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sciousness of pardon be no more, the joy resulting therefrom cannot remain. If the Spirit does not witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, the joy that flowed from the inward witness must also be at an end. And, in like manner, they who once “rejoiced with joy unspeakable,” “ in hope of the glory of God," now they are deprived of that “hope full of immortality,” are deprived of the joy it occasioned; as also of that which resulted from a consciousness of the love of God,” then “shed abroad in their hearts.” For the cause being removed, so is the effect : the fountain being dammed up, those living waters spring no more, to refresh the thirsty soul,
4. With loss of faith, and love, and joy, there is also joined, fourthly, the loss of that Peace, which once passed all understauding. That sweet tranquillity of inind, that composure of spirit, is gone. Painful doubt returns ; doubt, whether we ever did, and perhaps, whether we ever sball, believe. We begin to doubt, whether we ever did find in our hearts the real testimony of the Spirit; whether we did not rather deceive our own souls, and mistake the voice of nature for the voice of God; nay, and perhaps, whether, we shall ever hear his voice, and find favour in his sight. And these doubts are again joined with servile fcar, with that fear which hath torment. We fear the wrath of God, even as before we believed : we fear, lest we should be cast out of his presence; and thence siuk again into that fear of death, from which we were before wholly delivered.
5. But even this is not all; for loss of peace is accompanied with loss of Power. We know every one who has peace with God, through Jesus Christ, has power over all sin. But whenever be loses the peace of God, he loses also the power over sin. While that peace remained, power also remained, even over the besetting sin, whether it were the sin of his nature, of his constitution, the sin of his education, or that of his profession ; yea, and over those evil tempers and desires, which, till then, he could not conquer. Sin had then no more dominion over him; but he hath now no more dominion over sin. He may struggle, indeed, but he cannot overcome; the crown is fallen from his head. His enemies again prevail over him, and more or less bring him into bondage. The glory is departed from him, even the kingdom of God which was in his heart. He is dispossessed of righteousness, as well as of peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
II. 1. Such is the nature of what many hare termed, and not improperly, “The Wilderness State.” But the nature of it may be more fully understood by inquiring, Secondly, What are the Causes of it? These, iudeed, are various. But I dare not rank among these the bare, arbitrary, sovereign Will of God. He “rejoiceth in the prosperity of his servants: he delighteth not to afllict or griere the children of men.” His invariable will is our sanctification, attended with "peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." These are liis own free gifts; and we are assured “the gists of God are," on his pari, " without repentance.” He never repentcin of what he hath given, or desires to withdrai theu lion us. Therefore he never deserts us, as some speak; it is ie ouly that ilesert bim.
[1.] 2. The most usual cause of inward darkness is Sin, of one kind or another. This it is which generally occasions what is often a complication of sin aud misery. And, tirst, Sin of Commission. This may irestiently be observed to darken the son in a moment; especially if it be a kuown, a vilful, or presumptuous sin. !!, for instance, a person, who is now walking in the clear lighi of God's countenance, should be any way prevailed on to commit a single act of drunkenness, or uncleanness, it would be no wonder, if, in that very bour, he fell into utter darkness. It i; true', there have been some rery rare cases, wherein Gost 1913 prereuted this, by an extraordinary display of his pardoning mercy, almost in the very instant. Bet in Cheral, such an abuse of the goodness of God, so gross annut on his bite, (16*100s an immediate estrangement from God, and a "dlakness that may be felt."
3. Put it may be hope this case is not very frequent; that there are not ac!!, nu se okspisie the riches of his goodDess, d', while they live in biss built, so grossly, and presumptuonly in regel araiit leild. That light is much more frequentis lo-t, by gisi! at Sins of Omission. This, indecu, does not immediatel: qacn't the Spirit, but gradually and slowly. The former may be compareil to pouring water upos a fire; the latter to withdrawing the fuck from it. And many times will tatt loving spirit reprove our neglect, before he departs front 115. Many are the inward checks, the secret Blotices lae sives, before his influences ille withdrawn. So that only a waist cif word is, wilfully persisted in, can bring 115 mio lilerini hüc. 1. T., 1 illos entiendum 13 ore frequently occasions
tid!) in Bli mlect op Polrice Pirver; the want wherevi
cannot be supplied by any other ordinance whatever. Nothing can be niore plain, than that the life of God in the soul does not continue, much less increase, unless we use all opportunitics of communion with God, and pouring out our hearts before him. If, therefore, we are negligent of this, if we suffer business, company, or any avocation whatever, to prevent these sccret exercises of the soul, (or, which comes to the same thing, to make us hurry them over in a slight and careless manner,) that life will surely decay. And if we long or frequently intermit them, it will gradually die away.
5. Another sin of omission, which frequently brings the soul of a believer into darkness, is the neglect of what was so strongly enjoined, even under the Jewish dispensation: “ Thou shalt, in any wise, rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him : Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart." Now if we do hate our brother in our heart, if we do not rebuke him, when we see him in a fault, but suffer sin upon bim, this will soon bring leanness into our own soul; seeing hereby we are partakers of his sin. By neglecting to reprove, our neighbour, we make his sin our own : we become accountable for it to God: we saw his danger, and gave him no warning: so, “if he perish in his iniquity,” God may justly require "his blood at our hands." No wonder then, if by thus grieving the Spirit, we lose the light of his countenance.
