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no sooner call but God hears, then they need not weary. O but to be standing alone, in the dark hour of the night, trying to break up heaven's gates, to get corruptions mortified, and temptations overcome, and all without felt success, how wearisome must that be? A man's not seeing the end of his work, makes weary work. It refresheth the labourer, to think that when the sun goes down, he will go to his rest; but the people of God, in this case, see not their signs, nor know the time how long. They know not what hour of the night it is, and how long it will be till day-break. Finally, continued disappointments from every quarter, from which the soul expects ease, makes wearines in full measure. Job. xxiii. 8,9; Jer. viii. 15.
5. Some hope that the Lord will yet look down, and behold from heaven, Psal. xliii. 5. Should they lose all hope, they lose all. It is true their hope may be very low: yet likely they will be able to say, who knows but he may return and leave a blessing behind. Sometimes they may draw hasty and heavy conclusions against themselves, but hope will yet set up its head, and make them say with Jonah, "yet I will look again towards God's holy temple ;" though it may be sometimes sunk, but all is not lost that is in hazard, Lam. iii. 18-21. Hope feeds those weary labourers, and God never allows his people to sink so low, but everlasting arms are still beneath them, to keep them from falling to the bottom.
Lastly, A resolute persisting in duty till the Lord return: The soul resolves never to give over, and so holds on, till the Lord look down and behold from heaven. Sense may often bring bad news, and tell them they have already got the last look of him, but the soul is resolute, and will not give over. If it must die, it resolves to die in the bed of honour, even at the Lord's footstool, and to dig its grave at his door. We now proceed,
II. To give some reasons why they are thus disposed. I shall offer only these few.
1. Felt need of Christ engageth them to this course. You know what determined the lepers that sat at the gate of Samaria. Many see a want of Christ, that feel not their need of him; hence a few cold wishes, and if that will do, well and good; but if not, they must even live without him. But the gracious soul cannot live without him. They say with Peter, " Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. Now, necessity hath no law, And if it cannot dig
and hunger will dig through stone walls. through them, it will leap over them. The soul still cries, Lord help me.
2. Superlative love to him, engageth them to this, Song viii. 6, 7. Love can endure any thing but absence, or the loss of the beloved party. Christ hath appeared in his beauty to the gracious soul, and hath captivated his heart, and it is so fixed with the sight of his transcendent excellency and fulness, that he cannot take it back again. The eyes of the soul are opened, and can see no happiness in any other. But in the meantime, the soul cannot cease to desire to be happy, and therefore can never rest, till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven.
USE 1. Hence we may see why so many professors fall short of Christ. They are utter strangers to this disposition of the godly. There are many who have not so much sense as to complain of the Lord's distance from them, because their consciences were never so much touched with any notable common work of the Spirit of God on them. There are others, whose character may be that, "ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth,” they have some movings upon their souls, and they complain; but their complaints are dead, heavy, and inactive. They may at a communion or so, have something like mourning after the Lord, but all their exercise is like a slight shower, that wets only the surface of the earth, which a little wind presently dries up, ere it can do any good. The concern of their souls for Christ does not last till, but is gone, ere the Lord look down, and behold from heaven. Reasons of this are,
1. They have not the living spirit of Christ in them, and so they cannot follow the Lord fully. Numb. xiv. 24; John iv. 14. It is but awakening, and not changing grace they have; therefore it decays by little and little, as the light after sunset, till it grow to perfect darkness. Their reigning sloth being only covered, not subdued, rises again, and overspreads the soul, as weeds do in the spring. Take a branch and ingraft it, it will keep green a while; but if it do not take with the stock, and unite with it, it withers. "If a man," says Jesus, "abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered."
2. There are difficulties in the way to heaven, which their hearts cannot digest. Few see heaven; and why? ease is sweet, and the gate is strait. They love gold, but they cannot exert themselves to dig for it. "The desire of the slothful killeth him, for his hands refuse to labour." They see heaven afar off, and would fain be there. But there is a great gulph between them and it, that they dare not venture to swim. Heaven will not drop down into their mouths, hence finding the fruitlessness of their attempts, they despair of mending their case, and then sit down to contrive ways to smooth their consciences.
3. The world and their lusts were never made sapless to them, but still have the chief room in their hearts. Hence, when Christ will not answer, they have another door to go to. They are unlike those who said to Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal llfe." They find rest is sweet, so sit down, and fall short of Christ. They are like a wife called to go forth and meet her husband; but her children, in whom she delights, cry after her, and hold her still. And thus many part with Christ, as Orpah with Naomi.
