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Fowls, weeds, and blastings da gour corn annoy.
I periods between the feed-time and harvest. The first, when corn is newly committed to the earth, all that lies uncovered is quickly picked up by the birds ; and much of that wbich is but slightly covered, is plucked up as soon as it begins to sprout, by rooks, and other devouring fowls, Matth. xiii. 4. But if it escape the fowls, and gets root in the earth, yet then it is hazarded by noxious weeds, which purloin and fuck away its nourishment, whilft it is yet in the tender blade. If by the care of the vigilant husbandman it be freed from choaking weeds; yet, lafily, as great a danger as any of the former ftill attends it ; for oftentimes, whilft, it is blowing in the ear, blastings and mildews smite it in the stalk, and cuts off the juice and fap that thould ascend to nourish the ear, and fo shrivels and dries up the grain whilst it is yet, immaturate; whereby it becomes like those ears of corn in Pharaoh's vision, which were thin and blasted with the east-wind; or like;the ears the Pfalmist speaks of upon the house top, wherewith the reaper filleth not his arms.
APPLICATION.' TRUE grace, from the infancy to the perfection thereof, con
I flicts with far greater dangers, amongst which it answerably meets with three dangerous periods which marvellously hazard it : So that it is a much greater wonder that it ever arrives at its just perfection. For, (1.) No sooner bath the great Husbandman difseminated these holy feeds in the regenerate heart, but multitudes of impetuous corruptions immediately affault, and would certainly devour them, like the fowls of the air, did not the fame arm that fowed them also protect them. It fares with grace, as with Christ its Author, whom Herod sought to destroy in bis very infancy. The new creature is scarce warm in its feat, before it must fight to defend it. self. This conflict is excellently set forth in that famous text, Gal. v. 17. « The flesh luíteth against the fpirit, and the fpirit against the “ fleih ; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye can« not do the things that ye would.”
By flesh here understand the corruption of nature by original fin, and the finful motions thereof ;-by Spirit, not the foul, or natural spirit of man, but the Spirit of God in man, viz. those graces in man which are the workmanthip of the Spirit, and therefore called by his name. The opposition betwixt thefe two is expressed by lufting, i. e. defiring the mutual ruin and destruction of each other ; for even when they are not acting, yet then they are lusting; there is an oppolite disposition against each other; which opposition is both a foranal and an effective opposition. There are two contrary forms ; two men in every faint, Col. iii. 9, 10. From hence an effective oppofition muft needs follow ; for as things are in their natures and principles, so they are in their operations and effects; workings always follow beings; fire and water are of contrary qualities, and when they meet, they effectually oppose each other. Sin and grace are so opposite, that if fin should cease to oppose grace, it would cease to be lin; and if grace should cease to oppose fin, it would cease to be grace. And this doth much more endanger the work of grace than any other enemy it hath; because it works against it more inwardly, conftantly, and advantageously, than any thing else can do. (1.) More inwardly, for it hath its being and working in the same soul where grace dwells; yea, in the self-fame faculties; so that it not only sets one faculty against another, but the same faculty against itself; the understanding against the understanding, and the will against the will; fo that ye cannot do the good, nor yet the evil that ye would ; not the good that ye would, because when the spirit moveth to good, and beats upon the heart by Divine pulsations, exciting it to duty, the flesh crosses and opposes it there, and if it cannot totally hinder the perform. ance of a duty, yet it lames the soul upon the working-hand, whereby the performance is not so fpiritual, free and compofed, as it defires ; Bor yet the evil that you would commit, if grace were not there ; because when lust stirs, in its first motions, grace puts a rub in its way. " How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God ?" Gen. xxxix. 9. And if it cannot (which for the most part it doth) hinder the acting of fin, yet it so engages the will against it, that it is not committed with complacency and full confent, Rom. vii. 15. “ What I “ do, I allow not.” (2.) It opposes it more constantly, it is like a continual dropping; a man can no more fly from this enemy than from himself. There is a time when the devil leaves tempting, Mat. iv. 11. but no time when corruption ceases from working. And, lastly, It opposes grace more advantageously than any other enemy can do, for it is not only always in the same foul with it, but it is there naturally ; it hath the advantage of the soil which suits with it. And pet, oh the wonder of free grace! it is not swallowed up in victory, but it escapes this hazard.
But (2.) It soon meets with another, though it escapes this, even by temptations, which strike desperately at the very life of it; for these, like the weeds, with seemingly-loving embraces, clasp about it; and did not the faithful God now make a way to escape, instead of an harvest, we fhould have an heap? For, alas, what are we! to wrestle with principalities and powers, and spiritual wickedneffes in high places ?
