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against me. And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me," Hosea vii. 13, 14. These fled from God, and kept on in their rebellion, gluttony, and drunkenness, though they howled with vexation of spirit; nor did they cry to God with their heart; Satan and sin still kept possession of that, and so it will be, and must be, unless the Spirit of life from God enter into them: and this is plain from our Lord's own words, where he is treating of this same work, of quickening dead sinners.
“ For, as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will,” John v. 21. Many dead sinners are raised up that are never quickened. It is one thing to alarm, awaken, illumine, and rouse a sinner, dead in sin, by calling an army of fears, terrors, horrors, and torments, about him; and another thing to give him life. God sometimes does this alarming work himself, and yet gives the sinner no life, as it is written, “ Then said Jeremiah unto him, The Lord hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magor - missabib. For thus saith the Lord, Behold I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends,” Jer. xx. 3, 4.
Natural conscience, when overloaded and bowed down, may make sad work in the awakened sinner. The restraints of providence being taken off, and Satan suffered to go in; as in the case of
Judas, makes him a hell to himself; which is giving the sinner up to a fearful looking for of judgment. Legal convictions, which are in the general dry, barren, floating upon the mind, and are always attended with a deal of pride, selfsavour, fleshly pity, self-righteousness, worldlymindedness, and hardness of heart, may go a great way in appearance: but, whatever may 'alarm and raise up dead sinners, this I am sure of, that, if God doth not quicken them by the Spirit of life, they will lie down again. But God not only raiseth up the dead, but breathes the breath of life into them. This withering of the grass, and fading of the flower, is attended with life; which is the reason why that man is pronounced blessed whom God chastens and teacheth him out of his law, Psal. xciv. 12. God's blessing is life for evermore; and is by no means pronounced or applied to sinners who have nothing in them but sin and death. Now the symptoms of life, which attend these convictions, are as follows: there is a continual crying to God, as may be seen in Saul as soon as the voice of Christ reached him. “Go," says the Lord to Ananias, " and inquire for Saul of Tarsus; for behold he prayeth.” And in David when the Spirit of God blew upon him; “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee: hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily: for my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burnt as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread," Psalm cii, 1–4. But will the hypocrite delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God? Job xxvii. 10, No, he will not; nor will he ever cry to God with the heart, though he howl upon his bed. It is the elect, and none else, that cry day and night unto God.
2d. Life appears by the keenness of their sensations, the tenderness and soreness of their consciences, being chafed and bruised: hence Solo. mon says that, “A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool,” Prov. xvii. 10. And the reason is, the wise man has life and feeling, but the fool is dead. Life appears also by the brokenness and contrition of their hearts, and by their reverence, awe, fear, and trembling at the word of God: and God says he will look to and dwell with them that are of a broken and contrite heart, and that tremble at his word, Isai. Ixvi, %, And if the living God dwells with such they cannot be dead.
3. Life appears by the keenness of their appetite, and by the choiceness of the provision which they crave. The prodigal cries out for the bread of heaven. This was Christ, the bread of God. “I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread,” Psalm cxxxii. 15. “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the
Lord will hear them," Isai. xli. 17. These poor souls are seeking the Holy Spirit of promise as a comforter, and his grace. Others hunger and thirst after righteousness, and shall þe filled; this is the righteousness of faith. Now, if the Holy Ghost doth not guide all these it is a wonder to me how they came to set their hearts upon such provision as this: and, if he did not incline their will, it is a mystery to me how they came to choose such fare before husks, seeing the latter is most natural to them, and is what they have been always accustomed to. Nothing was so disgusting to the Jews as to hear of eating the flesh, and drinking the blood of Christ, in a spiritual sense, by faith. Besides, the appetite of sinners is so vitiated, that they have no relish for spiritual provision: man savours not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. And not only vitiated, but they are alienated from this life of God through the ignorance that is in them, Ephes. iv. 18; estranged from it, have no appetite for it; but in soul, hate it, and are enmity itself against it. Nor have the damned in hell any relish for it; the rich man did not beg for the water of life, but for water to cool his tongue. Nor did he desire Lazarus to preach Moses and the prophets, much less Christ and faith in him. When he desired that he might be sent to his brethren, he was only to tell them of his torments, and to warn them, and testify against them. And, when Abraham objected, “ They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them;" he objects also, “ Nay, but if one went unto them from the dead they would repent.” The distressed souls above differ much from Judas, Cain, Esau, Ahab, Saal, and many others, in their appetite, in the choice of their food, and in their earnest cry to God for it, where alone it can be had without money and without price; in all which they erred not.
But the grand question is, what is there in a soul, alienated from the life of God, that makes choice of and craves such spiritual provision? I answer, Nothing at all. He must be quickened by the Spirit of God that has such an appetite for spiritual food; and have in his soul a principle of life to feed, that can feed upon the bread of God. Hence Christ pronounces that man blessed that hungers and thirsts after righteousness. He does not say that he shall be blessed, but he pro. nounces him already blessed: and, as I before observed, God's blessing is life for evermore. There is, and must be, life in that man upon whom the son of God pronounces his blessing; for he doth not pronounce it upon the dead and damned; nor is that blessing a temporal one which contains food and raiment, health and prosperity; but it is a spiritual blessing, and Christ says that such shall be filled with righteousness.
4th. This life discovers itself by the company that such choose. While the prodigal was dead to God he not only fed upon husks, but went