meet with very little aid one way, you will, no doubt, find great opposition another. The enemies of religion will be bold and active in their assaults, while many any or its friends seem unconcerned; and one sinner will probably exert himself more to corrupt you, than ten Christians to secure and save you. They who have been once your companions in sin, will try a thousand artful methods to allure you back again to their forsaken society: some of them perhaps with an appearance of tender fondness, and many more by the almost irresistible art of ridicule: that boasted test of right and wrong, as it has been wantonly called, will be tried upon you, perhaps without any regard to decency, or even to common humanity. You will be derided and insulted. by those whose esteem-and affection you naturally desire; and may find much more proprietary than you imagine, in that expression of the apostle, "the trial of cruel mockings," (Heb. 9:36) which some fear more than either sword or flames. This persecution of the tongue you must expect to go through, and perhaps may be branded as a lunatic, for no other cause than that you now begin to exercise your reason to purpose, and will not join with those that are destroying their own souls in their wild career of folly and madness.

     4. And it is not at all improbable, that in the meantime Satan may be doing his utmost to discourage and distress you. He will, no doubt, raise in your imagination the most tempting idea of the gratifications, the indulgences, and the companions you are obliged to forsake; and give you the most discouraging and terrifying view of the difficulties, severities, and dangers, which are, as he will persuade you, inseparable from religion. He will not fail to represent God himself, the fountain of goodness and happiness, as a hard Master, whom it is impossible to please. He will perhaps fill you with the most distressful fears, and with cruel and insolent malice, glory over you as his slave, when he knows you are the Lord's freeman. At one time he will study, by his vile suggestions, to interrupt you in your duties, as if they gave him an additional power over you. At another time he will endeavor to weary you of your devotion, by influencing you to prolong it to an immoderate and tedious length, lest his power should be exerted upon you when it ceases. In short, this practiced deceiver has artifices which it would require whole volumes to display, with particular cautions against each. And he will follow you with malicious arts and pursuits to the very end of your pilgrimage, and will leave no method unattempted which may be likely to weaken your hands and to sadden your heart, that if through the gracious interposition of God, he cannot prevent your final happiness, he may at least impair your peace and your usefulness as you are passing to it.

     5. This is what the people of God feel, and what you will feel in some degree or other, if you have your lot and portion among them. But, after all, be not discouraged: Christ is the "Captain of your salvation." (Heb. 2:10) It is delightful to consider him under this view. When we take a survey of these host of enemies, we may lift up our head amidst them all, and say, "More and greater is he that is with us, than all those that are against us." (2 Kings 6:16) "Trust in the Lord, and you will he like Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever." (Psa. 125:1) When your enemies press upon you, remember you are to "fight in the presence of God." (Zech. 10:5) Endeavor, therefore, to act a gallant and a resolute part; endeavor to "resist them steadfast in the faith." (1 Pet. 5:9) Remember, "He can give power to the faint, and increase strength to them that have no might." (Isai. 40:29) He hath done it in ten thousand instances already, and he will do it in ten thousand more. How many striplings have conquered their gigantic foes in all their most formidable armor, when they have gone forth against them; though but as it were "with a staff and a sling, in the name of the Lord God of Israel!" (1 Sam. 17:40-45) How many women and children have trodden down the force of the enemy, "and out of weakness have been made strong!" (Heb. 11:34)

     6. Amidst all the opposition of earth and hell, look upward and look forward, and you will feel your heart animated by the view. Your General is near; he is near to aid you, he is near to reward you. When you feel the temptation press the hardest, think of him who endured even the cross itself for your rescue. View the fortitude of your Divine Leader, and endeavor to march on in his steps. Hearken to his voice, for he proclaims it aloud, "Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me." (Rev. 22:12) "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." (Rev. 2:10) And, oh! how bright will it shine! and how long will its lustre last! When the gems that adorn the crowns of monarchs, and pass (instructive thought!) from one royal head to another through succeeding centuries, are melted down in the last flame, it is "a crown of glory which fadeth not away." (1 Pet. 5.4)

     7. It is indeed true, "that such as turn aside to crooked paths" will be "led forth with the workers of iniquity," to that terrible execution which divine justice is preparing for them, (Psa. 125:5) and it would have been "better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after having known it, to turn aside from the holy commandment." (2 Pet 2:21) But I would, by divine grace, "hope better things of you." (Heb. 6:9) And I make it my hearty prayer for you, my reader, that you may be "kept by the mighty power of God," kept, as in a garrison on all sides fortified in the securest manner, "through faith, unto salvation."

The Soul, alarmed by a sense of these difficulties, committing itself to Divine Protection.

     "Blessed God! it is to thine Almighty power that I flee. Behold me surrounded with difficulties and dangers, and stretch out thine omnipotent arm to save me, `O thou that savest by thy right hand them that put their trust in thee, from those that rise up against them.' (Psa. 17:7) this day do I solemnly put myself under thy protection: exert thy power in my favor, and permit me `to make the shadow of thy wings my refuge.' (Psa. 57:1) Let `thy grace be sufficient for me,' and `thy strength be made perfect in my weakness.' (2 Cor. 12:90 I dare not say, `I will never forsake thee, I will never deny thee,' (Mark 14:31) but I hope! can truly say, O Lord, I would not do it; and according to my present apprehension and purpose, death would appear to me much less terrible, than in any willful and deliberate instance to offend thee. O root out those corruptions from my heart, which in an hour of pressing temptation might incline me to view things in a different light, and so might betray me into the hands of the enemy! Strengthen my faith, O Lord, and encourage my hope! Inspire me with heroic resolution in opposing every thing that lies in my way to heaven; and let me `set my face like a flint' against all the assaults of earth and hell! (Isai. 50:7) `If sinners entice me, let me not consent;' (Prov. 1:10) if they insult me, let me not regard it; if they threaten me, let me not fear! Rather may a holy and ardent, yet prudent and well-governed zeal, take occasion from that malignity of heart which they discover, to attempt their conviction and reformation! At least, let me never be ashamed to plead thy cause against the most profane deriders of religion! `Make me to hear joy and gladness' in my soul, and I will endeavor to `teach transgressors thy ways, that sinners may be converted unto thee' (Psa. 51:8,13) Yea, Lord, while my fears continue, though I should apprehend myself condemned, I am condemned so righteously for my own folly, that I would be thine advocate, though against myself.

     Keep me, O Lord, now, and at all times! Never let me think, whatever age or station I attain, that I am strong enough to maintain the combat without thee! Nor let me imagine myself, even in this infancy of religion in my soul, So weak that thou canst not support me! Wherever thou leadest me, there let me follow; and whatever station thou appointest me, there let me labor: there let me maintain the holy war against all the enemies of my salvation, and rather fall in it, than basely abandon it.

     "And thou, O glorious Redeemer; `the Captain of my salvation,' the great `Author and Finisher of my faith,' (Heb. 12:2) when I am in danger of denying thee, as Peter did, look upon me with that mixture of majesty and tenderness, (Luke 22:61) which may either secure me from falling, or may speedily recover me to God and my duty again! and teach me to take occasion, even from my miscarriages, to humble myself more deeply for all that has been amiss, and to redouble my future diligence and caution! Amen."

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XVII.

THE CHRISTIAN URGED TO, AND ASSISTED IN, AN EXPRESS ACT OF SELF-DEDICATION TO THE SERVICE OF GOD.

1. The advantages of such a surrender are briefly suggested.-- 2, 3, 4. Advice for the manner of doing it; that it be deliberate, cheerful, entire, perpetual.--5. And that it be expressed with some affecting solemnity.--6. A written instrument to be signed and declared before God, at some season of extraordinary devotion, reposed. The Chapter concludes with a specimen of such an instrument, together with an abstract of it, to be used with proper and requisite alterations.

1. AS I would hope, that, notwithstanding all the forms of opposition which do or may arise, yet in consideration of those noble supports and motives which have been mentioned in the two preceding Chapters, you are heartily determined for the service of God, I would now urge you to make a solemn surrender of yourself unto it. Do not only form such a purpose in your heart, but expressly declare it in the divine presence. Such solemnity in the manner of doing it is certainly very reasonable in the nature of things; and surely it is highly expedient for binding to the Lord such a treacherous heart as we know our own to be. It will be pleasant to reflect upon it, as done at such and such a time, with such and such circumstances of place and method, which may serve to strike the memory and the conscience. The sense of the vows of God which are upon you, will strengthen you in an hour of temptation; and the recollection may also encourage your humble boldness and freedom in applying to him, under the character and relation of your Covenant God and Father, as future exigencies may require.

     2. Do it therefore; but do it deliberately. Consider what it is that you are to do, and consider how reasonable it is that it should be done, and done cordially and cheerfully; "not by constraint, but willingly," (1 Pet. 5:2) for in this sense, and in every other, "God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Cor. 9:7) Now surely there is nothing we should do with greater cheerfulness or more cordial consent, than making such a surrender of ourselves to this Lord, to the God who created us, who brought us into this pleasant and well-furnished world, who supported us in our tender infancy, who guarded us in the thoughtless days of childhood and youth, who has hitherto continually helped, sustained, and preserved us. Nothing can be more reasonable than that we should acknowledge him as our rightful owner and our Sovereign Ruler; than that we should devote ourselves to him us our most gracious Benefactor, and seek him as our supreme felicity. Nothing can be more apparently equitable than that we, the product of his power, and the price of his Son's blood, should be his, and his for ever. If you see the matter in its just view, it will be the grief of your soul that you have ever alienated yourself from the blessed God and his service: so far will you be from wishing to continue in that state of alienation another year, or another day, you will rejoice to bring back to him his revolted creature; and as you have in times past "yielded your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin," you will delight to "yield yourselves unto God as alive from the dead," and to employ "your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." (Rom. 6:13)

     3. The surrender will also be as entire as it is cheerful and immediate. All you are, and all you have, and all you can do, your time, your possessions, your influence over others, will be devoted to him, that for the future it may be employed entirety for him, and to his glory. You will desire to keep back nothing from him; but will seriously judge that you are then in the truest and noblest sense your own, when you are most entirely his. You are also, on this great occasion, to resign all that you have to the disposal of his wise and gracious providence; not only owning his power, but consenting to his undoubted right to do what he pleases with you, and all that he has given you; and declaring a hearty approbation of all that he has done, and of all that he may farther do.

