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word behind thee, saying, This is the way” (Isa. xxx. 20,21): God would afford the word and Spirit in times of their affliction. The Spirit works still in concomitancy with the word, that it may the better be known to be a revelation from God. If God will set up a word and revelation of his mind, distinct from the light of nature, it is fit it should be owned; and that is done by a concomitancy of his grace, and powerful operations of his Spirit, that goes along with his word: “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth” (John xvii. 17). We find the word to be truth, because it is associated and accompanied with the operations of the Spirit: “ Ye have purified your souls, in obeying the truth, through the Spirit” (1 Peter i. 22). The Spirit still goes along with the truth of the Gospel, and with God's word. His word it is the sword of the Spirit. God will not bless any other doctrine so much as the word, to quicken, revive, and comfort the soul; and therefore here we should busy ourselves; for it contains the surest grounds of comfort, and the Spirit is associated with it, and goes along with it to bless it to our souls.
Thirdly, Though the word be the means, yet the benefit comes from God, “For with them thou hast quickened me."
Life comes from the fountain of life. The Gospel is a sovereign plas, ter; but it is God's hand that must apply it, and make it stick; make it to be peace, comfort, and quickening to our souls. It is said, that he that quickeneth all things, is God (1 Tim. vi. 13). The quickening of life natural, or life spiritual, is to be ascribed to God alone.
Let me evidence this by three considerations :
Ist, The life of grace is begun, and carried on, in a constant way of dependence upon God; he will not trust us with a stock of grace in our own hands; but our life is in Christ's hands: “He that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, bath not life” (1 John v. 12). He hath it in his own hands, and he gives and conveys it to us. And, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. ii. 20). Christ made the purchase, and therefore it pleased the Father that the purchased treasure should be put into his hands, and not immediately into ours. We have so foully miscarried already, that God will trust his honour in our hands no more, as at first he did. We have nothing but what we have daily from Christ, and in Christ; he must influence us, and without him we can do nothing (John xv. 5), xwpis čuš. Apart from him, we can do nothing; therefore we cannot quicken ourselves; for God hath reserved this life of grace, and kept it in his own hands, that we may have our daily supplies from Christ.
2ndly, The vitality or liveliness of grace is not dispensed by a certain law, but according to the sovereign will and good pleasure of God. God gives life to his people; but the activity of it is only from his good pleasure: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of sor accord. ing to his good pleasure” (Phil. ii. 1). He gives out comfort, and he gives degrees of quickening as he pleaseth; to some more, to some less ; and not always in the same degree to the same persons; therefore we must look up unto God if we would have this life and quickening. It is very necessary to our well-being; but it is a favour: he worketh in us according to his good pleasure.
3rdly, The means cannot work without the principal agent. As the word could not convert us at first, but by the power of God, or as his grace works by it, quickening a dead soul, purifying a defiled heart, humbling a proud mind; so, when the conscience grows sleepy, you need quickening
excitations to duty. The same grace which caused a spiritual life, doth give us spiritual strength, and maintain that life, by inclining the mind and will, by stirring up the affections, by longing desires after Christ and glory; so the soul is still kept alive in the same way as it was begotten by God at first: Paul may plant, and Apollos may water; but it is God that giveth the increase (1 Cor. iii. 7). All is of God, who only hath the supreme power over men's hearts, to enlighten the mind, incline the will, and enlarge the affections. Though we use the means (and we sin if we do not), yet it is God that quickeneth us; he hath the supreme power over the heart of man.
Fourthly, These powerful experiences in this kind will be, and should be, recorded and remembered by us; for, saith David, “ I will never forget thy precepts."
Ist, They will be remembered, if we have met with any powerful experiences of the Lord's quickening and awakening the heart. 1. We will remember what most concerns us. 2. We will remember all those things which make notable impressions upon our souls.
1. Things that do concern us, will be remembered by us. Every one's memory is as his affections are. Let a child read the Scripture, that chapter wherein mention is made of Joseph's parti-coloured coat, that will stick in his mind more than better things, because it suits with his childish fancy, and his desires that his parents should make such a garment for himself. And it is usually observed, that youth is most taken with the histories of the Bible, because of their desire to know things past. And, if once they come to manly age, they are more taken with the doctrines of the Bible, because, when they grow men, they begin to form their opinions of religion. And elder persons are taken with psalms, and holy devotional strains in Scripture, because then, as they grow in age, it is time to address themselves to God. Persons in doubts and fears by reason of sin, they will be most affected with tenders of grace, as suiting best with their condition; persons in affliction, with the consolations appointed for the af. flicted; persons in conflict with any sin, with those passages which afford most direct help against them. Still that which more especially concerns us, that should and will be most observed, and remembered by us; for there it speaks to our very hearts. Now, saith the soul, in such a point, in such extremity, "The word of God did my heart good, I shall remember it as long as I live. When a seasonable word is spoken to their case, their judgment was not passed over by the Lord; I was dead, and it revived me; disconsolate, and it coinforted me; ready to stray, and it reduced me; under such a temptation, and it relieved me. I should transcribe the whole Scripture, especially the Psalms, if I should tell you how often David takes notice what the word of God did to him in such and such a condition; for still things that nearly concern us, they will affect us, and be remembered by us.
