« PreviousContinue »
away, as it were, from himself, at that critical time when he was most wanted at home. Let me beseech you, therefore, if ever the Spirit of God should strive with you again, to embrace the favourable opportunity; and, immediately retiring and communing with your own heart, consult what is proper to be done in that infinitely important crisis.
3. When we are under any particular trouble.
So the Preacher advises: “ In the day of adversity consider.” (Eccles. vii. 14.) Every thing then conspires to prompt us to it, and fit us for it. Then it is that God frequently “openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction." (Job xxxiii. 16.) When we meet with disappointinents, and our hearts are full of chagrin and vexation, it is natural to turn away from the world, and shut ourselves up from society.
Let us pot be idle or silent there. Let us search and try our hearts and ways, and see if we can find out the Achan, the accursed thing, which hath brought all this evil upon us.
When Joseph's brethren were put under arrest, their consciencés presently told them the reason : verily guilty," say they, concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, and would ! not hear: therefore is this distress come upon us. (Gen. xlii. 21.) If we cannot be so positive as to the immediate cause of our suffering, let us do as -Herod did, when he could not be sure which was the holy child Jesus-he gave orders to kill all the infants of that age in Bethlehem :-so, if we cannot fix upon any particular sin, let us take up a resolution to • destroy every one. Let us.cut off right hands, pluck out right eyes, without favour or affection that
66 We are
iniquity in every shape and degree may be exposed and expelled.- O my soul, it is a heavy trial !: the Lord hath touched me in a tender part! I could have borne the loss of many things, I could have borne the loss of almost any thing, better than this ! But did I not deserve to lose it? When I remember from whence I am fallen, I am astonished, not that my sufferings are so great, but that they are no greater. Where is my first love? Where is that activity and fervency of spirit in God's service, which I once manifested? Where are my former circumspection and holiness?
How foolishly, and well-nigh fatally, have I slumbered and slept ! Now I recollect how much my thoughts and affections were beginning to run out after the world, and the things of the world; how I was beginning to think that spiritual exercises returned too often, and continued too long; and that less time would serve for religion, that I might have more to spare for my business and pleasures. Now I remember that in such and such instances I was wandering towards the tents of iniquity, and was more conformed to this world than the word of God allows, or than my own conscience would formerly permit. Did I not deserve a rebuke for such backslidings ?--O my soul it was kind in God to rebuke me, even though with a rod that makes me smart. He might have said,
Let that stupid wretch alone! Why should be be stricken any more? he will only revolt more and more! He might have suffered me to dream on, building airy castles, and indulging the wildest. flights of my too vain imagination, till, upont the borders of eternity, I was rouseds; and ruined at once. Why, lo my soul, art thou snotii more
NOVÁ Juod :)
cys 1 1...
thankful for those seasonable and salutary correc tions ? What if the furnace were seven times heated, my punishment would be less than my iniquities deserve. Why do I not look more to Him who was
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” and who, in the prospect of sufferings ten thousand times greater and sharper than mine,“ was led as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth!”-O my soul, dost thou deserve to be called a disciple of this meek and lowly Jesus, who art so peevish and fretful? Surely I ought to be more thankful to God, for taking so much pains to subdue my stubbornness, when the indulgence of it would be my cers tain destruction. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou so disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him.” These troubles will not always continue: “ there remaineth a rest for the people of God.” Sorrow and sighing shall soon flee away, and I shall know nothing but fulness of joy, and pleasures for everà more! And surely “ the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed.”)
But I check myself.-I have hinted at some of those things which we should talk of with our own hearts when we are in trouble. If we accustomed ourselves to this, we should find more relief from it than from the gayest and sprightliest company in the world; and by this means we should have rejoicing in ourselves alone, and not in another. They are greatly to be pitied, who, when afflictions come, cannot bear to be left alone; they must have somebody to talk with them, and divert them, and endea..
vour to heal their wounded spirits with vanities and Pastimes. Alas! one hour's serious conversation with their own hearts would do more towards the recovery of true cheerfulness, than whole days and weeks of idle amusements.
We should commune with our own hearts,
4. When we are about to engage, or when we have been engaged, in any of the solemn duties of religion.
The generality of pretended worshippers never think at all: they rush into God's presence
it as the horse into the battle ;” and at the very time that they are drawing nigh to God with their mouth, and flattering him with their lips, their thoughts are wandering, with the fool's eye, to the ends of the earth. And even those who do in the main worship God, who is “ a Spirit,” “ in spirit and in truth," are yet verily guilty concerning this thing: they do not give themselves time to think what they are going about. To this it may probably be owing, that so many of their duties have been joyless and
and fruit less. They prepare not their hearts' to pray, and therefore the Lord prepares not his ear to hear. “ God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints,” and will be sanctified in all them that come nigh unto him. Whenever, therefore, we have'any solemn duty before us, we should thus previously commune with our hearts : -10 my soul, thou art going to appear before the holý, holy, holy Lørd God. "If I'regard iniquity in my heart, my prayer will be an abomination and he will quickiy see whether I do or not, 'for his eyes are as a' flame of fire : he hears' every whisper thát steals from my lips, and knows every thought that rises 'in 'my
mind, even before I have power to express it Consider diligently therefore, O my soul, what is before thee. Be not rash with thy mouth, and be not hasty to utter any thing in the presence of God: “ for God is in heaven, and thou upon, earth, therefore let thy words be few."
By this means we shall be furnished for duty, our affections will be stirred up, and our graces in lively and vigorous exercise : like the Psalmist: “ My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed ; I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory ; awake, psaltery and harp; I myself will awake early.” (Psal. lvii. 7.)
And the same after duty. It is a common, but a very criminal and pernicious practice, when we rise from our knees, or go from the presence of the Lord, immediately to indulge our thoughts and tongues upon the first trifles that offer, and perhaps never more to think of what we have been doing. But very different from this was the practice of David: “ My voice,” says he, “ shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” (Psal. v. 3.) So, when we have sent up a petition to heaven,, we should, as it were, watch how it rises, and see if the heavens open to let down the blessing we prayed for. If we do not look up, be assured that the Lord will not look down. And the same when we have been hearing the word. With many, it is like water spilt upon the ground, which sinks into the earth and cannot be gathered up again, or like · letters, written upon loose, sand, which the first, puffof wind entirely effaces ;: or like seed scattered in the highway, which the birds