     4. Once more, let me remind you that this surrender must be perpetual. Yon must give yourself up to God in such a manner as never more to pretend to be your own; for the rights of God are, like his nature, eternal an immutable; and with regard to his rational creatures, are the same yesterday, today, and for ever.

     5. I would farther advise and urge that this dedication may be made with all possible solemnity. Do it in express words. And perhaps it may be in many cases most expedient, as many pious divines have recommended, to do it in writing. Set your hand and seal to it, "that on such a day of such a month and year, and at such a place, on full consideration and serious reflection, you came to this happy resolution, that, whatsoever others might do, you would serve the Lord." (Josh. 24:15)

     6. Such an instrument you may, if you please draw up for yourself; or, if you rather choose to have it drawn up to your hand, you may find something of this nature below, in which you may easily make such alterations as shall suit your circumstances, where there is any thing peculiar in them. But whatever you use, weigh it well, meditate attentively upon it, that you may "not be rash with your mouth to utter any thing before God." (Eccel. 5:2) And when you determine to execute this instrument, let the transaction be attended with some more than ordinary; religious retirement. Make it, if you conveniently can, a day of secret fasting and prayer; and when your heart is prepared with a becoming awe of the Divine Majesty, with an humble confidence in his goodness, and an earnest desire of his favor, then present yourself on your knees before God, and read it over deliberately and solemnly; and when you have signed it, lay it by in some secure place, where you may review it whenever you please; and make it a rule with yourself to review it, if possible, at certain seasons of the year, that you may keep up the remembrance of it. And God grant that you may be enabled to keep it, and in the whole of your conversation to walk according to it. May it be an anchor to your soul in every temptation, and a cordial to it in every affliction. May the recollection or it embolden your addresses to the throne of grace now, and give additional strength to your departing spirit, in a consciousness that it is ascending to your covenant God and Father, and to that gracious Redeemer, whose power and faithfulness will securely "keep what you commit to him unto that day." (2 Tim. 1:12)

An Example of Self-Dedication.

     "Eternal and unchangeable Jehovah! thou great Creator of heaven and earth, and adorable Lord of angels and men, I desire, with the deepest humiliation and abasement of soul, to fall down at this time in thine awful presence, and earnestly pray that thou wilt penetrate 'my heart with a suitable sense of thine unutterable and inconceivable glories.

     "Trembling may justly take bold upon me, (Job 20:6) when I, a sinful worm, presume to lift up my head to thee, presume to appear in thy majestic presence on such an occasion as this. Who am I, O Lord God! or what is my house? What is my nature or descent, my character and desert, that I should thus address the King of kings, and Lord of lords! I blush and am confounded before thee. But, O Lord! great as is thy majesty, so also is thy mercy. If thou wilt hold converse with any of thy creatures, thy superlatively exalted nature must stoop, must stoop infinitely low. And I know, that in and through Jesus, the Son of thy love, thou condescendest to visit sinful mortals, and to allow their approach to thee, and their covenant intercourse with thee; nay, I know that the scheme and plan is thine own, and that thou hast graciously sent to propose it to us; as none untaught by thee would have been able to form it, or inclined to embrace it, even when actually proposed.

     "To thee therefore do I now come, invited by the name of thy Son, and trusting in his righteousness and grace. Laying myself at thy feet, `with shame and confusion of face,' and `smiting, upon my breast,' I say, with the humble publican, `God be merciful to me a sinner!' (Luke 18:13) I acknowledge, O Lord! that I have been a great transgressor. `My sins have reached unto heaven,' (Rev. 18:5) and `my iniquities are lifted up unto the skies.' (Jer. 51:9) The irregular propensities of my corrupted and degenerated nature have, in ten thousand aggravated instances, `wrought to bring forth fruit unto death.' (Rom. 8:5) And if thou shoudst be strict to mark my offences, I must be silent under a load of guilt, and immediately sink into destruction. But thou hast graciously healed me to return unto thee, though I have been a wandering sheep, a prodigal son, a backsliding child. (Jer. 3:22) Behold, therefore, O Lord! I come unto thee. I come, convinced not only of my sin, but of my folly. I come, from my very heart ashamed of myself, and with an acknowledgment, in the sincerity and humility of my soul, that `I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.' (1 Sam. 26:21) I am confounded myself at the remembrance of these things; but be thou `merciful to my unrighteousness, and do not remember against me my sins and my transgressions!' (Heb. 8:12) Permit me, O Lord, to bring back unto thee those powers and faculties which I have ungratefully and sacrilegiously alienated from thy service; and receive, I beseech thee, thy poor revolted creature, who is now convinced of thy right to him, and desires nothing in the whole world: so much as to be thine!

     "Blessed God! it is with the utmost solemnity that I make this surrender of myself unto thee. `Hear, O heavens! and give ear, O earth! I avouch the Lord this day to be my God, (Deut. 26:17) and I avouch and declare myself this day to be one of his covenant children and people. Hear, O thou God of heaven! and record it in the book of thy remembrance,' (Matt. 3:16) that henceforth I am thine, entirely thine. I would not merely consecrate unto thee some of my powers, or some of my possessions, or give thee a certain proportion of my services, or all I am capable of for a limited time; but I would be wholly thine, and thine for ever. From this day I would solemnly renounce all the `former lords which have had dominion over me,' (Isai. 26:13) every sin and every lust; and bid, in thy name, an eternal defiance to the powers of hell, which have most unjustly usurped the empire over my soul, and to all the corruptions which their fatal temptations have introduced into it. The whole frame of my nature, all the faculties of my mind, and all the members of my body, would I present before thee this day, `as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which' I know to be `my most reasonable service.' (Rom. 12:1) To thee I consecrate all my worldly possessions: in thy service I desire to spend all the remainder of my time upon earth, and beg thou wouldst instruct and influence me, so that, whether my abode here be longer or shorter, every year and month, every day and hour, may be used in such a manner as shall most effectually promote thine honor, and subserve the designs of thy wise and gracious providence. And I earnestly pray, that, whatever influence thou givest me over others, in any of the superior relations of life in which I may stand, or in consequence of any peculiar regard which may be paid to me, thou wouldst give me the strength and courage to exert myself to the utmost for thy glory; resolving not only that I will myself do it, but that all others, so far as I can rationally and properly influence them, 'shall serve the Lord' (Josh. 24:15) In this course, O blessed God! would I steadily persevere to the very end of life; earnestly praying, that every future day of it may supply the deficiencies and correct the irregularities of the former; and that I may, by divine grace, be enabled not only to hold on in that happy way, but daily to grow more active in it!

     "Nor do I only consecrate all that I am and have to thy service, but I also most humbly resign, and submit to thy holy and sovereign will, myself, and all that I can call mine. I leave, O Lord! to thy management and direction, all I possess, and all I wish; and set every enjoyment and every interest before thee, to be disposed of as thou pleasest. Continue or remove what thou hast given me; bestow or refuse what I imagine I want, as thou, Lord, shalt see good! And though I dare not say I will never repine, yet I hope I may venture to say, that I will labor not only to submit, but to acquiesce; not only to bear what thou doest in thy most afflictive dispensations, but to consent to it, and to praise thee for it; contentedly resolving, in all thou appointest for me, my will into thine, and looking on myself as nothing, and on thee, O God! as the great eternal ALL, whose word ought to determine every thing, and whose government ought to be the joy of the whole rational creation.

     "Use me, O Lord! I beseech thee, as the instrument of thy glory; and honor me so far, as, either by doing or suffering what thou shalt appoint, to bring some revenue of praise to thee, and of benefit to the world in which I dwell! And may it please thee, from this day forward, to number me among thy peculiar people! that I may `no more be a stranger and foreigner, but a fellow-citizen with the saints, and of the household of God!' (Eph. 2:19) Receive, O heavenly Father! thy returning prodigal! Wash me in the blood of thy dear Son; clothe me with his perfect righteousness; and sanctify me throughout by the power of thy Spirit! Destroy, I beseech thee, more and more the power of sin in my heart! Transform me more into thine own image, and fashion me to the resemblance of Jesus, whom henceforward I would acknowledge as my teacher and sacrifice, my intercessor and my Lord! Communicate to me, I beseech thee, all needful influences of thy purifying. thy cheering, and thy comforting Spirit! And lift up that 'light of thy countenance upon me,' which will put the sublimest joy and `gladness into my soul.' (Psa. 4:6,7)

     "Dispose my affairs, O God! in a manner which may be most subservient to thy glory and my own truest happiness; and when I have done and borne thy will upon earth, call me from hence at what time and in what manner thou pleasest: only grant, that in my dying moments, and in the near prospect of eternity, I may remember these my engagements to thee, and may employ my latest breath in thy service. And do thou, Lord, when thou seest the agonies of dissolving nature upon me, remember this covenant too, even though I should then be incapable of recollecting it. Look down, O my heavenly Father! with a pitying eye, upon thy languishing, thy dying child; place thine everlasting arms underneath me for my support; put strength and confidence into my departing spirit, and receive it to the embraces of thine everlasting love. Welcome it to the abodes of them that sleep in Jesus, (1 Thess. 4:14) to wait with them that glorious day, when the last off thy promises to thy covenant people shall be fulfilled in their triumphant resurrection, and in that abundant entrance which shall be administered to them into that everlasting kingdom, (2 Pet. 1:12) of which thou hast assured them by thy covenant, and in the hope of which I now lay hold of it, desiring to live and to die, as. with mine hand on that hope.

