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belief made him to cry, "Is his mercy clean gone for ever? hath he forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" David gets such a back-set with this hill of unbelief, that he cries out, "All men are liars," the prophets of God not being excepted. Oh how much need of that caution, Heb. iii. 12: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God!"
3dly, A mountain of guilt casts up to the believer in his travelling through the wilderness, which sometimes seems to tumble upon him, and crush him under the weight of it. Hence David cries, "Mine iniquities are gone over mine head, as a burden too heavy for me to bear:" and at another time, Psal. xl. 12: "Innumerable evils compass me about, mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up," &c.
4thly, A hill and mountain of divine hidings and withdrawings casts up in the wilderness: and this joins with the former; for it is "our iniquities that separate between us and our God, that he hides his face from us." And oh, when the believer is wrestling with this hill, he "walks in darkness, and sees no light;" which makes it exceedingly melancholy: hence says Job, "I go mourning without the sun;" and the church, Is. xlix. 14: Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me."
5thly, And while the believer is involved among the dark clouds of desertion, mountains of wrath sometimes cast up in his view; as you see in the case of Job, vi. 4: "The arrows of the Almighty are within me," &c.; and Heman, Psal. lxxxviii.: "While I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted: Thy terrors have cut me off," &c. Sometimes a hill of strange and cloudy dispensations cast up in the wilderness, that he knows not what to make of them: God's way to him is many times" in the sea, and his paths in the mighty waters." How was Jacob overset with dark dispensations, when he is made to cry," Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away also: me have ye bereaved of my children: all these things are against me." David, the man according to God's heart, when he took a view of that dark dispensation of the prosperity of the wicked, and adversity of the truly godly, is so overset with it, that he is at the point of giving up with religion altogether as a vain thing, Psal. lxxiii. 13: "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency."
6thly, Sometimes a hill of disappointments faints the believer's heart. Perhaps he was expecting a meeting with God in his ordinances, some supply, some communication of the
Spirit, some influence and watering; but alas! he finds ordinances to be dry breasts, or like the brooks of Tema where no water is and thereupon the poor and needy soul is ready to faint, and their tongue to fail for thirst. Such a melancholy disappointment the spouse meets with, Song iii. at the beginning," By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not," &c. I might tell you of the dark hills of temptation from hell, and oppression from the world, and the workings of remaining corruption; but I do not insist. Only, from what has been said, you may see, that religion is an up-hill way: they who expect to win heaven in a way of sin and sloth, will land in hell; for, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." So much for the third thing, what is implied in coming up from the wilderness.
IV. The fourth thing was, to speak of the spouse's posture she comes up leaning on her beloved. But I shall wave this at present, and only make some practical improvement of what has been said in a doctrinal way.
Use first of this branch of the doctrine may be of Information, in the few following particulars: Is it the duty and practice of believers to come up from the wilderness of this world, and to aspire after better and greater things than are here? then,
1. See, hence, the paucity of true believers who are espoused to Christ. Why, the greatest number, instead of coming up from the wilderness, are going down the wilderness: Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat." Oh what shoals of people are there in the world, "whose god is their belly, and who mind earthly things?" But how few are they who have their "affections set upon things above," and who are really pointing heavenwards? "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." The world, perhaps, may laugh at them who keep the narrow way of religion; but behold the end of the day: "The triumphing of the wicked is short, for they shall lie down in sorrow" but as for the righteous and the upright, mark him, " for the end of that man is peace; his.. weeping endures but for a night, joy shall come in the morning."
2. See hence why believers are called men of another spirit than the rest of the world: it is said of Caleb and Joshua,
that they were of another spirit; and the apostle, speaking of himself, and other believers, says, "We have not received the spirit of this world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." Why, here is the ground of it, other men are of a mean sordid spirit, and are content with the wilderness, and fill their belly with the husks that they find in the wilderness; but it is otherwise with the true believer, he comes up from the wilderness, he seeks and affects "those things which are above, The world where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God." generally have a mistaken notion of true greatness of spirit; they fondly imagine, that it lies in pushing their resentment against those who injure them, or in pushing their fortune, as they call it, in scrambling up the pinnacles of worldly honour, wisdom, riches, or preferment'; whereas true greatness of spirit lies in a contempt of all these things, in comparison of things that lie beyond the wilderness; it lies in "looking not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. O sirs, we sink our souls below their original make and excellency, when we lie down, with the serpent, to lick up the dust and vanity of this world: true greatness of spirit is, with the spouse of Christ, to soar above the world, to mount up with wings like eagles, to things calculated for the soul and its heavenly nature.
