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me and them, which made discord, yet now since gospel grace hath laid hold on my heart, I am become tuneable among them that fear God, and O that we could all chime in one harmonious concert; I will live and love, as if my heart had forsaken my own breast and crept into my brother's bosom, and this will let him into my heart, that we may both have one soul, and combine to promote the same designs.
4. Pray much. I begin and end with this needful exhortation, "Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation." *
Quest. May or must a soul out of covenant pray, when his prayer is sin?
Answ. Prayer is a means whereby we offer worship to God; and also a means whereby we receive grace from God. It is a natural duty whereby men acknowledge God to be their maker and benefactor. Prayer is the soul's movement God-wards, saith a good divine, and to say an unbeliever should not pray, is to say he should not turn to God; desire is the soul of prayer, and who dares say to the wicked, desire not God, Christ, or faith, desire not to be better, or to engage to be better; Simon Magus was to pray for pardon, so must thou. We would willingly give encouragement to returning souls to strow their way to the throne of grace. I do not, saith one, fear a rebuke for sending such customers to God's door, he is not so thronged with such suitors, as that he can find in his heart to send thee away with a denial, when thou castest down thine arms, and art desirous to be at peace with him. Cheer up, poor creature, knock boldly at his door, thou hast a friend in God's bosom, that will procure thee welcome; he that without thy pray
+ Medium gratiæ.
* Matt. xxvi. 41. + Medium cultus. Acts viii. 22.
er provided this covenant, will he not now upon thy prayer take thee into covenant? fear not speeding, our Redeemer hath paid for a new stock of grace, wherewith thy bankrupt soul may again set up; look up to Christ, who hath a bank of grace with him, "and of his fulness you shall receive even grace for grace; he hath received gifts for men, even for the rebellious," that he might distribute those gifts to poor worthless sinners. * It is not such as are without sin, but sometimes the chief of sinners that have a great dole at his door. Come, man, and put in for thy share, lie low at the throne of grace, for grace to help thee, in this time of need;† say, Lord, it is true I have been a rebellious wretch indeed, but did Christ receive nothing for such? I have an unbelieving heart, but there is faith paid for in thy covenant; Christ shed his blood that thou mightest shed forth thy Spirit on poor sinners. I find upon record, that there are some to whom thou wilt give a new heart, and new spirit, yea put thy Spirit within them, and cause them to walk in thy statutes; and why may not I have a share in this promise? It is the mercy I want, it is the mercy thou art able to give; if a beggar should promise me a thousand pounds a year, I should slight it, and ask where he would have it? but if a prince promise more I would go after it, because he hath an estate that bears proportion to his promise. Lord, thou hast not outbid thy ability, thou art able to draw my heart, and fill me with grace, thou art faithful that hast promised, make thy promise good to me; I confess I have forfeited thy help, and slighted thy grace, but I will now set myself to comply with thy commands, I am ashamed of my folly, I remember my ways with shame that
• John i. 16. + Heb. iv. 16.
Psalm lxviii. 18. Eph. iv. 8.
thou mayest remember thy covenant and establish it with me; "I bemoan myself before thee, turn me and I shall be turned."* Lord, as I need all the mercies of the covenant, so I beg all the graces thereof, and a heart to perform all the duties of it. Lord, do thou make a divorce betwixt my soul and every sin; sin parteth God and me, let sin and my soul be parted, that God and my soul may be united; I would thrust the sacrificing knife of thy word, into the heart of my dearest lust. Be thou my God, holy Lord, and make me thy child; "Put thy law into my heart, and write it in my inward parts;" work me upwards towards thee as my centre.
Thus pray, thus bemoan thyself, thus pour out thy soul to God, and when thou hast done, fall close to the work, use God's appointed means. That is a false heart, that sits still itself, while it sets God to work; as he that, when his cart was fast in a slough, cried, Jupiter help, but would not put his own shoulder to the wheel; or he that lay in his bed and said, "Oh that this were to work!" As endeavours without God cannot, so God without endeavours will not ordinarily help you. Be importunate with God, and laborious in your actings; let us lift up our hearts with our hands to God in the heavens, that is, saith Bernard, "let us pray and use endeavour;" this is the likeliest way to accomplish this great affair.
But I shall at present say no more to persuade or direct poor careless souls in this business of personal covenanting; only I shall add this one caution, that you beware of a formal, overly, hypocritical doing of this. Be serious and sincere, or you make nothing of it; I am most afraid of this; strength of reason, example,
. Ezek. xvi. 60, 61. Jer. xxxi. 18. + O utinam hoc esset laborare!
Oremus et laboremus.
or conscience may prevail with you to do something, yet that something may prove nothing to the purpose; we use to say, as good never a whit as never the better. God will try you, "your work shall be manifest, the day shall declare it;"* you may cheat man, but you cannot cozen God; our dear Lord, "whose eyes are like a flame of fire," will find you out at the great day; if that be not found in thee which constitutes a saint, he will disown thee for all thy fawning on him with specious performances; you may claim acquaintance with him, but unless you have made a covenant with him by sacrifice, he will say to you as he answers those presuming hang-byes in the gospel, who begin to say, "we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets," but he shall say, "I tell you I know you not whence you are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity;" this is plain dealing, our Lord is peremptory in it; I tell you, will you not believe me? you shall take it for a final answer, a full decision of the case; you shall be no longer in suspense; I told you enough before in my word, but you would not believe me, still you would hope the best, and satisfy yourselves with plausible pretences, which I now tell you plainly, and you shall feel to your cost, could never bear water or bring you off in this day of trial; I must now send you off, begone, "I tell you I know you not; " I am sure I know all mine, my saints made a covenant with me by sacrifice, so did not yor, I find not my sheep-mark upon you; it is true, you attended on me in outward duties and ordinances, but the chief thing was wanting, personal covenanting, therefore you are none of mine; get you gone,"depart from me ye workers of iniquity." O overwhelming word! O dreadful disappointment! None can come to Luke xiii. 26, 27.
* 1 Cor. iii. 13.
+ Rev. i. 14.
heaven without Christ's leave and love, he hath the key of David, he is the porter of heaven's gates, you must keep in with him, or never think to enter. As the story goes of Colman and Wilfrid, disputing about the time of Easter before king Oswy, Colman urged the example of St. John, Wilfrid of St. Peter, to whom Christ had committed the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which the king hearing, concluded this controversy thus; I will not gainsay such a porter as this, lest when I come to the doors of heaven, I find none to open to me, being under his displeasure.* I might say much more; make a covenant with God, through Christ, and keep that covenant, lest when you expect admittance, you meet with a repulse from him that hath power to open and shut heaven.
ADMONITION AND CONSOLATION FOR THOSE WHO HAVE FORMED A COVENANT ENGAGEMENT.
THIRDLY, Another sort of persons concerned in the application, are persons really and sincerely in covenant with the Lord. And I shall address myself to such on these two accounts:
1. By way of admonition, for their faults.
2. By way of consolation, and resolution of their doubts.
1. Though pious souls may have entered into a covenant with the Lord, yet still they are faulty and defective in many things, wherein we have all reason to Speed's Hist. pag. 348.