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 XXI.

A CAUTION AGAINST VARIOUS TEMPTATIONS, BY WHICH THE YOUNG CONVERT MAY BE DRAWN ASIDE FROM THE COURAGE RECOMMENDED ABOVE.

1. Dangers continue, after the first difficulties (considered Chap. xvi.) are broken through.--2. Particular cautions--against a sluggish and indolent temper.--3. Against the excessive love of sensitive pleasure.--4. Leading to a neglect of business and needless expense.--5. Against the snares of evil company.--6. Against excessive hurry of worldly business.--7. Which is enforced by the fatal consequences these have had in many cases.--8. The Chapter concludes with an exhortation to die to this world, and to live to another. And the young Convert's prayer for Divine protection against the dangers arising from these snares.

1. THIS representation I have been making of the pleasure and advantage of a life spent in devotedness to God and communion with him, as I have described it above, will, I hope, engage you, my dear reader, to form some purposes, and make some attempt to obtain it. But from considering the nature, and observing the course of things, it appears exceedingly evident, that, besides the general opposition which I formerly mentioned as like to attend you in your first entrance on a religious life, you will find even that, after you have resolutely broke through this, a variety of hindrances in any attempts or exemplary piety, and in the prosecution of a remarkably strict and edifying course, will present themselves daily in your path; and whereas you may, by a few resolute efforts, baffle some of the former sorts of enemies, these will be perpetually renewing their onsets, and a vigorous struggle must be continually maintained with them. Give me leave now, therefore, to be particular in my cautions against some of the chief of them. And here I would insist upon the difficulties which will arise from indolence and the love of pleasure from vain company, and worldly cares. Each of these may prove ensnaring to any, and especially to young persons, to whom I would now have some particular regard.

     2. I entreat you, therefore, in the first place, that you will guard against a sluggish and indolent temper. The love of ease insinuates itself into the heart under a variety of plausible pretences, which are often allowed to pass, when temptations of a grosser nature would not be admitted. The misspending a little time seems to wise and good men a small matter; yet this sometimes runs them in into great inconveniencies. It often leads them to break in upon the seasons regularly allotted to devotion, and to defer business which might immediately be done, but being put off from day to day, is not done at all, and thereby the services of life are at least diminished, and the rewards of eternity diminished proportionably: not to insist upon it, that very frequently this lays the soul open to farther temptations, by which it falls, in consequence of being found unemployed. Be therefore suspicious of the first approaches of this kind. Remember that the soul of man is an active being, and that it must find its pleasure in activity. "Gird up," therefore, "the loins of your mind." (1 Pet. 1:13) Endeavor to keep yourself always well employed. Be exact, if I may with humble reverence use the expression, in your appointments with God. Meet him early in the morning; and say not with the sluggard, when the proper hour of rising is come, "A little more sleep, a little more slumber." (Prov. 6:10) That time which prudence shall advise you, give to conversation and to other recreations. But when that is elapsed, and no unforeseen and important engagement prevents, rise and begone. Quit the company of your dearest friends, and retire to your proper business, whether it be in the field, the shop, or the closet. For by acting contrary to the secret dictates of your mind as to what it is just at the present moment best to do, though it be but in the manner of spending half an hour, some degree of guilt is contracted, and a habit is cherished, which may draw after it much worse consequences. Consider, therefore, what duties are to be dispatched, and in what seasons. Form your plan as prudently as you can, and pursue it resolutely; unless an unexpected incident arises, which leads you to conclude that duty calls you another way. Allowances for such unthought-of interruptions must be made; but if, in consequence of this, you are obliged to omit any thing of importance which you proposed behave done to-day, do it if possible to-morrow; and do not cut yourself out new work, till the former plan be dispatched; unless you really judge it, not merely more amusing, but more important. And always remember, that a servant of Christ should see to it, that he determine on these occasions as in his Master's presence.

     3. Guard also against an excessive love of sensitive and animal pleasure, as that which will be a great hindrance to you in that religious course which I have now been urging. You cannot but know that Christ has told us, "that a man must deny himself, and take up his cross daily," (Luke 9:23) if he desire to become his disciple. Christ, the Son of God, "the former and the heir of all things, pleased not himself," (Rom. 15:3) but submitted to want, to difficulties, and hardships, in the way of duty, and some of them of the extremest kind and degree, for the glory of God and the salvation of men. In this way we are to follow him; and as we know not how soon we may be called, even to "resist unto blood, striving against sin," (Heb. 12:4) it is certainly best to accustom ourselves to that discipline which we may possibly be called out to exercise, even in such rigorous heights. A soft and delicate life will give force to temptations, which might easily be subdued by one who has habituated himself to "endure hardships as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." (2 Tim. 2:3) It also produces an attachment to this world, and an unwillingness to leave it, which ill becomes those who are strangers and pilgrims on earth, and who expect so soon to be called away to that better country which they "profess to seek." (Heb. 11:13,16) Add to this, that, what the world calls a life of pleasure, is necessarily a life of expense too, and may perhaps lead you, as it has many others, and especially many who have been setting out in the world, beyond the limits which Providence has assigned; and so, after a course of indulgence, may produce a proportionable want. And while in other cases it is true that pity should be shown to the poor, this is a poverty that is justly contemptible, because it is the effect of a man's own folly; and when your "want thus comes upon you as an armed man," (Prov. 6:11) you will not only find yourself striped of the capacity you might otherwise have secured for performing those works of charity which are so ornamental to a Christian profession, but probably will be under strong temptations to some low artifice or mean compliance, quite beneath the Christian character and that of an upright man. Many, who once made a high profession, after a series of such sorry and scandalous shifts, have fallen into the infamy of the worst kind of bankrupts; I mean such as have lavished away on themselves what was indeed the property of others, and so have injured, and perhaps ruined, the industrious, to feed a foolish, luxurious, or ostentatious humor, which, while indulged, was the shame of their own families, and when it can be indulged no longer, is their torment. This will be a terrible reproach to religion: such a reproach to it, that a good man would rather choose to live on bread and water, or indeed to die for want of them, than to occasion it.

     4. Guard, therefore, I beseech you, against any thing which might tend that way, especially by diligence in business, and by prudence and frugality in expense, which, by the Divine blessing, may have a very happy influence to make your affairs prosperous, your health vigorous, and your mind easy. But this cannot be attained without keeping a resolute watch over yourself, and strenuously refusing to comply with many proposals which indolence and sensuality will offer in very plausible forms, and for which it will plead, "that it asks but very little." Take heed, lest in this respect you imitate those fond parents, who, by indulging their children in every little thing they have a mind to, encourage them, by insensible degrees, to grow still more encroaching and imperious in their demands; as if they chose to be ruined with them, rather than to check them in what seems a trifle. Remember, and consider that excellent remark, sealed by the ruin of so many thousands: "He that despiseth small things, shall fall by little and litt1e."

     5. In this view, give me leave also seriously and tenderly to caution you, my dear reader, against the snares of vain company. I speak not, as before, of that company which is openly licentious and profane. I hope there is something now in your temper and views, which would engage you to turn away from such with detestation and horror. But I beseech you to consider, that those companions may be very dangerous, who might at first give you but very little alarm: I mean those who, though not the declared enemies of religion, and professed followers of vice and disorder, yet nevertheless have no practical sense of divine things on their hearts, so far as can be judged by their conversation and behavior. You must often of necessity be with such persons; and Christianity not only allows, but requires, that you should, on all expedient occasions of intercourse with them, treat them with civility and respect; but choose not such for your most intimate friends, and do not contrive to spend most of your leisure moments among them. For such converse has a sensible tendency to alienate the soul from God, and to render it unfit for all spiritual communion with him. To convince you of this, do but reflect on your own experience, when you have been for many hours together among persons of such a character. Do you not find yourself more indisposed for devotional exercises? Do you not find your heart, by insensible degrees, more and more inclined to a conformity to this world, and to look with a secret disrelish on those objects and employments to which reason directs as the noblest and best? Observe the first symptoms, and guard against the snare in time: and for this purpose, endeavor to form friendships founded in piety, and supported by it. "Be a companion of them that fear God, and of them that keep his precepts." (Psa. 119:63) You well know, that in the sight of God "they are the excellent of the earth;" let them therefore "be all your delight." (Psa. 16:3) And that the peculiar benefit of their friendship may not be lost, endeavor to make the best of the hours you spend with them. The wisest of men has observed that when "counsel in the heart of a man is like deep waters," that is, when it lies low and concealed, `a man of understanding will draw it out.' (Prov. 20:5)

     5. Endeavor, therefore, on such occasions, so far as you can do it with decency and convenience, give the conversation a religious turn. And when serious and useful subjects are started in your presence, lay hold of them, and cultivate them; and for that purpose "let the word of Christ dwell richly in you," (Col. 3:1) and be continually made "the man of your counsel." (Psa. 119:24)

     6. If it be so, it will secure you not only from the snares of idleness and luxury, but from the contagion of every bad example. And it will also engage you to guard against those excessive hurries of worldly business, which would fill up all your time and thoughts, and thereby "choke the good word" of God, and render it in a great measure, if not quite, unfruitful. (Matt. 13:22) Young people are generally of an enterprising disposition: having experienced comparatively little of the fatigue of business, and of the disappointments and incumbrances of life, they easily swallow them up and annihilate them in their imagination, and fancy that their spirit, their application, and address, will be able to encounter and, surmount every obstacle or hinderance. But the event proves it otherwise. Let me entreat you, therefore, to be cautious how you plunge yourself into a greater variety of business than you are capable of managing as you ought, that is, in consistency with the care of your soul and the service of God, which certainly ought not on any pretence to be neglected. It is true indeed, that a prudent regard to your worldly interest would require such a caution; as it is obvious to every careful observer, that multitudes are undone by grasping at more than they can conveniently manage. Hence it has frequently been seen, that, while they have seemed resolved to be rich, they have "pierced themselves through with many sorrows," (1 Tim. 6:10) have ruined their own families, and drawn down many others into desolation with them. Whereas, could they have been contented with moderate employments and moderate gains, they might have prospered in their business, and might, by sure degrees, under a divine blessing, have advanced to great and honorable increase. But if there were no danger at all to be apprehended on this bend, if you were as certain of becoming rich and great, as you are of perplexing and fatiguing yourself in the attempt, consider, I beseech you, how precarious these enjoyments are. Consider how often "a plentiful table becomes a snare, and that which should have been for a man's welfare, becomes a trap." (Psa. 69:22) Forget not that short lesson, which is so comprehensive of the highest wisdom: "One thing is needful." (Luke 10:42) Be daily thinking, while the gay and the great things of life are glittering before your eyes, how soon death will come, and impoverish you at once: how soon it will strip you of all possessions but those which a naked soul can carry along with it into eternity, when it drops the body into the grave. ETERNITY! ETERNITY! ETERNITY! Carry the view of it about with you; if it be possible, through every hour of waking life; and be fully persuaded that you have no business, no interest in life, that is inconsistent with it; for whatsoever would be injurious in view of eternity. is not your business, is not your interest. You see indeed, that the generality of men act as if they thought the great thing which God requires of them, in order to secure his favor, was to get as much of the world as possible: at least as much us they can without any gross immorality, and without risking the loss of all. Such persons may tell others, and perhaps flatter themselves, that they only seek opportunities of greater usefulness. But in effect, if they mean any thing more by this than a capacity of usefulness, which, when they have it, they will not exert, they generally deceive themselves; and, one way or another, it is a vain pretence. In most instances men seek the world--either that they may hoard up riches for the mean and scandalous satisfaction of looking upon them while they are living, and of thinking, that, when they are dead, it will be said of them that they have left so many hundreds or thousands of pounds behind them; very probably, to ensnare their children, or their heirs, (for the vanity is not peculiar to those who have children of their own)--or else that they may lavish away their riches on their lusts, and drown themselves in a gulf of sensuality in which, if reason be not lost, religion is soon swallowed up, and with it all the noblest pleasures which can enter into the heart of man. In this view, the generality of rich people appear to me objects of much greater compassion than the poor: especially as, when both live (which is frequently the case) without any fear of God before their eyes, the rich abuse the greater variety and abundance of their favors, and therefore will probably feel, in that world of future ruin which awaits impenitent sinners, a more exquisite sense of their misery.

     7. And let me observe to you, my dear reader, lest you should think yourself secure from any such danger that we have great reason to apprehend there are many now in a very wretched state, who once thought seriously of religion, when they were first setting out, in lower circumstances of life; but they have since forsaken God for Mammon and are now priding themselves in those golden chains, which, in all probability. before it be long, will leave them to remain in those of darkness. When, therefore, an attachment to the world may be followed with such fatal consequences, "let not thine heart envy sinners," (Prov. 23:17) and do not, out of a desire of gaining what they have, be guilty of such folly as to expose yourself to this double danger or failing in the attempt, or of being undone by the success of it. Contract your desires; endeavor to be easy and content with a little; and if Providence call you out to act in a larger sphere, submit to it in obedience to Providence, but number it among the trials of life, which it will require a larger proportion of grace to bear well. For be assured, that, as affairs and interests multiply, cares and duties will certainly increase, and probably disappointments and sorrows will increase in an equal proportion.

     8. On the whole, learn, by divine grace, to die to the present world: to look upon it as a low state of being, which God never intended for the final and complete happiness, or the supreme care of any one of his children: a world, where something is indeed to be enjoyed, but chiefly from himself; where a great deal is to be borne with patience and resignation; and where some important duties are to be performed, and a course of discipline to be passed through, by which you are to be formed for a better state, to which, as a Christian, you are near, and to which God will call you, perhaps on a sudden, but undoubtedly, if you hold on your way, in the fittest time and the most convenient manner. Refer, therefore, all this to him. Let your hopes and fears, your expectations and desires, with regard to this world, be kept as low as possible; and all your thoughts be united, as much as may be, in this one centre: what is it that God would, in present have you to be: and what is that method of conduct by which you may most effectually please and glorify him.

The Young Convert's Prayer for Divine Protection against the Danger of these Snares.

     "Blessed God! in the midst of ten thousand snares and dangers, which surround me from without and from within, permit me to look up unto thee with my humble entreaty, that thou wouldst `deliver me from them that rise up against me,' (Psa. 59:1) and that `thine eyes may be upon me for good.' (Jer. 24:6) When sloth and indolence are ready to seize me, awaken me from that idle dream, with lively and affectionate views of that invisible and eternal world to which I am tending! Remind me of what infinite importance it is, that I diligently improve those transient moments which thou hast allotted me as the time of my preparation for it.

     "When sinners entice me, may I not consent! (Prov. 1:10) May holy converse with God give me a disrelish for the converse of those who are strangers to thee, and who would separate my soul from thee! May I `honor them that fear the Lord,' (Psa. 15:4) and walking with such wise and holy men, may I find I am daily advancing in wisdom and holiness! (Prov. 13:20) Quicken me, O Lord! by their means; that by me thou mayest also quicken others! Make me the happy instrument of enkindling and animating the flame of divine love in their breasts; and may it catch from heart to heart, and grow every moment in its progress!

     "Guard me, O Lord! from the love of sensual pleasure! May I seriously remember, `that to be carnally-minded is death!' (Rom. 8:6) May it please thee, therefore, to purify and refine my soul by the influence of thine Holy Spirit, that I may always shun unlawful gratifications more solicitously than others pursue them; and that those indulgences of animal nature which thou hast allowed, and which the constitution of things renders necessary, may be soberly and moderately used! May I still remember the superior dignity of my spiritual and intelligent nature, and may the pleasures of the man and the Christian be sought as my noblest happiness! May my soul rise on the wings of holy contemplation to the regions of invisible glory; and may I be endeavoring to form myself, under the influences of divine grace, for the entertainments of those angelic spirits that live in thy presence in a happy incapacity of those gross delights by which spirits dwelling in flesh are so often ensnared, and in which they so often lose the memory of their high original, and of those noble hopes which alone are proportionable to it!

     "Give me, O Lord! to know the station in which thou hast fixed me, and steadily to pursue the duties of it! But deliver me from those excessive cares of this world, which would so engross my time and my thoughts, that `the one thing needful' should be forgotten! May my desires after worldly possessions be moderated, by considering their uncertain and unsatisfying nature; and, while others are laying up treasures on earth, may I be `rich towards God!' (Luke 12:21) May I never be too busy to attend to those great affairs which lie between thee and my soul; never be so engrossed with the concerns of time, as to neglect the interests of eternity! May I pass through earth with my heart and hopes set upon heaven, and feel the attractive influence stronger and stronger as I approach still nearer and nearer to that desirable centre; till the happy moment come, when every earthly object shall disappear from my view, and the shining glories of the heavenly world shall fill my improved and strengthened sight, which shall then be cheered with that which would now overwhelm me! Amen."

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XXII.

THE CASE OF SPIRITUAL DECAY AND LANGUOR IN RELIGION

1. Declension in religion, and relapses into sin, with their sorrowful consequences, are in the general too probable.--2. The ease of declension and langour in religion described, negatively.--3. And positively.--4. As discovering itself by a failure in the duties of the closet.--5. By a neglect of social worship.--6. By want of love to our fellow Christians.--7. By an undue attachment to sensual pleasures or secular cares.--8. By prejudices against some important principles in religion.--9,10. A symptom peculiarly sad and dangerous.--11. Directions for recovery.--12. Immediately to be pursued. A prayer for one under spiritual decays.

1. IF I am so happy as to prevail upon you in the exhortations and cautions I have given, you will probably go on with pleasure and comfort in religion, and your path will generally be "like the morning light, which shineth more and more until the perfect day." (Prov. 4: 18) Yet I dare not flatter myself with an expectation of such success as shall carry you above those varieties of temper, conduct, and state, which have been more or less the complaint of the best of men. Much do I fear, that, how warmly soever your heart may now be impressed with the representation I have been making, though the great objects of your faith and hope continue unchangeable, your temper towards them will be changed. Much do I fear that you will feel your mind languish and tire in the good ways of God; nay, that you may be prevailed upon to take some step out of them, and may thus fall a prey to some of those temptations which you now look upon with a holy scorn. The probable consequence of this will be, that God will hide his face from you; that he will stretch forth his afflicting hand against you, and that you still will see your sorrowful moments, how cheerfully soever you now "be rejoicing in the Lord, and joying in the God of your salvation." (Hab. 3: 18) I hope, therefore, it may be of some service, if this too probable event should happen, to consider these cases a little more particularly; and I heartily pray, that God would make what I shall say concerning them the means of restoring, comforting, and strengthening your soul, if he ever suffers you in any degree to deviate from him.

     2. We will first consider the case of Spiritual Declensions and Languor in religion. And here I desire, that, before I proceed any farther, you would observe that I do not comprehend under this head every abatement of that fervor which a young convert may find when he first becomes experimentally acquainted with divine things. Our natures are so framed, that the novelty of objects strikes them in something of a peculiar manner: not to urge how much more easily our passions are impressed in the earlier years of life, than when we are more advanced in the journey of it. This, perhaps, is not sufficiently considered. Too great a stress is commonly laid on the flow of affections; and for want or this, a Christian, who is ripened in grace, and greatly advanced in his preparation for glory, may sometimes be led to lament imaginary rather than real decays, and to say, without any just foundation, "O that it were with me as in months past!" (Job 29:2) Therefore, you can hardly be too frequently told, that religion consists chiefly "in the `resolution of the will for God,' and in a constant care to avoid whatever we are persuaded he would disapprove, to despatch the work he has assigned us in life, and to promote his glory in the happiness of mankind." To this we are chiefly to attend, looking in all to the simplicity and purity of those motives from which we act, which we know are chiefly regarded by that God who searches the heart; humbling ourselves before him at the same time under a sense of our many imperfections, and flying to the blood of Christ and the grace of the Gospel.

     3. Having given this precaution, I will now a little more particularly describe the case, which I call the state of a Christian who is declining in religion; so far as it does not fall in with those which I shall consider in the following Chapters. And I must observe that it chiefly consists "in a forgetfulness of divine objects, and a remissness in those various duties to which we stand engaged by that solemn surrender which we have made of ourselves to the service of God." There will be a variety of symptoms, according to the different circumstances and relations in which the Christian is placed; but some will be of a more universal kind. It will be peculiarly proper to touch on these; and so much the rather, as these declensions are often unobserved, like the gray hairs which were upon Ephraim, when he knew it not. (Hos. 7:9)

     4. Should you, my reader, fall into this state, it will probably first discover itself by a failure in the duties of the closet. Not that I suppose they will at first, or certainly conclude that they will at all, be wholly omitted, but they will be run over in a cold and formal manner. Sloth, or some of those other snares which I cautioned you against in the former Chapter, will so far prevail upon you, that though perhaps you know and recollect that the proper season of retirement is come, you will sometimes indulge yourself upon your bed in the morning, sometimes in conversation or business in the evening, so as not to have convenient time for it. Or perhaps, when you come into your closet at that season, some favorite book you are desirous to read, some correspondence that you choose to carry on, or some other amusement, will present itself, and plead to be despatched first. This will probably take up more time than you imagined; and then secret prayer will be hurried over, and perhaps reading the Scriptures quite neglected. You will plead, perhaps, that it is but for once; but the same allowance will be made a second and a third time; and it will grow more easy and familiar to you each time than it was the last. And thus God will be mocked, and your own soul will be defrauded of its spiritual meals, if I may be allowed the expression; the word of God will be slighted, and self-examination quite disused; and secret prayer itself wilt grow a burden rather than a delight; a trifling ceremony, rather than a devout homage, fit for the acceptance of "our Father who is in heaven."

