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needs much care and pains to untwist and put to rights this snarled skein, and find out the bottom and end of your actings, thousands are mistaken, why may not thy soul mistake? The flaunting professors of the Laodicean church had vapours fuming up into their heads, which cast them into a sleep, wherein they dreamed that they were rich, and increased with goods, and needed nothing, while indeed they were poor and miserable*—and till they were convinced thereof, they would not come to the market to buy gospel commodities; "They that be whole need not the physician, but they that are sick."† O for a sense of danger! All the world cannot drag that man to covenanting, that either thinks he need not, or imagines himself already to be in covenant with God. This is my first counsel; be particular about thy state, for physic is not to be given to persons asleep, but waking.
2. Stand still and make a pause and stop in your progress. This is God's method with sinners, he hedgeth up their way with thorns, and makes a wall, that they may not find or follow their sinful paths; sometimes he brings them into a wilderness, and there speaks to their hearts, he brings them under the rod, and so into this bond of the covenant; thus divine grace dealt with Manasseh, the prodigal, and many more, It were much easier and not so costly, if sinners would put a stop to themselves by serious reflection and due consideration, whither they are going, and what will be the issue of the courses they are taking; it becomes the sinner to bethink himself, || or bring things back upon his heart, to weight his spirit with a due sense of what he hath been doing, and to what
*Rev. iii. 16-18.
+ Hos. ii. 6, 14. Ezek. xx. 37. xv. 17.
+ Matt. ix. 12.
2 Chron. xxxiii. 11, 12. Luke 2 Chron. vi. 37.
these courses tend; standing still is something towards returning, retrograde motions begin in consideration; "I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies;"* the hand of the clock follows the motion of the inward wheels; if the heart be turned, the course will be changed, and consideration is in order of nature before conversion, and conversion of heart is the substance of this covenant, all outward significations thereof will follow after. I have no hopes of that sinner that will not say, what have I done? or what must I do? "but turns to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle." I like a pondering, considering soul; however some may call such a one melancholy, and think he will go mad, yet when the the sinner is besieged by the justice of God, "and the terrors of the Almighty do set themselves in array against him,"‡ it becomes the perplexed soul, to withdraw himself into some solitary recesses, to parley and consult about this weighty affair, to consider of the terms proposed, and whether it be not the best course to accept them, and so surrender all to him that summons him. O sinner, dost thou not see volleys of bullets in the threatenings flying about thine ears? dost thou not feel his darts and arrows entering into thy soul? and art thou not afraid of being taken by storm? what quarter canst thou expect, if thy rebellious will yield not, consider then what thou hast to do? a breach is made in thy chief bulwarks already, surrender or die. Art thou not ready to say, O poor creature that I am, what a fool am I to march on Jehu-like in this broad way to hell? how oft would God have stopped my course, but I would not turn; I am now near the end of my fond race, I now see death before me, if I step forward I may drop into hell, my sins will find me
* Psal. exix. 59.
+ Jer. viii. 6..
Job. vi. 4.
out, my pleasant morsels will be bitterness in the end. O that these chains were knocked off that bind me so fast to Satan! Alas, I see I cannot set myself at liberty, I am bound hand and foot in the grave of sin, and cannot come forth till the omnipotent Jesus call, and say, as to Lazarus, sinner come forth; I am not only without strength, but dead in trespasses and sins;* I cannot lift a hand or subscribe my name, much less raise my heart God-wards. My heart is locked up against God, and I cannot rise out of my bed of sloth to put back the bar of my obstinate will, that shuts out my Lord; nay, I find a baneful enmity, that opposeth the terms of the covenant. O the malignity of my degenerate nature! I am ashamed, I have so long wrangled against covenant terms, and yet I see plainly I must submit, all the world cannot help me, if I have not help from above; truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills or multitude of mountains;‡ the goodliest flowers of created comforts perish in my hand, and why should I lay them to my heart? away with these trifles, I want and wait for something more suitable and durable; I will run from this poor perishing world, as vermin from a falling house; these sweet flowers become offensive weeds; this staff I leaned on is become a broken reed, yea a pricking briar, it tempts, perplexes, and defiles my soul; "They that observe lying vanities, forsake their own mercies." || I look through these empty nothings; behold I spy a God, a Christ, a heaven, and some divine cordials for my fainting soul. O how may I come to enjoy God! I hear of a gospel covenant that unites God and sinners; how must my name be put in? I must choose God, and devote myself to him. O that I could do
Eph. ii. 1.
Rom. v. 6. ↑ Jer. iii. 23..
+ Song. v. 3, 4.
both in truth, judgment, and righteousnes.* Ministers tell me of the covenant, they require my consent, my heart echoes, as thou hast said, so must we do; there is no dallying in so weighty a case, one thing is needful, God commands it, my soul needs it, I must do it ;† only I would not do it as some rash spirits, that huddle up a wedding in all haste, and afterwards have time to repent of it; I would not thus make more haste than good speed, lest I make a nullity of that which should bring me into a state of friendship with God; I will consider what I do, and do what I have duly considered and concluded upon.
3. Let your hearts be endeared to and join in with God's covenant people. As this is the first movement God-wards, so it is the first of those duties and characteristics whereby a well disposed soul discovers itself. Converting grace turns the hearts of parents to children, and the hearts of children to their fathers; see the notable description of gospel covenanters, Jer. 1. 4, 5, "In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping;" strange! to see these uniting, these that had been at such a distance, the one worshipping the Lord at Jerusalem, the other the calves at Dan and Bethel. How comes this? Why converting grace links them together, and the covenant links them both to God. O, saith the poor backsliding Ephraimite, that I could be like the true Israelite, in whom is no guile! what a blind fool was I, that thought piety but needless singularity, that looked upon godly persons as fanatic precisians! O now methinks, there is a beauty in holiness, and gracious persons are the excellent in the earth, in whom is all my delight, I will be their companion, I am determin+ Mal. iv. 6.
• Jer. iv. 2.
+ Ezra x. 12.
ed to be their fellow traveller towards Zion. O how blessed are pardoned souls! Blessed are the undefiled in their way; would to God my soul were in their soul's case.* O that I were in such a one's condition, though I had not a rag to cover me, a morsel to eat, or a penny in my purse, nay, nor a whole bone in my skin. O how happy is that people whose God is the Lord;† these are pearls, others are dross. Methinks these covenant people of God, are better in rags, than others in robes, I would rather be with them in prison wearing fetters, than with wicked men on a throne with a sceptre in my hand; it is indeed the very summit of my ambition to be one of those saints of the Most High God; I will take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew and say, "I will go with thee, for I have heard that God is with thee," I will live and die amongst God's covenant people; God forbid that I should forsake assembling with them, I will join with them, ask and take their wholesome counsel, and submit to their censures and corrections; "let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness, let him reprove me, and it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head ;"|| I will never forsake the brotherly covenant; Lord, make me worthy of this heavenly society; I am sure two are better than one, if I fall my fellow will help me up, if I be cold my company will warm me, if I be weak in fighting I shall have assistance from the saints, and a threefold cord is not quickly broken; § the more the better, the more in company the sweeter the society; in order to my friendship with God, let me have friendship with his friends; though I was hateful and hating God's children, and there was jarring between
+ Psal. cxliv. 15.
Psal. xvi. 3. cxix. 63. xxxii. 1. cxix. 1, 2.
Heb. x. 25.
|| Psal. cxli 5.
¶Tit. iii. 3.