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not enough to find truth in truth, not to be able to contradict it, but you must find life; then we will prize and esteem it, when it hath been lively in its operation to our souls.
2. It shows the reason why so many forget the word, because they are not quickened. You would remember it by a good token, if there were a powerful impression left upon your souls ; and the reason is, because you do not meditate upon it, that you may receive this lively influence of the Spirit: for a sermon would not be forgotten, if it had left any lively impression upon your souls.
3. If we want quickening, we must go to God for it; and God works powerfully by the influence of his grace, and so he quickens us by his Spirit; and he works morally by the word, both by the promises and threatenings thereof: and so, if you would be quickened, you must use the means, attend upon reading and preaching, and meditating upon the word. As he works powerfully with respect to himself, so morally by reasonings.
USE II.-By way of reflection upon ourselves.
Have we had any of these experiences? David found life in God's word, therefore resolves never to forego it, or forget it. Therefore, what experience have you had of the word of God? Surely, at least, at first conversion, there was the work of faith and repentance; at first you will have this experience. How were you brought home to God? What! have you had no quickening from the word of God?
CASE.-But here is a case of conscience, doth every one know their conversion, or way of their own conversion ? Christians are usually sensible of this first work. There is so much bitter sorrow, and afterwards so much rejoicing of hope which doth accompany, that surely this should not be strange. But, though you have not been so wary to mark God's dealings with you, and the particular quickenings of your souls, yet at least, when the Lord raised you out of your security, and brought you home to himself, you should have remembered it : “ They themselves show of us, what manner of entering in we had unto you” (1 Thess. i. 9). The entrance usually is known, though afterward the work be carried on with less observation. Growth is not so sensible as the first change. God's first work is most powerful, meets with greater opposition, and so leaves a greater feeling upon us; and therefore it were strange if we were brought home to Christ, and no way privy and conscious to the way of it, as it all were done in our sleep; I say, to think so, were to give security a soft pillow to rest on. And therefore what quickenings had you then? Can you say, 'Well, I shall never forget this happy season and occasion, when God first awakened me to look after himselt?' Many of God's children cannot trace the particular footsteps of their conversion, and mark out all the stages of Christ's journey, and approach to their souls ; for all are not alike thus troubled. But yet, that men may not please themselves with the supposition of imaginary grace wrought in them without their privity and knowledge, let me speak to this grand case, this manner of entrance of Christ into our souls, how we are quickened from the dead, and made living.
1. None are converted, but are first convinced of their danger and evil estate; God's first work is upon their understandings : “After that I was instructed, I smote upon the thigh," &c. (Jer. xxxi. 19.) There is some light breaks in upon the soul, which sets them seriously a-considering, • What am I? Whither am I going? What will become of me? And,
“ When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Rom vii. 9). The commandment, the law of God, breaks in with all its terrors and curse upon the soul, by strong conviction; and the man is given for gone, lost, and dead. You know the way to the bowels is by the mouth, and the stomach, and so by other passages : there is no way to the affections but by the ear, then to the understanding, and then passeth to the apprehension, the judgment, and conscience, and heart: from the apprehension, to the grammatical knowledge; then they come to the judgment, then to the conscience; and, when conscience is set a work, usually there is some feeling.
2. Conviction, where it is strong and serious, where it is not levis et mollis, it cannot be without some compunction. The eye affects the heart. Can a man be sensible of a lost condition, and of the necessity of a change, without being troubled at it, without making a serious, weighty business of it? Are Heaven and Hell such slight matters, that a man can think of the one or the other, without any commotion of heart? (Pray do but bethink yourselves: I shall solve the particular cases; but I must establish the general one.) Especially if he be convinced of his being obnoxious to one, and doth not know whether he shall have the other, yea or nay. Certainly, whoever is instructed or convinced, will smite upon his thigh, and bemoan himself as Ephraim (Jer. xxxi.). There is none ever came to Christ, the spiritual physician, but they were in some degree heart-sick; none ever came for ease, but they felt a load upon their back. If there be conviction and compunction, this will be felt.
3. But then the degrees are various; some are more, some less; some earnestly solicitous, or deeply in horror. Some are brought to God by the horrors of despair, and are convinced with a higher and more smart degree of sorrow, before ever they come to settle; but all are serious and anxious. There is certainly a difference; some men's conversion is more gentle, others more violent. To some, Christ comes like an armed man, and doth powerfully vanquish Satan in their hearts; to others, there is a great deal of difficulty and conflict, which must needs impress a notice of itself. Some are sweetly drawn, others are snatched out of the fire. To some, the Spirit comes with a mighty rushing wind; to others, by a gentle blast, sweetly and softly blows open the door. God opened the heart of Lydia, we read of no more (Acts xvi. 14); but, when he comes to the jailer, he had more horror of conscience, and more sorrow and desperation, and was ready to kill himself, saying, “ What must I do to be saved ?" (verse 30.) The Lord bids us put a difference; to have compassion of some, and to pluck others more violently out of the fire (Jude 23). So here, the Lord's work is various; it is to some more gentle, but to others it is with a greater horror.