     "And when I am thus numbered among the dead, and all the interests of mortality are over with me for ever, if this solemn memorial should chance to fall into the hands of my surviving friends, may it be the means of making serious impression on their minds. May they read it, not only as my language, but as their own; and learn to fear the Lord my God, and with me, to put their trust under the shadow of his wing for time and for eternity! And may they also learn to adore with me that grace which inclines our hearts to enter into the covenant, and condescends to admit us into it when so inclined; ascribing, with me, and with all the nations of the redeemed, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, that glory, honor, and praise, which is so justly due to each divine person for the part he bears " in this illustrious work. Amen.

      N.B. For the sake of those who may think the preceding Form of Self-Dedication too long to be transcribed, as it is possible many will, I have, at the desire of a much esteemed friend, added the following Abridgment of it, which should, by all means, be attentively weighed in every clause before it is executed; and any word or phrase which may seem liable to exception, changed, that the whole heart may consent to it all.

     "Eternal and ever-blessed God! I desire to present myself before thee, with the deepest humiliation and abasement of soul, sensible how unworthy such a sinful worm is to appear before the holy Majesty of heaven, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and especially on such an occasion as this, ever to dedicate myself, without reserve, to thee. But the scheme and plan is thine own. Thine infinite condescension hath offered it by thy Son, and thy grace hath inclined my heart to accept of it.

     "I come, therefore, acknowledging myself to have been a great offender; smiting upon my breast, and saying with the humble publican, `God be merciful to me a sinner!' I come, invited by the name of thy Son, and wholly trusting in his perfect righteousness, entreating that for his sake thou wilt be merciful to my unrighteousness, and wilt no more remember my sins. Receive, I beseech thee, thy revolted creature, who is now convinced of thy right to him, and desires nothing so much as that he may be thine.

     "This day do I, with the utmost solemnity, surrender myself to thee. I renounce all former lords that have had dominion over me; and I consecrate to thee all that I am, and all that I have; the faculties of my mind, the members of my body, my worldly possessions, my time, and my influence over others; to be all used entirely for thy glory, and resolutely employed in obedience to thy commands, as long as thou continuest me in life; with an ardent desire and humble resolution to continue thine through all the endless ages of eternity; ever holding myself in an attentive posture to observe the first intimations of thy will, and ready to spring forward with zeal and joy to the immediate execution of it.

     "To thy direction also I resign myself, and all I am and have, to be disposed of by thee in such a manner as thou shalt in thine infinite wisdom judge most subservient to the purposes of thy glory. To thee I leave the management of all events, and say without reserve, `Not my will, but thine be done,' rejoicing with a loyal heart in thine unlimited government, as what ought to be the delight of the whole rational creation.

     "Use me, O Lord, I beseech thee, as an instrument of thy service! number me among thy peculiar people! Let me be washed in the blood of thy dear Son! Let me be clothed with his righteousness!. Let me be sanctified by his Spirit! Transform me more and more into his image! Impart to me through him, all needful influences of thy purifying, cheering, and comforting Spirit! And let my life be spent under those influences, and in the light of thy gracious countenance, as my Father and my God!

     "And when the solemn hour of death comes, may I remember thy covenant, `well ordered in all things and sure, as all my salvation and all my desire,' (2 Sam. 23:5) though every hope and enjoyment is perishing; and do thou, O Lord! remember it too. Look down with pity, O my heavenly Father, on thy languishing, dying child! Embrace me in thine everlasting arms! Put strength and confidence into my departing spirit, and receive it to the abodes of them that sleep in Jesus, peacefully and joyfully to wait the accomplishment of thy great promise to all thy people, even that of a glorious resurrection, and of eternal happiness in thine heavenly presence!

     "And if any surviving friend should, when I am in the dust, meet with this memorial of my solemn transactions with thee, may he make the engagement his own; and do thou graciously admit him to partake in all the blessings of thy covenant, through Jesus the great Mediator of it; to whom, with thee, O Father, and thy Holy Spirit, be ever-lasting praises ascribed, by all the millions who are thus saved by thee, and by all those other celestial spirits in whose work and blessedness thou shalt call them to share! Amen."

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XVIII.

ON COMMUNION IN THE LORDS SUPPER.

1. If the reader has received the Ordinance of Baptism, and; as above recommended, dedicated himself to God.--2. He is urged to ratify that engagement at the Table of the Lord.-- 3. From a view of the ends for which that Ordinance was instituted.--4. Whence its usefulness is strongly inferred.--5. And from the Authority of Christ's Appointment; which is solemnly pressed on the conscience.--6. Objections from apprehensions of Unfitness.--7. Weakness of grace, &c. briefly answered.--8. At least, serious thoughtfulness on this subject is absolutely insisted upon.--9. The Chapter is closed with a prayer for one who desires to attend, yet finds himself pressed with remaining doubts.

1. I hope this Chapter will find you, by a most express consent, become one of God's covenant people, solemnly and most cordially devoted to his service; and it is my hearty prayer, that the engagements you have made on earth may be ratified in heaven. But for your farther instruction and edification; give me leave to remind you, that our Lord Jesus Christ hath appointed a peculiar manner of expressing our regard to him, by commemorating his dying love, which, though it does not forbid any other proper way of doing it, must by no means be set aside or neglected for any human methods, how prudent and expedient soever they may appear to us.

     2. Our Lord has wisely ordained, that the advantages of society should be brought into religion; and as, by his command, professed Christians assemble together for other acts of public worship, so He has been pleased to institute a social ordinance, in which a whole assembly of them is to come to his table, and there to eat the same bread; and drink the same cup. And this they are to do, as a token of their affectionate remembrance of his dying love, of their solemn surrender of themselves to God, and of their sincere love to one another, and to all their fellow-Christians.

     3. That these are indeed the great ends of the Lord's supper, I shall not now stay to argue at large. You need only read what the apostle Paul hath written in the tenth and eleventh Chapters or his first epistle to the Corinthians, to convince you fully of this. He there expressly tells us, that our Lord commanded "the bread to be eaten," and "the wine to be drunk, in remembrance of him," (1 Cor. 11:24,25) or as a commemoration or memorial of him; so that, as often as we attend this institution, "we show forth the Lord's death," which we are to do "even until he come," (1 Cor. 11:26) And it is particularly asserted, that "the cup is the New Testament in his blood;" that is, it is a seal of that covenant which was ratified by his blood. Now, it is evident, that, in consequence of this, we are to approach it with a view to that covenant, desiring its blessings, and resolving, by divine grace, to comply with its demands. On the whole, therefore, as the apostle speaks, we have "communion in the body and the blood of Christ," (1 Cor. 10:16) and partaking of his table and of his cup, we converse with Christ, and join ourselves to him as his people; as the Jews, by eating their sacrifices, conversed with Jehovah, and joined themselves to him. He farther reminds them, that, though many, they were "one bread and one body," being "all partakers of that one bread," (1 Cor. 10:17) and being "all made to drink into one Spirit;" (1 Cor. 12:13) that is, meeting together as if they were but one family, and joining in the commemoration of that one blood which was their common ransom and of the Lord Jesus, their common head. Now, it is evident, all these reasonings are equally applicable to Christians in succeeding ages. Permit me, therefore, by the authority of our divine Master, to press upon you: the observation or this precept.

     4. And let me also urge it, from the apparent tendency which it has to promote your truest advantage. You are setting out in the Christian life; and I have reminded you at large of the opposition you must expect to meet in it. It is the love of Christ which must animate you to break through all. What then can be more desirable than to bear about with you a lively sense of it? and what can awaken that sense more than the contemplation of his death as there represented? Who can behold the bread broken, and the wine poured out, and not reflect how the body of the blessed Jesus was even torn in pieces by his sufferings, and his sacred blood poured forth like water on the ground? Who can think of the heart-rending agonies of the Son of God as the price of our redemption and salvation, and not feel his soul melted with tenderness, and inflamed with grateful affection? What an exalted view doth it give us of the blessings of the Gospel-covenant, when we consider it as established in the blood of God's only-begotten Son! And when we make our approach to God as our heavenly Father, and give up ourselves to his service in this solemn manner, what an awful tendency has it to fix the conviction, that we are not our own, being bought with such a price! (1 Cor 6:19, 20) What a tendency has it to guard us against every temptation, to those sins which we have so solemnly renounced, and to engage our fidelity to him to whom we have bound our souls as with an oath! Well may our hearts be knit together in mutual love, (Col. 2:2) when we consider ourselves as "one in Christ:" (Gal. 3:28) his blood becomes the cement of the society, joins us in spirit, not only to each other, but "to all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours," (1 Cor. 1:2) and we anticipate in pleasing hope that blessed day, when the assembly shall be complete, and we shall all "be for ever with the Lord." (1 Thess. 4:17) Well may these views engage us to deny ourselves, and to "take up our cross and follow our crucified Master." (Matt. 16:24) Well may they engage us to do our utmost, by prayer, and all other suitable endeavors, to serve his followers and his friends; to serve those whom he hath purchased with his blood, and who are to be his associates and ours, in the glories of a happy immortality.