2. Those things will be remembered that make any notable impression, that leave a lively sense upon the heart ; they impress a notice of themselves, and will not be forgotten : “ Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures ?” (Luke xxiv. 32.) If opening of the Scriptures causeth any burning of heart, or any strange workings of soul, when the heat is gone and past, yet the burning cannot be forgotten; they remembered Christ still, and can speak of the actings of the Spirit, not only when they are on, but when they are over and past. Christ was vanished out of sight and gone, yet they cannot forget the warmness of heart they felt while he opened the Scriptures to them: “My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him” (Cant. v. 4); and, “ My soul failed when he spake" (verse 6). Oh! if we be soundly humbled, or soundly comforted, or be effectually moved and stirred to the remembrance of God, then heavenly things that occasion this, will not be forgotten.
2ndly, These things should be remembered, to confirın our faith, to increase our love.
1. To confirm our faith. Faith is taken, either for a general assent to the word, or for a dependence upon God for some blessing that we want, or stand in need of. Now, if we take it for a general assent to the word, why, these notable quickenings and experiences of the convincing, or comforting, or converting power of the word, they are a secondary confirma. tion of the truth of the word to us. I tell you why I put in that word, a secondary confirmation : they are not a primary ; for we must believe the word before we can feel its efficacy, and find it to be effectual to us; and therefore the primary grounds of faith are the impressions of God upon the word, the secondary are the impressions of God upon the heart; now I have felt the virtue and power of the truth upon my soul, and all the world shall not draw me from it. I must have a primary confirmation of the truth of the word, before I can believe, and before it can work in me. The Apostle saith, “ Ye received it, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thes. ii. 13).
(1.) I receive it as the word of God, by some marks, and notes, and characters, some impress of God, upon his word; somewhat God hath left of himself in the word, and that awes my heart to reverence it, there I receive it upon my heart; but when it works in me mightily, I have a secondary confirmation. When I have eyes to see the impress of God upon the word, then I feel the power of it; and, when I have felt the power of it, it is confirmed in my soul (1 Cor. i. 6). When we feel the blessed effects, the quickenings and comforts of the word, it is a mighty help to faith. So, “He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself” (1 John v. 10). What is that witness in himself? Why, the witness of the Spirit, applying the blood of Christ to the conscience, sanctifying and quickening the heart: then he hath the witness in himself, and is more confirmed that Jesus is the Christ, and the word of God is true, and cannot easily be divorced from it; he hath felt the effects of it in his own heart: “For the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel, &c., and knew the grace of God in truth" (Col. i. 5, 6). We guess at things before, and have but a wavering faith, such as may let in some work upon the soul: then we know it in truth, then it is more fully made good to us, by the convincing, comforting, and sanctifying Spirit, that evidenceth it to our souls, and this can be no other but the truth of God. This makes our faith inore strong and rooted; and we may be confirmed in the hope and belief of the Gospel, and may not easily be removed therefrom.
(2.) Take faith in the other notion, for a dependence upon God for something that we stand in need of. Every manifestation of his grace, it should be kept as an experience by us for afterwards, when that frame may be away, when God may hide his face, and all be dead in the soul. As David, in his infirmity, remembered the years of the right hand of the Most High, and former experiences of God" (Psalm lxxvii. 10); as he, in an outward case, for outward deliverances, remembered the former help and succours be had from God; so we may remember former grace and former quickening. There are many ups and downs in the spiritual life; for even the new creature is changeable, both in point of duty and in point of comfort. Now, it is a mighty confirmation, when we remember what God hath done.
(i.) In point of duty. Sometimes you shall find you are dull and heartless under the ordinances of God. In reading and hearing, you find little life, lazy, and almost indifferent. Whether you call upon God in secret, or hear the word, or join in the communion of saints, no relish in any duty, do it almost for custom's sake, or at least to please your consciences, you must do it, and you drive on heavily; not for any great need you feel of them, or good you find by them, or hope you expect from them. Now, it is of great use to remember how I have waited upon God formerly, and he hath quickened, refreshed, and comforted me; and therefore it is good to try again, to keep up our dependence upon his ordinances, when this dulness seizeth upon the soul, and this listlessness. When conscience is sleepy, and the heart hangs off from God, remember, “I have been quickened.'
