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* The laws of men spare for the fruit's fake, and wilt thou not spare me also, my God, if there be found in me a blessing in the bud, Ifa. lxv. 8.
4. To conclude, what a serious reflection should this occasion in every dispenser of the gospel? How should he sayti
pel? How should he lay The gospel-preachwhen he goes to preach the gospel, I am going to preach that word which is to be a favour of life or“
er's reflections. death unto these fouls ; upon how many of my poor hearers may the curse of perpetual barrenness be executed this day! O how should such a thought melt bis heart into compassion over them, and make him beg hard, and plead earnestly with God for a better issue of the gospel than this upon them.
T OU that besides your pleasant fruitful fields,
1 Have useless bogs, and rocky ground that yields
Think when you view them, why the Lord hath chose
For means are fruitless when the Lord doth curse.
Even so the dews of grace that sweetly fall,
* The Roman laws defer punishing a woman with child. Chryf.
Shall be to him but as the sun and rain
Are to obdurate rocks, fruitless and vain.
OBSERVATION. IT requires not only strength, but much skill and judgment, to
I manage and guide the plow. The Hebrew word via which we translate to plow, signifies to be intent, as an artificer is about some curious piece of work. The plow must neither go too shallow, nor too deep in the earth; it must not indent the ground, by making crooked furrows, nor leap and make baulks in the good ground; but be guided as to a just depth of earth, fo to cast the furrow in a straight line, that the floor or surface of the field may be made plain, as it is Isa. xxxviii. 25.' And hence that expression, Luke ix. 62. “ He that “ puts his hand to the plow, and looks back, is not fit for the kinga “ dom of heaven.” The meaning is, that as he that plows must have his eyes always forward, to guide and direct his hand in cafting the furrows straight and even ; (for his hand will be quickly out when his eye is off;) so he that heartily refolves for heaven, must addict himself wholly and intently to the business of religion, and not have his mind entangled with the things of this world, which he hath left behind him; whereby it appears, that the right management of the plow requires as much skill as strength.
THIS observation in nature serves excellently to shadow forthi
1 this proposition in divinity; that the work of the Spirit in convincing and humbling the heart of a sinner, is a work wherein
much of the wisdom, as well as power of God, is discovered. The work of repentance, and saving contrition, is set forth in fcripture by this metaphor of plowing *, Jer. iv. 3. Hof. x. 12. “ Plow up your « fallow ground ;" that is, be convinced, humbled, and brokenhearted for sin. And the resemblance betwixt both these works appears in the following particulars.
(1.) It is a hard and difficult work to plow, it is reckoned one of the painfullest manual labours; it is also a very hard thing to convince and humble the heart of a secure, stout, and proud sinner, indurate in wickednels. What Luther faith of a dejected soul, “That « it is as easy to raise the dead, as to comfort such a one. The same I may say of the secure, confident finner; it is as easy to rend the rocks, as to work faving contrition upon such a heart, Citius ex pumice aquam ; all the melting language, and earneft entreaties of the gospel, cannot urge such a heart to Thed a tear : Therefore it is called a heart of Itone, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. a firm rock, Amos vi. 12. “ Shall horses run upon the rock? Will one plow there with oxen?" Yet when the Lord comes in the power of his Spirit, these rocks do rend, and yield to the power of the word.
(2.) The plow pierces deep into the bosom of the earth, makes, as it were, a deep gath or wound in the beart of it. So doth the Spirit upon the hearts of finners, he pierces their very souls by conviction, Acts ii. 37. “When they heard this they were pricked, (or* " pierced point blank) to the heart.”. “Then the word divides the • soul and spirit,” Heb. iv. 12. It comes upon the conscience with such piercing dilemmas, and tilts the sword of conviction so deep into their fouls, that there is no stanching the blood, no healing this wound, tiļl Christ himself come, and undertake the cure. Hæret la, teri lethalis arundo; this barbed arrow cannot be pulled out of their hearts by any, but the hand that thot it in. Discourse with such a foul about his troubles, and he will tell you, that all the sorrows that ever he bad in this world, loss of estate, health, children, or whate ever else, are but fea-bitings to this ; this swallows up all other troubles. See how that Christian Niobe, Luke vii. 38. is diffolved into tears; " Now deep caileth unto deep at the noise of his water-spouts, " when the waves and billows of God go over the soul.” Spiritual sorrows are deep waters, in which the stoutest and most magnaninous foul would fink and drown, did not Jesus Christ, by a secret and supporting hand. hold it up, and preserve it.
(3.) The plow rends the earth in parts and pieces, which before was united, and makes those parts hang loose, which formerly lay clofe. Thus doth the Spirit of conviction rend asunder the heart and its most beloved lufts. Joel ii. 13. “ Rend your hearts, and not your “ garments.” That is, rather than your garments; for the sense is
• Gloffius Rbet. Sacra, A 300.
comparative, though the expression be negative. And this renting implies not only acute pain, flesh cannot be rent asunder without anguish, nor yet only force and violence; the heart is a stubborn and knotty piece, and will not easily yield; but it also implies a disunion of parts united. As when a garment, or the earth, or any contiguous body is rent, those parts are separared which formerly cleaved together. Sin and the foul were glewed fast together before, there was no parting of them, they would as soon part with their lives as with their lufts; but now when the heart is rent from them truly, it is also rent from them everlastingly, Ezek. vii. 15, to 19.