     5. If immediate and resolute measures be not taken for your recovery from these declensions, they will spread farther, and reach the acts of social worship. You will feel the effects in your family and in public ordinances. And if you do not feel them, the symptoms will be so much the worse. Wandering thoughts will, as it were, eat out the very heart of these duties. It is not, I believe, the privilege of the most eminent Christians to be entirely free from them; but probably in these circumstances you will find but few intervals of strict attention, or of any thing which wears the appearance of inward devotion. And when these heartless duties are concluded, there will scarce be a reflection made, how little God hath been enjoyed in them, how little he hath been honored by them. Perhaps the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, being so admirably adapted to fix the attention of the soul, and to excite its warmest exercise of holy affections, may be the last ordinance in which these declensions will be felt. And yet, who can say that the sacred table is a privileged place? Having been unnecessarily straitened in your preparations, you will attend with less fixedness and enlargement of heart than usual. And perhaps a dissatisfaction in the review, when there has been a remarkable alienation or insensibility of mind, may occasion a disposition to forsake your place and your duty there. And when your spiritual enemies have once gained this point upon you, it is probable you will fall by swifter degrees than ever, and your resistance to their attempts will grow weaker and weaker.

     6. When your love to God our Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ fails, your fervor of Christian affection to your brethren in Christ will proportionably decline; and your concern for usefulness in life abate, especially where any thing is to be done for spiritual edification. You will find some one excuse or another for the neglect of religious discourse, perhaps not only among neighbors and Christian friends, when very convenient opportunities offer; but even with regard to those who are members of your own families, and to those who, if you are fixed in the superior relations of life, are committed to your care.

     7. With this remissness, an attachment either to sensual pleasures or to worldly business will increase. For the soul must have something to employ it, and something to delight itself in; and as it turns to the one or the other of these, temptations of one sort or another will present themselves. In some instances, perhaps the strictest bonds of temperance, and the regular appointments or life, may be broken in upon, through a fondness for company, and the entertainments which often attend it. In other instances, the interests of life appearing greater than they did before, and taking up more of the mind, contrary interests of other persons may throw you into disquietude, or plunge you in debate and contention, in which it is extremely difficult to preserve either the serenity or the innocence of the soul. And perhaps, if ministers and other Christian friends observe this, and endeavor in a plain and faithful way to reduce you from your wandering, a false delicacy of mind, often contracted in such a state as this, will render these attempts extremely disagreeable. The ulcer of the soul, if I may be allowed the expression, will not bear being touched when it most needs it; and one of the most generous and self-denying instances of Christian friendship shall be turned into an occasion of coldness and distaste, yea, perhaps of enmity.

     8. And possibly, to sum up all, this disordered state of mind may lead you into some prejudices against those very principles which might be most effectual for your recovery; and your great enemy may succeed so far in his attempts against you, as to persuade you that you have lost nothing in religion, when you have almost lost all. He may very probably lead you to conclude that your former devotional frames were mere fits of enthusiasm, and that the holy regularity of your walk before God was an unnecessary strictness and scrupulosity. Nay, you may think it a great improvement in understanding, that you have learnt from some new masters, that, if a man treat his fellow creatures with humanity and good nature, judging and reviling only those who would disturb others by the narrowness of their notions, (for these are generally exempted from other objects of the most universal and disinterested benevolence so often boasted of) he must necessarily be in a very good state, though he pretend not to converse much with God, provided that he think respectfully of him, and do not provoke him by any gross immoralities.

     9. I mention this in the last stage of religious declension, because I apprehend that to be its proper place; and I fear it will be found, by experience, to stand upon the very confines of that gross apostacy into deliberate and presumptuous sin, which wilt claim our consideration under the next head. And because, too, it is that symptom which most effectually tends to prevent the success, and even the use, of any proper remedies, in consequence of a fond and fatal apprehension that they are needless. It is, if I may borrow the simile, like those fits of lethargic drowsiness which often precede apoplexies and death.

     10. It is by no means my design at this time to reckon up, much less to consider at large, those dangerous principles which are now ready to possess the mind, and to lay the foundation of a false and treacherous peace. Indeed they are in different instances various, and sometimes run into opposite extremes. But if God awaken you to read your Bible with attention, and give you to feel the spirit with which it is written, almost every page will flash conviction upon the mind, and spread a light to scatter and disperse these shades of darkness.

     11. What I chiefly intend in this address, is to engage you, if possible, as soon as you perceive the first symptoms of these declensions, to be upon your guard, and to endeavor, as speedily as possible, to recover yourself from them. And I would remind you, that the remedy must begin where the first cause or complaint prevailed, I mean, in the closet, Take some time for recollection, and ask your own con-science, seriously, how matters stand between the blessed God and your soul? Whether they are as they once were, and as you could wish them to be, if you saw your life just drawing to a period, and were to pass immediately into the eternal state? One serious thought of eternity shames a thousand vain excuses, with which, in the forgetfulness of it, we are ready to delude our own souls. And when you feel that secret misgiving of heart which will naturally arise on this occasion, do not endeavor to palliate the matter, and to find out slight and artful coverings for what you cannot forbear secretly condemning, but honestly fall under the conviction, and be humbled for it. Pour out your heart before God, and seek the renewed influences of his Spirit and grace.. Return with more exactness to secret devotion, and to self-examination. Read the Scripture with yet greater diligence, and especially the more devotional and spiritual parts of it. Labor to ground it in your heart, and to feel what you have reason to believe the sacred penmen felt when they wrote, so far as circumstances may agree. Open your soul, with all simplicity; to every lesson which the word of God would teach you; and guard against those things which you perceive to alienate your mind from inward religion, though there be nothing criminal in the things themselves. They may perhaps in the general be lawful; to some possibly they may be expedient; but if they produce such an effect as was mentioned above, it is certain they are not convenient for you in these circumstances, above all, seek the converse of those Christians whose progress in religion seems most remarkable, and who adorn their profession in the most amiable manner. Labor to obtain their temper and sentiments, and lay open your case and your heart to them, with all the freedom which prudence will permit. Employ yourself, at seasons of leisure, in reading practical and devotional books, in which the mind and heart of the pious author is transfused into the work, and in which you can, as it were, taste the genuine spirit of Christianity. And to conclude, take the first opportunity that presents, of making an approach to the table of the Lord, and spare neither time nor pains in the most serious preparation for it. There renew your covenant with God; put your soul anew into the hands of Christ, and endeavor to view the wonders of his dying love, in such a manner as may rekindle the languishing flame, and quicken you to more vigorous resolution than ever, "to live unto him who died for you." (2 Cor. 5:15) And watch over your own heart, that the good impressions you then felt may continue. Rest not, till you have obtained as confirmed a state of religion as you ever knew. Rest not, till yon have made a greater progress than before; for it is only by a zeal to go forward, that you can be secure from the danger of going backward, and revolting more and more.

     12. I only add, that it is necessary to take these precautions as soon as possible, or you will probably find a much swifter progress than you are aware in the downhill road; and you may possibly be left of God, to fall into some gross and aggravated sin, so as to fill your conscience with an agony and horror which the pain of "broken bones" (Psa. 51:8) can but imperfectly express.

A Prayer for one under Spiritual Decays.

     "Eternal and unchangeable Jehovah! thy perfections and glories are, like thy being, immutable. Jesus thy Son is `the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.' (Heb. 13:8) The eternal world, to which I am hastening, is always equally important, and presses upon the attentive mind for a more fixed and solemn regard, in proportion to the degree in which it comes nearer and nearer. But, alas! my views, and my affections, and my best resolutions, are continually varying, like this poor body, which goes through daily and hourly alterations in its state and circumstances. Whence, O Lord! whence this sad change which I now experience in the frame and temper of my mind toward thee? Whence this alienation of my soul from thee? Why can I not come to thee with all the endearments of filial lover as I once could? Why is thy service so remissly attended, if attended at all? And why are the exercises of it, which were once my greatest pleasure, become a bur den to me? Where, O God! is the blessedness I once spake of, (Gal. 4:15) when my joy in thee as my Heavenly Father was so conspicuous that strangers might have observed it, and when my heart did so overflow with love to thee, and with zeal for thy service, that it was a matter of self-denial to me, to limit and restrain the genuine expressions of those strong emotions of my soul, even where prudence and duty required it?

     "Alas, Lord! whither am I fallen? Thine eye sees me still; but, oh! how unlike what it once saw me! Cold and insensible as I am, I must blush on the reflection. Thou `seest me in secret,' (Matt. 6:6) and seest me, perhaps often amusing myself with trifles, in those seasons which I used solemnly to devote to thine immediate service. Thou seest me coming into thy presence as by constraint; and when I am before thee, so straitened in my spirit, that I hardly know what to say to thee, though thou art the God with whom I have to do; and though the keeping up a humble and dutiful correspondence with thee is, beyond all comparison, the most important business in my daily life, And even when I am speaking to thee, with how much coldness and formality is it! It is perhaps the work of imagination, the labor of the lips; but where are those ardent designs, those intense breathings after God, which I once felt? Where is that pleasing repose in thee, which I once was conscious of, as being near my divine rest, as being happy in that nearness, and resolving that, if possible, I would no more be removed from it? But, oh! how far am I now removed? When these short devotions, if they may be called devotions, are over, in what long intervals do I forget thee, and appear so little animated with thy love, so little devoted to thy service, that a stranger might converse with me a considerable time, without knowing that I had ever formed any acquaintance with thee, without discovering that I had so much as known or heard any thing of God? Thou callest me to thine house, O Lord! on thine own day: but how heartless are my services there! I present thee no more than my body: my thoughts and affections are engrossed with other objects, while I `draw near thee with my mouth, and honor thee with my lips.' (Isa. 29:13) Thou callest me to thy table; but my heart is so frozen, that it hardly melts even at the foot of the cross, hardly feels any efficacy in the blood of Jesus. O wretched creature that I am! Unworthy of being called thine! Unworthy of a place among thy children, or of the meanest situation in thy family: rather worthy to be case out, to be forsaken, yea, to be utterly destroyed!

     "Is this, Lord, the service which I once promised, and which thou hast so many thousand reasons to expect? Are these the returns I am making for thy daily providential care, for the sacrifice of thy Son, for the communications of thy Spirit, for the pardon of my numberless aggravated sins, for the hopes, the undeserved and so often forfeited hopes of eternal glory! Lord, I am ashamed to stand or to kneel before thee. But pity me, I beseech thee, and help me; for I am a pitiable object indeed; my soul cleaveth unto the dust, and lays itself as in the dust before thee; but, O quicken me according to thy word! (Psa. 119:25) Let me trifle no longer, for I am upon the brink of a precipice! I am thinking of my ways. O give me grace to turn my feet unto thy testimonies, to make haste without any farther delay, that I may keep thy commandments! (Psa. 119: 59,60) Search me, O Lord! and try me. (Psa. 139:23) Go to the first root of this distemper, which spreads itself over my soul, and recover me from it! Represent sin unto me, O Lord! I beseech thee, that I may see it with abhorrence! and represent the Lord Jesus Christ to me in such a light that I may look upon him and mourn, (Zec. 12:10) that I may look upon him and love! May I awaken from this stupid lethargy into which I am sinking, and may Christ give me more abundant degrees of spiritual life and activity than I have ever yet received! and may I be so quickened and animated by him, that I may more than recover the ground I have lost, and may make a more speedy and exemplary progress than in my best days I have ever yet done! Send down upon me, O Lord! in a more rich and abundant effusion, thy good Spirit. May he dwell in me as a temple which he has consecrated to himself! (1 Cor. 3:16) and while all the service is directed and governed by him, may holy and acceptable sacrifices be continually offered! (Rom. 12:1) May the incense be constant, and may it be fragrant! May the sacred fire burn and blaze perpetually! (Lev. 6:13) And may none of its vessels ever be profaned, by being employed to an unholy or forbidden use! Amen."

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XXIII.

THE SAD CASE OF A RELAPSE INTO KNOWN AND DELIBERATE SIN, AFTER SOLEMN ACTS OP DEDICATION TO GOD AND SOME PROGRESS MADE IN RELIGION.

1. Unthought of relapses may happen.--2. And bring the soul into a miserable case.--3. Yet the case is not desperate.--4. The backslider urged immediately to return, by deep humiliation before God for so aggravated an offence.--5. By renewed regards to the divine mercy in Christ.--6. By an open profession of repentance, where the crime hath given public offence.--7. Falls to be reviewed for future caution.--8. The Chapter concludes with a prayer for the use of one who hath fallen into gross sins, after religious resolutions and engagements.

1. THE declensions which I have described in the foregoing Chapter, must be acknowledged worthy of deep lamentations; but happy will you be, my dear reader, if you never know, by experience, a circumstance yet more melancholy than this. Perhaps, when you consider the view of things which you now have, you imagine that no consideration can ever bribe you, in any single instance, to act contrary to the present dictates or suggestions of your conscience, or of the Spirit of God by which it has been enlightened and directed. No: you think it would be better for you to die. And you think rightly: but Peter thought and said so too; "Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee," (Matt. 26.35) and yet, after all. he fell; and therefore, "be not high-minded, but fear." (Rom. 11:20) It is not impossible but you may fall into that very sin of which you imagine you are least in danger, or into that against which you have most solemnly resolved and of which you have already most bitterly repented. You may relapse into it again and again. But, O! if you do, nay, if you should deliberately and presumptuously fall but once, how deep will it pierce your heart! How dear will you pay for all the pleasure with which the temptation has been accompanied! How will this separate between God and you! What a desolation, what a dreadful desolation will it spread over your soul! It is grievous to think of it. Perhaps in such a state you may feel more and agony and distress in your own conscience, when you come seriously to reflect, than you ever felt when you were first awakened and reclaimed: because the sin will be attended with some very high aggravations, beyond those of your unregenerate state. I well know the person that said, "the agonies of a sinner, in the first pangs of his repentance, are not to be mentioned on the same day with those of the `backslider in heart,' when he comes to be filled with his own way." (Prov. 14:14)

     2. Indeed, it is enough to wound one's heart to think how yours will be wounded; how all your comforts, all your evidences, all your hopes, will be clouded; what thick darkness will spread itself on every side; so that neither sun, nor moon, nor stars will appear in your heaven. Your spiritual consolations will be gone; and your temporal enjoyments will also be rendered tasteless and insipid. And if afflictions be sent, as they probably may, in order to reclaim you, a consciousness of guilt will sharpen and envenom the dart. Then will the enemy of your soul, with all his art and power, rise up against you, encouraged by your fall, and laboring to trample you down in utter, hopeless ruin. He will persuade you that you are already undone beyond recovery. He will suggest that it signifies nothing to attempt it any more; for that every effort, every amendment, every act of repentance, will but make your case so much the worse, and plunge you lower and lower into hell.

     3. Thus will he endeavor by terrors to keep you from that sure remedy which yet remains. But yield not to him. Your case will indeed be sad; and if it be now your case, it is deplorably so; and to rest in it, would be still much worse. Your heart would be hardened yet more and more; and nothing could be expected but sudden and aggravated destruction. Yet, blessed be God, it is not quite hopeless. Your "wounds are corrupted, because of your foolishness," (Psa. 38:5) but the gangrene is not incurable. "There is a balm in Gilead, there is a physician there." (Jer. 8:22) Do not therefore render your condition hopeless, by now saying, "There is no hope," (Jer. 2:25) and by drawing a fatal argument from a false supposition, "for going after the idols you have loved." Let me address you in the language of God to his backsliding people, when they were ready to apprehend that to be their case, and to draw such a conclusion from it: "only return unto me, saith the Lord." (Jer. 3:13) Cry for renewed grace; and in the strength of it labor to return. Cry with David, under the like guilt, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments;" (Psa. 119:176) and that remembrance of them is, I hope, a token for good. But if thou wilt return at all, do it immediately. Take not one step more in that fatal path, to which thou bast turned aside. Think not to add one more sin to the account, and then to repent; as if it would be but the same thing on the whole. The second error may be worse than the first; it may make way for another and another, and draw on a terrible train of consequences, beyond all you can now imagine. Make haste, therefore, and do not delay. "Escape, and fly as for thy life," (Gen. 19:17) before "the dart strike through thy liver." (Prov. 7:23) "Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids," (Prov. 6:4) lie not down upon thy bed under unpardoned guilt, lest evil overtake thee, lest the sword of divine justice should smite thee, and, whilst thou purposest to return tomorrow, thou shouldst this night go and take possession of hell.

     4. Return immediately, and, permit me to add, return solemnly. Some very pious and excellent divines have expressed themselves upon this head, in a manner which seems liable to dangerous abuse: when they urge men after a fall, "not to stay to survey the ground, nor consider how they came to be thrown down, but immediately to get up and renew the race." In slighter cases the advice is good; but when conscience has suffered such violent outrage, by the commission of known, willful, and deliberate sin, (a case which one would hope should but seldom happen to those who have once sincerely entered on a religious course) I can by no means think that either reason or Scripture encourages such a method. Especially would it be improper, if the action itself had been of so heinous a nature, that even to have fallen into it on the most sudden surprise of temptation, must have greatly ashamed, and terrified, and distressed the soul. Such an affair is dreadfully solemn, and should be treated accordingly. If this has been the sad case with you, my then unhappy reader, I would pity you, and mourn over you; and would beseech you, as you value your peace, your recovery, the health and the very life of your soul, that you would not loiter away an hour. Retire immediately for serious reflection. Break through other engagements and employments unless they be such as you cannot in conscience delay for a few hours, which can seldom happen in the circumstance I now suppose. Set yourself to it, therefore, as in the presence of God, and hear at large, patiently and humbly, what conscience has to say, though it chide and reproach severely. Yea, earnestly pray that God would speak to you by conscience, and make you more thoroughly to know and feel "what an evil and bitter thing it is, that you have thus forsaken him." (Jer. 2:19) Think of all the aggravating circumstances attending your offence; and especially think of those which arise from abused mercy and goodness which arise, not only from your solemn vows and engagements to God, but from the views you have had of a Redeemer's love, sealed even in blood. And are these the returns? Was it not enough that Christ should have been thus injured by his enemies? Must he be "wounded in the house of his friends" too? (Zech. 13: 6) Were "you delivered to work such abominations as these?" (Jer. 7:10) Did the blessed Jesus groan and die for you, that you might sin with boldness and freedom, that you might extract, as it were, the very spirit and essence of sin, and offend God to a height of ingratitude and baseness, which would otherwise have been, in the nature of things, impossible? O think, how justly God might "cast you out from his presence!" How justly he might number you among the most signal instances of his vengeance! And think how "your heart would endure or your hands be strong,"if he should " deal thus with you!" (Ezek. 22:14) Alas! all your former experiences would enhance your sense of the ruin and misery that must be felt in an eternal banishment from the divine presence and favor.

     5. Indulge such reflections as these. Stand the humbling sight of your sins in such a view as this. The more odious and the more painful it appears, the greater prospect there will be of your benefit by attending to it. But the matter is not to rest here. All these reflections are intended, not to grieve, but to cure; and to grieve no more than may promote the cure. You are indeed to look upon sin; but you are also, in such circumstances, if ever, to look upon Christ, to look upon him whom you have now pierced deeper than before, and to mourn for him with sincerity and tenderness. (Zech. 12:10) The God whom you have injured and affronted, whose laws you have broken, and whose justice you have, as it were, challenged by this foolish, wretched apostasy, is nevertheless "a most merciful God." (Deut. 4:21) You cannot be so ready to return to him, as he is to receive you. Even now does he, as it were, solicit a reconciliation, by those tender impressions which lie is making upon your heart. But remember how he wilt be reconciled. It is in the very same way in which you made your first approach to him, in the name and for the sake of his dear Son. Come therefore in an humble dependence upon him. Renew your application to Jesus, that his blood may, as it were, be sprinkled upon your soul, that your soul may thereby be purified, and your guilt removed. This very sin of yours, which the blessed God foresaw, increased the weight of your Redeemers sufferings: it was concerned in shedding his blood. Humbly go, and place your wounds, as it were, under the droppings of that precious balm, by which alone they can be healed. That compassionate Savior will delight to restore you, when you lie as an humble suppliant at his feet, and will graciously take part with you in that peace and pleasure which he gives. Through him renew your covenant with God, that broken covenant, the breach of which divine justice might teach you to know "by terrible things in righteousness:" (Psa. 65: 5) but mercy allows of an accommodation. Let the consciousness and remembrance of that breach engage you to enter into covenant anew, tinder a deeper sense than ever of your own weakness, and a more cordial dependence on divine grace for your security, than you have ever yet entertained. I know you will be ashamed to present yourself among the children of God in his sanctuary, and especially at his table, under a consciousness of so much guilt; but break through that shame, if Providence open you the way. You would be humbled before your offended Father; but surely there is no place where you are more likely to be humbled, than when you see yourself in his house, and no ordinance administered there can lay you lower than that in which "Christ is evidently set forth as crucified before your eyes." (Gal. 3:1) Sinners are the only persons who have business there. The best of men come to that sacred table as sinners. As such make your approach to it; yea, as the greatest of sinners, as one who needs the blood of Jesus as much as any creature upon earth.

