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with God for the mighty blessing; pour out your soul unto God in prayer, and continue therein with all perseverance! Watch! Awake out of sleep; and keep awake !—otherwise there is nothing to be expected, but that you will be alienated more and more from the light and life of God.
6. If, upon the fullest and most impartial examination of yourself, you cannot discern that you at present give way either to spiritual sloth, or any other inward or outward sin, then call to mind the time that is past. Consider your former tempers, words, and actions. Have these been right before the Lord?“ Commune with him in your chamber, and be still;" and desire of him to try the ground of your heart, and bring to your remembrarıce whatever has at any time offended the eyes of his glory. If the guilt of any unrepented sin remain on your soul, it cannot be but you will remain in darkness, till, having been renewed by repentance, you are again washed by faith in “ the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.”
7. Entirely different will be the manner of the cure, if the cause of the disease be not sin, but ignorance. It may be, ignorance of the meaning of Scripture; perhaps occasioned by ignorant commentators ; ignorant, at least, in this respect, however knowing and learned they may be in other particulars. And, in this case, that ignorance must be removed before we can remove the darkness arising from it. We must show the true meaning of those texts which have been misunderstood. My design does not permit me to consider all the passages of Scripture which have been pressed into this service. I shall just mention two or three, which are frequently brought to prove, that all believers must, sooner or later, “ walk in darkness.”
8. One of these is Isaiah 1. 10: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” But how does it appear, either from the text or context, that the person here spoken of ever had light? One who is convinced of sin, “ feareth the Lord, and obeyeth the voice of his servant.” And him we should advise, though he was still dark of soul, and had never seen the light of God's countenance, yet to “ trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." This text, therefore, proves nothing less than that a believer in Christ “must sometimes walk in darkness."
9. Another text which has been supposed to speak the same doctrine, is Hosea ii. 14: “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.” Hence it has been inferred, that God will bring every believer into the wilderness, into a state of deadness and darkness. But it is certain, the text speaks no such thing; for it does not appear that it speaks of particular believers at all: It manifestly refers to the Jewish nation; and, perhaps, to that only. But if it be applicable to particular persons, the plain meaning of it is this:-I will draw him by love; I will next convince him of sin ; and then comfort him by my pardoning mercy.
10. A third scripture, from whence the same inference has been drawn, is that above recited, “ Ye now have sorrow: But I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” This has been supposed to imply, that God would, after a time, withdraw himself from all believers; and that they could not, till after they had thus sorrowed, have the joy which no man could take from them. But the whole context shows, that our Lord is here speaking personally to the Apostles, and no others; and that he is speaking concerning those particular events, his own death and resurrection. “A little while,” says he, “and ye shall not see me,” viz., whilst I am in the grave: “ And again, a little while, and ye shall see me;" when I am risen from the dead. “Ye will weep and lament, and the world will rejoice: But your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”—“Ye now have sorrow," because I am about to be taken from your head; “but I will see you again,” after my resurrection," and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy,” which I will then give you, “no man taketh from you.” All this we know was literally fulfilled in the particular case of the Apostles. But no inference can be drawn from hence with regard to God's dealings with believers in general.
11. A fourth text, (to mention no more,) which has been frequently cited in proof of the same doctrine, is 1 Peter iv. 12: “ Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you.” But this is full as foreign to the point as the preceding. The text, literally rendered, runs thus : “ Beloved, wonder not at the burning which is among you, which is for your trial.” Now, however this may be accommodated to inward trials, in a secondary sense; yet, primarily, it doubtless refers to mar. tyrdom, and the sufferings connected with it. Neither, there
fore, is this text any thing at all to the purpose for which it is cited. And we may challenge all men to bring one text, either from the Old or New Testament, which is any more to the purpose than this.
12. “ But is not darkness much more profitable for the soul than light? Is not the work of God in the heart most swiftly and effectually carried on during a state of inward suffering ? Is not a believer more swiftly and throughly purified by sorrow, than by joy ?-by anguish, and pain, and distress, and spiritual martyrdoms, than by continual peace ?” So the Mystics teach ; so it is written in their books; but not in the oracles of God. The Scripture nowhere says, that the absence of God best perfects his work in the heart! Rather, his presence, and a clear communion with the Father and the Son: A strong consciousness of this will do more in an hour, than his absence in an age. Joy in the Holy Ghost will far more effectually purify the soul, than the want of that joy; and the peace of God is the best means of refining the soul from the dross of earthly affections. Away then with the idle conceit, that the kingdom of God is divided against itself; that the peace of God, and joy in the Holy Ghost, are obstructive of righteousness; and that we are saved, not by faith, but by unbelief; not by hope, but by despair!
