« PreviousContinue »
on the other side : to commit sin, and then stand in it, is wbat will give the enemy the greatest advantage. For Christians to act like Christians, in openly humbling themselves wben they have openly offended, in the end brings the greatest honour to Christ and religion; and in this way are persons most likely to have God appear for them.
Again, at such a day as this, God especially calls his people to the exercise of extraordinary meekness and mutual forbearance. Christ appears as it were coming in his kingdom, which calls for great moderation in our behaviour towards all men : Phil. iv. 5. Let your moderation be known unto all men: The Lord is at hand. The awe of the Divine Majesty, that appears present or approaching, should dispose us to it, and deter us from the contrary. For us to be judging one another, and behaving with fierceness and bitterness one towards another, when he who is the scarcher of all hearts, to whom we must all give an account, appears so remarkably present, is exceeding unsuitable. Our business at such a time should be at home, searching and condemning ourselves, and taking heed to our own behaviour. If there be glorious prosperity to the church of God approaching, those that are the most meek will bave the largest share in it. For, when Christ rides forth in his glory and his majesty, it is because of truth, meekness, and righteousness, Psalm xlv. 3, 4; and, when God remarkably arises to execute judgment, it is to save all the meek of the earth, Psalm lxxvi. 9; and it is the meek that shall increase their joy in the Lord, Isa. xxix. 19. And, when the time comes that God will give this lower world into the hands of his saints, it is the meek that shall inherit the earth, Psalm xxxvii. 11. and Matt. v. 9. But with the froward God will shew himself unsavoury.
Those therefore that have been zealous for this work, and have greatly erred and been injurious with their zeal, ought not to be treated with bitterness. There is abundant reason to think, that most of them are the dear children of God, for whom Christ died; and therefore that they will see their error, As to those things, wherein we see them to be in an error, we have reason to say of them as the apostle, Phil. ii. 15. If any are otherwise minded, God shall reveal this unto them. Their errors should not be made use of to excite indignation towards them, but should influence all who bope we are the children of God, to humble ourselves, and become more entirely dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ, when we see those who are God's own people so ready to go astray. And those ministers who have been judged, and injuriously dealt with, will do the part of Christ's disciples, not to judge and revile again, but to receive such injuries with meekness and forbearance, and making a good improvement of them, more strictly examining their hearts and ways, and committing themselves to God. This will be the way to have God vindicate them in his providence, if they belong to him. We have not yet seen the end of things; nor do we know who will be most vindicated, and honoured of God, in the issue. Eccles. vii, 8. Better is the end of a thing, than the beginning thereof; and the patient in spirit is better
than the proud in spirit.-Contrary to this mutual meekness, is each party's stigmatizing one another with odious names, as is done in many parts of New England; which tends greatly to widen and perpetuate the breach. Such distinguishing names of reproach do as it were divide us into two armies, separated, and drawn up in battlearray; which greatly binders the work of God.
And as such an extraordinary time as this does especially require of us the exercise of great forbearance one towards another; so there is peculiarly requisite in God's people the exercise of great patience, in waiting on God, under any special difficulties and disadvantages they may be under as to the means of grace. The beginning of a revival of religion will naturally and necessarily be attended with a great many difficulties of this nature ; many parts of the reviving church will, for a while, be under great disadvantages, by reason of what remains of the old disease, of a general corruption of the visible church. We cannot expect that, after a long time of degeneracy and depravity in the state of things in the church, all should come to rights at once; it must be a work of time. And for God's people to be over-hasty and violent, in such a case, being resolved to have every thing rectified at once, or else forcibly to deliver themselves by breaches and separations, is the way to hinder things coming to rights as they otherwise would. It is the way to keep them back, and to break all in pieces. Indeed the difficulty may be so intolerable as to allow of no delay, and God's people cannot continue in the state wherein they were, without violations of God's absolute commands : but otherwise, though the difficulty may be very great, another course should be taken. God's people should have recourse directly to the throne of grace, to represent their difficulties before the great Shepherd of the sheep, who has the care of all the affairs of his church; and, when they have done, they should wait patiently upon him. If they do so, they may expect that in his time he will appear for their deliverance; but if, instead of that, they are impatient, and take the work into their own hands, they will betray their want of faith, will dishonour God, and have reason to fear that he will leave them to manage their affairs for themselves as well as they can. If they had waited on Christ patiently, continuing still instant in prayer, they might have had him appearing for them, much more effectually to deliver them. He that believeth shall not make haste. And it is for those that are found patiently waiting on the Lord, under difficulties, that he will especially appear, when he comes to do great things for his church; as is evident by Isa, xxx. 18, chap. xl. at the latter end, and xlix. 29. and Psalm xxxvii. 9. and many other places.