     6. And let me remind you of one thing more. If your fall has been of such a nature as to give any scandal to others, be not at all concerned to save appearances, and to moderate those mortifications which deep humiliation before them would occasion. The depth and pain of that mortification is indeed an excellent medicine, which God has in his wise goodness appointed for you in such circumstances as these. In such a case, confess your fault with the greatest frankness; aggravate it to the utmost; entreat pardon and prayer from those whom you have offended. Then, and never till then, will you be in the way to peace; not by palliating a fault not by so making vain excuses, not by objecting to the manner in which others may have treated you; as if the least excess or rigor in a faithful admonition were a crime equal to some great immorality that occasioned it. This can only proceed from the madness of pride and self-love; it is the sensibility of a wound, which is hardened, swelled, and inflamed; and it must be reduced, and cooled, and suppled, before it can possibly be cured. To be censured and condemned by men, will be but a little grievance to a sour thoroughly humbled and broken under a sense of having incurred the condemning sentence of God. Such a one will rather desire to glorify God, by submitting to deserved blame; and will fear deceiving others into a more favorable opinion of himself than he inwardly knows that lie deserves. These are the sentiments which God gives to the sincere penitent in such a case; and by this means he restores him to that credit and regard among others, which he does not know how to seek; but which, nevertheless, for the sake both of his comfort and usefulness, God wills that he should have, and which it is, humanly speaking, impossible for him to recover any other way. But there is something so honorable in the frank acknowledgment of a fault, and in deep humiliation for it, that all who see it must needs approve it. They pity an offender who is brought to such a disposition, and endeavor to comfort him with returning expressions, not only of their love, but of their esteem too.

     7. Excuse this digression, which may suit some cases; and which would suit many more, if a regular discipline were to be exercised in churches; for, on such a supposition, the Lord's Supper could not be approached, after visible and scandalous falls, without solemn confession of the offence, and declarations of repentance. On the other hand, there may be instances of sad apostacy, where the crime, though highly aggravated before God, may not fall under human notice. In this case, remember that your business is with Him to whose piercing eye every thing appears in its just light before him, therefore, prostrate your soul, and seek a solemn reconciliation with him, confirmed by the memorials of his dying Son; And when this is done, imagine not, that, because you have received the tokens of pardon, the guilt of your apostacy is to be forgotten at once. Bear it still in your memory for future caution: lament it before God, especially in the frequent returns of secret devotion; and view with humiliation the scars of those wounds which your own folly occasioned, even when by divine grace they are thoroughly healed. For God establishes his covenant, not to remove the sense of every past abomination, but "that thou mayest remember thy ways, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, even when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord." (Ezek. 16:63)

     8. And now, upon the whole, if you desire to attain such a temper, and to return to such steps as these, then immediately fall down before God, and pour out your heart in his presence, in language like this.

A Prayer for one who has fallen into gross Sin, after religious Resolutions and Engagements.

     "O most Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God! when I seriously reflect on thy spotless purity, and on the strict and impartial methods of thy steady administration, together with that almighty power of thine, which is able to carry every thought of thine heart into immediate and full execution, I may justly appear before thee this day with shame and terror, in confusion and consternation of spirit. This day, O my God! this dark, mournful day, would I take occasion to look back to that sad source of our guilt and our misery, the apostacy of our common parents, and say with thine offending servant David, `Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.' (Psa. 51:5) This day would I lament all the fatal consequences of such a descent, with regard to myself. And, oh how many have they been! The remembrance of the sins of my unconverted state, and the failings and infirmities of my after life, may justly confound me! How much more such a scene as now lies before my conscience, and before thine all-seeing eye! For thou, O Lord! `knowest my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from thee.' (Psa. 69:5) Thou tellest all my wanderings from thy statutes, (Psa. 56.8) thou seest and thou recordest every instance of my disobedience to thee, and of my rebellion against thee. Thou seest them in every aggravated circumstance which I can discern, and many more which I have never observed or reflected upon. How then shall I appear in thy presence, or lift up my face to thee! (Ezra 9:6) 1 am full of confusion, (Job 10:15) and fed a secret regret in the thought of applying to thee; but; `O Lord, to whom shall I go but unto thee?' (John 6:68) Unto thee, on whom depends my life or my death; unto thee, who alone canst take away the burden of guilt which now presses me down to the dust; who alone canst restore to my soul that rest and peace which I have lost, and which I deserve for ever to lose!

     "Behold me, O Lord God! falling down at thy feet! Behold me pleading guilty in thy presence, and surrendering myself to that justice which I cannot escape! I have not one word to offer in my own vindication, in my own excuse. Words, far from being able to clear up my innocence, can never sufficiently describe the enormity and demerit of my sin. Thou, O Lord! and thou only, knowest to the full, how heinous and how aggravated it is. Thine infinite understanding alone can fathom the infinite depth of its malignity. I am, on many accounts, most unable to do it. I cannot conceive the glory of thy sacred Majesty, whose authority I have despised, nor the number and variety of those mercies which I have sinned against. I cannot conceive the value of the blood of thy dear Son, which I have ungratefully trampled under my feet; nor the dignity of that blessed Spirit of thine, whose agency I have, as far as I could, been endeavoring to oppose, and whose work I have been, as with all my might, laboring to undo; and to tear up, as it were, that plantation of his grace which I should rather have been willing to have guarded with my life, and watered with my blood. O the baseness and madness of my conduct! That I should thus, as it were, rend open the wounds of my soul, of which I had died long ere this, had not thine own hand applied a remedy, had not thine only Son bled to prepare it! that I should violate the covenant I had made with thee by sacrifice, (Psa. 50:5) by the memorials of such a sacrifice too, even of Jesus, my Lord, whereby I am become guilty of his body and blood. (1 Cor. 11:27) That I should bring suck dishonor upon religion too, by so unsuitable a walk, and perhaps open the mouths of its greatest enemies to insult it upon my account, and prejudice some against it to their everlasting destruction!

     "I wonder, O Lord God! that I am here to own all this. I wonder that thou hast not long ago appeared as a swift witness against me, (Mal. 3:5) that thou hast not discharged the thunderbolts of thy flaming wrath against me, and crushed me into hell; making me there a terror to all about me, as well as to myself, by a vengeance and ruin, to be distinguished even there, where all are miserable, and all hopeless.

     "O God! thy patience is marvellous! But how much more marvellous is thy grace, which, after all this, invites me to thee. While I am here giving judgment against myself that I deserve to die, to die for ever, thou art sending me the words of everlasting life, and `calling me, as a backsliding child, to return unto thee.' (Jer. 3:22) Behold, therefore, O Lord! invited by thy word, and encouraged by thy grace, I come; and great as my transgressions are, I humbly beseech thee freely to pardon them; be-cause I know, that, though `my sins have reached unto heaven,' (Rev. 18:5) and are `lifted up even unto the skies,' (Jer. 51:9) `thy mercy,' O Lord! is above the heavens.' (Psa. 108:4) Extend that mercy to me, O heavenly Father! and display, in this illustrious instance, the riches of thy grace and the prevalency of thy Son's blood! For surely, if such crimson sins as mine may be made `white as snow and as wool,' (Isa. 50:12) and if such a revolter as I am be brought to eternal glory, earth must, so far as it is known, be filled with wonder and heaven with praise; and the greatest sinner may cheerfully apply for pardon, if I, `the chief of sinners,' find it. And, oh! that, when I have lain mourning, and as it were bleeding at thy feet, as long as thou thinkest proper, thou wouldst at length `heal this soul of mine' which has sinned against thee, (Psa. 41:4) and `give me beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness!' (Isa. 61:3) O that thou wouldst at length `restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and make me to hear songs of gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice!' (Psa. 51:8,12) Then, when a sense of thy forgiving love is shed abroad upon my heart, and it is cheered with the voice of pardon, I will proclaim thy grace to others; `I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee:' (Psa. 51:13) those that have been backsliding from thee shall be encouraged to seek thee, by my happy experience, which I will gladly proclaim for thy glory, though it be to my own shame and confusion of face. And may this `joy of the Lord be my strength!' (Neh. 8:10) so that in it I may serve thee henceforward with a vigor and zeal far beyond what I have hitherto known! This I would ask with all humble submission to thy will, for! presume not to insist upon it. If thou shouldst see fit to make me a warning to others, by appointing that I should walk all my days in darkness, and at last die under a cloud, `thy will be done!' But, O God! extend mercy, for thy Son's sake, to this sinful soul at last, and give me some place, though it were at the feet of all thy other servants, in the regions of glory! O bring me at length, though it should be through the gloomiest valley that any one ever passed, into that blessed world, where I shall depart from God no more where I shall wound my own conscience, and dishonor thy holy name no more! Then shall my tongue be loosed, how long soever it might here be bound under the confusion of guilt; and immortal praises shall be paid to that victorious blood which has redeemed such an infamous slave of sin as I must acknowledge myself to be, and brought me, from returns into bondage and repeated pollution, to share the dignity and holiness of those who are `kings and priests unto God.' (Rev. 1:6) Amen."

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XXIV.

THE CASE OF THE CHRISTIAN UNDER THE HIDING OF GOD'S FACE.

1. The phrase scriptural.--2. It signifies the withdrawing the tokens of the divine favor.--3 chiefly as to spiritual considerations.--4. This may become the case of any Christian.--5. and will be found a very sorrowful one.--6. The following directions, therefore, are given to those who suppose it to be their own: To inquire whether it be indeed a case of spiritual distress, or whether a disconsolate frame may not proceed from indisposition of body,--7. or difficulties as to worldly circumstances.--8, 9. If it be found to be indeed such as the title of the Chapter proposes, be advised--to consider it as a merciful dispensation of God, to awaken and bestir the soul, and excite to a strict examination of conscience, and reformation of what has been amiss.--10. To be humble and patient while the trial continues.--11. To go on steadily in the way of duty.--12. To renew a believing application to the blood of Jesus. An humble supplication for one under these mournful exercises of mind, when they are found to proceed from the spiritual cause supposed.

1. THERE is a case which often occurs in the Christian life, which they who accustom themselves much to the exercise of devotion have been used to call the "hiding of God's face." It is a phrase borrowed from the word of God, which I hope may shelter it from contempt at the first hearing. It will be my business in this Chapter to state it as plainly as I can, and then to give some advice as to your own conduct when you fall into it, as it is very probable you may before you have finished your journey through this wilderness.

     2. The meaning of it may partly be understood by the opposite phrase of God's "causing his face to shine upon a person, or lifting up upon him the light of his countenance." This seems to carry in it an allusion to the pleasant and delightful appearance which the face of a friend has, and especially if in a superior relation of life, when he converses with those whom be loves and delights in. Thus Job, when speaking of the regard paid him by his attendants, says, "If I smiled upon them, they believed it not, and the light of my countenance they cast not down," (Job 29:24) that is, they were careful, in such agreeable circumstances, to do nothing to displease me, or (as we speak) to cloud my brow. And David, when expressing his desire of the manifestation of God's favor to him, says, "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me;" and, as the effect of it, declares, "thou hast put gladness into my heart, more than if corn and wine increased." (Psa. 4:6,7) Nor is it impossible, that, in this phrase, as used by David, there may be some allusion to the bright shining forth of the Shekinah, that is, the lustre which dwelt in the cloud as the visible sign of the divine presence with Israel, which God was pleased peculiarly to manifest upon some public occasions, as a token of his favor find acceptance. On the other hand, therefore, for God "to hide his face," must imply his withholding the tokens of his favor and must be esteemed a mark of his displeasure. Thus Isaiah uses it, "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." (Isa. 59:2) And again, "Thou hast hid thy face from us," as not regarding the calamities we suffer, "and hast consumed us because of our iniquities." (Isa. 64: 7) So likewise for God "to hide his face from our sins?" (Psa. 51:9) signifies to overlook them, and to take no farther notice of them. The same idea is, at other times, expressed by "God's hiding his eyes," (Isa. 1:15) from persons of a character disagreeable to him, when they come to address him with their petitions, not vouchsafing, as it were, to look toward them. This is plainly the scriptural sense of the word; and agreeably to this, it is generally used by Christians in our day, and every thing which seems a token of divine displeasure toward them is expressed by it.

     3. It is farther to be observed here, that the things which they judge to be manifestations of divine favor toward them, or complacency in them, are not only, nor chiefly of a temporal nature, or such as merely relate to the blessings of this animal and perishing life. David, though the promises of the law had a continual reference to such, yet was taught to look farther, and describes them as preferable to, and therefore plainly distinct from "the blessings of the corn-floor or the wine-press." (Psa. 4:7) And if you whom I am now addressing do not know them to be so, it is plain you are quite ignorant of the subject we are inquiring into, and indeed have yet to learn the first lessons of true religion. All that David says, of "beholding the beauty of the Lord," (Psa. 27:4) or being "satisfied as with marrow and fatness, when he remembered him upon his bed," (Psa. 63:5,6) as well as "with the goodness of his house, even of his holy temple," (Psa. 65:4) is to be taken in the same sense, and can need very little explication to the truly experienced soul. But those who have known the light of God's countenance, and the shinings of his face, will, in proportion to the degree of that knowledge, be able to form some notion of the hiding of his face, or the withdrawing of the tokens he has given his people of his presence and favor, which sometimes greatly imbitters prosperity; as, where the contrary is found, it sweetens affliction, and often swallows up the sense of it.

     4. And give me leave to remind you, my Christian friend, (for under that character I now address my reader) that to be thus deprived of the sense of God's love, and of the tokens of his favor, may soon be the case with you, though you may now have the pleasure to see the candle of the Lord shining upon you, or though it may even seem to he sunshine and high noon in your soul. You may lose your lively views of the divine perfections and glory, in the contemplation of which you now find that inward satisfaction. You may think of the divine wisdom and power, of the divine mercy and fidelity, as well as of his righteousness and holiness, and feel little inward complacency of soul in the view: it may be, with respect to any lively impressions, as if it were the contemplation merely of a common object. It may seem to you as if you had lost all idea of those important words, though the view has sometimes swallowed up your whole soul in transports of astonishment, admiration, and love. You may lose your delightful sense of the divine favor. It may be matter of great and sad doubt with you, whether you do indeed belong to God; and all the work of his blessed Spirit may be so veiled and shaded in the soul, that the peculiar characters by which the hand of that sacred Agent might be distinguished, shall be in a great measure lost; and you may he ready to imagine you have only deluded yourself in all the former hopes you have entertained. In consequence of this, those ordinances in which you now rejoice, may grow very uncomfortable to you, even when you do indeed desire communion with God in them. You may hear the most delightful evangelical truths opened, you may hear the privileges of God's children most affectionately represented, and not be aware that you have any part or lot in the matter; and from that very coldness and insensibility may be drawing a farther argument that you have nothing to do with them. And then "your heart" may "meditate terror," (Isa. 33:18) and under the distress that overwhelms you, your dearest enjoyments may he reflected upon as adding to the weight of it, and making it more sensible, white you consider that you bad once such a taste for these things, and have now lost it all. So that perhaps it may seem to you, that they who never felt any thing at all of religious impressions, are happier than you, or at least are less miserable. You may, perhaps, in these melancholy hours, even doubt whether you have ever prayed at all, and whether all that you called your enjoyment of God, was not some false delight, excited by the great enemy of souls, to make you apprehend that your state was good, that so you might continue his more secure prey.

     5. Such as this may be your case for a considerable time; and ordinances maybe attended in vain, and the presence of God may be in vain sought in them. You may pour out your soul in private, and then come to public worship, and find little satisfaction in either, but be forced to take up the Psalmist's complaint, "My God, I cry in the day-time, but thou hearest not; and in the night- season, and am not silent;" (Psa. 22:2) or that of Job, "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him." (Job, 23:8,9) So that all which looked like religion in your mind, shall seem as it were to be melted into grief or chilled into fear, or crushed into a deep sense of your own unworthiness; in consequence of which, you shall dare not so much as lift up your eyes before God, and be almost ashamed to take your place in a worshipping assembly among any that you think his servants. I have known this to be the case of some excellent Christians, whose improvements in religion have been distinguished, and whom God hath honored above many of their brethen in what he hath done for them, and by them. Give me leave, therefore, having thus described it, to offer you some plain advice with regard to it; and let not that be imputed to enthusiastic fancy which proceeds from an intimate and frequent view of facts on the one hand; and from a sincere affectionate desire on the other, to relieve the tender, pious heart, in so desolate a state. At least I am persuaded the attempt will not be overlooked or disapproved by "the great Shepherd of the sheep," (Heb. 13:20) who has charged us to "comfort the feeble-minded." (I Thes. 5:14)

     6. And here I would first advise you most carefully to inquire whether your present distress does indeed arise from causes which are truly spiritual, or whether it may not rather have its foundation in some disorder of the body, or in the circumstances of life in which you are providentially placed, which may break your spirits and deject your mind. The influence of the inferior part of our nature on the nobler, the immortal spirit, while we continue in this embodied state, is so evident, that no attentive person can, in the general, fail to observe it: and yet there are cases in which it seems not to be sufficiently considered; and perhaps your own may be one of them. The state of the blood is often such as necessarily to suggest gloomy ideas, even in dreams, and to indispose the soul for taking pleasure in any thing; and when it is so, why should it be imagined to proceed from any peculiar divine displeasure, if the soul does not find its usual delight in religion? Or why should God be thought to have departed from us, because he suffers natural causes to produce natural effects, without interposing, by miracle, to break the connection? When this is the case, the help of the physician is to be sought, rather than that of the divine; or at least, by all means, together with it; and medicines, diet, exercise and air, may in a few weeks effect what the strongest reasonings, the most pathetic exhortations or consolations might for many months have attempted in vain.

     7. In other instances, the dejection and feebleness of the mind may arise from something uncomfortable in our worldly circumstances. These may cloud as well as distract the thoughts, and imbittter the temper, and thus render us in a great degree unfit for religious services and pleasures; and when it is so, the remedy is to be sought in submission to Divine Providence, in abstracting our affections as far as possible from the present world, in a prudent care to ease ourselves of the burden so far as we can, by moderating unnecessary expenses, and by diligent application to business, in humble dependence on the divine blessing; in the mean time, endeavoring, by faith, to look up to him who sometimes suffers his children to be brought into such difficulties, that he may endear himself more sensibly to them by the method he shall take for their relief.

     8. On the principles here laid down, it may perhaps appear, on inquiry, that the distress complained of may have a foundation very different from what was at first supposed. But where the health is sound, and the circumstances easy; when the animal spirits are disposed for gayety and entertainment, while all taste for religious pleasure is in a manner gone; when the soul is seized with a kind of lethargic insensibility, or what I had almost called a paralytic weakness with respect to every religious exercise, even though there should not be that deep terrifying distress, or pungent amazement, which I before re-presented as the effect of melancholy, nor that anxiety about the accommodations of life which strait circumstances naturally produce; I would in that case vary my advice, and urge you, with all possible attention and impartiality, to search into the cause which has brought upon you that great evil under which you justly mourn. And probably, in the general, the cause is sin--some secret sin, which has not been discovered or observed by the eye of the world; for enormities that draw on them the observation and censure of others, will probably fall under the case mentioned in the former Chapter, as they must be instances of known and deliberate guilt. Now the eye of God hath seen these evils which have escaped the notice of your fellow-creatures; and in consequence of this care to conceal them from others, while you could not but know they were open to him, God has seen himself in a peculiar manner affronted and injured, I had almost said insulted by them; and hence his righteous displeasure. Oh! let that never be forgotten, which is so plainly said, so commonly known, so familiar to almost every religious ear, yet too little felt by any of our hearts, "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." (Isa. 59:1,2) And this is, on the whole, a merciful dispensation of God, though it may seem severe, regard it not, therefore, merely as your calamity, but as intended to awaken you, that you may not content yourself, even with lying in tears of humiliation before the Lord, but, like Joshua, rise and exert yourself vigorously, to "put away from you that accursed thing," whatever it be. Let this be your immediate and earnest care, that your pride may be humbled, that your watchfulness may be maintained, that your affections to the world may be deadened, and that, on the whole, your fitness for heaven may in every respect be increased. These are the designs of your heavenly Father, and let it be your great concern to cooperate with them.

     9. Receive it therefore, on the whole, as the most important advice that can be given you, immediately to enter on a strict examination of your conscience. Attend to its gentlest whispers. If a suspicion arises in your mind that any thing has not been right, trace that suspicion, search into every secret folding of your heart: improve to the purposes of a fuller discovery the advice of your friends, the reproaches of your enemies; recollect for what your heart hath smitten you at the table of the Lord, for what it would smite you if you were upon a dying bed, and within this hour to enter on eternity. When you have made any discovery, note it down; and go on in your search, till you can say these are the remaining incorruptions of my heart, these are the sins and follies of my life; this have I neglected; this have I done amiss. And when the account is as complete as you can make it, set yourself in the strength of a God, to a serious reformation; or rather begin the reformation of every thing that seems amiss, as soon as ever you discover it; "return to the Almighty, and thou shalt be built up; put iniquity far from thy tabernacle, and then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God. Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall bear thee; thou shalt pay thy vows unto him, and his light shall shine upon thy ways." (Job 22:23,26,27)

     10. In the meantime, be waiting for God with the deepest humility, and submit yourself to the discipline of your heavenly Father, acknowledging his justice, and hoping in his mercy; even when your conscience is least severe in its remonstrances, and discovers nothing more than the common infirmities of God's people; yet still bow yourself down before him, and own that so many are the evils of your best days, so many the imperfections of your best services, that by them you have deserved all, and more than all that you suffer: deserved, not only that your sun should be clouded, but that it should go down, and arise no more, but leave your soul in a state of everlasting darkness. And while the shade continues, be not impatient. Fret not yourself in any wise, but rather, with a holy calmness and gentleness of soul, "wait on the Lord." (Psa. 37:8,34) Be willing to stay his time, willing to bear his frown, in humble hope that he will at length "return and have compassion on you." (Jer. 12:15) He has not utterly forgotten to be gracious, nor resolved that "he will be favorable no more." (Psa. 77:7,9) "For the Lord will not cast off for ever; but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies." (Lam. 31:32) It is comparatively but "for a small moment that he hides his face from you;" but you may humbly hope, that with great mercies he will gather you, and that "with everlasting kindness he will have mercy on you." (Isa. 54:7,8) These suitable words are not mine, but his; and they wear this, as in the very front of them, "That a soul under the hidings of God's face may at last be one whom be will gather, and to whom he will extend everlasting favor."

