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Lord's people in former days would set our whole foul a-going after the God of Elijah.
2. It should work on us by way of encouragement. Elijah's example gave Elisha hopes he mnight find God the same to him he had been to his predeceffor. Encouragement is a notable spurn to diligence, and is that which is most likely to take with men. What is it which makes us that we wrestle not for God's presence, as in former days ? even unbelief, that tells us we need not be at the pains, for it will not do. But the report of the godly in former days contradicts the report of unbelief, and therefore should bring us back to God's door ; even as when a beggar, having called at a door for his alms, was coming away without it, and should meet with another that had been plentifully served there, who would say to him, That is a good house, and though one may ftand long at the door ere they be served, yet they give ay a liberal alms at length; would not that bring the beggar back again ? So should the consideration of God's presence with his people in former days bring us to him for the same entertainment. For this there are the best reasons; such as,
(1.) Because the experiences of the Lord's people in former days were given, and put on record, for that very end. All the experiences of God's presence with his people in former days, are as so many signs of peace on earth, and goodwill towards men. They, as it were, stand at God's door, to invite and encourage those of fuco ceeding generations to come in there for the same or like entertainment; and his people do but answer the design of them, when they come and inquire, Where is the Lord God of Elijah ?.- Eph. xii. 7. “ That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness
towards us through Christ Jesus.”-Rom. xv. 4. “ For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope.”
(2.) Because these experiences say there is enough to be had in God for the seeking, if we seek in his own way: Psal. xxii. 4. “ Our fathers trusted in thee, they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried to thee, and were delivered ; they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.” The saints that have gone before us have spread a good report of God's house, that others after them might come to the same door. They have had the experience of the Lord's help in all the cases that we can be in; and whatever be the difficult steps we have to go, if we mark narrowly, we will see the footsteps of the flock before us in these steps through which their God has graciously handed them: Psal. xxxiv. 6. 8. “ This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.-0 taste, and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trufteth in him.” And their expériences are their testimony to the truth of his promises : Psal. xii. 6. “ The words of the Lord are pure as silver tried."
(3.) Because we have the same advantages that they had, yea, and more than some of them, that lived in darker days than we do. How many have groped the way to the throne of grace, when they had not such light shining around them as we have . to fhew the way; but, however we make the comparison, we have the same God to go to that they had, who has as much to give, and is as gracious as ever : Jam. i. 17. “ Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh
down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning ;” the same High-Priest over the house of God, that is as well heard by the Father now as ever, Heb. xiii. 8. « Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever ;" the same covenant, for it is everlasting; the same promises, whose truth and mercy endure for ever.
(4.) Because all that ever the best of the saints got was in the way of free grace. It was not only undeserved, but given over the belly of ill-deferving; and if it be free grace that opens the door, what needy finner is there but may come forward for a share ? All the love that was ever bestowed on any of them, was free love, without the least deserving; if ye think there is any exception, look through them all, from Adam downwards, and name the man if you can. Paul challenges the world to do it, Rom. xi. 35. “ Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him
IV. I am now to make some practical improvement. And this,
1. In an use of reproof. This reaches a reproof to several sorts of persons; as,
(1.) To our modern blafphemers, who reckon the faints experiences of the workings of the Lord's Spirit on their spirits nothing but the effects of. imagination, heat of fancy, or somewhat else. So true is it, 1 Cor. ii. 14. “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he kuow them, because they are fpiritually discerned.” But when we consider the sanctifying effects of these operations felt on their spirits, how by these their hearts are loosed from the lusts to which they were formerly glewed, inflamed with love to
God and his holy law, and thus to despise the world, rejoice in tribulation, joyfully to suffer for Christ, and deny themselves to all that is dear to them in the world for his cause, we must conclude, that these men do but new-model the doctrine of those that taught long ago, that Christ cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils; and that, as their working is formal, suited to the fpirit of the natural man; so their spirit is profane.
(2.) Those that flight the experiences of the people of God, and appearances to and for them, as not worth their notice, far less of their pains, to get the same entertainment, and yet they did more service to the cause of God, by their godly fimplicity, than we are like to do by our refined prudentials; and no wonder, for if a man will be truly wise, I Cor. iii. 18. « Let him become a fool, that he may be wife.” A little faith and dependance on the Lord for light and strength, will go farther than much carnal foresight. But they had the spirit of preaching, praying, and other things belonging to the service of God; and we have the bare act of it. The good Lord fend back the Spirit, come of the act what will !
(3.) To these who are ready to talk big of the experiences of God's people, and of God's appearances for them in former days. With a whole heart, their consciences bearing them witness, they are not concerned to wrestle with God for themselves or others ’now, or to put to their hand, in their several capacities, to the revival of practical godliness in the generation ; but, on the other hand, do improve it to the hardening of their own hearts, and to the contempt of ordinances and ministers. These are the genuine offspring of those who built the tombs of the prophets, and garnished their sepulchres, yet are filling up the measure