     5. It is also the express institution and command of our blessed Redeemer that the members of such societies should be tenderly solicitous for the spiritual welfare of each other: and that, on the whole, his churches may be kept pure and holy, that they should "withdraw themselves from every brother that walketh disorderly;" (2 Thess. 3:6) that they should "mark such as cause offences" or scandals among them, "contrary to the doctrine which they have learned, and avoid them;" (Rom. 16:17) "that if any obey not the word of Christ by his apostles," they should "have no fellowship or communion with such, that they may be ashamed;" (2 Thess. 3:14) that they should "not eat with such as are notoriously irregular" in their-behavior, but, on the contrary, should "put away from among themselves such wicked persons," (1 Cor. 5:11-13) It is evident, therefore, that the institution of such societies is greatly for the honor of Christianity, and for the advantage of its particular professors. And consequently, every consideration of obedience to our common Lord, and of prudent regard to our own benefit and that of our brethren, will require that those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity should enter into them, and assemble among them, in these their most solemn and peculiar acts of communion, at his table.

     6. I entreat you, therefore, and if I may presume to say it, in his name and by his authority, I charge it on your conscience, that this precept of our dying Lord go not, as it were, for nothing with you; but that, if you indeed love him, you keep this, as well as the rest of his commandments. I know you may be ready to form objections. I have elsewhere debated many of the chief of them at large, and I hope not without some good effect.* The great question is that which relates to your being prepared for a worthy attendance; and in conjunction with what has been said before, I think that may be brought to a very short issue. Have you, so far as you know your own heart, been sincere in that deliberate surrender of yourself to God, through Christ, which I recommended in the former Chapter? If you have, whether it were with or without the particular form or manner of doing it there recommended, you have certainly taken hold of the covenant, and therefore should devote yourself to God, in obedience to all his commands. And there is not, and cannot be, any other view of the ordinance in which you can have any further objection to it. If you desire to remember Christ's death; if you desire to renew the dedication of yourself to God through him; if you would list yourself among his people; if you would love them, and do them good according to your ability, and, on the whole, would not allow yourself in the practice of anyone known sin, or in the omission of any one known duty, then I will venture confidently to say, not only that you will be welcome to the ordinance, but that it was instituted for such as you.

     7. As for other objections, a few words may suffice by way of reply. The weakness of the religious principle in your soul, if it be really implanted there, is so far from being an argument against your seeking such a method to strengthen it, that it rather strongly enforces the necessity of doing it. The neglect of this solemnity, by so many that call themselves Christians, should rather engage you so much the more to distinguish your zeal for an institution in this respect so much slighted and injured. And as for the fears of aggravated guilt, in case of apostacy, do not indulge them. This may, by the divine blessing, be an effectual remedy against the evil you fear; and it is certain, that after what you must already have known and felt, before you could be brought into your present situation, (on the supposition I have now been making) there can be no room to think or a retreat; no room, even for the wretched hope of being less miserable than the generality of those that have perished. Your scheme, therefore, must be to make your salvation as sure, and to make it as glorious, as possible; and I know not any appointment of our blessed Redeemer which may have a more comfortable aspect upon that blessed end, than this which I flat recommending to you.

     8. One thing I would at least insist upon, and I see not with what face it can be denied. I mean, that you should take this matter into serious consideration; that you should diligently inquire, "whether you have reason in your conscience to believe it is the will of God you should now approach to the ordinance or not;" and that you should continue your reflections, your inquiries, and your prayers, till you find farther encouragement to come, if that encouragement be hitherto wanting. For of this be assured, that a state in which you are on the whole unfit to approach this ordinance, is a state in which you are destitute of the necessary preparations for death and heaven; in which, therefore, if you would not allow yourselves to slumber on the brink or destruction, you ought not to rest so much as one single day.

A Prayer for one who earnestly desires ins to approach the Table of the Lord, yet has some remaining doubts concerning his right to that solemn ordinance.

     "BLESSED LORD! I adore thy wise and gracious appointments, for the edification of thy church in holiness and in love. I thank thee that thou hast commanded thy servants to form themselves into churches; and I adore my gracious Savior, who hath instituted, as with his dying breath, the holy solemnity of his Supper, to be through all ages a memorial of his dying love, and a bond of that union which it is his sovereign pleasure that his people should preserve. I hope thou, Lord, art witness to the sincerity with which I desire to give myself up to thee; and that I may call thee to record on my soul, that, if I now hesitate about this particular manner of doing it, it is not because I would allow myself to break any of thy commands, or to slight any of thy favors. I trust thou knowest that my present delay arises only from my uncertainty as to my duty, and a fear of profaning holy things by an unworthy approach to them. Yet surely, O Lord! if thou hast given me a reverence for thy command, a desire of communion with thee, and a willingness to devote myself wholly to thy service, I may regard it as a token for good, that thou art disposed to receive me, and that I am not wholly unqualified for an ordinance which I so highly honor and so earnestly desire. I therefore make it my humble request unto thee, O Lord! this day, that than wouldst graciously he pleased to instruct me in my duty, and to teach me the way which I should take `Examine me, O Lord! and prove me, try my reins and my heart!' (Psa. 26:2) Is there any secret sin, in the love and practice of which I would indulge? Is there any of thy precepts in the habitual breach of which I would allow myself? I trust I can appeal to thee as a witness, that there is not. Let me not, then, wrong my own soul, by a causeless and sinful absence from thy sacred table! But grant, O Lord! I beseech thee, that thy word, thy providence. and thy Spirit, may so concur as to `make my way plain before me!" (Pro. 15:19) Scatter my remaining doubts. if thou seest that they have no just foundation! Fill me with more assured faith, with a more ardent love, and plead thine own cause with mine heart in such a manner as that I may not be able any longer to delay that approach, which, if I am thy servant indeed, is equally my duty and my privilege! In the mean time, grant that it may never be long out of my thoughts; but that I may give all diligence. If there be any remaining occasion of doubt, to remove it by a more affectionate concern to avoid whatever is displeasing to the eyes of thine holiness, and to practice the full extent of my duty. May the views of Christ crucified be so familiar to my mind; and may a sense of his dying love so powerfully constrain my soul, that my own growing experience may put it out of all question that I am one of those for whom he intended this feast of love!

     "And even now, as joined to thy church in spirit and in love, though not in so express and intimate a bond as I could wish, would I heartily pray that thy blessing may be on all thy people; that thou wouldst `feed thine heritage, and lift them up for ever!' (Psa. 28:9) May every Christian church flourish in knowledge, in holiness, and in love! May all thy priests be clothed with salvation, that by their means thy chosen people may be made joyful. (Psa. 132:16) And may there be a glorious accession to thy churches every where, of those who may fly to them `as a cloud, and as doves to their windows.' (Isa. 60:8) May thy table, O Lord! be `furnished with guests,' (Matt. 22:10) and may all that `love thy salvation say, Let the Lord be magnified, who hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servants.' (Psa. 35:27) And I earnestly pray, that all who profess `to have received Christ Jesus the Lord,' may be duly careful to `walk in him,' (Col. 2:6) and that we may all be prepared for the general assembly of the first-born, and may join in that nobler and more immediate worship where all these types and shadows shall be laid aside; where even these memorials shall be no longer necessary; but a living, present Redeemer shall be the everlasting joy of those who here his absence have delighted to commemorate his death. Amen'

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XIX.

SOME MORE PARTICULAR DIRECTIONS FOR MAINTAINING CONTINUAL COMMUNION WITH GOD, OR BEING IN HIS FEAR ALL THE DAY LONG.

1. A letter to a pious friend on this subject introduced here.--2. General plan of directions.--3. For the beginning of the day.--4. Lifting up the heart to God at our first awakening.--5, 10. Setting ourselves to the secret devotions of the morning, with respect to which particular advice is given.--11. For the progress of the day.--12. Directions are given concerning seriousness in devotion.--13. Diligence in business.--14. Prudence in recreations.--15. Observations of Providence.--16. Watchfulness against temptations.--17. Dependence on divine influence.--18. Government of the thoughts when in solitude.--19. Management of Discourse in company.--20. For the conclusion of the day.--21. With the secret devotions of the evening.--22, 23. Directions for self-examination at large.--24. Lying down with a proper temper.--25. Conclusion of the letter.--26. And of the Chapter. With a serious view of death, proper to be taken at the close of the day.

1. I would hope, that upon serious consideration, self-examination, and prayer, the reader has given himself up to God; and that his concern flow is to inquire, how he may act according to the vows of God which are upon him. Now, for his farther assistance here, besides the general view I have already given of the Christian temper and character, I will propose some more particular directions relating to maintaining that devout, spiritual, and heavenly character, which may, in the language of Scripture, be called "a daily walking with God, or being in his fear all the day long." (Prov. 23:17) And I know not how I can express the idea and plan which I have formed of this, in a more clear and distinct manner than I did in a letter which I wrote many years ago [in 1727] to a young person of eminent piety, with whom I had then an intimate friendship; and who, to the great grief of all that knew him, died a few months after he received it Yet I hope he lived long enough to reduce the directions to practice, which I wish and pray that every reader may do, so far as they may properly suit his capacities and circumstances in life, considering it as if addressed to himself. I say, and desire it may be observed, that I wish my reader may act on these directions so far as they may properly suit his capacity and circumstances in life; for I would be far from laying down the following particulars as universal rules for all, or for any one person in the world, at all times. Let them be practiced by those that are able, and when they have leisure; and when you cannot reach them all, come as near the most important of them as you conveniently can. With this precaution I proceed to the letter, which I would hope, after this previous care to guard against the danger of mistaking it, will not discourage any, the weakest Christian. Let us humbly and cheerfully do what we can, and rejoice that we have so gracious a Father, who knows all our infirmities, and so compassionate a High Priest, to recommend to divine acceptance the feeblest efforts of sincere duty and love!