     11. But while the darkness continues, "go on in the way of your duty." Continue the use of means and ordinances: read and meditate: pray, yes, and sing the praises of God too, though it may be with a heavy heart. Follow the "footsteps of his flock," (Cant. 1:8) you may perhaps meet the Shepherd of souls in doing it. Place yourself at least in his way. It is possible you may by this means get a kind look from him; and one look, one turn of thought, which may happen in a moment, may, as it were, create a heaven in your soul at once. Go to the table of the Lord. If you cannot rejoice, go and mourn there. Go and "mourn for that Savior whom," by your sins, "you have pierced:" (Zech. 12:10) go and lament the breaches of that covenant which you have there so often confirmed. Christ may perhaps make himself known unto you "in the breaking of the bread," (Luke 24:35) and you may find, to your surprise, that he hath been near you, when you imagined he was at the greatest distance from you; near you, when you thought you were cast out from his presence. Seek your comfort in such enjoyments as these, and not in the vain amusements of this world, and in the pleasures of sense. I shall never forget that affectionate expression, which I am well assured broke out from an eminently pious heart, then almost ready to break under its sorrows of this kind: "Lord, if I may not enjoy thee, let me enjoy nothing else; but go down mourning after thee to the grave!" I wondered not to hear, that, almost as soon as the sentiment had been breathed out before God in prayer, the burden was taken off, and "the joy of God's salvation restored."

     12. I shall add but one advice more, and that is, that "you renew your application to the blood of Jesus, through whom the reconciliation between God and your soul has been accomplished." It is he that is our peace, and by his blood it is that "we are made nigh:" (Eph. 2:13,14) it is in him, as the beloved of his soul, that God declares he is well-pleased; (Matt. 3:17) and it is in him that "ye are made accepted, to the glory of his grace." (Eph. 1:6) Go therefore, O Christian, and apply by faith to a crucified Savior: go, and apply to him, as to a merciful high-priest, "and pour out thy complaint before him, and show before him thy trouble:" (Psa. 142:2) Lay open the distress and anguish of thy soul to him, who once knew what it was to say, (O astonishing, that he should ever have said it!) "My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46) Look up for pity and relief to him, who himself suffered, being not only tempted, but, with regard to sensible manifestations, deserted, that he might thus know how to pity those that are in such a melancholy case, and be ready, as well as able, "to succor them." (Heb. 2:18) "He is Immanuel, God with us," (Matt. 1:23) and it is only in and through him that his Father shines forth upon us with the mildest beams of mercy and of love. Let it be therefore your immediate care to renew your acquaintance with him. Review the records of his life and death; and when you do so, surely you will feel a secret sweetness diffusing itself over your soul. You will be brought into a calm, gentle, silent frame, in which faith and love will operate powerfully, and God may probably cause "the still small voice" of his comforting Spirit to be heard, (1 Kin. 19:12) till your soul burst out into a song of praise, and you are "made glad according to the days in which you have been afflicted." (Psa. 90:15) In the mean time, such language as the following supplication speaks, may be suitable.

An Humble Supplication for one under the Hidings of God's Face.

     "Blessed God! `with thee is the fountain of life' and of happiness. (Psa. 36:9) I adore thy name that I have ever tasted of thy streams; that I have ever had the peculiar pleasure arising from the light of thy countenance, and the shedding abroad of thy love in my soul. But alas! these delightful seasons are now to me no more; and the remembrance of them engages me to `pour out my soul within me.' (Psa. 42:40 I would come, as I have formerly done, and call thee, with the same endearment, `my Father and my God;' but alas! I know not how to do it. Guilt and fears arise, and forbid the delightful language. I seek thee, O Lord! but I seek in vain. I would pray, but my lips are sealed up. I would read thy word, but all the promises of it are veiled from mine eyes. I frequent those ordinances which have been formerly most nourishing and comfortable to my soul, but, alas! they are only the shadows of ordinances: the substance is gone: the animating spirit is fled, and leaves them now, at best, but the image of what I once knew them.

     "But, Lord, hast `thou cast off forever, and wilt thou be favorable no more?' (Psa. 77:7) Hast thou in awful judgment determined that my soul must be left to a perpetual winter, the sad emblem of eternal darkness? Indeed, I deserve it should be so. I acknowledge, O Lord! I deserve to be cast away from thy presence with disdain, to be sunk lower than I am, much lower: I deserve to have `the shadow of death upon my eyelids,' (Job 16:16) and even to be surrounded with the thick gloom of the infernal prison. But hast thou not raised multitudes, who have `deserved, like me, to be delivered into chains of darkness,' (2 Pet. 2:4) to the vision of thy glory above, where no cloud can ever interpose between thee and their rejoicing spirits? `Have mercy upon me, O Lord! have mercy upon me!' (Psa. 123:3) And though my iniquities have now justly `caused thee to hide thy face from me,' (Isa. 59:2) yet be thou rather pleased, agreeably to the gracious language of thy word, `to hide thy face from my sins, and to blot out all my iniquities.' (Psa. 51:9) Cheer my heart with the tokens or thy returning favor, and `say unto my soul, I am thy salvation!' (Psa. 35:3)

     "Remember, O Lord God! remember that dreadful day, in which Jesus thy dear Son endured what my sins have deserved! Remember that agony, in which he poured out his soul before thee and said `My God! My God! why hast thou forsaken me?' (Matt. 27:46) Did he not, O Lord! endure all this, that humble penitents might, through him, be brought near unto thee, and might behold thee with pleasure, as their Father and their God? Thus do I desire to come unto thee. Blessed Savior, art thou not appointed `to give unto them that mourn in Zion, beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness?' (Isa. 61:3) O wash away my tears, anoint my head with `the oil of gladness, and clothe me with the garments of salvation.' (Isa. 61:10)

     "'O that I knew where I might find thee' (Job 23:3) O that I knew what it is that hath engaged thee to depart from me! I am `searching and trying my ways.' (Lam. 3:40) O that thou wouldst `search me, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts;' and if `there be any wicked way in me,' discover it, and `lead me in the way everlasting;' (Psa 189:23,24) in that way in which I may find rest and peace `for my soul,' (Jer. 6:16) and feel the discoveries of thy love in Christ!

     "O God! `who didst command the light to shine out of darkness,' (2 Cor. 4:6) speak but the word, and light shall dart into my soul at once! `Open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.' (Psa. 51:15) shall burst out into a cheerful song, which shall display, before those whom my present dejections may have discouraged, the pleasures and supports of religion.

     "Yet, Lord, on the whole, I submit to thy will. If it is thus that my faith must be exercised, by walking in darkness for days, and months, and years to tome, how long soever they may seem, how long so ever they may be, I submit. Still will I adore thee as the `God of Israel,' and the Savior, though `thou art a God that hidest thyself.' (Isa. 45:15) Still will I `trust in the name of the Lord, and stay myself upon my God,' (Isa. 1:10) `trusting in thee, though thou slay me,' (Job 13:15) and waiting for thee, more than they that watch for the morning, yea, more than they that watch for the morning. (Psa. 130:6) Peradventure `in the evening time it may be light' (Zech. 14:7) I know thou hast sometimes manifested thy compassion to thy dying servants, and given them, in the lowest ebb of their natural spirits, a full tide of divine glory; thus turning `darkness into light before them.' (Isa. 42:15) So may it please thee to gild `the Valley of the Shadow of Death' with the light of thy presence, when I am passing it, and to stretch forth `thy rod and thy staff to comfort me,' (Psa. 23:4) that my tremblings may cease, and the gloom may echo with songs of praise! But if it be thy sovereign pleasure, that distress and darkness should still continue to the last motion of my pulse, and the last gasp of my breath, O let it cease with the parting struggle, and bring me to that light which is sown for the righteous, and to that gladness which is reserved `for the upright in heart;' (Psa. 97:11) to the unclouded regions of everlasting splendor and joy, where the full anointings of thy Spirit shall be poured out upon all thy people, and thou wilt no more `hide thy face from any of them!' (Ezek. 39:29)

     "This, Lord, is `thy salvation for which I am waiting,' (Gen. 49:18) and whilst I feel the desires of my soul drawn out after it, I will never despair of obtaining it. Continue and increase those desires, and at length satisfy and exceed them aim through the riches of thy grace in Christ Jesus . Amen."

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XXV.

THE CHRISTIAN STRUGGLING UNDER GREAT AND HEAVY AFFLICTION.

1. Here it is advised--that afflictions should only be expected.--2. That the righteous hand of God should be acknowledged in them when they come.--3. That they should be borne with patience.--4. That the divine conduct in them should be cordially approved.--5. That thankfulness should be maintained in the midst of trials.--6. That the design of afflictions should be diligently inquired into, and all proper assistance taken in discovering it.--7. That, when it is discovered, it should humbly be complied with and answered. A prayer suited to such a case.

1. SINCE "man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward," (Job 5:7) and Adam has entailed on all his race the sad inheritance of calamity in their way to death, it will certainly be prudent and necessary that we should all expect to meet with trials and afflictions; and that you, reader, whoever you are, should be endeavoring to gird on your armor, and put yourself in a posture to encounter those trials which will fall to your lot as a man and a Christian. Prepare yourself to receive your afflictions, and to endure them, in a manner agreable to both these characters. In this view, when you see others under the burden, consider how possible it is that you may be called out to the very same difficulties, or to others equal to them. Put your soul as in the place of theirs. Think how you could endure the load under which they lie, and endeavor at once to comfort them, and to strengthen your own heart, or rather pray that God would do it. And observing how liable mortal life is to such sorrows, moderate your expectations from it; raise your thoughts above it; and form your schemes of happiness only for that world where they cannot be disappointed; in the mean time, blessing God that your prosperity is lengthened out thus far, and ascribing it to his special providence that you continue so long unwounded, when so many showers of arrows are flying around you, and so many are falling by them, on the right hand and on the left.

     2. When at length your turn comes, as it certainly will, from the first hour in which an affliction seizes you, realize to yourself the hand of God in it, and lose not the view of him in any second cause, which may have proved the immediate occasion. Let it be your first care to "humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." (1 Pet. 5:6) Own that "he is just in all that is brought upon you," (Neh. 9:33) and that in all these things "he punishes you less than your iniquities deserve." (Ezra 9:13) Compose yourself to bear his hand with patience, to glorify his name by a submission to his will, and to fall in with the gracious design of his visitation, as well as to wait the issue of it quietly, whatsoever the event may be.

     3. Now, that "patience may have its perfect work," (James 1:4) reflect frequently, and deeply upon your own unworthiness and sinfulness. Consider how often every mercy has been forfeited, and every judgment deserved. And consider, too, how long the patience of God hath borne with you, and how wonderfully it is still exerted towards you; and indeed not only his patience, but his bounty too. Afflicted as you are, (for I speak to you now as actually under the pressure) look around and survey your remaining mercies, and be gratefully sensible of them. Make the supposition of their being removed: what if God should stretch out his hand against you, and add poverty to pain, or pain to poverty, or the loss of friends to both, or the death of surviving friends to that of those whom you are now mourning over; would not the wound be more grievous? Adore his goodness that this is not the case; and take heed lest your unthankfulness should provoke him to multiply your sorrows. Consider also the need you have of discipline, how wholesome it may prove to your soul, and what merciful designs our Heavenly Father has in all the corrections he sends upon his children.

     4. Nay, I will add, that, in consequence of all these considerations, it may be well expected, not only that you should submit to your afflictions, as what you cannot avoid, but that you should sweetly acquiesce in them, and approve them; that you should not only justify, but glorify God in sending them; that you should glorify him with your heart and with your lips too. Think not praises unsuitable on such an occasion; nor that praise alone to be suitable, which takes its rise from remaining comforts; but know that it is your duty, not only to be thankful in your afflictions, but to be thankful on account of them.

     5. God himself hath said, "in every thing give thanks," (1 Thes. 5:18) and he has taught his servants to say, "Yea, also we glory in tribulation." (Rom. 5:3) And most certain it is, that to true believers, afflictions are tokens of divine mercy; for "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth," with peculiar and distinguishing endearment. (Heb. 12:6) View your present afflictions in this light, as chastisements of love; and then let your own heart say, whether love does not demand praise. Think with yourself, "it is thus that God is making me conformable to his own Son; it is thus that he is training me up for complete glory. Thus he kills my corruptions; thus he strengthens my graces; thus he is wisely contriving to bring me nearer to himself and to ripen me for the honors of his heavenly kingdom. It is, if need be, that `I am in heaviness,' (I Pet. 1:6) and he surely knows what that need is better than I can pretend to teach him, and knows what peculiar propriety there is in this affliction to answer my present necessity, and to do me that peculiar good which he is graciously intending me by it. This tribulation shall `work patience, and patience experience,' and `experience a more assured hope,' even a hope which `shall not make ashamed,' while the love of God is shed abroad in my heart, (Rom. 5:3,5) and shines through my affliction, like the sun through a gentle descending cloud, darting in light upon the shade, and mingling fruitfulness with weeping."

     6. Let it be then your earnest care, while you thus look on your affliction, whatever it may be, as coming from the hand of God, to improve it to the purposes for which it was sent. And that you may so improve it, let it be your first concern to know what those purposes are. Summon up all the attention of your soul to bear the rod, and him "who hath appointed it," (Mic. 6:9) and pray earnestly that you may understand its voice. Examine your life, your words and your heart; and pray that God would so guide your inquiries, that you may "return unto the Lord that smiteth you." (Isa. 9:13) To assist you in this, call in the help of pious friends, and particularly of your minister: entreat not only their prayers, but their advice too, as to the probable design of Providence; and encourage them freely to tell you any thing which occurs to their minds upon this head. And if such an occasion should lead them to touch upon some of the imperfections of your character and conduct look upon it as a great token of their friendship, and take it, not only patiently, but thankfully. It does but ill become a Christian, at any time, to resent reproofs and admonitions; and least of all does it become him, when the rebukes of his Heavenly Father are upon him. He ought rather to seek admonitions at such a time as this, and voluntarily offer his wounds to be searched by a faithful and skillful band.

     7. And when, by one means or another, you have got a ray of light to direct you in the meaning and language of such dispensations, take heed that you do not, in any degree, "harden yourself against God, and walk contrary to him." (Lev. 26:27) Obstinate reluctance to the apprehended design of any providential stroke is inexpressibly provoking to him. Set yourself therefore, to an immediate reformation of whatever you discover amiss, and labor to learn the general lessons of greater submission to God's will, of a more calm indifference to the world, and of a closer attachment to divine converse, and to the views of an approaching invisible state. And whatever particular proportion or correspondence you may observe between this or that circumstance in your affliction and your former transgressions, be especially careful to act according to that more peculiar and express voice of the rod. Then you may perhaps have speedy and remarkable reasons to say, that "it hath been good for you that you have been afflicted," (Psa. 119:71) and, with a multitude of others, may learn to number the times of your sharpest trials among the sweetest and most exalted moments of your life. For this purpose, let prayer be your frequent employment; and let such sentiments as these, if not in the very same terms be often and affectionately poured out before God.

An humble Address to God under the Pressure of heavy Affliction.

     "O thou Supreme, yet all righteous and gracious Governor of the whole universe! mean and inconsiderable as this little province of thy spacious empire may appear, thou dost not disregard the earth and its inhabitants, but attendest to its concerns with the most condescending and gracious regard. `Thou reignest, and I rejoice in it;' as it is indeed `matter of universal joy.' (Psa. 97:1) I believe thy providence and care; and I firmly believe thy wise, holy, and kind interposition in everything which relates to me and to the circumstances of my abode in this world. I would look through all inferior causes unto thee, whose eyes are upon all thy creatures; to thee, `who formest light and createst darkness' who `makest peace and createst evil;' (Isa. 45:7) to thee, Lord, who at thy pleasure canst exchange the one for the other, canst turn the brightest noon into midnight, and the darkest midnight into noon.

     "O thou wise and merciful Governor of the world! I have often said, `Thy will be done;' and now, thy will is painful to me. But shall I upon that account unsay what I have so often said? God forbid! I come rather to lay myself down at thy feet, and to declare my full and free submission to all thy sacred pleasure. O Lord! thou art just and righteous in all! I acknowledge, in thy venerable and awful presence, that `I have deserved this,' and ten thousand times more. (Ezra 9:13) I acknowledge that `it is of thy mercy that I am not utterly consumed,' (Lam. 3:22) and that any, the least degree, of comfort yet remains. O Lord! I most readily confess that the sins of one day of my life have merited all these chastisements; and that every day of my life has been more or less sinful. Smite, therefore, O thou Righteous Judge! and I will still adore thee, that, instead of the scourge, thou hast not given a commission to the sword, to do all the dreadful work of justice, and to pour out my blood in thy presence.

     "But shall I speak unto thee only as my Judge? O Lord! thou hast taught me a tenderer name: thou condescendest to call thyself my Father, and to speak of correction as the effect of thy love. O welcome, welcome, those afflictions which are the tokens of thy paternal affection, the marks of my adoption into thy family! Thou knowest what discipline I need. Thou seest, O Lord! that bundle of folly which there is in the heart of thy poor, froward, and thoughtless child, and knowest what rods and what strokes are needful to drive it away. I would therefore `be in humble subjection to the Father of spirits,' who `chastened me for my profit;' would `be in subjection to him and live.' (Heb. 12:9,10) I would bear thy strokes, not merely because I cannot resist them, but because I love and trust in thee. I would sweetly acquiesce and rest in thy will, as well as stoop to it; and would say, `Good is the word of the Lord;' (2 Kin. 20:19) and I desire that not only my lips, but my soul may acquiesce. Yea, Lord, I would praise thee, that thou wilt show so much regard to me as to apply such remedies as these to the diseases of my mind, and art thus kindly careful to train me up for glory. I have no objection against being afflicted, against being afflicted in this particular way. `The cup which my Father puts into my hand, shall I not drink it?' (John 18:11) By thine assistance and support I will. Only be pleased, O Lord! to stand by me, and sometimes to grant me a favorable look in the midst of my sufferings! Support my soul, I beseech thee, by thy consolations mingled with my tribulations, and I shall glory in those tribulations that are thus allayed! It has been the experience of many, who have reflected on afflicted days with pleasure, and have acknowledged that their comforts have swallowed up their sorrows. And after all that thou hast done, `are thy mercies restrained?' (Isa. 63:15) `Is thy hand waxed short?' (Num. 11:25) Or canst thou not do the same for me?

     "If my heart be less tender, less sensible, thou canst cure that disorder, and canst make this affliction the means of curing it. Thus let it be; and at length, in thine own due time, and in the way which thou shalt choose, work out deliverance for me, `and show me thy marvellous loving-kindness, O thou that savest by thy right band them that put their trust in thee!' (Psa. 17:7) For I well know, that how dark soever this night of affliction may seem, if thou sayest, `Let there be light,' there shall be light. But I would urge nothing before the time thy wisdom and goodness shall appoint. I am much more concerned that my afflictions may be sanctified, than that they may be removed. Number me, O God! among the happy persons whom, whilst thou chastenest, thou `teachest out of thy law!' (Psa. 94:12) Show me, I beseech thee, `wherefore thou, contendest with me,' (Job 19:2) and purify me by the fire, which is to painful to me while I am passing through it? Dost thou not chasten thy children for this very end, `that they may be partakers of thy holiness?' (Heb. 12:10) Thou knowest, O God! it is this my soul is breathing after. I am partaker of thy bounty every day and moment of my life: I am partaker of thy Gospel, and I hope, in some measure too, a partaker of the grace of it operating on my heart. O may it operate more and more, that I may largely partake of thine holiness too; that I may come nearer and nearer in the temper of my mind to thee, O blessed God! the supreme model of perfection! Let my soul be, as it were, melted, thought with the intensest heat or the furnace, if I may but thereby be made fit for being delivered into the mold of the Gospel, and bearing thy bright and amiable image!"

     "O Lord, `my soul longeth for thee; it crieth out for the living God!' (Psa. 84:2) In thy presence, and under the support of thy love, I can bear anything; and am willing to bear it, if I may grow more lovely in thine eyes, and more meet for thy kingdom. The days of my affliction will have an end; the hour will at length come, when thou `wilt wipe away all my tears.' (Rev. 21:4) `Though it tarry,' I would `wait for it.' (Heb. 2:3) My foolish heart, in the midst of all its trials, is ready to grow fond of this earth, disappointing and grievous as it is; and graciously, O God, dost thou deal with me, in breaking those bonds that would tie me faster to it. O let my soul be girding itself up, and, as it were, stretching its wings in expectation of that blessed hour when it shall drop all its sorrows and incumbrances at once, and soar away, to expatiate with infinite delight in the regions of liberty, peace and joy. Amen.

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XXVI.

THE CHRISTIAN ASSISTED IN EXAMINING INTO HIS GROWTH IN GRACE.

