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preach good tidings to the meck, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the year of vengeance of our God.” Isa. Ixii. 11. “ Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, say ye to the daughter of Zion, behold thy salvation cometh, &c.” Rom. x. 18. “ Their sound went into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." Jer. xi. 6. « Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them.” So chap. xix. 2, and vii. 2. Prov. viii. 1. “ Doth not wisdom cry, and understanding put forth her voice ?" Ver. 3, 4. “ She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors ; unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men ! And chap. i. 20. “ Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets." Chap. ix. 3. “ She hath sent forth her maidens, she crieth upon the high places of the city." John vii. 37. “ In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.”
It seems to be foretold, that the gospel should be especially preached in a loud and earnest manner, at the introduction of the prosperous state of religion, in the latter days. Isa. xl. 9. « 0 Zion, that bringeth good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain ! O Jerusalem, that bringeth good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength ! Lift up, and be not afraid ! Say unto the cities of Judah, behold your God !" Isa. li. 7, 8. “ How beautiful upon the mountains, are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings ! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice.” Isa. xxvii. 13. “ And it shall come to pass, in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish.” And this will be one way, that the church of God will cry at that time, like a travailing woman, when Christ mystical is going to be brought forth ; as Rev. xii, at the beginning. It will be by ministers, that are her mouth : And it will be this way, that Christ will then cry like a travailing woman, as in Isa. xlii. 14. “ I have long time holden my peace : I have been still, and refrained myself; now will I cry, like a travailing woman." Christ cries by his ministers, and the church cries by her officers. And it is worthy to be noted, that the word commonly used in the New Testament, that we translate freach, properly signifies to proclaim aloud like a crier.
Another thing that some ministers have been greatly blamed for, and I think unjustly, is speaking terror to them, that are already under great terrors, instead of comforting them.... Indeed, if ministers in such a case, go about to terrify persons with that which is not true, or to affright them by representing their case worse than it is, or in any respect otherwise than it is, they are to be condemned ; but if they terrify them only by still holding forth more light to them, and giving them to understand more of the truth of their case, they are altogether to be justified. When sinners consciences are greatly awakened by the Spirit of God, it is by light imparted to the conscience, enabling them to set their case to be, in some measure, as it is ; and if more light be let in, it will terrify them still more : But ministers are not therefore to be blamed that they endeavor to hold forth more light to the conscience, and do not rather alleviate the pain they are under, by intercepting and obstructing that light that shines already. To say any thing to those who have never believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, to represent their case any otherwise than exceeding terrible, is not to preach the word of God to them; for the word of God reveals nothing but truth, but this is to delude them. Why should we be afraid to let persons, that are in an infinitely miserable condition, know the truth or bring them into the light, for fear it should terrify them? It is light that must convert them, if ever they are converted. The more we bring sinners into the light, while they are miserable, and the light is terrible to them, the more likely it is, that by and by, the light will be joyful to them. The ease, peace and comfort, that natural men enjoy, have their foundation in darkness and blindness; therefore as that darkness vanishes, and light comes in, their peace vanishes, and they are terrified : But that is no good argument, why we should endeavor to hold their darkness, that we may uphold their comfort. The truth is, that as long as men reject Christ, and do not savingly believe in him, however they may be awakened, and however strict and consciencious, and laborious they may be in religion, they have the wrath of God abiding on them, they are his enemies, and the children of the devil; (as the scripture calls all that be not savingly converted, Mat. xiii. 38. 1 John. iii. 10) and it is uncertain whether they shall ever obtain mercy : God is under no obligation to shew them mercy, nor will he be, if they fast and pray and cry never so much ; and they are then especially provoking God, under those terrors, that they stand it out against Christ, and will not accept of an offered Saviour, though they see so much need of him : And seeing this is the truth, they should be told so, that they may be sen, sible what their case indeed is.
To blame a minister, for thus declaring the truth to those who are under awakenings, and not immediately administer. ing comfort to them, is like blaming a surgeon, because when he has begun to thrust in his lance, whereby he has already put his patient to great pain, and he shrinks and cries out with anguish, he is so cruel that he will not stay his hand, but goes on, to thrust it in further, until he comes to the core of the wound. Such a compassionate physician, who as soon as his patient began to flinch, should withdraw his hand, and go about immediately to apply a plaster, to skin over the wound, and leave the core untouched, would be one that would heal the hurt slightly, crying peace, peace, when there is no peace.