My dear Friend,
     Since you desire my thoughts in writing, and at large, on the subject of our late conversation, viz. "By what particular methods, in our daily conduct, devotion and usefulness may be most happily maintained and secured "--I set myself with cheerfulness to recollect and digest the hints which I then gave you; hoping it may be of some service to you in your most important interests; and may also fix on my own mind a deeper sense of my obligations to govern my own life by the rules I offer to others. I esteem attempts of this kind among the pleasantest fruits, and the surest cements of friendship; and as I hope ours will last for ever, I am persuaded a mutual care to cherish sentiments of this kind will add everlasting endearments to it.

     2. The directions you will expect from me on this occasion naturally divide themselves into three heads: How we are to regard God in the beginning; the progress; and the close of the day. I will open my heart freely to you with regard to each, and will leave you to judge how far these hints may suit your circumstances; aiming at least to keep between the extremes of a superstitions strictness in trifles, and an indolent remissness, which, if admitted in little things, may draw after it criminal neglects, and at length more criminal indulgences.

     3. In the beginning of the day: It should certainly be our care to lift up our heads to God as soon as we wake, and while we are rising; and then, to set ourselves seriously and immediately to the secret devotions of the morning.

     4. For the first of these it seems exceedingly natural. There are so many things that may suggest a great variety of pious reflections and ejaculations which are so obvious that one would think a serious mind could hardly miss them. The ease and cheerfulness of our minds on our first awaking; the refreshment we find from sleep; the security we have enjoyed in that defenceless state; the provision of warm and decent apparel; the cheerful light of the returning sun; or even (which is not unfit to mention to you) the contrivances of art, taught and furnished by the great Author of all our conveniences, to supply us with many useful hours of life in the absence of the sun; the hope of returning to the dear society of our friends; the prospect of spending another day in the service of God and the improvement of our own minds; and above all, the lively hope of a joyful resurrection to an eternal day of happiness and glory: any of these particulars, and many more which I do not mention, may furnish its with matter of pleasing reflection and cheerful praise while we are rising. And for our farther assistance, when we are alone at this time, it may not be improper to speak sometimes to ourselves, and sometimes to our heavenly Father, in the natural expressions of joy and thankfulness. Permit me, Sir, to add, that, if we find our hearts in such a frame at our first awaking, even that is just matter of praise, and the rather, as perhaps it is an answer to the prayer with which we lay down.

     5. For the exercise of secret devotion in the morning, which I hope will generally be our first work, I cannot prescribe an exact method to another. You must, my dear friend, consult your own taste in some measure. The constituent pans of the service are, in the general, plain. Were I to propose a particular model for those who have half or three quarters of an hour at command, which, with prudent conduct, I suppose most may have, it should he this:

     6. To begin the stated devotions of the day with a solemn act of praise, offered to God on our knees, and generally with a low, yet distinct voice; acknowledging the mercies we have been reflecting on while rising, never forgetting to mention Christ as the great foundation of all our enjoyments and our hopes, or to return thanks for the influences of the blessed Spirit which have led our beans to God, or are then engaging us to seek him. This, as well as other offices of devotion afterwards mentioned, must be done attentively and sincerely; for not to offer our praises heartily, is, in the sight of God, not to praise him at all. This address of praise may properly be concluded with an express renewal of our dedication to God, declaring our continued repeated resolution of being devoted to him, and particularly of living to his glory the ensuing day.

     7. It may be proper, after this, to take a prospect of the day before us, so far as we can probably foresee, in the general, where and how it may be spent; and seriously to reflect, "How shall I employ myself for God this day? What business is to be done, and in what order? What opportunities may I expect, either of doing or of receiving good? What temptations am I likely to be assaulted with, in any place, company, or circumstances, which may probably occur? In what instance have I lately failed? And how shall I be safest now?"

     8. After this review it will be proper to offer up a short prayer, begging that God would quicken us to each of these foreseen duties; that he would fortify us against each of these apprehended dangers; that he would grant us success in such or such a business undertaken for his glory; and also that he would help us to discover and improve unforeseen opportunities to resist unexpected temptations, and to bear patiently, and religiously, any afflictions which may surprise us in the day on which we are entering.

     9. I would advise you after this to read some portion of Scripture: not a great deal, nor the whole Bible in its course; but some select portions out of its most useful parts, perhaps ten or twelve verses, not troubling yourself much about the exact connection, or other critical niceties which may occur, though at other times I would recommend them to your inquiry, as you have ability and opportunity, but considering them merely in a devotional and practical view. Here take such instructions as readily present themselves to your thoughts, repeat them over to your own conscience, and charge your heart religiously to observe them, and act upon them, under a sense of the divine authority which attends them. And if you pray over the substance of this Scripture with your Bible open before you, it may impress your memory and your heart yet more deeply, and may form you to a copiousness and variety, both of thought and expression, in prayer.

     10. It might be proper to close these devotions with a psalm or hymn; and I rejoice with you, that through the pious care of our sacred poets, we are provided with so rich a variety for the assistance of the closet and family on these occasions, as well as for the service of the sanctuary.

     11. The most material directions which have occurred to me relating to the progress of the day, are these: That we be serious in the devotions of the day; that we be diligent in the business of it, that is, in the prosecution of our worldly callings; that we be temperate and prudent in the recreations of it; that we carefully mark the providences of the day; that we cautiously guard against the temptations of it; that we keep up a lively and humble dependence upon the divine influence, suitable to every emergency of it; that we govern our thoughts well in the solitude of the day, and our discourses well in the conversations of it. These, Sir, were the heads of a sermon which you have lately heard me preach, and to which I know you referred in that request which I am now endeavoring to answer. I will therefore touch upon the most material hints which fall under each of these particulars.

     12. For seriousness in devotion, whether public or domestic, let us take a few moments before we enter upon such solemnities, to pause, and reflect on the perfections of the God we are addressing, on the importance of the business we are coming about, on the pleasure and advantage of a regular and devout attendance, and on the guilt and folly of an hypocritical formality. When engaged, let us maintain a strict watchfulness over our own spirits and check the first wanderings of thought. And when the duty is over, let us immediately reflect on the manner in which it has been performed, and ask our own consciences whether we have reason to conclude that we are accepted of God in it? For there is a certain manner of going through these offices, which our own hearts will immediately tell us "it is impossible for God to approve;" and if we have inadvertently fallen into it, we ought to be deeply humbled before God for it, lest "our very prayer become sin." (Psa. 109:7)

     13. As for the hours of worldly business, whether it be that of the hands, or the labor of a learned life not immediately relating to religious matters, let us set to the prosecution of it with a sense of God's authority, and with a regard to his glory. Let us avoid a dreaming, sluggish, indolent temper, which nods over its work, and does only the business of one hour in two or three. In opposition to this, which runs through the life of some people, who yet think they are never idle, let us endeavor to dispatch as much as we well can in a little time; considering that it is but a little we have in all. And let us be habitually sensible of the need we have or the divine blessing to make our labors successful.

     14. For seasons of diversion, let us take care that our recreations be well chosen; that they be pursued with a good intention, to fit us for a renewed application to the labors of life; and thus that they be only used in subordination to the honor of God, the great end of all our actions. Let us take heed, that our hearts be not estranged from God by them; and that they do not take up too much of our time; always remembering that the facilities of human nature, and the advantages of the Christian revelation, were not given us in vain; but that we are always to be in pursuit of some great and honorable end, and to indulge ourselves in amusements and diversions no farther than as they make a part in a scheme of rational and manly, benevolent and pious conduct.

     15. For the observation of Providence, it will be useful to regard the divine interposition in our comforts and in our afflictions. In our comforts, whether more common or extraordinary: that we find ourselves in continued health; that we are furnished with food for support and pleasure; that we have so many agreeable ways of employing our time; that we have so many friends, and those so good, and so happy; that our business goes on so prosperously; that we go out and come in safely; and that we enjoy composure and cheerfulness of spirit, without which nothing else could be enjoyed: all these should be regarded as providential favors, and due acknowledgments should be made to God on these accounts, as we pass through such agreeable scenes. On the other hand, Providence is to be regarded in every disappointment, in every loss, in every pain, in every instance of unkindness from those who have professed friendship; and we should endeavor to argue ourselves into a patient submission, from this consideration, that the hand of God is always mediately, if not immediately, in each of them; and that, if they are not properly the work of Providence, they are at least under his direction. It is a reflection which we should particularly make with relation to those little cross accidents, (as we are ready to call them) and those infirmities and follies in the temper and conduct of our intimate friends, which may else be ready to discompose us. And it is the more necessary to guard our minds here, as wise and good men often lose the command of themselves on these comparatively little occasions; who, calling lip reason and religion to their assistance, stand the shock of great calamities with fortitude and resolution.

     16. For watchfulness against temptations, it is necessary, when changing our place, or our employment, to reflect, "What snares attended me here?" And as this should be our habitual care, so we should especially guard against those snares which in the morning we foresaw. And when we are entering on those circumstances in which we expected the assault, we should reflect, especially if it be a matter of great importance, "Now the combat is going to begin: now God and the blessed angels are observing what constancy, what fortitude there is in my soul, and how far the divine authority, and the remembrance of my own prayers and resolutions, will weigh with me when it comes to a trial."