3. See hence the excellency of the Christian religion, which makes a discovery of things that lie beyond the wilderness of this world, and calls a man to come up from the wilderness in order to his being possessed of them. "Life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel." The Heathen philosophers had indeed some foolish guesses about another world, a life to come; but how strangely were they in the dark about it! One of the best of them, when he was dying, told his friends, that he was persuaded of a future state; but whether he was going to a state of happiness or misery, he did not know.' But now the Christian religion brings life and immortality (I say) to light, and opens a way and passage to a happy eternity: it is like mount Pisgah, from which one may stand and discover the goodly land that lies on the other side of Jordan. David, Psal. xvi. when he wins up to the top of it, and gets a view of the glories of heaven and eternity, he cries out like a man in a transport, "My heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth:" Why? "Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
4. See hence a good reason why the saints express such longings to be away out of the body: "I desire to be dissolved," says Paul; "In this we groan earnestly, desiring to be
clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:" why, it is no wonder; for this world is but a wilderness to them: and how natural is it for a traveller in a wilderness to wish and long to be at home in his own country, and among his own kindred, where their inheritance lies, even, an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and which fadeth not away?"
5. See a good reason why the saints should possess their souls in patience under all the trials of a present life. Who is it, that, travelling through a wilderness, does not lay his account with inconveniencies and difficulties? But besides, believer, thou art coming up from the wilderness, andere long thou wilt come out of it, and beyond it altogether. "In the world," says Christ, "ye shall have tribulation;" but look beyond the wilderness to thy fellow-travellers, whose journey is ended. "What are those which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?" Rev. vii. 13. You have the answer in the verse following: "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple." Wait a little, believer, and thou shalt be there also; and then thy present "light afflictions, which are but for a moment, shall" resolve in " a far more and exceeding and eternal weight of glory; and God shall wipe away all tears from thine eyes."
Use second of this doctrine may be of Reproof. Is it the duty of believers, and their practice, to come up from the wilderness of this world? then,
1. It reproves those who sit down in the wilderness, and take up with it as their home; like the fool we read of in the gospel, who, when he had amassed a great deal of worldly substance together, he cries, "Soul, take thine ease, thou hast much goods laid up for many years." But, sirs, read what followed in that parable of the rich fool; perhaps God may come and say, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?" You who are perhaps "clothed in purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day," and have no thoughts of another world, look to it in time, lest in a little you be weltering among purple flames, crying for a "drop of water to cool the tip of your tongue."
2. It reproves those who, instead of coming up from the wilderness, are going down the wilderness. The way of sin is said to be a downward way, and leads to hell beneath; and this road all the profane world are taking. You may see a roll of their names, and where their landing will be,
Rev. xxi. 8: "The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.”
3. It reproves those who to men would appear to be coming up from the wilderness, and yet are steering a quite other course, such as the painted sepulchre, who goes under a mask of religion, and yet is rotten at the root; he is going down the wilderness, instead of coming up. Christ has pronounced many heavy woes against you: and therefore "the sinners in Zion shall be afraid," &c. Again; the moralist, whose outward walk before the world perhaps is" touching the law blameless," and yet never comes to him who is "the end of the law;" your morality and civility will be found wanting a true root, not being grounded and ingrafted in Christ, of whom only our fruit can be "unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." The same we may say of the legalist; he is but going down the wilderness, all his righteousness will be found to be as filthy rags; for "by the works of the law shall no flesh living be justified." Again; the carnal gospeller, whose language is, "Let us sin, because grace doth abound." Sirs, whatever may be your evangelical notions, yet if the grace of God in the gospel do not "teach you to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to walk soberly, righteously, and godly," you are not coming up, but going down the wilderness. Jude 4. They are ranked among the number of the " ungodly, who turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness." The secure, sleepy sinner, that was never awakened to see his danger, but is crying with the sluggard, "Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep;" you are going down the wilderness, for sudden destruction is pursuing you.
4. This doctrine reproves those who make a feint to come up from the wilderness, but immediately they turn heartless in the journey they cry, "There is a lion in the way, a lion in the streets," and therefore turn back, and steer towards another quarter. Of this sort are all backsliders, who put their hand to the plough of religion, but look back again. What an awful sentence is it that God has pronounced against such, when he says, that they "shall be filled with their own ways, and be led forth with the workers of iniquity!"
5. This doctrine reproves those who hinder the spouse of Christ, or hurt her in her way, as she is coming up from the wilderness. We find the spouse frequently complaining of injuries, even from those from whom other things might have been expected; she complains that her "mother's children were angry with her," chap. i. 6: these who were mother's