1. The examination important.--2. False marks of growth to be avoided.--3. True marks proposed; such as--increasing love to God.--4. Benevolence to men.--5. Candor of disposition.--6. Meekness under injuries.--7. Serenity amidst the uncertainties of life.--8. Humility,--especially as expressed in evangelical exercises of mind toward Christ end the Holy Spirit.--10. Zeal for the divine honor.--11. Habitual and cheerful willingness to exchange worlds when ever God shall appoint.--12. Conclusion. The Christian breathing after growth in grace.

1. IF by divine grace you have "been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible," (1 Pet. 1:2,3) even "by that word of God which liveth and abideth for ever," not only in the world and the church, but in particular souls in which it is sown; you will, "as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby." (1 Pet. 2:2) And though in the most advanced state of religion on earth, we are but infants in comparison to what we hope to be, when, in the heavenly world, we arrive "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," (Eph. 4:13) yet, as we have some exercise of a sanctified reason, we shall be solicitous that we may be growing and thriving. And you, my reader, "if so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious," (1 Pet. 2:3) will, I doubt not, feel this solicitude. I would, therefore, endeavor to assist you in making the inquiry, whether religion be on the advance in your soul. And here I shall warn you against some false marks of growth, and then shall endeavor to lay down others on which you may depend as more solid. In this view I would observe, that you are not to measure your growth in grace only or chiefly by your advances in knowledge, or in zeal, or any other passionate impression of the mind, no, nor by the fervor of devotion alone; but by the habitual determination of the will for God, and by your prevailing disposition to obey his commands, submit to his disposal, and promote the highest welfare of his cause in the earth.

     2. It must be allowed that knowledge and affection in religion are indeed desirable. Without some degree of the former, religion cannot be rational and it is very reasonable to believe, that without some degree of the latter it cannot be sincere, in creatures whose natures are constituted like ours. Yet there may be a great deal of speculative knowledge, and a great deal of rapturous affection, where there is no true religion at all; and still more, where religion exists, though there be no advanced state of it. The exercise of our rational faculties, upon the evidences of divine revelation, and upon the declaration of it as contained in Scripture, may furnish a very wicked man with a well-digested body of orthodox divinity in his head, when not one single doctrine of it has ever reached his heart. An eloquent description of the sufferings of Christ, of the solemnities of judgment, of the joys of the blessed, and the miseries of the damned, might move the breast even of a man who did not firmly believe them; as we often find ourselves strongly moved by well-wrought narrations or discourses, which at the same time we know to have their foundation in fiction. Natural constitution, or such accidental causes as are (some of them) too low to be here mentioned, may supply the eyes with a flood of tears, which may discharge itself plenteously upon almost any occasion that shall first arise. And a proud impatience of contradiction directly opposite as it is to the gentle spirit of Christianity, may make a man's blood boil when he hears the notions he has entertained, and especially those which he has openly and vigorously espoused, disputed and opposed. This may possibly lead him, in terms of strong indignation, to pour out his zeal and his rage before God!, in a fond conceit, that, as the God of truth, he is the pattern of those favorite doctrines by whose fair appearances perhaps he himself is misled. And if these speculative refinements, or these affectionate sallies of the mind, be consistent with a total absence of true religion, they are much more apparently consistent with a very low state of it. I would desire to lead you, my friend, into sublimer notions and juster marks, and refer you to other practical writers, arid, above all, to the book of God, to prove how material they are. I would therefore entreat you to bring your own heart to answer, as in the presence of God, such inquiries as these:

     3. Do you find "divine love, on the whole, advancing in your soul?" Do you feel yourself more and more sensible of the presence of God? and does that sense grow more delightful to you than it formerly was? Can you, even when your natural spirits are weak and low, and you are not in any frame for the ardors and ecstacies of devotion, nevertheless find a pleasing rest, a calm repose of heart, in the thought that God is near you, and that he sees the secret sentiments of your soul, while you are, as it were, toward those whom an unsanctified heart might be ready to imagine it had some just excuse for excepting out of the list of those it loves, and from whom you are ready to feel some secret alienation or aversion. How does your mind stand affected toward those who differ from you in their religious sentiments and practices? I do not say that Christian charity will require you to think every error harmless. It argues no want of love to a friend, in some cases, to fear lest his disorder should prove more fatal than he seems to imagine: nay, sometimes the very tenderness of friendship may increase that apprehension. But to hate persons because we think they are mistaken, and to aggravate every difference in judgment or practice into a fatal and damnable error that destroys all Christian communion and love, is a symptom generally much worse than the evil it condemns. Do you love the image of Christ in a person who thinks himself obliged in conscience to profess and worship in a manner different from yourself? Nay, farther, can you love and honor that which is truly amiable and excellent in those in whom much is defective; in those in whom there is a mixture of bigotry and narrowness of spirit, which may lead them perhaps to slight, or even to censure you? Can you love them as the disciples and servants of Christ, who, through a mistaken zeal, may be ready to "cast out your name as evil," (Luke 6:22) and to warn others against you as a dangerous person? This is none of the least triumphs of charity, nor any despicable evidence of an advance in religion.

     6. And, on this head, reflect farther, "How can you bear injuries?" There is a certain hardness of soul in this respect, which argues a confirmed state in piety and virtue. Does every thing of this kind hurry and ruffle you, so as to put you on contrivances how you may recompense, or, at least, how you may disgrace and expose him who has done you the wrong? Or can you stand the shock calmly, and easily divert your mind to other objects, only (when you recollect these things) pitying and praying for those who with the worst tempers and views are assaulting you? This is a Christ-like temper indeed, and he will own it as such; will own you as one of his soldiers, as one of his heroes; especially if it rises so far, as, instead of being "overcome of evil, to overcome evil with good." (Rom. 12:21) Watch over your spirit and over your tongue, when injuries are offered, and see whether you be ready to meditate upon them, to aggravate them in your own view, to complain of them to others, and to lay on all the load of blame that you in justice can; or, whether you be ready to put the kindest construction upon the offence, to excuse it as far as reason will allow, and (where, after all, it will wear a black and odious aspect) to forgive it, heartily to forgive it, and that even before any submission is made, or pardon asked; and in token of the sincerity of that forgiveness, to be contriving what can be done, by some benefit or other, toward the injurious person, to teach him a better temper.

     7. Examine farther, "with regard to other evils and calamities of life, and even with regard to its uncertainties, how you can bear them." Do you find your soul is in this respect gathering strength? Have you fewer foreboding fears and disquieting alarms than you once had, as to what may happen in life? Can you trust the wisdom and goodness of God to order your affairs for you, with more complacency and cheerfulness than formerly? Do you find yourself able to unite your thoughts more in surveying present circumstances, that you may collect immediate duty from them, though you know not what God will next appoint or call you to? And when you feel the smart of affliction, do you make a less matter of it? Can you transfer your heart more easily to heavenly and divine objects, without an anxious solicitude whether this or that burden be removed, so it may but be sanctified to promote your communion with God and your ripeness for glory?

     8. Examine also, "whether you advance in humility." This is a silent but most excellent grace; and they who are most eminent in it, are dearest to God, and most fit for the communications of his presence to them. Do you then feel your mind more emptied of proud and haughty imaginations, not prone so much to look back upon past services which it has performed, as forward to those which are yet before you, and inward upon the remaining imperfections of your heart? Do you more tenderly observe your daily failures and miscarriages, and find yourself disposed to mourn over those things before the Lord, that once passed with you as slight matters, though, when you come to survey them as in the presence of God, you find they were not wholly involuntary or free from guilt? Do you feel in your breast a deeper apprehension of the infinite majesty of the blessed God, and of the glory of his natural and moral perfections, so as, in consequence of these views, to perceive yourself as it were annihilated in his presence, and to shrink into "less than nothing, and vanity?" (Isa. 40:17) If this be your temper, God will look upon you with peculiar favor, and will visit you more and more with the distinguishing blessings of his grace.

     9. But there is another great branch and effect of Christian humility, which it would be an unpardonable negligence to omit. Let me therefore farther inquire, are you more frequently renewing your application, your sincere, steady, determined application, to the righteousness and blood of Christ, as being sensible how unworthy you are to appear before God otherwise than in him? And do the remaining corruptions of your heart humble you before him, though the disorders of your life are in a great measure cured? Are you more earnest to obtain the quickening influences of the Holy Spirit? And have you such a sense of your own weakness as to engage you to depend, in all the duties you perform, upon the communications of his grace to "help your infirmities?" (Rom. 8:26) Can you, at the close of your most religious, exemplary, and useful days, blush before God for the deficiencies of them, while others perhaps may he ready to admire and extol your conduct? And while you give the glory of all that has been right to him from whom the strength and grace has been derived, are you coming to the blood of sprinkling, to free you from the guilt which mingles itself even with the best of your services? Do you learn to receive the bounties of Providence, not only with thankfulness, as coming from God, but with a mixture of shame and confusion too, under a consciousness that you do not deserve them, and are continually forfeiting them? And do you justify Providence in your afflictions and disappointments, even while many are flourishing around you full in the bloom of prosperity, whose offences have been more visible at least, and more notorious than yours?

     10. Do you also advance "in zeal and activity" for the service of God and the happiness of mankind? Does your love show itself solid and sincere, by a continual flow of good works from it? Can you view the sorrows of others with tender compassion, and with projects and contrivances what you may do to relieve them? Do you feel in your breast that you are more frequently "devising liberal things," (Isa. 32:8) and ready to waive your own advantage or pleasure that you may accomplish them ? Do you find your imagination teeming, as it were, with conceptions and schemes for the advancement of the cause and interest of Christ in the world, for the propagation of his Gospel, and for the happiness of your fellow-creatures ? And do you not only pray, but act for it act in such a manner as to show that you pray in earnest, and feel a readiness to do what little you can in this cause, even though others, who might, if they pleased, very conveniently do a vast deal more, will do nothing?

     11. And, not to enlarge upon this copious head, reflect once more, "how your affections stand with regard to this world and another." Are you more deeply and practically convinced of the vanity of these "things which are seen, and are temporal?" (2 Cor. 4:18) Do you perceive your expectations from them, and your attachments to them to diminish? You are willing to stay in this world as long as your Father pleases; and it is right and well; but do you find your bonds so loosened to it; that you are willing, heartily willing, to leave it at the shortest warning; so that if God should see fit to summon you away on a sudden, though it should be in the midst of your enjoyments, pursuits, expectations, and hopes, you would cordially consent to that remove without saying, "Lord, let me stay a little while longer, to enjoy this or that agreeable entertainment, to finish this or that scheme?" Can you think, with an habitual calmness and hearty approbation, if such be the divine pleasure, of waking no more when you lie down on your bed, of returning home no more when you go out of your house? And yet on the other hand, how great soever the burdens of life are, do you find a willingness to bear them, in submission to the will of your heavenly Father, though it should be to many future years, and though they should be years of far greater affliction than you have ever yet seen? Can you say calmly and steadily, if not with such overflowings of tender affection as you could desire, "Behold, `thy servant,' thy child is `in thine hand, do with me as seemeth good in thy sight!' (2 Sam. 15:26) My will is melted into thine; to be lifted up or laid down, to be carried out or brought in, to be here or there, in this or that circumstance, just as thou pleasest, and as shall best suit with thy great extensive plan, which it is impossible that I, or all the angels in heaven, should mend."

     12. These, if I understand matters aright, are some of the most substantial evidences of growth and establishment in religion. Search after them: bless God for them, so for as you discover them in yourself, and study to advance in them daily, under the influences of divine grace; to which I heartily recommend you, and to which I entreat you frequently to recommend yourself.

The Christian breathing earnestly after growth in Grace.

     "O thou ever-blessed Fountain of natural and spiritual life! I thank thee that I live, and know the exercises and pleasures of a religious life. I bless thee that thou hast infused into me thine own vital breath, though I was once `dead in trespasses and sins,' (Eph. 2:1) so that I am become, in a sense peculiar to thine own children, `a living soul.' (Gen. 2:7) But it is my earnest desire that I may not only live but grow, `grow in grace, and in the knowledge of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,' (2 Pet. 3:18) upon an acquaintance with whom my progress in it so evidently depends. In this view, I humbly entreat thee that thou wilt form my mind to right notions in religion, that I may not judge of grace by any wrong conceptions of it, nor measure my advances in it by those things which are merely the effects of nature, and possibly its corrupt effects!

     "May I be seeking after an increase of divine love to thee, my God and Father in Christ, of unreserved resignation to thy wise and holy will, and of extensive benevolence to my fellow-creatures! May I grow in patience and fortitude of soul, in humility and zeal, in spirituality and a heavenly disposition of mind, and in a concern, `that, whether present or absent, I may be accepted of the Lord,' (2 Cor. 5:9) that whether I live or die, it may be for thy glory. In a word, as thou knowest I hunger and thirst after righteousness, make me whatever thou wouldst delight to see me! Draw on my soul, by the gentle influences of thy gracious Spirit, every trace, and every feature, which thine eye, O Heavenly Father, may survey with pleasure, and which thou mayest acknowledge as thine own image.

     "I am sensible, O Lord, I have not as yet attained, yea, my soul is utterly confounded to think how far I am from being already perfect; but this one thing (after thy great example of thine apostle) I would endeavor to do: `forgetting the things which are behind, I would press forward to those which are before.' (Phil. 3:12,13) O that thou wouldst feed my soul by thy word and Spirit! Having been, as I humbly hope and trust, regenerated by it, `being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, even by thy word, which liveth and abideth for ever;' (1 Pet. 1:23) `as a new-born babe, I desire the sincere milk of the word, that I may grow thereby.' (1 Pet. 2:2) And may `my profiting appear unto all men,' (1 Tim. 4:15) till at length `I come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,' (Eph. 4:13) and after having enjoyed the pleasure of those that flourish eminently in thy courts below, be fixed in the paradise above! I ask and hope it through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; `to him be glory, both now and for ever' (2 Pet. 3:18) Amen"

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XXVII.

THE ADVANCED CHRISTIAN REMINDED OF THE MERCIES OF GOD, AND EXHORTED TO THE EXERCISE OF HABITUAL LOVE TO HIM, AND JOY IN HIM.

1. A holy joy in God, our privilege as well as our duty.--2. The Christian invited to the exercise of it.--3. By the consideration of temporal mercies.--4. And of spiritual favors.--5. By the views of eternal happiness.--6. And of the mercies of God to others, the living and the dead.--7. The Chapter closes with an exhortation to this heavenly exercise. And with an example of the genuine workings of this grateful joy in God.

1. I WOULD now suppose my reader to find, on an examination of his spiritual state, that he is growing in grace. And if you desire that this growth may at once be acknowledged and promoted, let me call your soul "to that more affectionate exercise of love to God and joy in him," which suits, and strengthens, and exalts the character of the advanced Christian; and which I beseech you to regard, not only as your privilege, but as your duty too. Love is the most sublime, generous principle, of all true and acceptable obedience; and with love, when so wisely and happily fixed, when so certainly returned, JOY, proportionable JOY, must naturally be connected. It may justly grieve a man that enters into the spirit of Christianity, to see how low a life even the generality of sincere Christians commonly live in this respect. "Rejoice then in the Lord, ye righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness," (Psa. 97:12) and of all those other perfections and glories which are included in that majestic, that wonderful, that delightful name, THE LORD THY GOD. Spend not your sacred moments merely in confession or in petition, though each must have their daily share; but give a part, a considerable part, to the Celestial and angelic work of praise. Yea, labor to carry about with you continually, a heart overflowing with such sentiments, warmed and inflamed with such affections.

     2. Are there not continually rays enough diffused from the great Father of light and love to enkindle it in our bosom? Come, my Christian friend and brother, come and survey with me the goodness of our heavenly Fattier. And oh! that he would give me such a sense of it, that I might represent it in a suitable manner, that "while I am musing, the fire may burn" in my own heart, (Psa. 39:3) and be communicated to yours! And oh! that it might pass, with the lines I write, from soul to soul, awakening in the breast of every Christian that reads them, sentiments more worthy the children of God and the heirs of glory, who are to spend end an eternity in those sacred exercises to which I am now endeavoring to excite you.

     3. Have you not reason to adopt the words of David, and say, `How many are thy gracious thoughts unto me, O Lord!' how great is the sum of them! When I would count them, they are more in number than the sand." (Psa. 139:17,18) You indeed know where to begin the survey, for the favors of God to you began with your being. Commemorate it therefore with a grateful heart, that the eyes which "saw your substance, being yet imperfect," beheld you with a friendly care "when you were made in secret," and have watched over you ever since--and that the hand which "drew the plan of your members, when as yet there was none of them," (Psa. 139:15,16) not only fashioned them at first, but from that time has been concerned in "keeping all your bones, so that none of them is broken," (Psa. 34:20) and that, indeed, it is to this you owe it that you live. Look back upon the path you have trod, from the day that God brought you out of the womb, and say whether you do not, as it were, see all the road thick set with the marks and memorials of the divine goodness. Recollect the places where you have lived, and the persons with whom you have most intimately conversed, and call to mind the mercies you have received in those places, and from those persons, as the instruments of the divine care and goodness. Recollect the difficulties and dangers with which you have been surrounded, and reflect attentively on what God hath done to defend you from them, or to carry you through them. Think how often there has been but a step between you and death, and how suddenly God has sometimes interposed to set you in safety, even before you apprehended your danger. Think of those chambers of illness in which you have been confined; and from whence, perhaps, you once thought you should go forth no more; but said, with Hezekiah, in the cutting off of your days, "I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years." (Isa. 38:10) God has, it may be, since that time, added many years to your life; and you know not how many are in reserve, or how much usefulness and happiness may attend each. Survey your circumstances in relative life; how ninny kind friends are surrounding you daily, and studying how they may contribute to your comfort. Reflect on those remarkable circumstances in Providence, which occasioned the knitting of some bonds of this kind, which, next to those which join your soul to God, you number among the happiest. And forget not in how many instances, when these dear lives have been threatened, lives perhaps more sensibly dear than your own God has given them back from the borders of the grave, and so added new endearments, arising from that tender circumstance, to all your after converse with them. Nor forget, in how gracious a manner he hath supported some others in their last moments, and enabled them to leave behind a sweet odor of piety, which hath embalmed their memories, revived you when ready to faint under the sorrows of the last separation, and, on the whole, made even the recollection of their death delightful.

     4. But it is more than time that I lead on your thoughts to the many spiritual mercies which God has bestowed upon you. Look back, as it were, to "the rock from whence you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence you were digged." (Isa. 1:1) Reflect seriously on the state wherein divine grace found you: under how much guilt, under how much pollution! in what danger, in what ruin! Think what was, and O think with yet deeper reflection. what would have been the case! The eye of God, which penetrates into eternity, saw what your mind, amused with the trifles of the present time and sensual gratification, was utterly ignorant and regardless of: it saw you on the borders of eternity, and pitied you; saw that you would in a little time have been such a helpless, wretched creature as the sinner that is just now dead, and has, to his infinite surprise and everlasting terror, met his unexpected doom; and would, like him, stand thunderstruck in astonishment and despair. This God saw, and he pitied you; and being merciful to you, he provided, in the counsel of his eternal love and grace, a Redeemer for you, and purchased you to himself, through the blood of his Son: a price which, if you will pause upon it, and think seriously what it was, must surely affect you to such a degree as to make you to fall down before God in wonder and shame, to think it should ever have been given for you. To accomplish these blessed purposes, he sent his grace into your heart; so that, though "you were once darkness, you are now light in the Lord." (Eph. 5:8) He made that happy change which you now feel in your soul, and "by his Holy Spirit, which is given to you," he shed abroad that principle of love (Rom. 5:5) which is enkindled by this review, and now flames with greater ardor than before. Thus far he hath supported you in your Christian course, and "having obtained help from him," it is that you continue even to this day. (Acts 26:22) He hath not only blessed you, but "made you a blessing;" (Gen. 12:2.) and though you have not been so useful as that holy generosity of heart which he has excited would have engaged you to desire, yet some good you have done in the station in which he has fixed you. Some of your brethren of mankind have been relieved; perhaps, too, some thoughtless creature reclaimed to virtue and happiness by his blessing on your endeavors. Some in the way to heaven are praising God for you; and some, perhaps, already there, are longing for your arrival, that they may thank you, in nobler and more expressive forms, for benefits, the importance of which they now sufficiently understand, though while here, they could never conceive it.

     5. Christian, look around on the numberless blessings, of one kind and of another, with which you are already encompassed; and advance your prospect still farther, to what faith yet discovers within the veil. Think of those now unknown transports with which thou shalt drop every burden in the grave; and thine immortal spirit shall mount, light and joyful, holy and happy to God, its original, its support, and its hope; to God, the source of being, of holiness, and of pleasure; to Jesus, through whom all these blessings are derived to thee, and who will appoint thee a throne near to his own, to be for ever a spectator and partaker of his glory. Think of the rapture with which thou shalt attend his triumph in the resurrection-day, and receive this poor, moldering, corruptible body, transformed into his glorious image; and then think, "These hopes are not mine alone, but the hopes of thousands and millions. Multitudes, whom I number among the dearest of my friends upon the earth, are rejoicing with me in these apprehensions and views; and God gives me sometimes to see the smiles on their cheeks, the sweet, humble hope that sparkles in their eyes and shines through the tears of tender gratitude, and to hear that little of their inward complacency and joy which language can express. Yea, and multitudes more, who were once equally dear to me with these, though I have laid them in the grave, and wept over the dust, are living to God, living in the possession of inconceivable delights, and drinking large draughts of the water of life, which flows in perpetual streams at his right hand."

