« AnteriorContinuar »
procured his love for thee; by my blood I have purchased the pardon of thy sins, thy freedom from hell, and thy right to heaven.' O how wonderfully will this cause the soul to leap for joy. A pardon given unexpectedly into the hand of a malefactor, when he is on the last step of the ladder, ready to be turned off, will cause much joy and rejoicing. The newness and suddenness of the change in his condition, will cause his heart to leap and rejoice. Yet in process of time, much of his joy will be abated, though his life be as dear to him still as ever it was.
Rem. 5. Consider that God will restore and make up the comforts of his people. Though thy candle be put out, yet God will light it again, and make it burn more bright than ever. Though thy sun for the present be clouded, yet he that rides upon the clouds shall scatter those clouds, and cause the sun to shine and warm thy heart as in former days; as the psalmist speaks, Thou which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth, Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side,Psalm lxxi. 20,21. God takes away a little comfort, that he may make room in the soul for a greater degree of comfort. This the prophet Isaiah sweetly shews; I have seen his ways and will heal him; I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him, and to his mourners, Isa. lvii. 18. Bear up sweetly, O precious soul; thy storm shall end in a calm, and thy dark night in a sunshine day. Thy mourning shall be turned into rejoicing, and the waters of consolation shall be sweeter and higher in thy soul than ever. The mercy is surely thine, but the time of giving it is the Lord's. Wait but a little, and thou shalt find the Lord comforting thee on every side.
Dev. 7. The seventh device that Satan has to keep souls in a doubting condition, is by suggesting to the soul its often relapses into the same sin which formerly it has pursued with particular sorrow, grief, shame, and tears, and prayed, complained, and resolved against. Says Satan, Thy heart is not right with God; surely thy estate is not good, thou dost but flatter thyself to think that ever God will eternally own and embrace such a one as thou art, who complainest against sin, and yet relapsest into the same sin; who with tears and groans confessest thy sin, and yet ever and anon art fallen into the same sin.' I confess this is a very sad condition, for a man after he has obtained mercy and pity from the Lord, after God has spoken peace and pardon to him, and wiped the tears from his eyes, and set him upon his legs, to return to folly. Ah, how do relapses lay men open to the greatest afflictions and worst temptations. How do they make the wound to bleed afresh! How do they darken and cloud former assurances and evidences for heaven. How do they put a sword into the hand of conscience to cut and slash the soul. They raise such fears, terrors, horrors, and doubts in the soul, that the soul cannot be so frequent in duty as formerly, nor so fervent in duty as formerly, nor so confident in duty as formerly, nor so bold, familiar, and delightful with God in duty as formerly, nor so constant in duty as formerly. They give Satan an advantage to triumph over Christ; they make the work of repentance more difficult; they make a man's life a burden; and they render death to be very terrible unto the soul.
Now the remedies against this device are these— Rem. 1. Solemnly consider that there are many scriptures that do clearly evidence a possibility of the saints1 falling into the same sins whereof they have formerly repented. I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely, for mine anger is turned away from him, saith the Lord by the prophet Hosea, Hos. xiv. 4. So the prophet Jeremiah speaks; Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you ; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever. Turn O backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city and twoof a family, and I will bring you to Zion, Jer. iii. 12, 14. So the Psalmist; They turned back and dealt unfaithfully like their Fathers, they were turned aside like a deceitful bow, Psalm lxxviii. 57. And no wonder, for though their repentance be never so sincere and sound, yet their graces are but weak, and their mortification imperfect in this life; though by grace they are freed from the dominion of sin, and from the damnatory power of every sin, and from the love of all sin, yet grace does not free them from the seed of any one sin; and therefore it is possible for a soul to fall again and again into the same sin. If the fire be not wholly put out, who would think it impossible that it should catch and burn again and again?
Rem. 2. Seriously consider that God has no where engaged himself by any particular promise, that souls converted and united to Christ shall not fall again and again into the same sins after conversion. I cannot find in the whole book of God, where he has promised any such strength or power against this or that particular sin, as that the soul should be for ever, in this life, put out of a possibility of falling again and again into the same sins; and where God has not a mouth to speak, I must not have a heart to believe. God will graciously pardon those sins to his people, that he will not in this life effectually subdue in his people. I would go far to speak with that soul that can shew me a promise, that when our sorrow and grief have been so great or so much for this or that sin, that then God will preserve us from ever falling into the same sin. The sight of such a promise would be as life from the dead to many a precious soul, who desires nothing more than to keep close to Christ, and fears nothing more than backsliding from Christ.