USE 2. You are in earnest for Christ, yet under the hidings of his face, and all things else insipid to you without him, you see here how you are to behave; you must hold on seeking till the Lord look down from heaven. Take up with no comfort in the world, till you get it from himself, and from his blood; and be resolute that you will never give over till he look down from heaven, and be sure you shall get a healing look from the Lord. "Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?" Have you missed him, have you come short of what God promiseth to his people; of what is necessary to your case; of what you desired of him? then go from this place, resolved to hang about his hand, and to cry for it till you obtain it; protesting that nothing shall satify you, till the Lord look down and behold from heaven; and be sure you shall get your communion yet, though the table be drawn, and no more bread and wine on it. OBJECTION 1. I dare seek him no more, guilt so stares me in the face, that prayer is a terror to me. ANSWER, This is a fit of indisposition you are under, and sometimes Christians are carried away with it. But if you belong to Christ, you will even take up with prayer again, seeing yourself the greater fool, that ever you laid it aside, if it were ever so short a while. But O hear what Christ himself says to you. Song ii. 14.
OBJECTION 2. But I am burdened with a hard heart, I cannot mourn after the Lord; could I seek him to purpose, I would have hope that he would look down, and behold from heaven. I fear he has nothing to do with me. I see I am all wrong, but I can do nothing to help it. ANSWER I suppose you may find three hopeful things, even in that case. 1. Self-dissatisfaction. There is a secret discontent with yourselves in you. Weak grace is frowning on corruption, though it is not able to master it. 2. Self-condemnation. The man is the vilest creature in his own eyes. He has nothing to commend him to Christ, and he would wonder if he would cast him a crumb; saying, "it is of the Lord's mercies, that I am not consumed, and because his compassions fail not. But to this man, saith the
Lord, will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a broken and a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." 3. There is a spark of kindness to Christ in the heart, though the soul has written the bill of divorce, and put it in Christ's hand, yet the soul would not sign it for thousands of worlds. Well then, if you cannot mourn, will you sigh and groan after him. Rom. viii. 26, 27. If you cannot sigh, will you give him an earnest look. "I am cast out of thy sight," said Jonah, "yet I will look again toward thy holy temple."
OBJECTION 3. The Lord has let me fall into such a gross sin as has wounded my conscience, and I fear he has shaken me off, by letting me fall into it. And whenever that comes in my mind, I cannot think that the Lord will ever look more to me. ANSWER. Have you fled to Christ for refuge. If you have, then your greatest sins may hide God's face, but shall never part God and you. Psal. lxxxix. 30-34, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." The Lord has designs of good, even in permitting his people to fall. He raises profit to them out of it. Thus God left Hezekiah, in the business of the Babylonian ambassadors, "to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart." It also brings a revenue of glory to himself, by his having mercy upon them. And for your continual disquiet, look that you have not trusted more to your repentance for your sin, than to the blood of Christ, which "alone can purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living God."
OBJECTION. 4. I have met with so many disappointments, that I can scarcely think but I must give it over. ANSWER. You are not the first that have met with them. Job xxiii. Song iii. Disappointments are needful for us in several respects. But if you should meet with one on the back of another, till your dying hour, if Christ come at last, you have no reason to repent your waiting on; and come he will, to them that will not want him. There are three signs when your disappointments may be near an end. 1. When your heart is duly humbled, and you are as a weaned child; when you leave off limiting God; resolving to wait on God, but to prescribe no time to him. "Lord thou hast heard the desire of the humble; thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear." 2. When you get your case touched, and laid open in the public ordinances. "The watchmen that go about the city, found me," says the spouse, "and after this she soon found her beloved." 3. When you are carried above means, to look over them all to Christ himself; even passing on from the watchmen, till you find him whom your soul loveth.
Lastly, My case grows worse and worse, heavier and heavier, and always the longer the more hopeless. ANSWER. Wait on till the
Lord look down. There is hope in Israel, concerning this thing. Men's extremity is God's opportunity, Isa. xli. 17, 18. "For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth their power is gone, and there is none shut up or left." Christ usually times his visits, so that he may be the more welcome when he comes. It is as with Hagar, who never saw the well, till she gave over the child for death. The darkest hour is readily before day-break. Amen.
Ettrick, January 3, 1725.
THE SHORtness of HUMAN LIFE.
JOB XVI. 22.
When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not
TIME is in constant motion. Years are like rivers flowing fast away, and still running a straight, but no hope of their running a backward course. The year now gone will never return, and that now come will run on, till it also run out. Meanwhile, our life here is also running to an end.
Our text mentions an important removal, that is abiding all. This is, (6 we shall go the way whence we shall not return." Death is the going to that place, that state. A removing from time to eternity, from the world of sense, to the world of spirits. There will be a return of the body from the grave, but no return from eternity.
We have also the longest term fixed for this removal. It may be within a few months, weeks, days, hours, that we shall be called away. But without all peradventure, the term of removing will be to all of us within a few years. "When a few years are come," by
that time we will be gone.
DOCTRINE. The coming in of a few new years, will set us out of this world, never to return to it. However vain men make new years, new occasions of renewing their follies, superstitions, carnal mirth, and jollities. They thus act as those in whom madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.