     6. O Christian! thou art still intimately united and allied to them. Death cannot break a friendship thus cemented, and it ought not to render thee insensible of the happiness of those friends for whose memory thou retainest so just an honor. They live to God as his servants; they "serve him and see his face,"(Rev. 22: 3,4) and they make but a small part of that glorious assembly. Millions, equally worthy of thine esteem and affection with themselves, inhabit those blissful regions; and wilt thou not rejoice in their joy? And wilt thou not adore that everlasting spring of holiness and happiness from whence each of their streams is derived? Yea, I will add, while the blessed angels are so kindly regarding us, while they are ministering to thee, O Christian! and bearing thee in their arms, "as an heir of salvation," (Heb. 1:14) wilt thou not rejoice in their felicity too? And wilt thou not adore that God who gives them all the superior glory of their more exalted nature, and gives them a heaven, which fills them with blessedness even while they seem to withdraw from it, that they may attend on thee?

     7. This, and infinitely more than this the blessed God is, and was, and shall ever be. The felicities of the blessed spirits that surround his throne, and thy felicities, O Christian! are immortal. These heavenly luminaries shall glow with an undecaying flame, and thou shalt shine and burn among them when the sun and the stars are gone out. Still shall the unchanging Father of lights pour forth his beams upon them; and the lustre they reflect from him, and their happiness in him, shall be everlasting, shall be ever growing. Bow down, O thou child of God, thou heir of glory; bow down, and let all that is within thee unite in one act of grateful love; and let all that is around thee, all that is before thee in the prospects of an unbounded eternity, concur to elevate and transport thy soul, that thou mayest, as far as possible, begin the work and blessedness of heaven, in falling down before the God of it, in opening thine heart to his gracious influences, and in breathing out before him that incense of praise which these warm beams of his presence and love have so great a tendency to produce, and to ennoble with a fragrancy resembling that of his paradise above.

The grateful Soul rejoicing in the Blessings of Providence and Grace, and pouring out itself before God in vigorous and affectionate Exercises of Love and Praise.

     "O my God, it is enough! I have mused, and `the fire burneth!' (Psa. 39:3) But oh! in what language shall the flame break forth? What can a say but this, that my heart admires thee, and adores thee, and loves thee? My little vessel is as full as it can hold; and I would pour out all that fullness before thee, that it may grow capable of receiving more and more. Thou art `my hope and my help; my glory, and the lifter up of my head.' (Psa. 3:3) `My heart rejoiceth in thy salvation' (Psa. 13:5) and when I set myself under the influences of thy good Spirit to converse with thee, a thousand delightful thoughts spring up at once; a thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed, and flow in upon my soul with such refreshment and joy, that they seem to crowd into every moment the happiness of days, and weeks, and months.

     "I bless thee, O God, for this soul of mine which thou hast created; which thou hast taught to say, and I hope to the happiest purpose, `Where is God my Maker!' (Job 35:10) I bless thee for the knowledge with which thou hast adorned it. I bless thee for that grace with which I trust I may (not without humble wonder) say, thou hast sanctified it; though, alas! the celestial plant is fixed in too barren a soil, and does not flourish to the degree I could wish.

     "I bless thee also for that body which thou hast given me, and which thou preservest as yet in its strength and vigor, not only capable of relishing the entertainments which thou providest for its various senses, but (which I esteem far more valuable than any of them for its own sake) capable of acting with some vivacity in thy service. I bless thee for that case and freedom with which these limbs of mine move themselves, and obey the dictates of my spirit, I hope as guided by thine. I bless thee that `the keepers of my house do not tremble, nor the strong men bow themselves;' that they `that look out of the windows are not yet darkened, nor the daughters of music brought low.' I bless thee, O God of my life! that `the silver cord is not yet loosed, nor the golden bowl broken;' (Eccl. 12:3,4,6) for it is thine hand that braces all my nerves, and thine infinite skill that prepares those spirits that flow in so freely; and when exhausted, recruit so soon and so plentifully. I praise thee for that royal bounty with which thou providest for the daily support of mankind in general, and for mine in particular; for the various tables which thou spreadest before me, and for the overflowing cup which thou `puttest into my hands.' (Psa. 23:5) I bless thee that these bounties of thy providence do not serve, as it were, to upbraid a disabled appetite, and are not `like messes of meat set before the dead.' I bless thee too, that I `eat not my morsel of meat alone,' (Job 31:17) but share it with so many agreeable friends, who add the relish of a social life to that of the animal, at our seasons of common repast. I thank thee for so many dear relatives at home, for so many kind friends abroad, who are capable of serving me in various instances, and disposed to make an obliging use of that capacity.

     "Nor would I forget to acknowledge thy favor in rendering me capable of serving others, and giving me in any instance to know how much `more blessed it is to give than to receive.' (Acts, 20:35) I thank thee for a heart which feels the sorrows of the necessitous, and a mind which can make it my early care and refreshment to contrive, according to my little ability, for their relief; for `this also cometh forth from thee, O Lord!' (Isa. 28:29) the great Author of every benevolent inclination, of every prudent scheme, of every successful attempt to spread happiness around us, or in any instance to lessen distress.

     "And surely, O Lord, if I thus acknowledge the pleasures of sympathy with the afflicted, much more must I bless thee for those of sympathy with the happy, with those that are completely blessed. I adore thee for the streams that water Paradise, and maintain it in ever-flourishing, ever-growing delight. I praise thee for the rest, the joy, the transport, thou art giving to many that were once dear to me on earth, whose sorrows it was my labor to soothe, and whose joys, especially in thee, it was the delight of my heart to promote. I praise thee for the blessedness of every saint, and of every angel that surrounds thy throne above; and I praise thee, with accents of distinguished pleasure for that reviving hope which thou hast implanted in my bosom, that I shall, ere long, know, by clear sight, and by everlasting experience, what that felicity of theirs is which I now only discover at a distance, through the comparatively obscure glass of faith. Even now, through thy grace, do I feel myself borne forward by thy supporting arm to those regions of blessedness. Even now am I `waiting for thy salvation,' (Gen. 49:18) with that ardent desire, on the one hand, which its sublime greatness cannot but inspire into the believing soul, and that calm resignation on the other, which the immutability of thy promise establishes.

     "And now, O my God, what shall I say unto thee? what, but that I love thee above all the powers of language to express! That I love thee for what thou art to thy creatures, who are, in their various forms, every moment deriving being, knowledge and happiness from thee, in numbers and degrees far beyond what my narrow imagination can conceive. But, oh! I adore and love thee yet far more for what thou art in thyself; for those stores of perfection which creation has not diminished, and which can never be exhausted by all the effects of it which thou impartest to thy creatures; that infinite perfection which makes thee thine own happiness, thine own end; amiable, infinitely amiable and venerable, were all derived excellence and happiness forgot.

     "O thou first, thou greatest, thou fairest of all objects! thou only great, thou only fair, possess all my soul! And surely thou dost possess it. While I thus feel thy sacred Spirit breathing on my heart, and exciting these fervors of love to thee, I cannot doubt it any more than I can doubt the reality of this animal life, while I exert the actings of it, and feel its sensations. Surely, if ever I knew the appetite of hunger, my soul `hungers after righteousness, (Matt. 5:6) and longs for a greater conformity to thy blessed nature and holy will. If ever my palate felt thirst, `my soul thirsteth for God, even for the living God,' (Psa. 42:2) and panteth for the more abundant communication of his favor. If ever this body, when wearied with labor or journies, knew what it was to wish for the refreshment of my bed, and rejoice to rest there, my soul, with sweet acquiescence, rests upon thy gracious bosom, O my heavenly Father, and returns to its repose in the em-braces of its God, `who hath dealt so bountifully with it.' (Psa. 116:7) And if ever I saw the face of a beloved friend with complacency and joy, I rejoice in beholding thy face, O Lord, and in calling thee my Father in Christ. Such thou art, and such thou wilt be, for time and for eternity. What have I more to do, but to commit myself to thee for both? Leaving it to thee to `choose my inheritance' and to order my affairs for me, (Psa. 47:4) while all my business is to serve thee, and all my delight to praise thee. `My soul follows hard after God,' because `his right hand upholds me.' (Psa. 63:8) Let it still bear me up, and I shall press on toward thee, till all my desires be accomplished in the eternal enjoyment of thee! Amen'

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XXVIII.

THE ESTABLISHED CHRISTIAN URGED TO EXERT HIMSELF FOR PURPOSES OF USEFULNESS.

1, 2. A sincere love to God will express itself not only in devotion, but in benevolence to men.--3. This is the command of God.--4. The true Christian feels his soul wrought to a holy conformity to it.--5. And therefore will desire instruction on this head.--6. Accordingly, directions are given for the improvement of various talents: particularly genius and learning.--7. Power.--8. Domestic authority.--9. Esteem.--10. Riches.--11. Several good ways of employing them hinted at.--12, 13. Prudence in expense urged, for the support of charity.--14. Divine direction in this respect to be sought. The Christian breathing after more extensive usefulness.

1. SUCH as I have described in the former Chapter, I trust, are and will be the frequent exercises or your soul before God. Thus will your love and gratitude breathe itself forth in the divine presence and will, through Jesus the great Mediator, come up before it as incense, and yield an acceptable savor. But then, you must remember, this will not be the only effect of that love to God which I have supposed so warm in your heart. If it be sincere, it will not spend itself in words alone, but will discover itself in actions, and wilt produce, as its genuine fruit, an unfeigned love to your fellow-creatures, and an unwearied desire and labor to do them good continually.

     2. "Has the great Father of mercies," will you say, "looked upon me with so gracious an eye? has he not only forgiven me ten thousand offences, but enriched me with such a variety of benefits? O what shall render to him for them all? Instruct me, O ye oracles of eternal truth! Instruct me, ye elder brethren in the family of my heavenly Father! Instruct me, above all, O thou Spirit of wisdom and love! what I may be able to do, to express my love to the great eternal fountain of love, and to approve my fidelity to him who has already done so much to engage it, and who will take so much pleasure in owning and rewarding it!"

     3. This, O Christian! is the command which we have heard from the beginning, and it will ever continue in unimpaired force, "that he who loveth God," should "love his brother also," (I John, 4:21) and should express that love, "not in word and profession alone, but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3: 18) You are to love your neighbor as yourself; to love the whole creation of God; and, so far as your influence can extend, must endeavor to make it happy.

     4. "Yes," will you not say, and "I do love it. I feel the golden chain of divine love encircling us all, and binding us close to each other, joining us in one body, and diffusing as it were, one soul through all. May happiness, true and sublime, perpetual and ever-growing happiness, reign through the whole world of God's rational and obedient creatures in heaven and on earth! And may every revolted creature, that is capable of being recovered and restored, be made obedient! Yea, may the necessary punishment of those who are irrecoverable, be overruled by infinite wisdom and love to the good of the whole!"

     5. These are right sentiments, and if they are indeed the sentiments of your heart, O reader! and not an empty form of vain words, they will be attended with a serious concern to act in subordination to this great scheme of divine Providence, according to your abilities in their utmost extent. And to this purpose, they will put you on surveying the peculiar circumstances of your life and being, that you may discover what opportunities of usefulness they now afford, and how those opportunities and capacities may be improved. Enter therefore into such a survey, not that you may pride yourself in the distinctions of divine Providence or grace towards you, or, "having received, may glory as if you had not received;" (I Cor. 4:7) but that you may deal faithfully with the great Proprietor, whose steward you are, and by whom you are entrusted with every talent, which, with respect to any claim from your fellow-creatures, you may call your own. And here, "having gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us," (Rom. 12:6) let us hold the balance with an impartial hand, that so we may determine what it is that God requires of us; which is nothing less than doing the most we can invent, contrive, and effect, for the general good. But, oh! how seldom is this estimate faithfully made! And how much does the world around us, and how much do our own souls suffer for want of that fidelity!

     6. Hath God given you genius and learning? It was not that you might amuse or deck yourself with it, and kindle a blaze which should only serve to attract and dazzle the eyes of men. It was intended to be the means of Chpt both yourself and them to the Father of lights. And it will be your duty, according to the peculiar turn of that genius and capacity, either to endeavor to improve and adorn human life, or, by a more direct application of it to divine subjects, to plead the cause of religion, to defend its truths, to enforce and recommend its practicer to deter men from courses which would be dishonorable to God and fatal to themselves, and to try the utmost efforts of all the solemnity and tenderness with which you can clothe your addresses, to lead them into the paths of virtue and happiness.

     7. Has God invested you with power, whether it be in a larger or smaller society? Remember that this power was given you that God might be honored, and those placed under your government, whether domestic or public, might be made happy. Be concerned, therefore, that, whether you be entrusted with the rod, or the sword, it may "not be" borne in vain. (Rom. 13:4) Are you a magistrate? Have you any share in the great and tremendous charge of enacting laws? Reverence the authority of the supreme Legislator, the great Guardian of society: promote none, consent to none, which you do not in your own conscience esteem, in present circumstances, an intimation of his will, and in the establishment of which you do not firmly believe you shalt be "his minister for good." (Rom. 13:4) Have you the charge of executing laws? Put life into them by a vigorous and strenuous execution, according to the nature of the particular office you bear. Retain not an empty name of authority. Permit not yourself, as it were, to fall asleep on the tribunal. Be active, be wakeful, be observant of what passes around you. Protect the upright and the innocent. Break in pieces the power of the oppressor. Unveil every dishonest heart. Disgrace as well as defeat the wretch that makes his distinguished abilities the disguise or protection of the wickedness which he ought rather to endeavor to expose, and to drive out of the world with abhorrence.

     8. Are you placed only at the head of a private family? Rule it for God. Administer the concerns of that little kingdom with the same views, and on the same principles, which I have been inculcating oil the powerful and the great, if, by any unexpected accident, any of them should suffer their eyes to glance upon the passage above. Your children and servants are your natural subjects. Let good order be established among them, and keep them under a regular discipline. Let them be instructed in the principles of religion, that they may know how reasonable such a discipline is; and let them be accustomed to act accordingly. You cannot indeed change their hearts, but you may very much influence their conduct, and by that means may preserve them from many snares, may do a great deal to make them good members of society, and may set them, as it were, "in the way of God's steps," (Psa. 85:13) if peradventure passing by be may bless them with the riches of his grace. And fail not to do your utmost to convince them of their need of those blessings; labor to engage them to a high esteem of them, and to an earnest desire of them, as incomparably more valuable than any thing else.

     9. Again, has God been pleased to raise you to esteem among your fellow-creatures, which is not always in proportion to a man's rank or possession in human life? Are your counsels heard with attention? Is your company sought? Does God give you good acceptance in the eyes of men, so that they do not only put the fairest constructions on your words, but overlook faults of which you are conscious to yourself, and consider your actions and performances in the most indulgent and favorable light? You ought to regard this, not only as a favor of Providence, and as an encouragement to you cheerfully to pursue your duty, in the several branches of it, for the time to come, but also, as giving you much greater opportunities of usefulness than in your present station you could otherwise have had. If your character has any weight in the world, throw it into the right scale. Endeavor to keep virtue and goodness in countenance. Affectionately give your hand to modest worth, where it seems to be depressed or overlooked; though shining, when viewed in its proper light, with a lustre which you may think much superior to your own. Be an advocate for truth; be a counsellor for peace; be an example of candor; and do all you can to reconcile the hearts of men, especially of good men, to each other, however they may differ in their opinions about matters which it is impossible for good men to dispute. And let the caution and humility of your behavior, in circumstances of such superior eminence, and amidst so many tokens of general esteem, silently reprove the rashness and haughtiness of those who perhaps are remarkable for little else; or who, if their abilities were indeed considerable, must be despised, and whose talents must be in a great measure lost to the public, till that rashness and haughtiness of spirit be subdued. Nor suffer yourself to he interrupted in this generous and worthy course, by the little attacks or envy and calumny which you may meet. Be still attentive to the general good, and steadily resolute in your efforts to promote it; and leave it to Providence to guard or to rescue your character from the base assaults of malice and falsehood, which will often, without your labor, confute themselves, and heap upon the authors greater shame, or (if they are inaccessible to that} greater infamy, than your humanity will allow you to wish them.

     10. Once more, Has God blessed you with riches? Has he placed you in such circumstances that you have more than you absolutely need for the subsistence of yourself and your family? Remember your approaching account. Remember what an incumbrance these things often prove to men in the way of their salvation, and how often, according to our Lord's express declaration, they render it "as difficult to enter into the kingdom of God, as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle." (Matt. 19:24) Let it therefore be your immediate, your earnest, and your daily prayer, that riches may not be a snare and a shame to you, as they are to by far the greater part of their possessors. Appropriate, I beseech you, some certain part and proportion of your estate and revenue to charitable uses; with a provisional increase, as God shall prosper you in any extraordinary instance. By this means you will always have a fund of charity at hand; and you will probably be more ready to communicate, when you look upon what is so deposited as not in any sense your own, but as already actually given away to those uses, though not yet affixed to particular objects. It is not for me to say what that proportion ought to be. To those who have large revenues, and no children, perhaps a third or one half may be too little; to those whose incomes are small, and their charge considerable, though they have something more than is absolutely necessary, it is possible a tenth may be too much. But pray that God would guide your mind; make a trial for one year, on such terms as in your conscience you think will be most pleasing to him; and let your observations on that teach you to fix your proportion for the next always remembering, that he requires justice in the first place, and alms-deeds only so far as may consist with that. Yet, at the same time, take heed of that treacherous, delusive, and, in many instances, destructive imagination, "that justice to your own family requires that yon should leave your children very rich; which has perhaps cost some parsimonious parents the lives of those darlings for whom they laid up the portion of the poor; and what fatal consequences of divine displeasure may attend it to those that yet survive, God Only knows; and I heartily pray that you or yours may never learn by experience.

     11. And that your heart may be yet more opened, and that your charity may be directed to the best purposes, let me briefly mention a variety of good uses which may call for the consideration of those whom God has in this respect distinguished by an ability to do good. To assist the hints I am to offer, look round on the neighborhood in which you live. Thank how many honest and industrious, perhaps too, I might add, religious people, are making very hard shifts to struggle through life. Think what a comfort that would be to them, which you might without any inconvenience spare from that abundance which God hath given you. Hearken also to any extraordinary calls of charity which may happen, especially those of a public nature, and help them forward with your example, and your interest in them, which perhaps may be of much greater importance than the sum which you contribute, considered in itself. Have a tongue to plead for the necessitous, as well as a hand to relieve them; and endeavor to discountenance those poor, shameful excuses, which covetousness often dictates to those whose art may indeed set some varnish on what they suggest, but so slight a one, that the coarse ground will appear through it. See how many poor children are wandering naked and ignorant about the streets, and in the way to all kinds of vice and misery; and consider what can be done toward clothing some of them at least, and instructing them in the principles of religion. Would every thriving family in a town, who are able to afford help on such occasions, cast a pitying eye on one poor family in its neighborhood, and take it under their patronage, to assist in feeding, and clothing, and teaching the children, in supporting it in affliction, in defending it from wrongs, and in advising those that have the management of it, as circumstances might require, how great a difference would soon be produced in the character and circumstances of the community! Observe who are sick, that, if there be no public infirmary at hand to which you can introduce them, (where your contribution will yield the largest increase) you may do something towards relieving them at home, and supplying them with advice and medicines, as well as with proper diet and attendance. Consider also the spiritual necessities of men: in providing for which, I would particularly recommend to you the very important and noble charity of assisting young persons of genius and piety with what is necessary to support the expense of their education for the ministry, in the proper course of grammatical or academical studies. And grudge not some proportion of what God hath given you, to those who, resigning all temporal views to minister to you the Gospel of Christ, have surely an equitable claim to be supported by you, in a capacity of rendering you those services, however laborious, to which, for your sakes, and that of our common Lord, they have devoted their lives. And while you are so abundantly "satisfied with the goodness of Gal's house, even of his own temple," (Psa. 65:4) have compassion on those who dwell in a desert land; and rejoice to do something toward sending among the distant nations of the heathen world, that glorious Gospel which bath so long continued unknown to multitudes, though the knowledge of it, with becoming regard, be life everlasting. These are a few important charities which I would point out to those whom Providence has enriched with its peculiar bounties; and it renders gold more precious than it could appear in any other light, that it is capable of being employed for such purposes. But if you should not have gold to spare for them, contribute your silver; or, as a farthing or a mite is not overlooked by God, when it is given from a truly generous and charitable heart, (Mark 12:42,43) let that be cheerfully dropped into the treasury, where richer offerings cannot be afforded.

     12. And that, amidst so many pressing demands for charity, you may be better furnished to answer them, seriously reflect on your manner of living. I say not that God requires you should become one of the many poor relieved out of your income. The support of society, as at present established, will not only permit, but require, that some persons should allow themselves in the elegancies and delights of life; by furnishing which, multitudes of poor families are much more creditably and comfortably subsisted, with greater advantage to themselves and safety to the public, than they could be, if the price of their labors, or of the commodities in which they deal, were to be given them as alms; nor can I imagine it grateful to God, that his gifts should be refused, as if they were meant for snares and curses rather than benefits. This were to frustrate the benevolent purposes of the gracious Father of mankind, and if carried to its rigor, would be a sort of conspiracy against the whole system of nature. Let the bounties of Providence be used; but let us carefully see to it, that it be in a moderate and prudent manner, lest, by our own folly, "that which should have been for our welfare become a trap." (Psa. 69:22) Let conscience say, my dear reader, with regard to yourself, what proportion of the good things you possess your Heavenly Father intends for yourself, and what for your brethren; and live not as if you had no brethren--as if pleasing yourself in all the magnificence and luxury you can devise, were the end for which you were sent into the world. I fear this is the excess of the present age, and not an excess of rigor and mortification. Examine, therefore, your expenses, and compare them with your income. That may be shamefully extravagant in you, which may not only be pardonable, but commendable in another of superior estate. Nor can you be sure that you do not exceed, merely because you do not plunge your-self into debt, nor render yourself incapable of laying up any thing for your family. If you be disabled from doing any thing for the poor, or any thing proportionable to your rank in life, by that genteel and elegant way of living which you affect, God must disapprove of such a conduct; and you ought, as you will answer to him, to retrench it. And though the divine indulgence will undoubtedly be exercised to those in whom there is a sincere principle of faith in Christ, and undissembled love to God and man, though it act not to that height of beneficence and usefulness which might have been attained; yet be assured of this, that he, who rendereth to every one according to his works, will have a strict regard to the degrees of the goodness in the distribution of final rewards: so that every neglected opportunity draws after it an irreparable loss, which will go into eternity along with you. And let me add, too, that every instance of negligence indulged, renders the mind still more and more indolent and weak, and consequently more indisposed to recover the ground which has been lost, or even to maintain that which has been hitherto kept.