I have somewhere, not long since, met with an exposition of those words of the spouse, several times repeated in the book of Canticles; I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please. It was the only satisfying exposition that ever I met with, and was to this purpose, viz. That when the church of God is under great difficulties, and in distress, and Christ does not appear for her help, but seems to neglect her, as though he were asleep, God's people, or the daughters of Jerusalem, in such a case, should not shew an hasty spirit, and, not having patience to wait for Christ to awake for their help till bis time comes, take indirect courses for their own deliverance, and use violent means for their escape, before Christ appears to open the door for them; and so, as it were, stir up, and awuke Christ, before bis time. When the church is in distress, and God seems not to appear for her in his providence, he is very often represented in scripture as being asleep; as Christ was asleep in the ship, when the disciples were tossed by the storm, and the ship covered with waves. And God's appearing for his people's help, is represented as his awaking out of sleep, Psal. vii. 6. xxxv. 23. xliv. 23. lix. 4, lxxiii, 20, Christ has an appointed time for his thus awaking out of sleep; and his people ought to wait upon him, and not, in an impatient fit, stir bim up before his time. It is worthy to be observed, how strict this charge is, given to the daughters of Jerusalem ; it is repeated three times over in the book of Canticles, chap. ii. 7.-iii. 5.-- viii. 4. In the 2d chapter and six first verses are represented the supports Christ gives his church, while she is in a suffering state, as the lily among thorns. In the 7th verse is represented her patience in waiting for Christ, to appear for her deliverance, when she charges the daughters of Jerusalem not to stir up, nor awake her love till he please, by the roes and the hinds of the field ; which are creatures of a gentle, harmless nature. They are not beasts of prey, do not deyour one another, do not fight with their enemies, but flee from them; and are of a pleasant, loving nature, Prov. v. 19. In the next verse, we see the church's success, in this way of waiting under sufferings, with meekness and patience; Christ soon awakes, speedily appears, and swiftly comes; The voice of my beloved! Behold, he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills !
What must be done more directly to advance this work.
What has been mentioned hitherto, has relation to the behaviour we are obliged to, as we would prevent the binderances of the work ; but, besides these, there are things that must be done, more directly to advance it. And bere it concerns every one, in the first place, to look into his own heart, and see to it that he be a partaker of the benefits of the work himself, and that it be promoted in his own soul. Now is a most glorious opportunity for the good of souls. It is manifestly with respect to a time of great revival of religion in the world, that we have that gracious, earnest, and moving invitation proclaimed in the 55th of Isaiah, Ho, every one that thirsteth, &c. as is evident by the foregoing chapter, and what follows in the close of this. In the 6th verse, it is said, Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. And it is with special reference to such a time, that Christ proclaims as he does, Rev. xxi. 6. I will give unto him that is athirst, of the fountain of the water of life freely. And chap. xxii. 17. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come; and let him that heareth say, Come; and let him that is athirst come: and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. And it seems to be with reference to such a time, which is typified by the feast of tabernacles, that Jesus, at that feast, stood and cried, as we have an account, John vii. 37, 38. In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. And it is with special reference to God's frecness and readiness to bestow grace at such a time, that it is said in Isa. Ix. 11. of the spiritual Jerusalem, Thy gates shall be open continually, they shall not be shut day nor night.
And though I judge not those who have opposed this work, and would not have others judge them, yet, if any such shall happen to read this treatise, I would take the liberty to intreat them to leave off troubling themselves so much about others, and to look into their own souls, and see to it that they are the subjects of a true, saving work of the Spirit of God.-If they have reason to think they never have been, or if it be but a very doubtful hope that they have, then how can they have any heart to be fiercely engaged about the mistakes and the supposed false hopes of others? And I would now beseech those who have hitherto been
somewhat inclining to Arminian principles, seriously to weigh the matter with respect to this work, and consider, whether, if the scriptures are the word of God, the work that bas been described in the first part of this treatise must not be, as to the substance of it, the work of God, and the flourishing of that religion which is taught by Christ and his apostles. Can any good medium be found, where a man can rest with any stability, between owning this work, and being a deist? If indeed this be the work of God, does it not entirely overthrow their scheme of religion; and does it not infinitely concern them, as they would be partakers of eternal salvation, to relinquish their scheme? Now is a good time for Arminians to change their principles. I would now, as one of the friends of this work, humbly invite them to come and join with us, and be on our side; and, if I had the authority of Moses, I would say to them as he did to Hobab, Numb. x. 29. We are journeying unto the place, of which the Lord said, I will give it you ; come thou with us, and we will do thee good : for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.
As the benefit and advantage of the good improvement of such a season is very great, so the danger of neglecting and misimproving it is proportionably great. It is abundantly evident by the scripture, that as a time of great out-pouring of the Spirit is a time of great favour to those who are partakers of the blessing, so it is always a time of remarkable vengeance to others. So in Isa. Ixi. 2. what is called, the acceptable year of the Lord, is called also the day of vengeance of our God. So it was amongst the Jews, in the apostles' days. The apostle in 2 Cor. vi. 2. says of that time, that it was the accepted time and day of salvation ; and Christ says of the same time, Luke xxi. 22. These are the days of vengeance. Wbile the blessings of the kingdom of heaven were given to some, there was an are laid at the root of the trees, that those that did not bear fruit, might be hewn down, and cast into the fire, Matt. iii. 9-11. Then was glorified both the goodness and severity of God, in a remarkable manner, Rom. xi. 22. The harvest and the vintage go together: at the same time that the earth is reaped, and God's elect are gathered into bis garner, the angel that has power over fire, thrusts in his sickle, and gathers the cluster of the vine of the earth, and casts it into the great winepress of the wrath of God, Rev. xiv. So it is foretold, in reference to the beginning of the glorious times of the Christian church, that as the hand of the Lord is known towards his servants, so shall his indignation be towards his enemies, Isa, lxvi. 14. So when that glorious morning shall appear, wherein the sun of righteousness shall arise to the elect, with healing in his wings, the day shall burn as an oven to the wicked,