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Thirdly, This prepares the soul for the receiving of that consolation and deliveravce out of its pressures, by an evidence of a special interest in forgiveness, which it waiteth for.
if, For this makes men to hearken after it; it makes the soul like the merchant who hath great riches, all his wealth in a far country, which he is endeavouring to bring home safe unto him. If they come, he is well provided for; if they miscarry, he is lost and undone. This makes him hearken after tidings, that they are safe there; and, as Solomon says, Good news, in this case, from a far country, is as cold water to a thirsty foul, Prov. xxv. 25. full of refreshment. Though he canoot look upon them as his own, yet absolutely, because he hath them not in poffeffion, he is glad they are safe there. So is it with the soul : these riches that it so values, are, as to its apprehensions in a far country. So is the promise, That he shall behold the land that is very far off, Ifa. xxxiii. 17. He is glad to hear news that they are safe; to hear forgiveness preached, and the promiles insisted on, though he cannot as yet look upon them as his own.
The merchant rests not here, but he hearkneth with much solicitousness after the things that should bring home his riches, especially if they have in them his all. Hence such thips are called ships of. defire, Job ix. 26. Such a man greatly desires the speeding of them to their port. He confiders the wind and the weather, all the occasions and inconveniences and danger of the way; and blame bim nor; his all is at stake. The soul doih so in like manner: it hearkneth after all the ways and means whereby this forgiveness may be particularly brought home unto it; is afraid of fin, and of temptation, glad to find a fresh gale of the Spirit of grace, hoping that it may bring in his return from the land of promise. This prepares the heart for a spiritual sense of it, when it is revealed.
2dly, lc fo prepares the foul, by giving it a due valuation of the grace and mercy defired. The merchant-man in the gospel was not prepared to enjoy the pearl himself, until it was discovered to him to be of great price; then he knew how to purchase it, procure it, and keer it. The soul having by this acting of faith, upon the discovery of forgiveness insisted on, come to find that the pearl hid in the field is indeed precious, is both stirred up to seek after possession of it, and to give it its due. Saith such a soul, “ How excellent, how “ precious is this forgiveness that is with God! Blessed,
yea ever blessed are they who are made partakers of " it! What a life of joy, rest, peace, and consolation “ do they lead! Had I but their evidence of an interest “ in it, and the spiritual consolation that ensues thereon, " how would I defpise the world, and all the temptati“ uns of Satan, and rejoice in the Lord in every condi“ tion!" And this apprehension of grace, also exceedingly prepares and fits the soul, for a receiving of a blessed sense of it, so as that God may have glory thereby.
3dly, It fits the soul by giving a right understanding! of it ; of its nature, its causes, and effects. At the first, the soul goes no farther, but to look after impunity, or freedom from punishment, any way, What shall I do to be saved ? is the utmost it aims at; who shall deliver me, how shall I escape? And it would be contented to escape any way; by the law, or the gospel; all is one, fo it may escape. But upon this discovery of forgiveness treated of, which is made by faith of adherence unto God, a man plainly sees the nature of it, and that it is to excellent, that it is to be desired for its own sake. Indeed when a soul is brought under trouble for fin, it knows not well what it would have. It hath an unealiness or disquierment that it would be freed from ; a dread of fome evil condition that it would avoid. But now the soul can tell what it desires, what it aims at, as well as what it would be freed from. It would have an interest in eternal love, have the gracious kindness of the heart of God turned towards itself; a sense of the everlasting purpose of his will shed abroad in his heart;
have an especial interest in the precious blood of the Son of God, whereby atonement is made for him, and that all these things be testified unto his conscience in a word of promise mixed with faith. These things he came for, this way alone he would be saved, and no other. It fees fuch a glory of wisdom, love, and grace in forgiveness, such an exaltation of the love of Christ in all his offices, in all his undertakings, especially in his. death, sacrifice, and blood-lheding, whereby he procured or made reconciliation for us, that it exceedingly longs after the participation of them.
All these things, in their several degrees, will this discovery of forgiveness in God, without an evidence of an especial interest therein, produce. And these will assuredly maintain the spiritual life of the soul, and keep it unto such an obedience as lhall be accepted of God in Christ. Darkness, forrow, storms, they in whom it is, may meet withal, but their eternal condition is secured in the covenant of God, their souls are bound up in the bundle of life.