     18. Complain not that this is imposing hard things upon you. I am only directing your pleasures into a nobler channel; and indeed that frugality, which is the source of such a generosity, far from being at all injurious to your reputation, will rather, among wise and good men, greatly promote it. But you have far nobler motives before you than those which arise from their regards. I speak to you as to a child of God, and a member of Christ; as joined, therefore, by the most intimate union, to all the poorest of those that believe in him. I speak to you as to an heir of eternal glory, who ought therefore to have sentiments great and sublime, in some proportion to that expected inheritance.

     14. Cast about therefore in your thoughts what good is to be done, and what you can do, either in your own person or by your interest with others; and go about it with resolution, as in the name and presence of the Lord. And as "the Lord giveth wisdom, and out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding," (Prov. 2:6) go to the footstool of his throne, and there seek that guidance and that grace which may suit your present circumstances, and may be effectual to produce the fruits of holiness and usefulness, to his more abundant glory, and to the honor of your Christian profession.

The established Christian breathing after more extensive Usefulness.

     "O bountiful Father, and sovereign Author of all good, whether natural or spiritual! I bless thee for the various talents with which thou hast enriched so undeserving a creature as I must acknowledge myself to be. My soul is in the deepest confusion before thee, when I consider to how little purpose I have hitherto improved them. Alas! what have I done, in proportion to what than mightest reasonably have expected, with the gifts of nature which thou hast bestowed upon me, with my capacities of life, with my time, with my talents, with my possessions, with my influence over others! Alas! through my own negligence and folly, I look back on a barren wilderness, where I might have seen a fruitful field, and a springing harvest! Justly do I indeed deserve to be stripped of all, to be brought to an immediate account for all; to be condemned, as in many respects unfaithful to thee, and to the world, and to my own soul; and, in consequence of that condemnation, to be cast into the prison of eternal darkness! But thou, Lord, hast freely forgiven the dreadful debt of ten thousand talents. Adored be thy name for it! Accept, O Lord, accept that renewed surrender which I would now make of myself, and of all I have, unto thy service! I acknowledge that it is `of thine own that I give thee.' (1 Chron. 29:14) Make me, I beseech thee, a faithful steward for my great Lord; and may I think of no separate interest of my own, in opposition to thine!

     "I adore thee, O thou God of all grace! if, while I am thus speaking to thee, I feel the love of thy creatures arising in my soul; if I feel my heart opening to embrace my brethren of mankind! O make me thy faithful almoner, in distributing to them all that thou hast lodged in mine hand for their relief! And in determining what is my own share, may I hold the balance with an equal hand, and judge impartially between myself and them! The proportion thou allowest, may I thankfully take for myself and those who are immediately mine! The rest may I distribute with wisdom, and fidelity, and cheerfulness! Guide my hand, O ever-merciful Father! while thou dost me the honor to make me thine instrument in dealing out a few of thy bounties, that I may bestow them where they are most needed, and where they will answer the best end! And if it be thy gracious will, do thou `multiply the seed sown;' (2 Cor. 9:10) prosper me in my worldy affairs, that I may have more to impart to them that need it; and thus lead me on to the region of everlasting plenty, and everlasting benevolence! There may I meet with many to whom I have been an affectionate benefactor on earth; and if it be thy blessed will, with many whom I have also been the means of conducting into the path to that blissful abode! There may they entertain me in their habitations of glory! And in time and eternity, do thou, Lord, accept the praise of all, through Jesus Christ; at whose feet I would bow; and at whose feet, after the most useful course, I would at last die, with as much humility as if I were then exerting the first act of faith upon him, and had never had any opportunity, by one tribute of obedience and gratitude in the services of life, to approve its sincerity!"

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XXIX.

THE CHRISTIAN REJOICING IN THE VIEWS OF DEATH AND JUDGMENT.

1. Death and judgment are near: but the Christian has reason to welcome both.--2. Yet nature recoils from the solemnity of them.--3. An attempt to reconcile the mind to the prospect of death.--4. From the considerations of the many evils that surround us in this mortal life.--5. Of the remainder of sin which we feel within us.--6, 7. And of the happiness which is immediately to succeed death.--8. All which might make the Christian willing to die in the most agreeable circumstances of human life.--9. The Christian has reason to rejoice in the prospect of judgment.--10. Since, however awful it may be, Christ will then come to vindicate his honor, to display his glory, and to triumph over his enemies.--11. As also to complete the happiness of every believer.--12, 13. And of the whole church.--The mediation of a Christian whose heart is warm with these prospects.

1. WHEN the visions of the Lord were closing upon John, the beloved disciple, in the island of Patmos, it is observable that he who gave him that revelation, even Jesus, the faithful and true witness, concludes with these lively and important words: "He who testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly:" and John answered with the greatest readiness and pleasure--"Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus!" Come, as thou hast said, surely and quickly. And remember, O Christian! whoever you are that are now reading these words, your divine Lord speaks in the same language to you--"Behold, I come quickly." Yes, very quickly will become by death, to turn the key, to open the door of the grave for thine admittance thither, and to lead thee through it into the now unknown regions of the invisible world. Nor is it long before "the Judge who standeth at the door," (Jam. 5:9) will appear also for universal judgment; and though, perhaps, not only scores, but hundreds of years will lie between that period and the present moment, yet it is but a very small point of time to him who views at once all the unmeasurable ages or a past and future eternity. "A thousand years are with him but as one day, and one day as a thousand years." (2 Pet. 3:8) In both these senses, then, does he come quickly. And I trust you can answer, with a glad Amen, that the warning is not terrible or unpleasant to your ears; but rather that his coming, his certain, his speedy coming, is the object of your delightful hope, and of your longing expectation.

     2. I am sure it is reasonable it should be so; and yet perhaps nature, fond of life, and unwilling to part with along known abode, to enter on a state to which it is entirely a stranger, may recoil from the thoughts of dying; or, struck with the awful pomp or an expiring and dissolving world, may look on the judgement-day with some mixture of terror. And therefore, my dear brother in the Lord, (for such I can now esteem you) I would reason with you a little on this head, and would entreat you to look more attentively on this solemn subject; which will, I trust, grow less disagreeable to you, as it is more familiarly viewed. Nay, I hope that, instead of starting back from it, you wilt rather spring forward toward it with joy and delight.

     3. Think, O Christian! when Christ comes to call you away by death, he comes--to set you at liberty from your present sorrows--to deliver you from your struggles with remaining corruption--and to receive you to dwell with himself in complete holiness and joy. You shall "be absent from the body, and be present with the Lord." (2 Cor. 5: 8)

     4. He will indeed call you away from this world; but oh! what is this world, that you should be fond of it, and cling to it with so much eagerness? How low are all those enjoyments that are peculiar to it, and how many its vexations, its snares, and its sorrows! Review your pilgrimage thus far; and though you must acknowledge that "goodness and mercy have followed you all the days of your life," (Psa. 23:6) yet has not that very mercy itself planted some thorns in your path, and given you some wise and necessary, yet painful intimations, that "this is not your rest?" (Mic. 2:10) Review the monuments of your withered joys, of your blasted hopes, if there be yet any monuments of them remaining more than a mournful remembrance they have left behind in your afflicted heart. Look upon the graves that have swallowed up many of your dearest and most amiable friends, perhaps in the very bloom of life, and in the greatest intimacy of your converse with them, and reflect, that if you continue a few years more, death will renew his conquests at your expense, and devour the most precious of those that yet survive. View the living as well as the dead: behold the state of human nature under the many grievous marks of its apostacy from God, and say, whether a wise and good man would wish to continue always here. Methinks, were I myself secure from being reached by any of the arrows that fly around me, I could not but mourn to see the wounds that are given by them, and to hear the groans of those that are continually falling under them. The diseases and calamities of mankind are so many, and (which is most grievous of all) the distempers of their minds are so various, and so threatening, that the world appears like a hospital; and a man whose heart is tender, is ready to feel his spirits broken as he walks through it and surveys the sad scene; especially when he sees how little he can do for the recovery of those whom he pities. Are you a Christian? and does it not pierce your heart to see how human nature is sunk in vice and in shame? To see with what amazing insolence some are making themselves openly vile, and how the name of Christ is dishonored by too many that call themselves his people? To see the unlawful deeds and filthy practices of them that live ungodly; and to behold, at the same time, the infirmities, at least, and irregularities of those, concerning whom we have better hopes? And do you not wish to escape from such a world, where a righteous and compassionate soul must be vexed from day to day by so many spectacles of sin and misery? (2 Pet. 2:8)

     5. Yea, to come nearer home, do you not feel something within you, which you long to quit, and which would embitter even Paradise itself? Something which, were it to continue, would grieve and distress you even in the society of the blessed? Do you not feel a remainder of indwelling sin, the sad consequence of the original revolt of our nature from God? Are you not struggling every day with some residue of corruption, or at least mourning on account of the weakness of your graces? Do you not often find your spirits dull and languid, when you would desire to raise them to the greatest fervor in the service of God ? Do you not find your heart too often insensible of the richest instances of his love, and your hands feeble in his service, even when "to will is present with you?" (Rom. 7:18) Does not your life, in its best days and hours, appear a low, unprofitable thing, when compared with what you are sensible it ought to be, and with what you wish that it were ? Are you not frequently, as it were, "stretching the pinions of the mind," and saying, "O that I had wings like a dove, that I might fly away and be at rest!" (Psa. 55:6)

     6. Should you not then rejoice in the thought, that Jesus comes to deliver you from these complaints? That he comes to answer your wishes, and to fulfill the largest desires of your hearts, those desires that he himself has inspired? That he comes to open upon you a world of purity and joy; of active, exalted, and unwearied services?

     7. O Christian! how often have you cast a longing eye toward those happy shores, and wished to pass the sea, the boisterous, unpleasant, dangerous sea, that separates you from them! When your Lord has condescended to make you a short visit in his ordinances on earth, how have you blessed the time and the place, and pronounced it, amidst many other disadvantages of situation, to be "the very gate of heaven!" (Gen. 28:17) And is it so delightful to behold this gate? and will it not be much more so to enter into it ? Is it so delightful to receive the visits of Jesus for an hour? and will it not be infinitely more so to dwell with him for ever ? "Lord," may you well say, "when I dwell with thee, I shall dwell in holiness, for thou thyself art holiness; in love, for thou thyself art love:I shall dwell in joy, for thou art the fountain of joy, as thou art in the Father, and the Father in thee." (John 17:21) Bid welcome to his approach, therefore, to take you at your word, and to fulfill to you that saying of his, on which your soul has so often rested with heavenly peace and pleasure: "Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me." (John 17:24)

     8. Surely you may say in this view, "The sooner Christ comes the better." What though the residue of your days be cut off in the midst ? What though you leave many expected pleasures in life untasted, and many schemes unaccomplished ? Is it not enough, that what is taken from a mortal life, shall be added to a glorious eternity; and that you shall spend those days and years in the presence and service of Christ in heaven, which you might otherwise have spent with him and for him, in the imperfect enjoyment and labors of earth?

     9. But your prospects reach, not only beyond death, but beyond the separate state. For with regard to his final appearance to judgment, our Lord says, "Surely I come quickly," in the sense illustrated before; and so it will appear to us, if we compare this interval of time with the blissful eternity which is to succeed it; and probably, if we compare it with those ages which have already passed since the sun began to measure out to earth its days and its years. And will you not here also sing your part in the joyful anthem, "Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!"

     10. It is true, Christian, it is an awful day; a day in which nature shall be thrown into a confusion as yet unknown. No earthquake, no eruption of burning mountains, no desolation of cities by devouring flames, or of countries by overflowing rivers or seas, can give any just emblem of that dreadful day, when "the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved; the earth also, and all that is therein, shall be burnt up;" (2 Pet. 3:10-12) when all nature shall flee away in amazement "before the face of the universal Judge," (Rev. 20:11) and there shall be a great cry, far beyond what was known "in the land of Egypt, when there was not a house in which there was not one dead." (Exod. 12: 30) Your flesh may be ready to tremble at the view; yet your spirit must surely "rejoice in God your Savior." (Luke 1:47) You may justly say, "Let this illustrious day come, even with all its horrors!" Yea, like the Christians described by the apostle, (2 Pet. 3:12) you may be looking for, and hastening to that day of terrible brightness and universal doom. For your Lord will then come, to vindicate the justice of those proceedings which have been in many instances so much obscured, and because they have been obscured, have been also blasphemed. He will come to display his magnificence, descending from heaven "with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and the trump of God," (1 Thess. 4:16) taking his seat upon a throne infinitely exceeding that of earthly, or even of celestial princes, clothed with "his Father's glory and his own," (Luke 9:26) surrounded with a numberless host of "shining attendants, when coming to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe." (2 Thess. 1:10) His enemies shall also be produced to grace his triumph. The serpent shalt be seen there rolling in the dust, and trodden under foot by him and by all his servants; those who once condemned him shall tremble at his presence; and those who bowed the knee before him in profane mockery, shall, in wild despair, "call to the mountains to fall upon them, and to the rocks to hide them from the face of that Lamb of God," (Rev. 6:16) whom they once led away to the most inhuman slaughter.

     11. O Christian! does not your loyal heart bound at the thought? And are you not ready, even while reading these lines, to begin the victorious shout in which you are then to join ? He justly expects that your thoughts should be greatly elevated and impressed with the views of his triumph; but at the same time he permits you to remember your own personal share in the joy and glory of that blessed day; and even now he has the view before him, of what his power and love shall then accomplish for your salvation. And what shall it not accomplish? He shall come to break the bars of the grave, and to re-animate your sleeping clay. Your bodies must indeed be laid in dust, and be lodged there as a testimony of God's displeasure against sin, against the first sin that ever was committed, from the sad consequences of which the dearest of his children cannot be exempted. But you shall then have an ear to hear the voice of the Son of God, and an eye to behold the lustre of his appearance; and shall "shine forth like the sun" arising in the clear heaven, "which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber." (Psa. 19:5) Your soul shall be new dressed to grace this high solemnity, and be clothed, not with rags of mortality, but with the robes of glory; for he "shall change this vile body, to fashion it like his own glorious body." (Phil. 3:21) And when you are thus royally arrayed, he shall confer public honors on you, and on all his people, before the assembled world. You may now perhaps be loaded with infamy, called by reproachful names, and charged with crimes, or with views which your very soul abhors; but he will "then bring forth your righteousness as the light," (Psa. 37:6) "and your salvation as a lamp that burneth." (Isa. 62:1) Though you have been dishonored by men, you shall be acknowledged, by God; and though treated "as the filth of the world, and the off-scouring of all things," (1 Cor. 4:13) he will show that he regards you "as his treasure, in the day that he makes up his jewels." (Matt. 3:17) When he shall "put away all the wicked of the earth like dross, (Psa. 119:119) you shall be pronounced righteous in that full assembly; and though indeed you have broken the divine law, and might in strict justice have been condemned, yet, being clothed with the righteousness of the great Redeemer, even "that righteousness which is of the great God by faith," (Phil. 3:9) justice itself shall acquit you, and join with mercy in "bestowing upon you a crown of life." (2 Tim. 4:8) Christ will "confess you before men and angels," (Luke 12:8) will pronounce you good and faithful servants, and call you to "enter into the joy of your Lord:" (Matt. 25:21) he will speak of you with endearment as his brethren, and will acknowledge the kindnesses which have been shown to you, as if he had "received them in his own person." (Matt. 25:40) Yea, then shall you, O Christians! who may perhaps have sat in some of the lowest places in our assemblies, to whom, it may be, none of the rich and great of the earth would condescend to speak; then shall you be called to be assessors with Christ on his judgment-seat, and to join with him in the sentence he shall pass on wicked men and rebellious angels.

     12. Nor is it merely one day of glory and triumph. But when the Judge arises, and ascends to his Father's court, all the blessed shall ascend with him, and you among the rest: you shall ascend together with your Savior, "to his Father and your Father, to his God and your God." (John 20:17) You shall go to make your appearance in the new Jerusalem, in those new shining forms that you have received, which will no doubt be attended with a correspondent improvement of mind; and take up your perpetual abode in that fullness of joy, with which you shall be filled and satisfied "in the presence of God," (Psa. 16:11.) upon the consummation of that happiness which the saints, in the intermediate state, have been wishing and waiting for. You shall go from the ruins of a dissolving world, to "the new heavens and new earth, wherein righteousness for ever dwells." (2 Pet. 3:13) There all the number of God's elect shall be accomplished, and the happiness of each shall be completed. The whole society shall be "presented before God, as the bride, the Lamb's wife," (Rev. 21:9) whom the eye of its celestial bridegroom shall survey with unutterable delight, and confess to be "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing," (Eph. 5:27) its character and state being just what he originally designed it to be, when he first engaged to "give himself for it, to redeem it to God by his blood." (Rev. 5:9) "So shall you ever be" with each other, and "with the Lord," (1 Thess. 4:17) and immortal ages shall roll away and find you still unchanged: your happiness always the same, and your relish for it the same; or rather ever growing, as your souls are approaching nearer and nearer to him who is the source of happiness, and the centre of infinite perfection.

     13. And now look round about upon earth, and single out, if you can, the enjoyments or the hopes, for the sake of which you would say, Lord, delay thy coming; or for the sake of which you any more should hesitate to express your longing for it, and to cry, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!"

The Meditation or Prayer of a Christian whose Heart is warmed with these Prospects.

     "O blessed Lord! my soul is enkindled with these views, and rises to thee in a flame." (Jud. 13:20) Thou hast testified, thou comest quickly; and I repeat my joyful assent, "Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus." (Rev. 22:20) Come, for I long to have done with this low life; to have done with its burdens, its sorrows, anti its snares! Come, for I long to ascend into thy presence, and to see the court thou art holding above.

     "Blessed Jesus, death is transformed, when I view it in this light. The king of terrors is seen no more as such, so near the King of Glory and of Grace. I hear with pleasure the sound of thy feet approaching still nearer and nearer. Draw aside the veil whenever thou pleasest. Open the bars of my prison, that my eager soul may spring forth `to thee, and cast itself at thy feet;' at the feet of that Jesus, `whom, having not seen, I love,' and `in whom, though now I see thee not, yet believing, I rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.' (1 Pet. 1:8) Thou, Lord, `shalt show me the path of life;' thine hand shall guide me to thy blissful abode, where `there is fullness of joy, and rivers of everlasting pleasure. (Psa. 16:11) Thou shalt assign me a habitation with thy faithful servants, whose separate spirits are now living with thee, while their bodies sleep in the dust. Many of them have been my companions in thy laborious work, and in the `patience and tribulation of thy kingdom,' (Rev. 1:9) my dear companions, and my brethren. O show me, blessed Savior, how glorious and how happy thou hast made them. Show me to what new forms of better life thou hast conducted them whom we call the dead! In what nobler and more extensive services thou hast employed them! That I may praise thee better than I now can, for thy goodness to them. And O give me to share with them in their blessings and their services, and to raise a song of grateful love, like that which they are breathing forth before thee!

     "Yet, O my blessed Redeemer! even there will my soul be aspiring to yet a nobler and more glorious hope; and from this as yet unknown splendor and felicity shall I be drawing new arguments to look and long for the day of thy final appearance, There shall I long more ardently than I now do, to see thy conduct vindicated, and thy triumph displayed; to see the dust of thy servants re-animated, and `death, the last of their enemies and of thine, swallowed up in victory.' (1 Cor. 15:26,54) I shall long for that superior honor that thou intendest me, and that complete bliss to which the whole body of thy people shall be conducted. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly, will mingle itself with the songs of paradise, and sound from the tongues of all the millions of thy saints whom thy grace hath transplanted thither.

     "In the meantime. O my divine Master, accept the homage which a grateful heart now pays thee, in a sense of the glorious hopes with which thou bast inspired it! It is thou that hast put this joy into it, and hast raised my soul to this glorious ambition whereas I might otherwise have now been groveling in the lowest trifles of time and sense, and been looking with horror on that hour which is now the object of my most ardent wishes.

     "O be with me always, even to the end of this mortal life. And give me, while waiting for thy salvation, to be doing thy commandments. May `my loins be girded about, and my lamp burning,' (Luke 12:35) and my ears be still watchful for the blessed signal of thine arrival; that my glowing soul may with pleasure spring to meet thee, and be strengthened by death to bear those visions of glory, under the ecstasies of which feeble mortality would now expire!"

Back to Top                     Back to Contents

Chapter XXX.

