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is but a step betwixt me and death, and the next breath I breathe may be in everlasting burnings. It is a wonder I am not hurled into hell before this, what shall I do to be saved? Is there any hope for such a wretch as I am? O that I could bathe myself in briny tears of evangelical repentance! O, how shall I believe in Jesus Christ, that I may receive remission of sins! Truth it is, sirs, you will never be filled till you be sensible of soul-emptiness; spiritual poverty is the prologue and preparative to true soul-plenty; gospel sorrow expands the soul, and so capacitates it for grace; the oil of grace is poured only into a contrite heart; the kingdom of God belongs to the poor in spirit, and we know, the best benefits of this kingdom are internal, as "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and these as a rich treasure replenish the penitent soul, for it is the sorrowful soul whom God doth replenish, Jer. xxxi. 25. Therefore, you are to endeavour to discover the nature of sin, and danger therein, the wrath of God hanging over your heads for it if you were pricked in your hearts with a pinching pain, you would be restless till you had obtained an interest in Jesus Christ; if your souls were weary and heavy laden, you would not be content till you had laid the stress of all upon an infinite Saviour. If the Lord would help graceless sinners these two steps, to see that they are yet graceless, and to discern their misery in being so, that were a hopeful gradation towards conversion: did you see your state, you could not but bewail it, and make out for a change; and did you see the precious nature of the soul, and that grace which is to fill it, you would not be another day without it.
4. Empty thy heart of all corruption; oh, cleanse
* Deus oleum non infundit nisi in vas contritum.—Bern. Matt. v. 3. Rom. xiv. 17.
that filthy source of all sin, purge thyself from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit. Shake hands with that sin which forbids the banns of marriage betwixt Jesus Christ and thy soul: lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset thee, and then lift up thine eyes and heart to Jesus Christ.* "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; purify your hearts, ye doubleminded." Empty this dirty house of thy heart, that the King of Glory may enter in; throw out the devil's household stuff, and make room for a new inhabitant. The vessel must be emptied, or, it can never be filled with saving good; for that which is within, hinders any thing else entering:‡ and alas, the heart is full of vain conceits, and worldly thoughts, and impure lusts, which keep off good emotions and keep out good dispositions. Now, if a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work, 2 Tim. ii. 21. Let me entreat you for the Lord's sake, and for your own soul's sake, to search and sweep every dusty corner of your defiled heart. Let not this train of graces and treasure of truths be always waiting your leisure, whilst you are wallowing in the puddle of sin, and swallowing down the devil's sweet, but dangerous pills of soul-murdering temptations. Oh, be willing to make this blessed change, to part with thy base lusts for a precious Christ, to forego soul-damning corruptions for soul-gladdening dispositions: if you cannot put off the whole body of sin, yet you are to cut off the members thereof, you ought indeed to stub up sin by the roots, but you may lop off its branches; you may abate sin in part by contrary actings; knowledge doth remove ignorance, as light doth
* Heb. xii. 1, 2.
Intus existens prohibet extraneum.
+ James iv. 8.
darkness; grief abates pleasure, and fear, boldness in sinning; patience daunts passion, and fasting tames unruly lusts: these you may do, and these may be good preparatives for this treasure. Because, as one saith, when the strength of a fever is abated by physical means, a man is disposed towards health; * and ploughed ground is at least materially prepared for seed, though God is not bound then to sow the seeds of saving grace, yet thou hast encouragement, that thy labour shall not be in vain. Use these means and try the issue; endeavour "to cast off these works of darkness, and to put on the armour of light; yea, labour to put off the old man, and to put on the new ;"† at least do what you can to wash your hearts from filthiness, that your vain thoughts may not lodge within you, Jer. iv. 14. that you may have a saving treasure of holy meditations.