4. I answer, that no certain rule can be given as to this different dispensation ; why some are so gently used, and others so violently brought home to God. Sometimes they which have had good education, and left errors of life, have left terrors of heart, as being restrained from gross sins; at other times, they have had most terrors, because they have withstood so many means, and because they do not know when God works upon them. Sometimes those which are called to greatest services have had most terrors, that they may speak more of the evil of sin, having felt the bitterness of it: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. v. 11). Sometimes it is quite otherwise; they which
have been called to some eminent public service for God, they may not drink so deeply of this cup, but are spared, that they may be kept more entire for their public work, which serves instead of sorrow and trouble of conscience. Again, sometimes men and women of most excellent and acute understandings, they are most humble, as having clearest apprehensions of the heinousness of sin and terror of wrath ; at other times, on the contrary, these horrors and fears come from ignorance, as fears arise in the dark, and weak spirits are apt to be terrified, and have a knowledge of the remedy as soon as they know their disease; the work may be more gentle. Sometimes these terrors fall on a strong body, as being best able to bear them ; sometimes on a weak, the Devil taking advantage of their weaknesses and manifold infirmities. Many times, in hot and fiery natures, their changes are sudden, carried on with extremities; but sometimes soft natures, whose motions are slow and gentle, by degrees are surprised, and impressions of grace are made insensibly. Thus God acts as he will; but, in the general, all are serious and solicitous,
5. Because no certain rule can be given, the measure must not be looked after, but the effects; we are not so much to look to the deepness of the wound, as the soundness of the cure. The means only respect the end, therefore the end must be considered; and many times the effects are visible, and more evident, in fruit and feeling. Now, if we give sound proof that we are converted, I am contented. If the work be done, that sufficeth, which way soever it be done, though usually it is done by some notable and powerful impression upon the heart. Look, as the blind man said, 'Which way my eyes were opened I know not, but this I know, that whereas I was blind, I now see' (John ix. 25); so if the renewed soul can say, 'How the work was done I cannot tell; I have been waiting upon God, and have felt the fruits of his grace upon my heart.”
6. The effects of this first work are these :
(1.) A hearty welcoming of Christ Jesus into the soul : they do not take up with comfort on this side Christ. Men’s troubles are known by their satisfaction. If honour satisfy inen, then disesteem and disrespect was their trouble, however they did palliate it with religious pretences. If riches satisfy men, then poverty pinched them. If the prosperity of the world satisfy men, it was worldly adversity was their trouble, though it crept under religious pretences. But, if we see the necessity of a Saviour, receive him into our hearts, and believe in him with all our hearts, desire and delight and all are carried after Christ, and after the refreshings of his grace, and are satisfied with none but Christ, and our hearts pant for him “ as the hart panteth after the water-brooks” (Psalm xlii. 1), you ought to bless God that he hath left the impression of the effect, though he hath not left the impression of the way. But now, when desires after Christ are either none at all or cold and faint, and easily put out of the humour, and only provoke you now and then to put up a cold prayer, or express a few faint wishes, or heartless sighs; that, though you have a desire after Christ, yet it is easily diverted, and controlled by other and higher desires, and you can be satisfied, and take up something beneath Christ, and Christ is not the precious and only one of your souls; you have not that impression wblch amounts to a hearty work.
(2.) Another impression is, a thorough hatred of sin, and serious watchfulness and striving against it, when you seek to cast it out of your soul with indignation (Hos. xiv. 8), to “hate every false way'' (Psalm cxix.
104); when you are continually groaning under it (Rom. vii. 24), and seek to weaken it more and more; for “they that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts” (Gal. v. 24). This is a sensible impression left upon the soul.
(3.) A lively diligence in the spiritual life. Though you cannot tell how God brought you in, yet, if you keep up a lively diligence in serving God, with the twelve tribes, “instantly serving God day and night" (Acts xxvi. 7), and you are always working out “your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. ii. 12), and you are hard at work for God,-if this holy care be the constant business and drift of your lives, yon have the effect of this conversion, though the first impression of it be not so sensible.
SERMON XCIX. VERSE 94.—I am thinc, save me ; for I have sought thy precepts.