     17. As for dependence on divine grace and influence, it must be universal; and since we always need it, we must never forget that necessity. A moment spent in humble fervent breathings after the communications of the divine assistance, may do more good than many minutes spent in mere reasonings; and though indeed this should not be neglected, since the light of reason is a kind of divine illumination, yet still it ought to be pursued in a due sense of our dependence on the Father of Lights, or where we think ourselves wisest, we may "become vain in our imaginations," (Rom. 1:21,22) Let us therefore always call upon God, and say, for instance, when we are going to pray, "Lord, fix my attention! Awaken my holy affections, and pour out upon me the spirit of grace and of supplication!" (Zech. 12:10) When taking up a Bible or any other good book, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law! (Psa. 119:18) Enlighten my understanding! Warm my heart! May my good resolutions be confirmed, and all the course of my life be in a proper manner regulated!" When addressing ourselves to any worldly business, "Lord, prosper thou the work of mine hands upon me, (Psa. 90:17) and give thy blessing to my honest endeavors!" When going to any kind of recreation, "Lord, bless my refreshments! Let me not forget thee in them, but still keep thy glory in view!" When coming into company, "Lord, may I do, and get good! Let no corrupt communication proceed out of my mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers!" (Eph. 4:29) When entering upon difficulties, "Lord, give me that wisdom which is profitable to direct!" (Eccl. 10:10) "Teach me thy way, and lead me in a plain path!" (Psa. 27:11) When encountering with temptations, "Let thy strength, O gracious Redeemer, be made perfect in my weakness!" (2 Cor. 12:9) These instances may illustrate the design of this direction, though they may be far from a complete enumeration of all the circumstances in which it is to be regarded.

     18. For the government of our thoughts in solitude: let us accustom ourselves, on all occasions, to exercise a due command over our thoughts. Let us take care of those entanglements of passion, or those attachments to any present interest in view, which would deprive us of our power over them. Let us set before us some profitable subject of thought; such as the perfection of the blessed God, the love of Christ, the value of time, the certainty and importance of death and judgment, and the eternity of happiness or misery which is to follow. Let us also, at such intervals, reflect on what we have observed as to the state of our own souls, with regard to the advance or decline of religion; or on the last sermon we have heard or the last portion of Scripture we have read. You may perhaps, in this connection, Sir, recollect what I have, if I remember right, proposed to you in conversation; that it might be very useful to select some one verse of Scripture which we have met with in the morning, and to treasure it up in our mind, resolving to think of that at any time when we are at a loss for matter of pious reflection, in any intervals of leisure for entering upon it. This will often be as a spring from whence many profitable and delightful thoughts may rise, which perhaps we did not before see in that connection and force. Or if it should not be so, yet I am persuaded it will be much better to repent the same scripture in our mind a hundred times in a day, with some pious ejaculation formed upon it, than to leave our thoughts at the mercy of al1 those various trifles which may otherwise intrude upon us, the variety of which will be far from making amends for their vanity.

     19. Lastly, for the government of our discourse in company. We should take great care that no-thing may escape us which can expose us, or our Christian profession, to censure and reproach; nothing injurious to those that are absent, or those that are present; nothing malignant, nothing insincere, nothing which may corrupt, nothing which may provoke, nothing which may mislead those about us. Nor should we by any means be content that what we say is innocent: it should be our desire. that it may be edifying to ourselves and others. In this view, we should endeavor to have some subject of useful discourse always ready; in which we may be assisted by the hints given about furniture for thought, under the former head. We should watch for decent opportunities of introducing useful reflections; and if a pious friend attempt to do it, we should endeavor to second it immediately. When the conversation does not turn directly on religious subjects, we should endeavor to make it improving some other way; we should reflect on the character and capacities of our company, that we may lead them to talk of what they understand best; for their discourses on those subjects will probably be most pleasant to themselves, as well as most useful to us. And in pauses of discourse, it may not be improper to lift up a holy ejaculation to God, that his grace may assist us and our friends in our endeavors to do good to each other; that all we say or do may be worthy the character of reasonable creatures and of Christians.

     20. The directions for a religious closing or the day which I shall here mention, are only two: let us see to it, that the secret duties of the evening be well performed; and let us lie down on our beds in a pious frame.

     21. For the secret devotion in the evening, I would propose a method something different from that in the morning; but still, as then, with due allowances for circumstances which may make unthought-of alterations proper. I should advise to read a portion of Scripture in the first place, with suitable reflections and prayer, as above; then to read a hymn, or psalm; after this to enter on self-examination, to be followed by a longer prayer than that which followed reading, to be formed on this review of the day. In this address to the throne of grace, it will be highly proper to entreat that God would pardon the omissions and offences of the day; to praise him for mercies temporal and spiritual; to recommend ourselves to his protection for the ensuing night; with proper petitions for others, whom we ought to bear on our hearts before him; and particularly for those friends with whom we have conversed or corresponded in the preceding day. Many other concerns will occur, both in morning and evening prayer, which I have not here hinted at; but I did not apprehend that a full enumeration of these things belonged, by any means, to our present purpose.

     22. Before I quit this head I must take the liberty to remind you, that self-examination is so important a duty, that it will be worth our while to spend a few words upon it. And this branch of it is so easy, that, when we have proper questions before us, any person of a common understanding may hope to go through it with advantage, under a divine blessing. I offer you therefore the following queries, which I hope you will, with such alterations as you may judge requisite, keep near you for daily use. "Did I awake as with God this morning, and rise with a grateful sense of his goodness? How were the secret devotions of the morning performed? Did I offer my solemn praises, and renew the dedication of myself to God. with becoming attention and suitable affections? Did I lay my scheme for the business of the day wisely and well? How did I read the Scriptures, and any other devotional or practical piece which I afterwards found it convenient to review? Did it do my heart good, or was it a mere amusement? How have the other stated devotions of the day been attended, whether in the family or in public? Have I pursued the common business of the day with diligence and spirituality, doing every thing in season, and with all convenient dispatch, and as `unto the Lord?' (Col. 3:23) What time have I lost this day, in the morning, or the forenoon, in the afternoon, or the evening?" for these divisions will assist your recollection "and what has occasioned the loss of it? With what temper, and under what regulations have the recreations of this day been pursued? Have I seen the hand of God in my mercies, health, cheerfulness, food, clothing, books, preservation in journies, success of business, conversation, and kindness of friends, &c.? Have I seen it in afflictions, and particularly in little things, which had a tendency to vex and disquiet me? Have I received my comforts thankfully, and my afflictions submissively? How have I guarded against the temptations of the day, particularly against this or that temptation which I foresaw in the morning? Have I maintained a dependence on divine influence? Have I `lived by faith on the Son of God,' (Gal. 2:20) and regarded Christ this day as my teacher and governor, my atonement and intercessor, my example and guardian, my strength and forerunner? Have I been looking forward to death and eternity this day, and considered myself as a probationer for heaven, and, through grace, an expectant of it? Have I governed my thoughts well, especially in such or such an interval of solitude? How was my subject of thought this day chosen, and how was it regarded? Have I governed my discourses well, in such and such company? Did I say nothing passionate, mischievous, slanderous, imprudent, impertinent? Has my heart this day been full of love to God, and to all mankind? and have I sought, and found, and improved, opportunities of doing and of getting good? With what attention and improvement have I read the Scripture this evening? How was self-examination performed the last night? and how have I profited this day by any remarks I then made on former negligences and mistakes? With what temper did I then lie down, and compose myself to sleep?"

     22. You will easily see, Sir, that these questions are so adjusted as to be an abridgment of the most material advice I have given in this letter; and I believe I need not, to a person of your understanding, say any thing as to the usefulness of such inquiries. Conscience will answer them in a few minutes; but if you think them too large and particular, you may make still a shorter abstract for daily use, and reserve these, with such obvious alteration as will then be necessary for seasons of more than ordinary exactness in review, which I hope will occur at least once a week. Secret devotion being thus performed, before drowsiness render us unfit for it, the interval between that and our going to rest must be conducted by the rules mentioned under the next head. And nothing will farther remain to be considered here, but,

     24. The sentiments with which we should lie down and compose ourselves to sleep. Now here it is obviously suitable to think of the divine goodness, in adding another day, and the mercies of it, to the former days and mercies of our life; to take notice of the indulgence of Providence in giving us commodious habitations and easy beds, and continuing to us such health of body that we can lay ourselves down at ease upon them, and such serenity of mind as leaves us any room to hope for refreshing sleep; a refreshment to be sought, not merely as an indulgence to animal nature, but as whit our wise Creator, in order to keep us humble in the midst of so many infirmities, has been pleased to make necessary to our being able to pursue his service with renewed alacrity. Thus may our sleeping, as well as our waking hours, be in some sense devoted to God. And when we are just going to resign ourselves to the image of death, to what one of the ancients beautifully calls "its lesser mysteries," it is also evidently proper to think seriously of that end of all the living, and to renew those actings of repentance and faith which we should judge necessary if we were to wake no more here. You have once, Sir, seen a meditation of that kind in my hand: I will transcribe it for you in the postscript; and therefore shall add no more to this head, but here put a close to the directions you desired.

     25. I am persuaded the most important of them have, in one form or another, been long regarded by you, and made governing maxims of your life. I shall greatly rejoice if the review of these, and the examination and trial of the rest, may be the means of leading you into more intimate communion with God, and so of rendering your life more pleasant and useful, and your eternity, whenever that is to commence, more glorious. There is not a human creature upon earth whom I should not delight to serve in these important interests; but I can faithfully assure you, that I am, with particular respect,

          Dear Sir,
     Your very affectionate friend and servant.

     26. This, reader, with the alteration of a very few words, is the letter I wrote to a worthy friend (now, I doubt not with, God) about sixteen years ago; and I can assuredly say, that the experience of each of these years has confirmed me in these views, and established me in the. persuasion, that one day thus spent is far preferable to whole years of sensuality, and the neglect of religion. I chose to insert the letter as it is, because I thought the freedom and particularity of the advice I had given in it would appear most natural in its original form; and as I propose to enforce these counsels in the next Chapter, I shall conclude this with that meditation which I promised my friend as a postscript, and which I could wish you to make so familiar to yourself as that you may be able to recollect the substance of it whenever you compose. yourself to sleep.