5. Be gleaning in God's field, be filling your sacks in the divine granary of ordinances. The way for Ruth to be well laden was to glean in Boaz's field, among the sheaves near the reapers; the Patriarchs must have recourse to Joseph's storehouse for provision; and where may we expect supply, but in gospel ordinances? those [canales gratiæ] channels of grace; the door-posts of wisdom, the garden where such precious spices grow, the orchard where the soul may be loaded with the fruits of righteousness. Ordinances are the Lord's camp, where this heavenly manna falls; they are the green pastures, where we may fill and feast our souls, the galleries where the king of heaven takes his walks, and here the Christless may meet with him; this is like Solomon's house of the forest of Lebanon, built for an armory, where the
* See Morn. Lect. p.41. Ser. 2. Ruth ii. 8. 17.
+ Rom.xiii. 12. Eph. iv. 22,24. || Song vii. 5.
naked soul may be furnished with shields and spears; offensive and defensive weapons to fortify the soul against the fiercest onsets of the great Abaddon. If your souls be sick of love, here you may find flagons of precious liquor to revive your fainting spirits, dispensed by the Lord's stewards. If you sit under this apple-tree, you shall be under its shadow with great delight, and the fruit thereof will be sweet to your taste. O then seek Christ in the broad ways of public ordinances, and "go forth by these footsteps of the flock."* Search this pearl in the field of gospeldispensations, and your souls shall be truly enriched thereby it is by these ordinances, through which, as by golden pipes, that precious oil is conveyed to us from the fruitful olive, Jesus Christ. † O do not leave off ordinances, as some conceited professors that boast they are above them; for if you set the cistern above the cock, it will never be full; and therefore you must have a reverent esteem for the Lord's appointments. Prepare yourselves, and frequent soul-filling ordinances-live still within the sound of Aaron's bells, and beg of God that Aaron's rod may bring forth the buds of grace in your immortal souls. "The rod of Aaron," as one well observes,‡ "may signify the ministry, effective, as to the effects it produceth, by the blessing of God, bringing forth buds, blossoms, and ripe nuts, all at once: that is," saith he, "precious buds of grace, blossoms of heavenly joy, and holy fruits of righteousness and new obedience." Only let me entreat you to wait upon a heart-searching ministry, that the secrets of your heart may be manifest, and conscience may be pricked. Be not afraid of a Boanerges, but gladly welcome the sharp rebukes of your soul's * Song ii. 5. verse 2. iii. 2. i. 8. + Zech. iv. 12.
Mr. Lee on Solomon's Temple, cap. 9. p. 266. Num. xvii. 8.
friends; it may be fittest for your sleepy or seared conscience. It is said of the almond tree, of which Aaron's rod was,* that the rind thereof is bitter, but the kernel is very delicious, and the oil pressed out of it very physical and of much virtue: just such are the chastising words of a round-dealing ministry; bitter at present, but profitable afterwards. And, observe it, they are ordinarily the soundest Christians that are trained under the most plain and piercing preaching; therefore, I entreat you, lay yourselves directly under the hammer of the word, to be framed by the Lord according to his will.
6. Study and improve free grace. Oh, let your thoughts dwell much upon God's infinite condescension and unlimited invitation of poor sinners. See what you derive from Isaiah lv. 1, John vii. 37, and Rev. xxii. 17. "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely;" there is no bar to your admission, but what yourselves make; Christ Jesus includes you in gospel tenders; Oh, do not exclude yourselves. The great Shepherd calleth his sheep by name, John x. 3. How is that, but by speaking expressly to their case? as if he should strike the troubled heart upon the shoulder and say, Here is comfort for thee; what if thy name be not there, yet the proposition is universal -"he that believeth shall be saved." Thousands of poor sinners have ventured their souls upon such a word, and never any miscarried that cast themselves into the arms of Christ; you have no reason to suspect acceptance if you come to him, you have all the grounds of encouragement imaginable. A physician offereth cure to all that will come, it were madness to stand off and say, I know not whether he intendeth it for me or not. If men were ready to perish in deep
* See Mr. Lee on Solomon's Temple, cap. 9. p. 266.