(4.) The plow turns up and discovers such things as lay hid in the bosom of the earth before, and were covered under a fair green surface, from the eyes of men. Thus when the Lord plows up the heart of a linuer by conviction, then the secrets of his heart are made manifest, 2 Cor. xiv. 24, 25. the most recret and Mhameful fins will then out; for “the word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any “ two-edged fword, piercing even to the dividing of the soul and “ spirit, the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts " and secret intents of the heart," Heb. iv. 12. It makes the fire burn inwardly, so that the soul hath no rest till confeffion give a veut to trouble. Fain would the Thufiling finner conceal and hide his shame, but the word follows him through all his înful shifts, and brings him at last to be his own, both accuser, witness, and judge.
15.) The work of the plow is but opus ordinabile, a preparative work in order to fruit. Should the buibandman plow his ground ever so often, yet if the secd be not cast in, and quickened, in vain is the harvest expected. Thus conviction aito is but a preparative to a farther work upon the foul of a sinner ; if it stick there, and goes no farther, it proves but an abortive, or untimely birth. Many have gone thus far, and there they have stuck; they have been like a field plowed, but not fowed, which is a matter of trembling consideration ; for hereby their fin is greatly aggravated, and their eternal misery so much the more increased. Owhen a poor damned creature fhall with horror reflect upon himself in hell, How near was I once, under such a fermon, to conversion! my ans were set in order before me, my conscience awakened, and terrified me with the guilt of them: many purposes and resolves I had then to turn to God, which had they been perfected by answerable. executions, I had never come to this place of torment; but there I stuck, and that was my eternal undoing. Many souls have I known so terrified with the guilt of sin, that they have come roaring under horrors of conscience to the preacher; so that one would think such a breach had been made betwixt them and fin, as could never be reconciled ; and yet as angry as they were in that fit with sin, they have hugged and embraced it again.
(6.). It is best plowing when the earth is prepared and mollified by
ed 102005 peniles, thee for more, beceber
the showers of rain ; then the work goes on sweetly and easily, and never doth the heart fo kindly melt, as when the gospel-clouds diffolve, and the free grace and love of Jesus Christ comes sweetly thowering down upon it; then it relents and mourns ingenuously, Ezek. xvi. 63. “ That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, • and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when “ I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done.” So it was with that poor penitent, Luke vii. 38. when the Lord Jesus had discovered to her the superabounding riches of his grace, in the pardon of her manifold abominations, her heart melted within her, the washed the feet of Chrift with tears. And indeed, there is as much difference betwixt the tears which are forced by the terrors of the law, and those which are extracted by the grace of the gospel, as there is betwixt those of a condemned malefactor, who weeps to consider the misery he is under, and those of a pardoned malefactor, that receives his pardon at the foot of the ladder, and is melted by the mercy and clemency of his gracious prince towards him.
(7.) The plow kills those rank weeds which grow in the field, turns them up by the roots, buries and rots them. So doth saving conviction kill fin at the root, makes the soul fick of it, begets indignation in the heart against it, 2 Cor. vii. 11. The word 'Ayaraxtnowy, there fignifies the rising of the stomach, and being angry even unto fickness; religious wrath is the fierceft wrath, now the foul cannot endure fin, it trembles at it. “I find a woman more « bitter than death," (faith penitent Solomon) Eccl. vii. 26. Conviction, like a surfeit, makes the foul to lothe what it formerly loved and delighted in.
(8.) That field is not well plowed, where the plow jumps and skips over good ground and makes baulks, it must run up the whole field alike ; and that heart is not savingly convicted, where any luft is fpared, and left untouched Saving conviction extends itself to all fins, not only to fin in general, with this cold confeffion, I am a finner; but to the particulars of fin, yea, to the particular circumstances and aggravations of time, place, manner, occafions, thus and thus have I done ; to the lin of nature, as well as practice. « Behold I " was shapen in iniquity,” Pfal. li. 5. There must be no bauking of any fin; the sparing of one fin, is a sure argument that thou art not truly humbled for any fin. So far is the convinced soul from a ftudious concealment of a beloved sin, that it weeps over that more than over any other actual fin.
(9.) New ground is much more easily plowed, than that which by long lying out of tillage is more consolidated, and clung together, by deep-rooted thorns and brambles, which render it difficult to the plowman. This old ground is like an old finner, that hath lain a long time hardening under the means of grace. O the difficulty of convincing luch a person ! sin hath got such rooting in his heart, he is so babituated to the reproofs and calls of the word, that few lucka