A serious view of death, proper to be taken as we lie dawn on our beds.

     "O my soul! look forward a little with serious-ness and attention, and learn wisdom by the consideration of thy latter end, (Deut. 22:29) Another of thy mortal days is now numbered and finished; and as I have put off my clothes, and laid myself upon my bed for the repose of the night; so will the day of life quickly come to its period, so must the body itself be put off and laid to its repose in a bed of dust. There let it rest; for it will be no more regarded by me than the clothes which I have now laid aside. I have another far more important concern to attend. Think, O my soul! when death comes, thou art to enter upon the eternal world, and to be fixed either in heaven or in hell. All the schemes and cares, the hopes and fears, the pleasures and sorrows of life, will come to their period, and the world of spirits will open upon thee. And oh! how soon may it open! Perhaps before the returning sun bring on the light of another day. Tomorrow's sun may not enlighten my eyes, but only shine round a senseless corpse which may lie in the place of this animated body. At least the death of many in the flower of their age, and many who were superior to me in capacity, piety, and the prospects of usefulness, may loudly warn me not to depend on a long life, and engage me rather to wonder that I am continued here so many years, than to be surprised if I am speedily removed.

     "And now, O my soul! answer as in the sight of God, Art thou ready? Art thou ready? Is there no sin unforsaken, and so unrepented of to fill me with anguish in my departing moments, and to make me tremble on the brink of eternity? Dread to remain under the guilt of it, and this moment renew thy most earnest applications to the mercy of God, and the blood of a Redeemer, for deliverance from it.

     "But if the great account be already adjusted, if thou hast cordially repented of thy numerous of-fences? if thou hast sincerely committed thyself, by faith, into the hands of the blessed Jesus, and hast not renounced thy covenant with him, by turning to the allowed practice of sin, then start not at the thought of a separation; it is not in the power of death to hurt a soul devoted to God, and united to the great Redeemer. It may take from me my worldly comforts, it may disconcert and break my schemes for service on earth; but, O my soul, diviner entertainments and nobler services `wait thee beyond the grave!' For ever blessed be the name of God and the love of Jesus, for these quieting, encouraging joyful views! I will now lay me down in peace, and sleep, (Psa. 4:8) free from the fears of what shall be the issue of this night, whether life or death be appointed for me. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit, (Luke, 23:46) for thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth! (Psa. 31:5) and therefore I can cheerfully refer it to thy choice, whether I shall wake in this world or another."

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XX.

A SERIOUS PERSUASIVE TO SUCH A METHOD OF SPENDING OUR DAYS AS IS REPRESENTED IN THE FORMER Chapter.

1, 2. Christians fix their views too low, and indulge too indolent a disposition, which makes it more necessary to urge such a life as that under consideration.--3. It is therefore enforced, from its being apparently reasonable, considering ourselves as the creatures of God, and as redeemed by the blond of Christ.--4. From its evident tendency to conduce to our comfort in life.--5. From the influence it will have to promote our usefulness to others.--6. From its efficacy to make afflictions lighter.--7. From its happy aspect on death.--8. And on eternity.--9. Whereas not to desire improvement would argue a soul destitute of religion. A prayer suited to the state of a soul who longs to attain the life recommended above.

1. I have been assigning, in the preceding Chapter, what, I fear, will seem to some of my readers so hard a task, that they will want courage to attempt it; and indeed it is a life in many respects so far above that of the generality of Christians, that I am not without apprehensions that many, who deserve the name, may think the directions, after all the precautions with which I have proposed them, are carried to an unnecessary degree of nicety and strictness. But I am persuaded, much of the credit and comfort of Christianity is lost, in consequence of its professors fixing their aims too low, and not conceiving of their high and holy calling in so elevated and sublime a view as the nature of religion would require, and the word of God would direct. I am fully convinced, that the expressions of' "walking with God," of "being in the fear of the Lord all the day long." (Prov. 23:17) and, above all that of "loving the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength," (Mark. 12:30) must require, if not all these circumstances, yet the substance of all that I have been recommending, so far as we have capacity, leisure, and opportunity; and I can not but think that many might command more of the latter, and perhaps improve their capacities too, if they would take a due care in the government of themselves; if they would give up vain and unnecessary diversions, and certain indulgences, which only suit to delight the lower part of our nature, and, to say the best of them, deprive us of pleasures much better than themselves, if they do not plunge us into guilt. Many of these rules would appear easily practicable, if men would learn to know the value of time, and particularly to redeem it from unnecessary sleep, which wastes many golden hours of the day: hours in which many of God's servants are delighting themselves in him, and drinking in full draughts of the water of life; while these their brethren are slumbering upon their beds, and lost in vain dreams, as far below the common entertainments of a rational creature as the pleasures of the sublimest devotion are above them.

     2. I know likewise, that the mind is very fickle and inconstant and that it is a hard thing to preserve such a government and authority over our thoughts as would be very desirable, and as the plan I have laid down will require. But so much of the honor of God, and so much of our true happiness depends upon it, that I beg you will give me a patient and attentive hearing while I am pleading with you, and that you will seriously examine the arguments, and then judge, whether a care and conduct like that which I have advised be not in itself reasonable, and whether it will not be highly conducive to your comfort and usefulness in life, your peace in death, and the advancement and increase of your eternal glory.

     3. Let conscience say, whether such a life as I have described above be not in itself highly reasonable. Look over the substance of it again, anti bring it under a close examination; for I am very apprehensive that some weak objections may rise against the whole, which may in their consequence affect particulars, against which no reasonable man would presume to make any objection at all. Recollect, O Christian! carry it with you in your memory and your heart, while you are pursuing this review, that you are the creature of God; that you are purchased with the blood of Jesus; and then say whether these relations in which you stand do not demand all that application and resolution which I would engage you to. Suppose all the counsels I have given you reduced into practice; suppose every day begun and concluded with such devout breathings after God, and such holy retirements for morning and evening converse with him and with your own heart; suppose a daily care, in contriving how your time may be managed, and in reflecting how it has been employed; suppose this regard to God, this sense of his presence, and zeal for his glory, to run through your acts of worship, your hours of business and recreation; suppose this attention to Providence, this guard against temptation, this dependence upon divine influence, this government of the thoughts in solitude, and of the discourse in company; nay, I will add farther, suppose every particular direction given to be pursued, excepting when particular cases occur, with respect to which you shall be able in conscience to say, "I wave it not from indolence and carelessness, but because I think it will be just now more pleasing to God to be doing something else," which may often happen in human life, where general rules are best concerted: suppose, I say, all this to be done, not for a day or a week, but through the remainder of life, whether longer or shorter; and suppose this to be reviewed at the close of life, in the full exercise of your rational faculties; will there be reason to say in the reflection, "I have taken too much pains in religion; the Author of my being did not deserve all this from me; less diligence, less fidelity, less zeal than this, might have been an equivalent for the blood which was shed for my redemption. A part of my heart, a part of my time, a part of my labors, might have sufficed for him, who hath given me all my powers; for him who hath delivered me from that destruction which would have made them my everlasting torment; for him who is raising me to the regions of a blissful immortality." Can you with any face say this? If you cannot, then surely your conscience bears witness, that all I have recommended, under the limitations above, is reasonable; that duty and gratitude require it; and consequently, that, by every allowed failure in it, you bring guilt upon your own soul, you offend God, and act unworthy of your Christian profession.

     4. I entreat you farther to consider whether such a conduct as I have now been recommending, would not conduce much to your comfort and usefulness in life. Reflect seriously what is true happiness! Does it consist in distance from God, or in nearness to him? Surely you cannot be a Christian, surely you cannot be a rational man, if you doubt whether communion with the great Father of our spirits be a pleasure and felicity; and if it be, then surely they enjoy most of it who keep him most constantly in view. You cannot but know, in your own conscience, that it is this which makes the happiness of heaven; and therefore the more of it any man enjoys upon earth, the more of heaven comes down into his soul. If you have made any trial of religion, though it be but a few months or weeks since you first became acquainted with it, you must be some judge, from your own experience, which have been the most pleasant days of your life. Have they not been those in which you have acted most upon these principles? those in which you have most steadily and resolutely carried them through every hour of time, and every circumstance of life? The check which you must, in many instances, give to your own inclinations, might seem disagreeable; but it would surely be overbalanced, in a most happy manner, by the satisfaction you would find in a consciousness of self-government; in having such a command of your thoughts, affections, and actions, as is much more glorious than any authority over others can be.

     5. I would also entreat you to consider the influence which such a conduct as this might have upon the happiness of others. And it is easy to be seen that it must be very great; as you would find your heart always disposed to watch every opportunity of doing good, and to seize it with eagerness and delight. It would engage you to make it the study and business of your life, to order things in such a manner that the end of one kind and useful action might be the beginning of another; in which you would go on as naturally as the inferior animals do in those productions and actions by which mankind are relieved or enriched; or as the earth bears her successive crops of different vegetable supplies. And though mankind be, in this corrupt state, so unhappily inclined to imitate evil examples rather than good, yet it may be expected, that while "your light shines before men," some, "seeing your good works," will endeavor to transcribe them in their own lives, and so to "glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16) The charm of such beautiful models would surely impress some, and incline them at least to attempt an imitation; and every attempt would dispose to another. And thus, through the divine goodness, you might be entitled to a share in the praise, and the reward, not only of the good you had immediately done yourself; but likewise of that which you had engaged others to do. And no eye, but that of the all-searching God, can see into what distant times or places the blessed consequences may reach. In every instance in which these consequences appear, it will put a generous and sublime joy into your heart which no worldly prosperity could afford, and which would be the liveliest emblem of that high delight which the blessed God feels in seeing and making his creatures happy.