THE CHRISTIAN HONORING GOD BY HIS DYING BEHAVIOR.

1. Reflections on the sincerity with which the preceding counsel has been given.--2, 3. The author is desirous that (if Providence permit) he may assist the Christian to die honorably and comfortably.--4. With this view, it is advised--to rid the mind of all earthly cares.--5. To renew the humiliation of the soul before God, and its application to the blood of Christ.--6. To exercise patience under bodily pains and sorrows.--7. At leaving the world, to bear an honorable testimony to religion.--8 To give a solemn charge to surviving friends.--9. especially recommending faith in Christ.--10, 11. To keep the promises of God in view.--12. And to commit the departing spirit to God, in the genuine exercises of gratitude and repentance, faith and charity, which are exemplified in the concluding meditation and prayer.

1. THUS, my dear reader, I have endeavored to lead you through a variety of circumstances, and those not fancied or imaginary, but such as do indeed occur in the human and Christian life. And I can truly and cheerfully say, that I have marked out to you the path which I myself have trod, and in which it is my desire still to go on. I have ventured my own everlasting interests on that foundation on which I have directed you to adventure yours. What I have recommended as the grand business of your life, I desire to make the business or my own; and the most considerable enjoyments which I expect or desire in the remaining days of my pilgrimage on earth, are such as I have directed you to seek and endeavored to assist you in attaining. Such love to God, such constant activity in his service, such pleasurable views of what lies beyond the grave, appear to me (God is my witness) a felicity incomparably beyond anything else which can offer itself to our affection and pursuit; and I would not for ten thousand worlds resign my share in them, or consent even to the suspension of the delights which they afford, during the remainder of my abode here.

     2. I would humbly hope, through the divine blessing, that the hours you have spent in the review of these plain things, may have turned to some profitable account; and that, in consequence of what you have read, you have been either brought into the way or life and peace, or been induced to quicken your pace in it. Most heartily should I rejoice in being further useful to you, and that even to the last. Now there is one scene remaining, a scene through which you must infallibly pass, which has something in it so awful, that I cannot but attempt doing a little to assist you in it: I mean the dark Valley of the Shadow of Death. I could earnestly wish, that, for the credit of your profession, the comfort of your own soul, and the joy and edification of your surviving friends, you might die, not only safely, but honorably too; and therefore I would offer you some parting advice. I am sensible, indeed, that Providence may determine the circumstances of your death in such a manner, as that you may have no opportunity of acting upon the hints I now give you. Some unexpected accident from without, or from within, may, as it were, whirl you to heaven before you are aware; and you may find yourself so suddenly there, that it may seem a translation rather than a death. Or it is possible the force of a distemper may affect your understanding in such a manner, that you may be quite insensible of the circumstances in which you are; and so your dissolution (though others may see it visibly and certainly approaching) may be as great a surprise to you as if you had died in full health.

     3. But as it is, on the whole, probable you may have a more sensible passage out of time into eternity, and as much may, in various respects, depend on your dying behavior, give me leave to propose some plain directions with relation to it, to be practiced, if God give you opportunity, and remind you of them. It may not be improper to look over the 29th Chapter again, when you find the symptoms of any threatening disorder. And I the rather hope that what I say may be useful to you, as methinks I find myself disposed to address you with something of that peculiar tenderness which we feel for a dying friend; to whom, as we expect that we shall speak to him no more, we send out, as it were, all our hearts in every word.

     4. I would advise, then, in the first place, "that as soon as possible, you would endeavor to get rid of all further care with regard to your temporal concerns, by settling them in time, in as reasonable and Christian a manner as you can." I could wish there may be nothing of that kind to hurry your mind when you are least able to bear it, or to distress or divide those who come after you. Do that which in the presence of God you judge most equitable. and which you verily believe will be most pleasing to him. Do it in as prudent and effectual a manner as you can; and then consider the world as a place you have quite done with, and its affairs as nothing further to you, more than to one actually dead, unless as you may do any good to its inhabitants while yet you continue among them, and may by any circumstance in your last actions or words in life, leave a blessing behind you to those who have been your friends and fellow-travelers, while you have been despatching that journey through it which you are now finishing.

     5. That you may be the more at leisure, and the better prepared for this, "enter into some sermons review of your own state, and endeavor to put your soul into as fit a posture as possible for your solemn appearance before God." For a solemn thing indeed it is, to go into his immediate presence; to stand before him, not as a supplicant at the throne of his grace, but at his bar as a separate spirit, whose time of probation is over, and whose eternal state is to be immediately determined. Renew your humiliation before God for the imperfections of your life, though it has, in the main, been devoted to his service. Renew your application to the mercies of God as promised in the covenant of grace, and to the blood of Christ as the blessed channel in which they flow. Resign yourself entirely to the divine disposal and conduct, as willing to serve God, either in this world or the other, as he shall see fit. And sensible of your sinfulness on the one hand, and of the divine wisdom and goodness on the other, summon up all the fortitude of your soul to bear, as well as you can, whatever his afflicting hand may further lay upon you, and to receive the last stroke of it, as one who would maintain the most entire subjection to the great and good Father of spirits.

     6. Whatever you suffer, endeavor to show "yourself an example of patience." Let that amiable grace "have its perfect work;" (Jam. 1:4) and since it has so little more to do, let it close the scene nobly. Let there not be a murmuring word; and that there may not, watch against every repining thought. And when you feel any thing of that kind arising, look by faith upon a dying Savior, and ask your own heart, "Was not his cross much more painful than the bed on which I lie? Was not his situation, among blood-thirsty enemies, infinitely more terrible than mine amidst the tenderness and care of so many affectionate friends? Did not the heavy load of my sins press him in a much more overwhelming manner than I am pressed by the load of these afflictions ? And yet he bore all, `as a lamb that is brought to the slaughter.'" (Isa. 53:7) Let the remembrance of his sufferings be a means to sweeten yours; yea, let it cause you to rejoice, when you are called to bear the cross for a little while, before you wear the crown. Count it all joy, that you have an opportunity yet once more of honoring God by your patience, which is now acting its last part, and will, in a few days, and perhaps in a few hours, he superseded by complete, everlasting blessedness. And I am willing to hope, that in these views you will not only suppress all passionate complaints, but that your mouth will be filled with the praises of God; and that you will be speaking to those who are about you, not only of his justice, but of his goodness too. So that you will be enabled to communicate your inward joys in such a manner as may be a lively and edifying comment upon those words of the Apostle, "Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; even a hope which maketh not ashamed, while the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us," (Rom. 5: 3-5)

     7. And now, my dear friend, "now is the time, when it is especially expected from you, that you bear an honorable testimony to religion." Tell those that are about you, as well as you can, (for you will never be able fully to express it) what comfort and support you have found in it. Tell them how it has brightened the darkest circumstances of your life: tell them how it now reconciles you to the near views of death. Your words will carry with them a peculiar weight at such a season: there will be a kind of eloquence, even in the infirmities with which you are struggling, while you give them utterance; and you will be heard with attention, with tenderness, with credit. And therefore, when the time of your departure is at hand, with unaffected freedom breathe out your joy, if you then feel (as I hope you will) a holy joy and delight in God. Breathe out, however, your inward peace and serenity of mind, if you be then peaceful and serene:others will mark it, and be encouraged to tread the steps which lead to so happy an end. Tell them what you feel of the vanity of the world, and they may learn to regard it less. Tell them what you feel of the substantial supports of the Gospel, and they may learn to value it more; for they cannot but know that they must he down on a dying bed too, and must then need all the relief which the Gospel itself can give them.

     8. And to enforce the conviction the more, "give a solemn charge to those that are about you, that they spend their lives in the service of God, and govern themselves by the principles of real religion." You may remember that Joshua and David, and other good men did so, when they perceived that the days drew near in which they should die. And you know not how the admonitions of a dying friend, or (as it may be with respect to some) of a dying parent, may impress those who may have disregarded what you and others may have said to them before. At least, make the trial, and die, laboring to glorify God, to save souls, and generously to sow the seeds of goodness and happiness in a world where you have no more harvest to reap. Perhaps they may spring up in a plentiful crop, when the clods of the valley are covering your body: but if not, God will approve it; and the angels that wait around your bed to receive your departing soul will look upon each other with marks of approbation in their countenance, and own that this is to expire like a Christian, and to make a glorious improvement of mortality.

     9. And in this last address to your fellow-mortals, whoever they are that Providence brings near you, "be sure that you tell them how entirely and how cheerfully your hopes and dependence in this season of the last extremity are fixed, not upon your own merits and obedience, but on what the great Redeemer has done and has suffered for sinners." Let them see that you die, as it were, at the foot of the cross: nothing will be so comfortable to yourself, nothing so edifying to them. Let the name of Jesus, therefore, be in your mouth while you are able to speak, and when you can speak no longer, let it be in your heart; and endeavor that the last act of your soul, while it continues in the body, may be an act of bumble faith in Christ. Come unto God by him: enter into that which is within the veil, as with the blood of sprinkling fresh upon you. It is an awful thing for such a sinner (as you, my Christian friend, with all the virtues the world may have admired, know yourself to be) to stand before that infinitely pure and holy Being who has seen all your ways, and all your heart, and has a perfect knowledge of every mixture of imperfection which has attended the best of your duties: but venture in that way, and you will find it both safe and pleasant.

     10. Once more, "to give you comfort in a dying hour, and to support your feeble steps while you are traveling through this dark and painful way, take the word of God as a staff in your hand." Let books, and mortal friends, now do their last office for you. Call, if you can, some experienced Christian, who has felt the power of the word of God upon his own heart, and let him bring the Scripture, and turn you to some of those precious promises which have been the food and rejoicing of his own soul. It is with this view that I may carry the good office I am now engaged in as far as possible, that I shall here give you a collection of a few such admirable scriptures, each of them "infinitely more valuable than thousands of gold and silver." (Psa. 119:72) And to convince you of the degree in which I esteem them, I will take the freedom to add, that I desire they may (if God give an opportunity) be read over to me, as I lie on my dying bed, with short intervals between them, that I may pause upon each, and renew something of that delightful relish which, I bless God, I have often found in them. May your soul and mine be then composed to a sacred silence, (whatever be the commotion of animal nature) while the voice of God speaks to us in the language which he spake to his servants of old, or in which he instructed them how they should speak to him in circumstances of the greatest extremity!

     11. Can any more encouragement be wanting, when he says, "Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness?" (Isa. 41:10) And "he is not man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repent. Hath he said, and shall he not do it ? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Num. 23:19) "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psa. 27:1) "This God is our God for ever and ever:he will be our guide even unto death." (Psa. 48:14) Therefore, "though I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." (Psa. 23:4) "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." (Gen. 49:18) "O continue thy loving-kindness unto them that know thee, and thy righteousness to the upright in heart! For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see light." (Psa. 36:9,10) "Thou wilt show we the path of life; in thy presence is fullness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore," (Psa. 16:11) "As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness." (Psa. 17:15) "For I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep what I have committed to him until that day." (2 Tim. 1:12) "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope." (Psa. 16:9) "For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again; those also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." (1 Thess. 4:14) "I give unto my sheep eternal life," said Jesus, the good Shepherd, "and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." (John 10:28) "This is the will of him that sent me, that every one that believeth on me should have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40) "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you: I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3) "Go tell my brethren, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God." (John 20:17) "Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:24,26) "He that testifieth these things saith, "Surely I come quickly; Amen: even so come, Lord Jesus." (Rev. 22:20) "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (1 Cor. 15:55,57)

     12. Thus may that God, who "knows the souls of his children in alt their adversities," (Psa. 31:7) and in "whose sight the death of his saints is precious," (Psa. 116:15) cheer and support you and me in those last extremities of nature! May he add us to the happy number of those who have been more than conquerors in death! And may he give us those supplies of his Spirit which may enable us to pour out our departing souls in such sentiments as those I would now suggest, though we should be no longer able to utter words, or to understand them if they were read to us. Let us, at least, review them with all proper affections now, and lay up one prayer more for that awful moment. O that this, and all we have ever offered with regard to it, may then "come to remembrance before God!" (Acts 10:4,31)

A Meditation, or Prayer, suited to the case of a Dying Christian.

     "O thou supreme Ruler of the visible and invisible worlds! thou Sovereign of life and of death, of earth and of heaven, blessed be thy name, I have often been taught to seek thee. And now once more do I pour out my soul, my departing soul unto thee. `Bow down thy gracious ear, O God! and let my cry come before thee with acceptance.'

     "The hour is come, when thou wilt separate me from this world, with which I have been so long and so familiarly acquainted, and lead me to another, as yet unknown. Enable me, I beseech thee, to make the exchange as becomes a child of Abraham, who being `called of thee to receive an inheritance, obeyed and went out,' though he knew not particularly whither he went: (Heb. 11:8) as becomes a child of God, who knows that, through sovereign grace, `it is his Father's good pleasure to give him the kingdom.' (Luke 12:32)

     "I acknowledge, O Lord! the justice of that sentence by which I am expiring! and own thy wisdom and goodness in appointing my journey through this gloomy vale which is now before me. Help me to turn it into the happy occasion of honoring thee, and adorning my profession! and I will bless the pangs by which thou art glorified, and this mortal and sinful part of my nature dissolved.

     "Gracious Father! I would not quit this earth of thine, and this house of clay, in which I have sojourned during my abode upon the face of it, without my grateful acknowledgments to thee for all that abundant goodness which thou hast caused to pass before me here: (Exod. 33:19) with my dying breath I bear witness to thy faithful care: I have `wanted no good thing.' (Psa. 34:10) I thank thee, O my God! that this guilty, forfeited, unprofitable life, was so long spared; that it hath still been maintained by such a rich variety of thy bounty. I thank thee that thou hast made this beginning of my existence so pleasant to me. I thank thee for the mercies of my days and nights, of my months and years, which are now come to their period: I thank thee for the mercies of my infancy, and for those of my riper age; for all the agreeable friends which thou hast given me in this house of my pilgrimage, `the living and the dead;' for all the help I have received from others, and for all opportunities which thou hast given me of being helpful to the bodies and souls of my brethren of mankind. `Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life,' (Psa. 23:6) and I have reason to rise a thankful guest from the various and pleasant entertainments with which my table has been furnished by thee. Nor, shall I have reason to repine, or to grieve at quitting them; for, O my God! are thy bounties exhausted? I know that they are not. I will not wrong thy goodness and thy faithfulness so much as to imagine, that, because I am going from this earth, I am going from happiness. I adore thy mercy, that thou hast taught me to entertain nobler views through Jesus thy Son. I bless thee with all the powers of my nature, that I ever heard his name, and heard of his death; and would fain exert a more vigorous act of thankful adoration than in this broken state I am capable of, while I am extolling thee for the riches of thy grace manifested in him, for his instructions and his example, for his blood and his righteousness, and for that blessed Spirit of thine which thou hast given me, to turn my sinful heart unto thyself, and to bring me `into the bonds of thy covenant,' of that covenant which `is ordered in all things and sure,' (2 Sam. 23:5) and which this death, though now separating my soul from my body, shall never be able to dissolve.

     "I bless thee, O Lord! that I am not dying in an unregenerate and impenitent state; but that thou didst graciously awaken and convince me, that thou didst renew and sanctify my heart, and didst, by thy good Spirit, work in it an unfeigned faith, a real repentance, and the beginning of a divine life. I thank thee for faithful ministers and for gospel ordinances: I thank thee for my Sabbaths and seasons of communion at the table of my Lord; and for the weekly and monthly refreshments which they gave me. I -thank thee for the fruits of Canaan which were sent me in the wilderness, and are now sent me on the brink of Jordan. I thank thee for thy blessed word, and for those exceeding rich and precious promises of it, which now lie, as a cordial, warm at my heart in this chilling hour: promises of support in death, and of glory beyond it, and of the resurrection of my body to everlasting life. O my God! I firmly believe them all, great and wonderful as they are, and am waiting for the accomplishment of them through Jesus Christ; `in whom they are all Yea and Amen.' (2 Cor. 1:20) `Remember thy word unto thy servant, on which thou hast caused me to hope.' (Psa. 119:49) I covenanted with thee, not only for worldly enjoyments which thy love taught me comparatively to despise: but for eternal life, as `the gift of thy free grace through Jesus Christ my Lord:' (Rom. 6:28) and now permit me, in his name, to enter my humble claim to it. Permit me to consign `this departing spirit to thine hand; for thou hast redeemed it O Lord God of truth!' (Psa. 31:5) `I am thine: save me, and make me happy' (Psa. 119:94)

     "But may I indeed presume to say I am thine? O God! now I am standing on the borders of both worlds, now I view things as in the light of thy presence and of eternity, how unworthy do I appear that I should be taken to dwell with thy angels and taints in glory! Alas! I have reason to look back with deep humiliation on a poor, unprofitable sinful life, in which I have daily been deserving to be cast into hell. But I have this one comfortable reflection, that I have fled to the cross of Christ; and I now renew my application to it. To think of appearing before God in such an imperfect righteousness as my own, were ten thousand times worse than death. No, Lord, I come unto thee as a sinner; but as a sinner who has believed in thy Son for pardon and life: I fall down before thee as a guilty, polluted wretch; but thou hast made him to be unto thy people for `wisdom and righteousness, for sanctification and redemption.' (1 Cor. 1:20) Let me have my lot among the followers of Jesus! Treat me, as thou treatest those who are his friends and his brethren! For thou knowest my soul has loved him and trusted in him, and solemnly ventured itself on the security of his Gospel. And `I know in whom I have believed.' (2 Tim. 1:12) The infernal lion may attempt to dismay me in the awful passage; but I rejoice that I am `in the hands of the good shepherd,' (John 10:11,28) and I defy all my spiritual enemies, in a cheerful dependence on his faithful care. I lift up my eyes and my heart to him, who `was dead and is alive again; and behold he liveth for evermore, and hath the keys of death and of the unseen world.' (Rev. 1:18) Blessed Jesus, I die by thine hand, and I fear no harm from the hand of a Savior! I fear not that death which is allotted to me by the hand of my dearest Lord, who himself died to make it safe and happy. I come, Lord, I come, not only with a willing, but with a joyful consent. I thank thee that thou rememberest me for good; that thou art breaking my chains, and calling me to `the glorious liberty of the children of God.' (Rom. 8:21) I thank thee, that thou wilt no longer permit me to live at a distance from thine arms; but, after this long absence, wilt have me at home, at home for ever.

     "My feeble nature faints in the view of that glory which is now dawning upon me; but thou knowest, gracious Lord, how to let it in upon my soul by just degrees, and to `make thy strength perfect in my weakness.' (2 Cor. 7:9) Once more, for the last time, would I look down on this poor world which I am going to quit, and breathe out my dying prayer for its prosperity, and that of thy church in it. I have loved it, O Lord! as a living member of the body; and I love it to the last I humbly beseech thee, therefore, that thou wilt guard it, and purify it, and unite it more and more. Send down more of thy blessed Spirit upon it, even the Spirit of wisdom, of holiness, and of love; till in due time `the wilderness he turned into the garden of the Lord,' (Isa. 51:3) and `all flesh shall see thy salvation!' (Luke 3:6)

     "As for me, bear me, O my heavenly Father! on the wings of everlasting love, to that peaceful, that holy, that joyous abode, which thy mercy has prepared for me, and which the blood of my Redeemer has purchased! Bear me `to the general assembly and church of the first-born, to the innumerable company of angels, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.' (Heb. 12:22,23) And whatever this flesh may suffer, let my steady soul be delightfully fixed on that glory to which it is rising! Let faith perform its last office in an honorable manner! Let my few remaining moments on earth be spent for thy glory, and so let me ascend, with love in my heart, and praise on my faltering tongue. to the world where love and praise shall be complete! Be this my last song on earth, which I am going to tune in heaven: `Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth on the throne and to the Lamb for ever and ever.' Amen!"

DR. DODDRIDGE was born in London, June 26, 1709. He was of a consumptive habit from infancy, was brought up in the early knowledge of religion, and was left an orphan before he arrived at the age of 14. At 16 be made a profession of religion; at 20 commenced preaching the Gospel; and at 21 was settled over a small congregation, in an obscure village, where be devoted himself to the acquisition of useful knowledge with indefatigable zeal. At 27 he was removed to the pastoral care of the church in Northampton, where, for 22 years, amidst other diversified labors, he acted as an instructor of youth preparing for the ministry, having had under his charge, during that period, upwards of 200 young men. At the age of 37 and 38 he published two volumes of his Family Expositor; and about the age of 43 wrote "The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul." At 46 he published the third volume of the Family Expositor, and two Dissertations.--1. On Sir Isaac Newton's System of the Harmony. 2. On the Inspiration of the New Testament. In December, 1750, in the 49th year of his age, he went to St. Albans and preached the funeral sermon of his early patron and benefactor, Dr. Clark, in which journey he contracted a cold that laid the foundation for his death. In July, 1751, he addressed his flock for the last time from the pulpit; and having found all medical aid ineffectual, embarked, in October, for Lisbon, as the last resort in so threatening a disorder, at which place he died on the 26th of October, aged 49 years.

He was not handsome in person; was very thin and slender, in stature somewhat above the middle size, with a stoop in his shoulders; but when engaged in conversation, or employed in the pulpit, there was a remarkable sprightliness in his countenance and manner, which commanded general attention.

This volume is stereotyped and perpetuated, through the liberality of Col. Henry Rutgers and Col. Richard Varick, of New-York; Nicholas Brown, Esq. of Providence; and Hon. Stephen Van Rensselaer, of Albany.

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."