Rem. 3. Seriously consider that the most renowned and now crowned saints have in the days of their being on earth, relapsed into one and the same sin. Lot was twice overcome with wine. John twice worshipped the angel. Abraham did often dissemble, and lay his wife open to adultery, to save his own life, which some heathens would not have done. And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother, Gen. xx. 13; xii. 13. David, in his wrath, was resolved, if ever man was, that he would be the death of Nabal and all his innocent family; and after this he fell into the foul murder of Uriah. Though Christ told his disciples, that his kingdom was not of this world, yet again, and again, and again, three several times, they would needs be on horseback, they would fain be high, great, and glorious in this world. Their pride and ambitious humour put them, who were but as so many beggars, upon striving for pre-eminence and greatness in the world, when their Lord and master told them three several times of his sufferings in the world, and of his going out of the world. Jehoshaphat, though a godly man, yet joins affinity with Ahab; and though he was saved by a miracle, yet soon after he falls into the same sin, and joins himself with Ahaziah, king of Israel, who did very wickedly. Sampson is by the Spirit of the Lord numbered among the faithful worthies, and yet he fell often into one gross sin, as is evident. Peter, you know, relapsed often, and so did Jonah; and this came to pass, that they may see their own inability to stand, to resist, or overcome any temptation or corruption; and that they may be taken off from all false confidences, and rest wholly upon God, and only upon God, and always upon God; and for the praise, and honour of the power, wisdom, skill, mercy, and goodness of the physician of our souls, that can heal, help, and cure, when the disease is most dangerous, when the soul is relapsed, and grows worse and worse, and when others say, There is no help for him in his God, and when bis own heart and hopes are dying.
Rem. 4. Consider that there are relapses into enormities, and there are relapses into infirmities. Now it is not usual with God to leave his people frequently to relapse into enormities; for by his spirit and grace, by his smiles and frowns, by his word and rod, he usually preserves his people from a frequent relapsing into enormities; yet he does leave his choicest ones frequently to relapse into infirmities, (and of his grace he pardons them in course) as idle words, passion, vain thoughts. Though gracious souls strive against these, and complain of these, and weep over these, yet the Lord, to keep them humble, leaves them frequently to relapse into these; and these frequent relapses into infirmities shall never be their bane, because they are their burden. .
Rem. 5. Consider that there are involuntary relapses, and there are voluntary relapses. Involuntary relapses are, when the resolution and full bent of the heart is against sin; when the soul strives with all its might against sin; by sighs and groans, by prayers and tears; and yet out of weakness is forced to fall back into sin, because there is not spiritual strength enough to overcome. Now though involuntary relapses must humble us, yet they must never discourage nor reject us, for God will freely and readily pardon them in course. Voluntary relapses are, when the soul longs and loves to return to the flesh-pots of Egypt; when it is a pleasure and a pastime to a man to return to his old courses. Such voluntary relapses speak out the man blind, hardened, and ripened for ruin.
Rem. 6. Consider that there is no such power or infinite virtue in the greatest horror or sorrow the soul can be under for sin, nor in the sweetest or choicest discoveries of God's grace and love to the soul, as for ever to fence and secure the soul from relapsing into the same sin. Grace is but a created habit that may be prevailed against by the secret, subtle, and strong workings of sin in our hearts. And those discoveries that God makes of his love, beauty, and glory to the soul, do not always abide in their freshness and power upon the heart, but by degrees they fade and wear off, and then the soul may return again to folly; as we see in Peter, who after he had a glorious testimony from Christ's own mouth of his blessedness and happiness, labours to prevent Christ from going up to Jerusalem to suffer, out of bare slavish fears, that he and his fellows could not be secure, if his master should be brought to suffer. And again, after this, Christ had him up into the mount, and there shewed him his beauty and glory, to strengthen him against the hour of temptation that was coming upon him; and yet soon after he had the honour and happiness of seeing the glory of the Lord which most of his disciples had not, he basely and most shamefully denies the Lord of glory, thinking by that means to provide for his own safety. And yet again, after Christ had broken his heart with a look of love for his most unlovely dealings, and bade them that were first acquainted with his resurrection, to go and tell Peter that he was risen; I say, after all this, slavish fears prevail upon him, and he basely dissembles, and plays the Jew with the Jews, and