(ii.) If it be in point of comfort, fears, and sorrows; why,“ is there no balın in Gilead ? is there no physician there?” Hath not God relieved in like straits before, and given in fresh consolations, when you have bemoaned yourselves, and opened your case before hiin? There are none acquainted with the spiritual life, but have many experiences both of deadness and comfort. Now, one is a great help against the other; that our hands may not wax faint and feeble, God that hath comforted, may comfort again, and why should I neglect his appointed means? No; I will continue there, and lie at the pool where the waters have been stirred.
2. They are of use, again, to stir up our affections to God and his word.
(1.) To increase our love to God. Oh! we should keep the impression of his kind manifestation still upon the heart, that the mercy may be continually acknowledged. Surely, it is a favour that God will manifest himself to us, and own us in our attendance upon his word and other duties. The Lord Jesus promiseth it as a great blessing: “He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John xiv. 21). Now then, when any such sensible favour is vouchsafed to us, we should not forget it, but lay it up as a continual ground of thankfulness and love to God (Cant. i. 4). We will be glad and rejoice in thee; we will remember thy love more than wine. When Gud hath treated us most magnificently in his ordinances, either at his table, or word, and God hath refreshed and revived our souls; oh! we will remember this, and lay it up for the honour of God, and knit our hearts in a greater love to God.
(2.) It is of great use to increase our love to the word; for the excellency and worth of the word is found experimentally by believers, so that their love and estimation of it is more fixed and settled upon their hearts; so that they purpose to make use of it always for their comfort and direction; it is a great encouragement, when formerly they have found comfort and life thereby. The Apostle, to settle the Galatians that began to waver, that were apt to be overcome by their Judaizing brethren, to settle them
in love to the Gospel, he puts them to the question: "This only, would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Gal. ii. 2.) The Spirit of regeneration, with all his comforts and graces, is not conveyed to you by the doctrine of the law, but the doctrine of the Gospel. As if he had said, Stick to that doctrine where you have been quickened, comforted, revived, and your hearts settled ; for God hath owned that doctrine. He appeals to their own conscience, and to their own known experience, that they should not quit the doctrine of faith, but prize and keep close to it; for surely that which hath been a means of begetting grace in our souls, that should be highly prized by us. If God hath wrought grace, and any comfort and peace, stick there, and own God there, and be not easily mored from thence. Another apostle reasons, “God hath begotten us by the word of truth; wherefore be swift to hear” (James i. 18, 19); that is, Oh! do not neglect hearing, take heed of forsaking or neglecting the word; for then you go against your own known experience; you know here you had your life, quickening, comfort, strength; and will you be turned off from this? for many times a seducer may turn off a believer from the word which hath given him his first knowledge of Christ.
There are three causes which carry saints to the word and other ordinances; namely, necessity, natural appetite and inward inclination, and experience. Necessity, they cannot live without the word ; natural appelite and inward inclination, they have hearts suited to this work; the Spirit which wrought in the heart, hath put a nature in them suitable to the work; and experience, they have found benefit by it.
These are the three grand causes of respect to the word, and they are all implied or expressed in that, “As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word” (1 Peter ii. 2): there is natural appetite for the word, we hare them come as new-born babes; and there is necessity, you cannot live, nor keep, nor increase what you have, unless you keep to the word; and there is experience, if so be you have tasted, you have had powerful impressions and quickenings by this word. We should engage our hearts upon experience, the comfort, life, and light, that we have had by the word of God.
3. Our own spiritual estate will sooner be discerned by these experiences, the comfort and quickening received from the word, in the way of duty; for experience worketh hope (Rom. v. 4). If your experiences be ob. served and regarded, this works a hopeful dependence upon God for everlasting glory; your evidences will be more ready, and sooner come to hand. The motions of our souls are various, and (through corruption) very confused and dark; and this is that which makes it so difficult, upon actual search, to discern how it stands between us and God; it is for want of observation. But now, if there be constant observation of what passeth between us and God, how he hath quickened, comforted, and owned us in our attendance upon him, and what he hath done to bring on our souls in the way of life, these will make up an evidence, and will abundantly conduce to the quickening and comforting of our hearts.
USE I.-For information. It shows us,
1. The reason why so many neglect and contemn God's word; because they never got benefit by it; they find no life in it, therefore no delight in it. Those that are quickened, acknowledge the mercy, and improve it; they esteem the word, and have a greater conscience of their duty. It is