     6. It is true indeed, that amidst all these pious and benevolent cares, afflictions may come, and in some measure interrupt you in the midst of your projected schemes. But surely these afflictions will be much lighter, when your heart is gladdened with the peaceful and joyful reflections of your own mind, and with so honorable a testimony of conscience before God and man. Delightful will it be to go back to past scenes in your pleasing review, and to think that you have not only been sincerely humbling yourself for those past offences which afflictions may bring to your remembrance; but that you have given substantial proofs of the sincerity of that humiliation, by a real reformation of what has been amiss, and by adding with strenuous and vigorous resolution on the contrary principle. And while converse with God, and doing good to men, are made the great business and pleasure of life, you will find a thousand opportunities of enjoyment, even in the midst of these afflictions, which would render you so incapable of relishing the pleasures of sense, that the very mention of them might, in those circumstances, seem an insult and a reproach.

     7. At length death will come, that solemn and important hour, which has been passed through by so many thousands who have in the main lived such a life, and by so many millions who have neglected it. And let conscience say, if there was ever one of all these millions who had any reason to rejoice in that neglect; or any one, among the most strict and exemplary Christians, who then lamented that his heart and life had been too zealously devoted to God. Let conscience say, whether they have wished to have a part of that time, which they have thus employed, given back to them again, that they might be more conformed to this world; that they might plunge themselves deeper into its amusements, or pursue its honors, its possessions, or its pleasures, with greater eagerness than they had done. If you were yourself dying, and a dear friend or child stood near you, and this book and the preceding Chapter should chance to come into your thoughts, would you caution that friend or child against conducting himself by such rules as I have advanced? The question may perhaps seem unnecessary, where the answer is so plain and certain. Well, then, let me beseech you to learn how you should live, by reflecting how you would die, and what course you would wish to look back upon, when you are just quitting this world and entering upon another. Think seriously; what if death should surprise you on a sudden, and you should be called into eternity at an hour's or a minute's warning, would you not wish that your last day should have been thus begun; and the course of it, if it were a day of health and activity, should have been thus managed? Wou1d you not wish that your Lord should find you engaged in such thoughts and such pursuits? Would not the passage, the flight from earth to heaven, be most easy, most pleasant, in this view and connection? And, on the other hand, if death should make more gradual approaches. would not the remembrance of such a pious, holy, humble, diligent, and useful life, make a dying bed much softer and easier than it would otherwise be? You would not die, depending upon these things. God forbid that you should! Sensible of your many imperfections, you would, no doubt, desire to throw yourself at the feet of Christ, that you might appear before God, "adorned with his righteousness, and washed from your sins in his blood." You would also, with your dying breath, ascribe to the riches of his grace every good disposition you had found in your heart, and every worthy action you had been enabled to perform. But would it not give you a delight, worthy of being purchased with ten thousand worlds, to reflect that his "grace, bestowed on you, had not been in vain," (1 Cor. 15:10) but that you had, from a humble principle of grateful love, glorified your heavenly Father on earth, and, in some degree. though not with the perfection you could desire, "finished the work which he had given you to do:" (John 17:4) that you had been living for many past years as on the borders of heaven, and endeavoring to form your heart and life to the temper and manners of its inhabitants?

     8. And once more, let me entreat you to reflect on the view you will have of this matter when you come into a world of glory, if (which I hope will be the happy case) divine mercy conduct you thither. Will not your reception there be affected by your care, or negligence, in this holy course? Will it appear an indifferent thing in the eye or the blessed Jesus, who distributes the crowns, and allots the thrones there, whether you have been among the most zealous, or the most indolent of his servants? Surely you must wish to have "an entrance administered unto you abundantly into the kingdom of your Lord and Savior," (2 Pet. 1:11) and what can more certainly conduce to it, than to he "always abounding in this work?" (1 Cor. 15:58) You cannot think so meanly of that glorious state, as to imagine that you shall there look round about with a secret disappointment, and say in your heart that you over-valued the inheritance you hare received, and pursued it with too much earnestness. You will not surely complain that it had too many of your thoughts and cares; but, on the contrary, you have the highest reason to believe, that, if any thing were capable of exciting your indignation and your grief there, it would be, that, amidst so many motives and so many advantages, you exerted yourself no more in the prosecution of such a prize.

     9. But I will not enlarge on so clear a case, and therefore conclude the Chapter with reminding you, that to allow yourself deliberately to sit down satisfied with any imperfect attainments in religion, and to look upon a more confirmed and improved state of it as what you do not desire, nay, as what you sincerely resolve that you will not pursue, is one of the most fatal signs we can well imagine that you are an entire stranger to the first principles of it.

A Prayer suited to the State of a Soul who desires to attain the Life above recommended.

     "Blessed God! I cannot contradict the force of these reasonings: O that I may feel more than ever the lasting effects of them! Thou art the great fountain of being and of happiness; and as from thee my being was derived, so from thee my happiness directly flows; and the nearer I am to thee, the purer and more delicious is the stream. `With thee is the fountain of life; in thy light may I see light!' (Psa. 36:9) The great object of my final hope is to dwell for ever with thee. Give me now some foretaste of that delight! Give me, I beseech thee, to experience `the blessedness of that man who feareth the Lord, and who delighteth greatly in his commandments,' (Psa. 112:1) and so form my heart by thy grace, that I may `be in the fear of the Lord all the day long.' (Prov. 23:17)

     "To thee may my awakening thoughts be directed: and with the first ray of light that visits my opening eyes, `lift up, O Lord, the light of thy countenance upon me!' (Psa. 4:6) When my faculties are roused from that broken state in which they lay, while buried, and, as it were, annihilated in sleep, may my first actions be consecrated to thee, O God, who givest me light; who givest me, as it were, every morning a new life and a new reason? Enable my heart to pour out itself before thee with a filial reverence, freedom, and endearment! And may I hearken to God, as I desire that he should hearken unto me! May thy word be read with attention and pleasure! May my soul be delivered into the mold of it, and may I `hide it in my heart that I may not sin against thee!' (Psa. 119:111) Animated by the great motives there suggested, may I every morning by renewing the dedication of myself to thee, through Jesus Christ thy beloved Son; and be deriving from him new supplies of that blessed Spirit of thine, whose influences are the life of my soul.

     "And being thus prepared, do thou, Lord, lead me forth by the hand to all the duties and events of the day! In that calling, wherein thou hast been pleased to call me, may I abide with thee, (1 Cor. 7:20) not `being slothful in business,' but `fervent in spirit, serving the Lord!' (Rom. 12:11) May I know the value of time, and always improve it to the best advantage, in such duties as thou hast assigned me, how low soever they may seem, or how painful soever they may be! To thy glory, O Lord, may the labors of life be pursued; and to thy glory may the refreshments of it be sought! `Whether I eat, or drink, or whatever I do,' (1 Cor. 10:31) may that end still be kept in view, and may it be attained! And may every refreshment, and release from business, prepare me to serve thee with greater vigor and resolution!

     "May my eye be watchful to observe the descent of mercies from thee; and may a grateful sense of thy hand in them add a savor and relish to all! And when afflictions come, which in a world like this I would accustom myself to expect, may I remember that they come from thee; and may that fully reconcile me to them, while I firmly believe that the same love which gives us our daily bread, appoints us our daily crosses; which I would learn to take up, that I may follow my dear Lord, (Mark 8:34) with a temper like that which he manifested when ascending Calvary for my sake: saying, like him, `The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?' (John, 18:11) And when I `enter into temptation,' do thou, Lord, `deliver me from evil.' (Matt. 6:13) Make me sensible, I entreat thee, of my own weakness, that my heart may he raised to thee for present communications of proportionable strength. When I am engaged in the society of others, may it be my desire and my care that I may do and receive as much good as possible; and may I continually answer the great purposes of life, by honoring thee; and diffusing useful knowledge and happiness in the world. And when I am alone, may I remember my `heavenly Father is with me;' and may I enjoy the pleasure of thy presence, and fed the animating power of it awakening my soul to an en earnest desire to think and act as in thy sight.

     "Thus let my days be spent; and let them always be closed in thy fear, and under a sense of thy gracious presence. Meet me, O Lord, in my evening retirements. May I choose the most proper time for them; may I diligently attend to reading and prayer; and when I review my conduct, may I do it with an impartial eye. Let not self-love spread a false coloring over it; but may I judge myself; as one that expects to be judged of the Lord, and is very solicitous he may be approved by thee, who `searchest all hearts,' and `canst not forget any of my works.' (Amos, 8:7) `Let my prayer come before thee as incense,' add `let the lifting up of my hands be as the morning and the evening sacrifice.' (Psa. 141:2) May I resign my powers to sleep in sweet calmness and serenity; conscious that I have lived to God in the day, and cheerfully persuaded that I am `accepted of thee in Christ Jesus my Lord,' and humbly `hoping in thy mercy through him,' whether my days on earth be prolonged; or `the residue of them be cut off in the midst.' (Isa. 37:10) If death comes by a leisurely advance, may it find me thus employed; and if I am called on a sudden to exchange worlds, may my last days and hours be found to have been conducted by such maxims as these; that I may have a sweet and easy passage from the services of time to the infinitely nobler services of an immortal state. I ask it through him, who, while on earth, was the fairest pattern and example of every virtue and grace, and who now lives and reigns with thee, `able to save unto the uttermost:' (Heb. 7:25) to him, having done all, I would fly, with humble acknowledgment that I am an `unprofitable servant;' (Luke, 17:10) `to him be glory for ever and ever.' Amen "

Back to Contents

Back to Top


© 1999 The Old Time Gospel Ministry
"When to seek God has become life and to glorify God has become self, then you have truly found God."