Lastly, Sad relapses, like blasts and-rustings, do often fade, and
dos al drops There wherre adunne lame oil w
greatly endanger it, when it is even ready for the harvest. Thus it fell out with David, whose last ways were not like his first; and yet by this these holy fruits were not utterly destroyed, because it is the feed of God, and fo is immortal, 1 John v. 4, 5. And also because the promises of perseverance and victory made to it, cannot be frustrated ; amongst which these are excellent, Ifa. liv. 10. Jer. xxxiv. 40. I Cor. i. 8. Pfal. i 3. cxxv. I. John iv. 15. So that here is matter of unspeakable comfort; though the flesh say, Ego deficiam, I will fail thee; though the world say, Ego decipiam, I will deceive thee; though the devil say, Ego eripiam, I will snatch thee away; yet as long as Christ faith, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, thy graces are secure in the midst of all these enemies.
1. This foul of mine was once plowed up by conThe apostate's viction, and sown (as I thought) with the feed of God. reflection. In those days many purposes and good resolutions be
gan to chink and bud forth, promising a blessed har. vest: but oh !" (with what consternation and horror should I speak it) the cares and pleasures of this life, the lufts and corruptions of my base heart springing up, have quite destroyed and choaked it ; by which it appears it was not the feed of God, as I then imagined it to be, and now my expected harvest shall be an heap in the day of grief and defperate forrow, Isa. xvii. 11. I had convictions, but they are gone; troubles for sin, conscience of duties, but all is blarted, and my soul is now as a barren field, which God hath cursed. • Woe is me! I have revolted from God, and now that dreadful word, Jer. xvii. 5, 6. is evidently fulfilled upon me ; “ for I am like “ the heath in the defart, that feeth not when good cometh; my « soul inhabits the parched places of the wilderness." Alas! all my formal and heartless duties were but as so many scare-crows in the field, which could not defend these flight workings from being devoured by the infernal fowls. Had these principles been the seed of God, no doubt they would have continued and overcome the world, 'I John ii. 19. Wretched foul! thy case is fad; it will be better with the uncultivated wilderness, than with such a miscarrying soul, unless the great Husbandman plow thee up the second time, and fow thy heart with better feed.
2. And are the corruptions of my heart to grace, The careless foul's what fowls, weeds, and mildews are to the corn? reflection. O what need have I then to watch my heart, and
keep it with all diligence; for in the life of that grace is wrapt up the life of my soul. He that carries a candle in his hand, in a blustering, stormy night, had need to cover it close, left it be blown out, and he left in darkness. O let me never say, God hath promised it Thall perfevere, and therefore I need not be to solicitous to preserve it; for as this inference is quite opposite to the nature of true grace and alurance, which never encourage to carelesness, but provoke the foul to an industrious use of means to preserve it ; so it is in itself an irrational and senseless conclusion, which will never follow from any scripture-promise : for although it is readily granted, that God hath made many comfortable and sweet promises to the grace of his people, yet we must expect to enjoy the benefits and blessings of all those promiles, in that way and order in which God hath promised them; and that is in the careful and diligent use of those means which he hath prescribed, Ezek. xxxvi. 36, 37. For promises do not exclude, but imply the use of means, Acts xxvii. 31. I know my life is determined to a day, to an hour, and I fhall live out every minute God hath appointed; but yet, I am bound to provide food, raiment, and phyfic to preserve it.
To conclude, let all doubting Christians reflect The doubting seriously upon this truth, and fuck marrow and fouls reflection. fatness out of it to strengthen and establish them against all their fears : your life, your spiritual life hath for many years hung in suspence before you ; and you have often said with David, I shall one day fall by the hand of Saul. Defponding, trembling soul! lift up thine eyes, and look upon the fields ; the corn lives still, and grows up, though birds have watched to devour it; fnows have covered it, beasts have cropped it, weeds have almost choaked it, yet it is preserved. And hath not God more care of that precious seed of his own Spirit in thee, than any husbandman hath of his corn? Hath he not faid, “ That having begun the good “ work in thee, he will perfect it to the day of Christ ?” Phil. i. 6. Hath he not said, I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perith, John X. 28. Haft thou not many times said, and thought of it, as thou dost now, and yet it lives? O what matter of unspeakable joy and comfort is this to upright fouls ! Well then, be not discouraged, for thou dost not run as one uncertain, nor fight as one that beats the air, 1 Cor. ix. 26. But the foundation of God stands sure, having this feal, the Lord knows who are his, 2 Tim. ii. 19. Though thy grace be weak, thy God is strong; though the stream seem fometimes to fail, yet it is fed by an ever-flowing fountain.
I Should come at last in safety to the barn:
It shooteth forth the tender blade, and then..
CHA P. XIV.
Our husbandmen for harvest wait and slay :