From what hath been spoken, we may make some inferences in our paffage concerning the true notion of believing. For,
First, These effects ascribed to this faith of forgiveness in God, and always produced by it, make it evident that the most of them who pretend unto it, who pretend to believe that there is forgiveness with God, do indeed believe no such thing. Although I shall, on ser purpose, afterwards evince this, yet I cannot here utterly pass it by. . I shall then only demand of them who are so forward in the profession of this faith, thai they think it almost impossible that any one should not believe it; what effects it hath produced in them, and whether they have been by it enabled to the performance of the duties before-mentioned? I fear, with many, things on the account of their pretended faith are quite otherwise. They love sin the more for it, and God never the better; supposing that a few barren words will issue the controversy about their fins, they become in
fencibly fensibly to have light thoughts of sin, and of God also. This persuasion is not of him that calls us. Poor fouls, your faith is the devil's greatest engine for your ruin; the highest contempt of God and Christ, and forgiveness allo, that you can be guilty of; a means to let you down quietly to hell; the Pharisees trusted in Moses, and will condemn you': As none is faved but by faith, so you, if it were not for your faith, as you call it, might poffibly be saved. If a man's gold prove counterfeit, his jewel's painted glass, his silver lead or dross, he will not only be found poor when he comes to be tried, and want the benefit of riches, but have withal a fearful aggravation of his poverty, by his disappointment and furprizal
. If a man's faith, which Thould be more precious than gold, be found rotten and corrupt, if his light be dark ness, how vile is that faith, how great is that darkness? Such it is evident will the faith of too many be found in this bufiness.
Secondly, The work we are carrying on, is the rising of a fin-intangled soul out of its depths, and this we have spoken unto, is that which mult give him his first relief. Commonly when fouls are in distress, that which they look after is confolation. What is it that they intend thereby? that they may have assurance that their fins are forgiven them, and so be freed from their prefent perplexities. What is the issue? Some of them continue complaining all their days, and never come to rest or peace ; fo far do they fall short of consolation and joy. And some are utterly discouraged from attempting any progress in the ways of God. What is the reason hereof? Is it not, that they would fain be finishing their building, when they have not laid the foundation. They have not yet made thorough work in believing forgiveness with God, and they would immediately be at assurance in themselves. Now, God delights not in such a frame of spirit; For,
ist, It is felfish. The great design of faith is to give glory to God, Rom. iv. 20. The end of God's giving out forgiveness, is the praise of his glorious grace, Eph. i. 6,
But let a soul in this frame have peace in itself, it is very little solicitous about giving glory unto God. He cries like Rachel, Give me children or I die; give me peace or 1 perilh. That God may be honoured, and ihe forgiveness he seeks after be rendered glorious, it is cared for in the second place, if at all. This selfith earnestoess, at first to be thrusting our hand in the side of Christ, is that which he will pardon in many, but accepts in none.
2dly, it is impatient. Men do thus deport themselves, because they will not wait. They do not care for standing afar off, for any season, with the publican. They love not to submit their souls to ly at the foot of God, to give him the glory of his goodness, mercy, wisdom, and love, in the disposal of them, and their concernments. This waiting comprizeth the universal subjection of the soul unto God, with a resolved judgment that it is meet and right that we, and all we defire and aim at, should be at his sovereign disposal. This gives glory to God; a duty which the impatience of these poor souls will not admit them to the performance of; and both these arise,
3dly, From weakness. It is weak. It is weakness in any condition that makes men restless and weary. The state of adherence is as safe a condition, as the state of assurance; only it hath more combats, and wrestling attending it. It is not then fear of the event, but weakness and weariness of the combat that makes men anxiously solicitous about a deliverance from that ftate, before they are well entered into it.
Let then the fin-intangled soul remember always this way, method, and order of the gospel, that we have under consideration. First, Exercise faith on forgiveness in God; and when the soul is fixed therein, it will have a ground and foundation whereon it may stand securely, in making application of it unto itself., Drive this principle in the first place unto a stable iflue, upon gospel evidences; answer the objections that ly against it, and then you may proceed. In believing, the soul