6. A third cause of our losing this is, the giving way to some kind of Ioward Sin. For example : We know, every one that is proud in heart, is an abomination to the Lord;” and that, although this pride of heart should not appear in the outward conversation. Now how easily may a soul, filled with peace and joy, fall into this snart of the Devil? How natural is it for him to imagine, that he has more grace, more wisdom or strength, than he rcally has? To “think more highly of himself than he ought to think? ” How natural to glory in something he has received, as if he had not received it? But sceing God continually “resisteth the proud, and giveth grace only to the humble,” this must ceitainly obscure, if not wholly destroy, the light which before shone on his heart.
7. The same effect may be produced by giving place to Anger, whatever the provocation or occasion be; yea, though it were coloured over with the name of zeal for the truth, or for the glory of God. Indeed, all zeal, which is any other than the flame of love, is “ earthly, animal, and devilish." It is the flame of wrath : it is flat, sinsul anger, ucither better nor
worse. And nothing is a greater enemy to the mild, gentle love of God than this: they never did, they never can, subuist together in one breast. In the same proportion as this prevails, love and joy in the Holy Ghost decrease. This is particularly observable in the case of offence; I mean, anger at any of our brethren, at any of those who are united with us either by civil or religious tics. If we give way to the spirit of offence but one hour, we lose the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit; so that, instead of amending them, we destroy oursclues, and become au ca y prey to any enemy that assaults 115.
8. But suppose we are altare of this share of ihe Devil, we may be attacked from another quarter. When fierceness and anger zre asleep, and love alone is waking, we may be no less endangered by Desire, which equally tends to darken the soul. This is the sure cileet of any foolish desire, any rain or inordivate affection. If we set our afcction on things of the earth, on any person or thing under the sun; if we desire any thing but God, and what tends to God; if we scek happiness in any creature; the jealous God will surely contend with us, for he ciun admit of no rival. And if we will not hear his warning voice, and return unto hins with our whole soul, if we continue to gricte him with our idols, and running after other gods, le shell soon be coll, barren, and dry; and the god of this liorld will end and suiken our hearts.
9. But this ! freeluily does, eren when we do not give way to any positive sil. ! is though, it gives him sufficient advantage, il veci, 10t“ stir np the gift of God which is in us; if we sio motorize continually colo enter in atile strait gate;” if we do not earnestly“ strive for the mastery;" and "iake the king (2011) of heaven by violence.” There needs 20 more than not to Sght, and we are sure to be conquered. Let us ohly be cardi'ss or "laint in our mind," let 175 be easy and indokot, and our natural darkness will soon ret:!rn, and overspreid vir soul. It is enough, therefore, if we give way to spiritual skuili; this will citiually darken the soul: It will as sucly destroy the liglie of God, if wot so swifily, as murder or adultery.
10. But it is well to be observed, that the cause of our darkness, (whatsacrer it be, whether omission or commission, wicher impard or outward sin,) is not always migh at hand. Sametimes the sin which occasioned the present distress may lie at a considerable distance. It might be committed days, or wechs, or months before. And that God now withdraw's his
light and peace, on account of what was done so long ago, is not (as one might at first imagine) an instance of his severity, but rather a proof of his longsuffering and tender mercy. He waited all this time, if haply we would see, acknowledge, and correct what was amiss; and in default of this, he at length shows his displeasure, if thus, at last, he may bring us to repentance.
(II.) 1. Another general cense of this darkness, is Ignorance ; which is likewise of various kinds. If men know not the Scriptures, if they imagine there are passages either in the Old or New Testament, which assert that all believers, without exception, must sometimes be in darkness; this ignorance will naturally bring upon them the darkness which they expect. And how common a case has this becn among us! How few are there that do not expect it ? And no wonder, seeing they are taught to expect it ; sccing their guides lead them into this way. Not only the Mystic writers of the Romish Church, but many of the most spiritual and experimental in our own, (very few of the last century excepted,) lay it down with all assurance, as a plain, unquestionable Scripture doctrine, and cite many texts to prove it.
2. Ignorance also of the work of God in the soul, frequently occasions this darkness. Men imagine, (because so they have been taught, particularly by writers of the Ronish Communion, whose plausible assertions too many Protestants have received without due examination) that they are not always to walk in luminous fuilh; that this is only a lower dispensation; that as they rise higher, they are to leave those sensible comforts, and to live by naked faith; (naked indeed, if it be stripped both of love, aud peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost !) that a state of light and joy is good, but a state of darkness and dryness is better ; that it is by these alone we can be purified from pride, love of the world, and inordinate self-love; and that, therefore, we ought neither to expect nor desire, to walk in the light always. Hence it is, (though other reasons may concur,) that the main body of pious men in the Romish Church generally walk in a dark uncomfortable way, and, if ever they receive, soon lose the light of God.
[III.] 1. A third general cause of this darkness, is Temptation. When the candle of the Lord first shines ou our head, temptation frequently flees away, and totally disappears. All is calm within ; perbaps without too, while God makes our enemies to be at peace with us. It is then very natural to