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you. Let an east-wind blow, and wither up these flowers; then the word shall work, and conscience deeply feel the concerns of eternity. This course God takes with many of you; you sit from Sabbath to Sabbath under the word, and nothing takes effect on your hearts. Will you not hear the voice of my word ? saith God; go, death, smite that man's child, I will try what that will do ; go, poverty, and blast his estate, and see what that will do ; go, sickness, and smite his body, and shake him over the grave's mouth, I will see what that will do. Thus God sends to sinners, as Absalom sent to Joabwho refused to come near him, till he set fire to his field of corn, and then away comes Joab. 2 Sam. 14: 29–31. And thus the Lord opened the heart of the jailer, by putting him into a fright, a panic fear of death. Acts 16:27. Thus does the Lord devise means to bring back his banished.
(2.) As God makes use of the hammer of judgments, so he makes use of mercies to make way for Christ into the hearts of men. Every mercy is a call, a knock of God : and truly if there were any ingenuousness left unextinguished in the heart, one would think mercy would prevail more than all judgments. Knowest thou not that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance ? Rom. 2:4. Or in other words, Dost thou not see the hand of mercy stretched out to lead thee into a corner, there to mourn over thy sins committed against so gracious and merciful a God ? By every mercy you receive, Christ doth, as it were, sue you to open your hearts to him ; they are so many gifts sent from heaven to make way for Christ into your hearts. It would be an endless task to enumerate all the mercies bestowed to this end upon the unregenerate : but surely this is the errand of them all; and the Lord takes it ill when his end is not answered in them: hence is that complaint, Jer. 5:24 ; “Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season.” . Some of you have been marvellously preserved in times of common contagion and death, when thousands have fallen at your right hand and left : then have you been preserved or recovered, according to Exod. 15:26, "I will put none of these diseases upon thee, for I am the Lord that healeth thee." I am Jehovah Rophe, the Lord the physician: many of you have been at the grave's mouth in diseases, others upon the deep; yet the hand of mercy pulled you back, and suffered you not to drop into the grave and hell in the same moment. O'what a knock was here given by the hand of mercy at thy hard heart. Certainly, if men would but observe, they might see a marvellous working and moulding of things by the hand of providence, for the production of thousands of mercies for them : and if mercy would do the work and win you over to Christ, many rods had been spared which your obstinacy has made necessary. O ungrateful sinners, doth your Redeemer thus woo you by so many gifts of mercy, and yet will you shut him out ? “Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise ?” For which of all his benefits do your ungrateful souls shut the doors upon him?
You have seen what Christ's knocking at the soul of a sinner implies, and by what instruments it is performed.
IV. We will now consider THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS ACTION IS PERFORMED in the ten following particulars, wherein much of the mystery of conversion will be opened ; the Lord grant that your experience may answer to them. We cannot indeed exactly describe and mark all the footsteps of the Spirit, in this work upon the souls of men ; yet these things seem eminently observable.
1. The knocks of Christ at the sinner's heart are silent and secret to all persons in the world, except the soul itself at whose door he knocks. Here are many hundreds this day under the word : if the Lord shall this day knock by conviction at any man's heart, none will hear that knock, but that man only; for it is a knock without sound or noise to any but the particular soul concerned in it. It was foretold of our Redeemer, and of this very act of his, “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.” Isa. 42:2. The kingdom of God cometh not into the souls of men with public observation. Luke 17:20. “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him ?" 1 Cor. 2:11. None knows what convictions another man's conscience feels, until he himself shall discover them ; you hear the same sound of the gospel, but you hear not the inward strokes it gives to another man's conscience. Christ's approaches to the soul make no noise ; little do we know what the Spirit of Christ whispers in the ear of him who sits next to us. It is said of the inward comforts of the Spirit, “ To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna." Rev. 2:17. This is true also of inward terrors and troubles. Christ's knocks by conviction are but a secret whisper of his Spirit in the ear of a sinner, saying, “Thou art the man;" this is thy case. This is the first thing in the manner of Christ's knocking, it is a silent knock without public sound.
2. These silent, inward knocks of the Spirit of Christ greatly differ as to the terror or mildness of them in different persons. Some hear them with terror and astonishment others in a milder and more gentle manner. When the Lord knocked at the jailer’s conscience, it was a terrible stroke ; he called for a light, and sprang in like a man distracted; and trembling and astonished, fell down at the apostles' feet, crying, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved ?” Acts 16:29, 30. Here was a terrible knock indeed, which almost affrighted his soul out of his body : it is as if he had said, Tell me, in God's name, and tell me quickly, whether there is any way of salvation, and where it lies ; for I am a lost man, an undone soul. But when the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, there were no such terrors. He spoke to her
in a more mild and gentle voice, as you see, Acts 16:14. The Spirit of God varies his method according to the temper of the soul he works on. Knotty pieces need greater wedges and harder blows to rive them asunder. As God directs his ministers to make a difference, to deal tenderly and compassionately with some, but others to "save with fear,” Jude 22, so he himself observes like different methods.
3. Some knocks of Christ are successful, and obtain the desired effect. He knocks, and the soul opens. But others are unsuccessful; he knocks once and again by convictions, which may cause the conscience to startle a little, but there is no opening to Christ by faith. O friends, this is a dreadful word to consider : “I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded.” Prov. 1:24. There is a call without an answer, a knock and no opening; and these things are very common, especially among the unconverted who live under a lively, rousing gospel-ministry. Of this Christ complains, Matt. 16:17: “Whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” Neither the delightful melody of gospel-grace, nor the mournful and dreadful threats of perdition to unbelievers, avail to open your hearts to embrace me; no voices from mount Gerizim or mount Ebal will prevail with you. How many witnesses to this truth have we seen! God forbid it should be thus with you. There are some souls who hear and open, even every one who hath heard and learned of the Father. John 6:45. When the Spirit of God puts forth his power with the word, then, and not till then, it becomes successful.
4. Sometimes Christ knocks with a succession of convictions, a quick repetition of his calls. Some men have had thousands of convictions in a few years; for in this case the Lord saith, as in Exod. 4:8, “ If they will not hearken to the voice of the first sign,” yet they may “believe the voice of the latter sign.” And yet sometimes neither the former nor the latter avail any thing. “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Matt. 23:37. “How often !” intimating the many calls Christ gave Jerusalem to come unto him, yet all in vain. Obstinate sinners, Christ has been knocking and calling at some of your consciences from your very childhood ; thousands of convictions have been tried upon some of you, and yet to this day your souls are shut fast against him. The Lord hath waited from year to year for your answer, by this signifying how loath he is to part with you: at such a time thou wast upon a sick-bed, nigh unto death; at such a time under such a sermon, and then Christ knocked at thy soul : if all this is in vain, as many convictions as you have stifled, so many fagots you carry with you to hell, to increase your flames and torments. Yet commonly those quick repetitions and redoublings of the strokes of convictions end well; and it is a good sign when one conviction revives another, and the Lord keeps the soul still waiting. But 0, take heed and try not his patience too long, lest the next stroke be more dreadful than all the former-not to open your hearts, but smite dead your hopes of heaven.
5. Sometimes Christ knocks intermittingly, knocking and stopping, and that at a considerable distance of time; a conviction this day, and, it may be, not another for many months. There are some aged sinners that have not had more than one or two remarkable awakenings of conscience in fifty or sixty years, and then no more. Do not think that the Spirit will always strive with men. Gen. 6:3. There is a time when God says to the word, Convict the conscience of that man or woman no more, but henceforth be thou not to open but to shut him up. Isa. 6:10. Reader, bethink thyself, how long is it since thy conscience was roused and