« PreviousContinue »
point: shedding tears depends more on the body's constitution, and natural temper, than upon the brokenness of heart for sin. By the same parity of reason, that an hard-hearted hypocrite may abound with tears for his sins, and yet remain still impenitent and hardened in sin; so a real believer may in reality be truly penitent, and evangelically sorry for his sins, and yet have not one tear to shew. Thy want of tears is supplied and made up by a far better gift, even those unutterable groans produced in thy broken heart by the Holy Ghost. Herein thou excellest all weeping hypocrites living. They may abound with tears which are but a work of nature; but thou aboundest with sanctified groans which are supernatural; even the free gift and powerful operation of the Holy Ghost, Rom. viii. 26. Fourthly, And whereas thy case seems to be , so dark and puzzling that thou knowest not what to do, let me advise thee to two things. First, Beware thou judge not thyself with reference to thy state, or God's dealing with thee by sense, or carnal reason. The footsteps of the Almighty, in his providential dispensations towards some of his children in this world, are not easily traced, or found out. Psal. lxxvii. 19; “Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.” “Clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne,” Psal. xcvii. 2. Let God's dealing with thee be
never so intricate, yet herein lies the comfort and security of thy drooping spirit, viz, That righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. He cannot possibly take a wry or wrong step. His providential dispensations, and the promises of his holy covenant, will in the end and issue of affairs meet and agree. ' Secondly, Though God seems not only to hide his face on thee, but also to write bitter things against thee, go thou on still to wait on him, and to trust in him. Let Job's resolution be thine; “Although he slay me, yet will I trust in him,” Job xiii. 15. None can give thee better advice in thy case than God himself. “Who is there among you that feareth the Lord and obeyeth the voice of his servant; that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay himself upon his God,” Isa. l. 10. And now to shut up the whole with a word or two of use and application. First, Learn hence to know and consider if what I have discoursed on this subject prove true, as I stedfastly believe it will; how wretched and deplorable a condition must England be in ; seeing how great strangers, and not only so but open enemies to regeneration work, the generality of professing protestants in England are. If no man will prove a prevailer with God, but he who is a righteous man, viz. righteous by the imputed righteousness of the Son of God; and righteous by a principle of sanctification wrought in the soul
in effectual calling; and that God will loath and abominate all prayers which are not inwrought in the soul by the quickening and sanctifying energy of the Holy Ghost, but devised and starched up by human art and learning; how few persons in the kingdom, comparatively, will be found fit to draw near to a departing God! And how few of the many thousands of prayers, such as they are, which are put up to God by England's spiritual guides, must those prayers be which God will accept as pleasing to him! This may seem to some a great piece of uncharitableness and censoriousness to have such low and contemptible thoughts of the great and wise men of the land, who are advanced to the dignity of sacred office, as to think or say that neither their persons, nor yet their well-composed prayers, will be accepted of God; in answer to whom, I need no more than to repeat what I have already affirmed, viz. That the man whom God will vouchsafe to hear must be a man who is new born, not one who laughs at regeneration-work, accounting it no better than a famatic dream. He must be a man who is not a stranger to the spirit of prayer, but one who is acted upon by the mighty efficiency of the Holy Ghost; who teacheth all true believers to call God Abba, Father, and that not in a rotary way, or in a formal customary manner, as is too, too much-in fashion in these sinful kingdoms, but in faith and fervent love and zeal in the soul within, set on fire by the Spirit of grace.
Secondly, Learn hence how precious and valuable right prayer is. Many, indeed, laugh at it, accounting it no better than a mere piece of canting stuff; an argument that such scorners were brought up in the very suburbs of hell. Others have taken liberty to say, that praying by the Spirit is a praying by the devil; an argument that such are the offspring and successors of those blaspheming pharisees, now in hell, who charged the Son of God with casting out devils by Beelzebub the prince of devils. But what slight soever prayerless and blaspheming wretches put on spiritual prayer, most certain it is, that, among all the various and differing sounds and voices of God's creation, none are so pleasing and delightful to God as that of right prayer. The prayer of the upright is by God himself called his delight, Prov. xv. 8; and, in Cant. ii. 14, it is said to be sweet to Christ, and that as it is the voice of the new creature, begotten of God, and formed by the Spirit of Christ in the renewed soul of a true believer. Right spiritual prayer is, as I may say, the key which unlocks the door of the storehouse of God's precious promises, and fetches in suitable and seasonable supplies out of the fulness which is in Christ for all his members. It was the saying of Jerome, that nothing is more dearly bought than what is bought by prayer. Not that prayer can merit any good at the hand of God; but it presents to God the spotless righteousness of
Christ his son, and that powerful intercession which he makes in heaven; which are the meriting and procuring causes of all that good which believers either receive or stand in need of.
Mr. Dod used to say, that a believer is well enough while he can pray, though he hath nothing of earthly comforts to help or support him.
Luther, whenever he heard that a storm of persecution was coming on the churches of Christ, would run to prayer, and sing the forty-sixth Psalm, crying out, Now let God rule the world as he pleaseth. Were believers in England as strong in faith, and as well acquainted with the spirit of right prayer, as he was, we should not put that honour on the enemies of England as to fear what they can do to effect the overthrow of God's heritage in this land. But woe and alas! the generality of England's professors, yea, the most spiritual of true believers themselves, are most wretchedly prone to let their thoughts and tongues run out upon inquiries, What men have we in parliament? In what posture is our fleet? What shall we do if we lose the Streights trade? more than they are to live by faith, and to rejoice in the lively hope and fixed expectation of what God, who cannot lie, hath not only promised, but even sworn he will do for his people's deliverance. This is, in my judgment, as sure an argument of the Spirit's being withdrawn from us, and of religion being in a dwindling condition in the nation, as any I can name. The Lord affect us all with it