13. So long as men dream thus, they may well “ walk in darkness :" Nor can the effect cease, till the cause is removed. But yet we must not imagine it will immediately cease, even when the cause is no more. When either ignorance or sin has caused darkness, one or the other may be removed, and yet the light which was obstructed thereby may not immediately return. As it is the free gift of God, he may restore it, sooner or later, as it pleases him. In the case of sin, we cannot reasonably expect that it should immediately return. The sin began before the punishment, which may, therefore, justly remain after the sin is at an end. And even in the natural course of things, though a wound cannot be healed while the dart is sticking in the flesh; yet neither is it healed as soon as that is drawn out, but soreness and pain may remain long after.
14. Lastly. If darkness be occasioned by manifold and heavy and unexpected temptations, the best way of removing and preventing this is, to teach believers always to expect temptation, seeing they dwell in an evil world, among wicked, subtle, malicious spirits, and have an heart capable of all evil. Convince them that the whole work of sanctification is not, as they imagined, wrought at once; that when they first believe they are but as new-born babes, who are gradually to grow up, and may expect many storms before they come to the full stature of Christ. Above all, let them be instructed, when the storm is upon them, not to reason with the devil, but to pray; to pour out their souls before God, and show him of their trouble. And these are the persons unto whom, chiefly, we are to apply the great and precious promises; not to the ignorant, till the ignorance is removed, much less to the impenitent sinner. To these we may largely and affectionately declare the lovingkindness of God our Saviour, and expatiate upon his tender mercies which have been ever of old. Here we may dwell upon the faithfulness of God, whose “ word is tried to the uttermost;” and upon the virtue of that blood which was shed for us, to “ cleanse us from all sin :" And God will then bear witness to his word, and bring their souls out of trouble. He will say, “ Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” Yea, and that light, if thou walk humbly and closely with God, will “shine more and more unto the perfect day.”
HEAVINESS THROUGH MANIFOLD TEMPTA
“Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through
manifold temptations.” 1 Peter i. 6.
1. In the preceding discourse I have particularly spoken of that darkness of mind into which those are often observed to fall who once walked in the light of God's countenance. Nearly related to this is the heaviness of soul which is still more common, even among believers. Indeed, almost all the children of God experience this, in an higher or lower degree. And so great is the resemblance between one and the other, that they are frequently confounded together; and we are apt to say, indifferently, “Such an one is in darkness," or, “Such an one is in heaviness ;”—as if they were equivalent terms, one of which implied no more than the other. But they are far, very far, from it. Darkness is one thing; heaviness is another. There is a difference, yea, a wide and essential difference, between the former and the latter. And such a difference it is, as all the children of God are deeply concerned to understand : Otherwise, nothing will be more easy than for them to slide out of heaviness into darkness. In order to prevent this, I will endeavour to show,
I. What manner of persons those were to whom the Apostle says, “Ye are in heaviness :"
II. What kind of heaviness they were in :
IV. What were the ends of it. I shall conclude with some inferences.
I. 1. I am, in the First place, to show what manner of persons those were to whom the Apostle says, “ Ye are in heaviness.” And, First, it is beyond all dispute, that they were believers at the time the Apostle thus addressed them: For so he expressly says, (verse 5,) “Ye who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” Again, (verse 7,) he mentions “ the trial of their faith, much more precious than that of gold which perisheth.” And yet again, (verse 9,) he speaks of their “receiving the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls.” At the same time, therefore, that they were “ in heaviness," they were possessed of living faith. Their heaviness did not destroy their faith: They still “ endured, as seeing Him that is invisible.”
2. Neither did their heaviness destroy their peace ; the “ peace which passeth all understanding;” which is inseparable from true, living faith. "This we may easily gather from the second verse, wherein the Apostle prays, not that grace and peace may be given them, but only that it may “ be multiplied unto them ;" that the blessing which they already enjoyed might be more abundantly bestowed upon them.
3. The persons to whom the Apostle here speaks were also full of a living hope. For thus he speaks, (verse 3,)“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who accord