In these words you have, 1. David's plea, “ I am thine.” 2. His request, “ Save me.” 3. His argument to make good his plea, “ I have sought thy precepts.” His plea is taken from God's interest in him, “I am thine.” His request is for safety, to be saved either from wrath to come, or from temporal danger, rather the latter; for he seeth trouble lie in wait for him; therefore, "Save me.” And then the evidence of that interest which may serve as an argument to set on the request, “I have sought thy precepts."
Let me speak of these in their order, and first of David's plea, “ I am thine."
DOCTRINE I.-That God hath a special people in the world, whom he will own for his.
David, as one of this number, saith to God, “ I am thine.” By a common right of creation, all things are God's : “ All that is in the Heaven and in the earth is thine” (1 Chron. xxix. 11). He made all ; and therefore, by a just right, he is Lord of all: “ The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof” (Psalm xxiv. 1). Now, as to this general right, God is no more bound to one than to another: there is no great privilege in this, to be God's in this sense; for so are “ the cattle upon a thousand hills." As we are his by creation, we cannot say with David, “I am thine, sare me;" for he that made them, will not save them, if they have no other title and interest in him (Isa. xxvii. 11). Thus, by creation, all things are God's ; but more especially men : “ All souls are mine” (Ezek. xvii. 4). God hath a peculiar interest in the reasonable creatures, as their Maker, governor, and judge. And yet further, his church are his by general profession; all the members of the visible church may say, “Lord, we are thine ; and that is some kind of plea for their safety and protection: “ We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; they were not called by thy name” (Isa. Ixiii. 19). So may all the members of the visible church speak to God; yet, more particularly, there is a remnant in the world that are his by a nearer interest, and they are the saints, or new creatures, who are his “peculiar people,” laóc nepißolos (Titus ii. 14). All the world else, they are but as the lumber of the house; but these are his treasure ; a man is more chary of his treasure, than of his lumber; yea, they are his “ jewels" (Mal. iii. 17), precious and dear to him, and of special interest in his heart and affection ; they are the “ first-fruits of his creatures” (James i. 18). The first-fruits were the Lord's portion; now, these God doth peculiarly take to be his portion and his, and valueth them more than all the world besides.
Let us see the grounds of his special interest in them, wherefore are they his.
He hath elected them before all the world : “ Thine they were, and thou gavest them me" (John xvii. 6). They were his by eternal election and choice; and they are purchased and bought by Christ, therefore called a purchased people, “bought with a price” (1 Cor. vi. 20); and upon this ground they are said to be “Christ's” (1 Cor. iii. 23). Now, as they are Christ's and God's by purchase, they are also his by conquest and rescue from Satan. Prisoners in war belong to the conqueror. The strong man that holdeth captive the carnal part of the world, they are his goods ; but the stronger than he shall come, and bind him, and take away his goods (Luke xi. 21, 22). They were Satan's; but, by rescue and conquest, the prey falls to Christ: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. i. 13).
Once more, they are his by effectual calling and work of his grace : * We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works," &c. (Eph. ii. 10.) So the title is changed by the right of the new creation.
Again, they are his by covenant: we choose him to be our God, and the Lord chooseth us to be his peculiar people (Hos. ii. 23). They acquiesce in him as their all-sufficient portion, and surrender and give up themselves to his use and service. This is that which is chiefly intended here; namely, that we are his by contract and resignation; for so David saith,
Lord, I am thine.' All this doth abundantly make good, God hath a special people in the world whom he will own for his.
The grace by which we are inclined to resign up ourselves to God, that flows from election, through the redemption of Christ, by sanctification of the Spirit ; but the grounds, reasons, and motives, for which we dedicate ourselves to God, they are his right in us by creation and redemption. It is but fit God should have what he hath made and bought : we are his creatures, his purchase; therefore we are his.
USE I.-For trial. Are we of the number of God's peculiar people? As David said to the Egyptian, “ To whom belongest thou ? and whence art thou?" (1 Sam. xxx. 13;) so, if the question should be put to you, • Whence are you? To whom do you belong?' can you answer, ‘Lord, I am thine ; I belong to thee?' If it be so, then,
1. When did you solemnly dedicate yourselves to him? If you be God's, can you remember when you first took your oath of allegiance to him? There is a solemn time of arouching one another, when God avouched you to be his people, and you avouched God to be your God: “ Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and judgments and to hearken unto his voice: and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people” (Deut. xxvi. 17, 18). When did you give up the key of your hearts to God, and lie at God's feet, and say, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts ix. 6.) They that are God's come in this way, by resignation or spiritual contract, by entering into covenant with him. 2. What have you that is peculiar ? Have you the favour of his