Indeed something else besides terror, is to be preached to them, whose consciences are awakened. The gospel is to be preached to them : They are to be told that there is a Sa. viour provided, that is excellent and glorious, who has shed his precious blood for sinners, and is every way sufficient to save them, that stands ready to receive them, if they will heartily embrace him ; for this is also the truth, as well as that they now are in an infinitely dreadful condition : This is the word of God. Sinners at the same time that they are told how miserable their case is, should be earnestly invited to come and accept of a Saviour, and yield their hearts unto him,
with all the winning, encouraging arguments, for them so to do, that the gospel affords: But this is to induce them to escape from the misery of the condition that they are now in : But not to make them think their present condition less miserable than it is, or at all to abate their uneasiness and distress, while they are in it; that would be the way to quiet them, and fasten them in it, and not to excite them to fly from it..... Comfort, in one sense, is to be held forth to sinners, under awakenings of conscience, i. e. comfort is to be offered to them in Christ, on condition of their flying from their present miserable state, to him : But comfort is not to be administered to them, in their present state, as any thing that they have now any title to, while out of Christ. No comfort is to be administered to them, from any thing in them, any of their qualifications, prayers orother performances, past, present or future; but ministers should, in such cases, strive to their utmost to take all such comforts from them, though it greatly increases their terror. A person that sees himself ready to sink into hell, is ready to strive, some way or other, to lay God under some ol). ligation to him ; but he is to be beat off from every thing of that nature, though it greatly increases his terror, to see himself wholly destitute, on every side, of any refuge, or any thing of his own to lay hold of; as a man that sees himself in danger of drowning, is in terror, and endeavors to catch hold on every twig within his reach, and he that pulls away those twigs from him, increases his terror ; yet if they are insufficient to save him, and by being in his way, prevent his looking to that which will save him, to pull them away, is necessary to save his life.
If sinners are in any distress, from any error that they embrace, or mistake they are under, that is to be removed : For instance, if they are in terror, from an apprehension that they have committed the unpardonable sin, or that those things have happened to them that are certain signs of reprobation, or any other delusion, such terrors have no tendency to do them any good ; for these terrors are from temptation, and noi from conviction : But that terror which arises from conviction or a sight of truth, is to be increased ; for those that are most awakened, have great remaining stupidity, they have a sense of but little of that which is ; and it is from remaining blindness and darkness, that they see no more ; and that remaining blindness is a disease, that we ought to endeavor to remove. I am not afraid to tell sinners, that are most sensible of their misery, that their case is indeed as miserable as they think it to be, and a thousand times more so ; for this is the truth. Some may be ready to say, that though it be the truth, yet the truth is not to be spoken at all times, and seems not to be seasonable then : But it seems to me, such truth is never more seasonable than at such a time, when Christ is beginning to open the eyes of conscience. Ministers ought to act as coworkers with him ; to take that opportunity, and to the utmost to improve that advantage, and strike while the iron is hot, and when the light has begun to shine, then to remove all obstacles, and use all proper means, that it may come in more fully, and the work be done thoroughly then. And experience abundantly shews, that to take this course, is not of an hurtful tendency, but very much the contrary : I have seen, in very many instances, the happy effects of it, and oftentimes a very speedy happy issue, and never knew any ill consequence, in case of real conviction, and when dis. tress has been only from thence.
I know of but one case, wherein the truth ought to be withheld from sinners in distress of conscience, and that is the case of melancholy : And it is not to be withheld from them then, because the truth tends to do them hurt, but because if we speak the truth to them, sometimes they will be deceived and led into error by it, through that strange disposition there is in them to take things wrong. So that that which as it is spoken, is truth, as it is heard and received, and applied by them, is falsehood ; as it will be unless the truth be spoken with abundance of caution and prudence, and consideration of their disposition and circumstances. But the most awful truths of God's word, ought not to be withheld from public congregations, because it may happen that some such melancholic persons may be in it; any more than the Bible is to be witheld from the Christian world, because it is manifest