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Discouragements to be expected. Sin a source of sorrow.
Excessive grief improper. Despondency, reasons against. Vain thoughts common to the best. Aruful scriptures explained. Unpardonable sin stated. Small degree of knowledge and meanness of talents no ground for dejection. Satan's insinuations, consolations against. Persecution an honour. Variety of opinions and preachers not to be considered strange. Conduct of some professors discouraging. Apostates, lessons to be learnt from. Desertion. Fear of death.
HAVING in the preceding chapters offered some directions and cautions, I shall now proceed to state, and endeavour to remove the discouragements which naturally arise ; for though many, on their first entrance into the divine life, experi. ence a considerable degree of sacred joy, yet others are much depressed ; and even those who at first were so happy, soon find their frames change, and difficulties rise up before them which they did not expect. Indeed, it is no wonder that they are the subjects of sorrow and grief, when we consider the change that has taken place. While men are in an unconverted state, they have neither spiritual perception nor feeling. They are said not only to be dark, but dead. Now it is the property of grace to impart both light and sensibility. When man awakes from this awful state of death and ignorance, and takes a survey of himself, and of the obligations he is under to God, he is filled with the deepest remorse to find that his nature is so corrupt, that his affections have been so misplaced, that his will has been in
clined to evil, and that continually. You, my reader, may be now labouring under much distress on this account. Your heart bleeds at the thought of your former transgressions. It is grievous to you to think how you have offended and insulted the God who made you; and you are almost ready to doubt whether you, who have been such a sinner, can be the object of divine favour. Now it is not improper that feel, that you should be sorrowful for sin; for this is characteristic of the true penitent. They shall come, it is said, with weeping and with supplications. They shall look on him whom they have pierced, and mourn. They go forth weeping, and sow in tears. *
But excess of grief becomes injurious to the body, and hurtful to the soul, and hence when indulged is both unreasonable and sinful. A broken and a contrite heart, we are assured, God will not despise, but is what he regards more than all the pomp of outward ceremony, the glare of shining talents, or the treasures of deep and extensive knowledge. But he never designed, and no where commands that we should so grieve as to distract the mind, subvert reason, unfit ourselves for the discharge of duty, renders us insensible to our mercies, blind us to the promises, and make others miserable around us. On the contrary, he has repeatedly commanded us to rejoice, and his authority is equally as binding on us in this duty as any other. Turn to the Bible, and observe the injunctions, “ Rejoice in the Lord, Oye righteous, for praise is comely for the upright.* Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice.f Glory ye in his holy name : let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. I Let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice ; let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them; let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.” Read these passages, and then ask how far it is your duty to refuse all comfort, to dwell perpetually in the vale of sorrow, to touch none but the string of grief. Rather is it not your duty to arise, to take your harp from the willow, to sing to the praise of grace divine, and to go on your way rejoicing, blessing, and praising God But you may be ready to object, and say, You have great reason to despond. Your case is singular. Your transgressions are more numerous, aggravated, and of longer continuance than others. But granting even this to be the case, you should be cautious of giving way to despair. Consider the nature and evil of this disposition. Is it not a reflection upon his power, a disbelief of his mercy, a denial of his goodness, a rejection of all the kind promises he has given ? What ! do all the various declarations of God's compassion stand for nothing? Are all the affecting and interesting descriptions of Christ's relations and offices mere names, which have no meaning ? Are the rich promises of pardon and mercy to be doubted of? Are all the instances of converting grace recorded in scripture to be overlooked and to have no effect? Can you actually oppose all
* Jer. xxxi. 9. Zech. xii. 10. Ps. cxxyi. 5.
your fears, despair, and doubts, to these encour. agements ? Can you stand up before God, and dare say to him, that however he has saved others, there is no probability of his saving you ? Consi, der that you act in this directly against his plain commands. Has he any where ordered you to despond, but has he not, in multiplied passages, commanded you to hope, to trust, to believe ?* Vile as you may feel yourself to be, ready as despair is to seize you, can you solemnly say in the sight of God, "Well, I feel no desire to love him ; I can with the utmost composure reject his word. I care not if ever I am again the associate of his people. His ordinances are no pleasure, his day is no delight to my soul: I can most cheerfully renounce all, and go back again into the world ?” O how you tremble at the thought ! Unworthy as you are, you dare not, you cannot use such language. No; your desire is to him and to the remembrance of his name; and ask, Did he ever give such a desire to leave it ungratified ? Shall it ever be said, Here is a poor soul longing, and crying, and waiting, and praying, to be saved, and that God will not save him? In all the history of the Bible, in all the history of the church, in all the memoirs, and lives, and experiences of the children of men from the beginning down to the present day, is there one such instance to be found ? No, not one. Men have fallen into the hands of those whom they have offended, and though promised pardon, yet have been punished. They have looked to a friend in the time of calamity, and been disappointed. They have placed the greatest confidence on the most intimate relations, and have been betrayed; but no poor miserable lost sin. her ever made God his trust, and was confounded. Is it your complaint to him, “ Lord, I am sore. ly troubled with this wicked heart. This corruption robs me of all my confort. This temptation pursues me in every place. I have no peace because of sin. O that I could but obtain deli. verance; that the snare might be but broken ; that I might but enjoy the liberty of thy people ; then should I be more happy, than if I were in possession of all the glittering wealth of this world.” Well, be not discouraged. It is the petition of his own framing, and he will surely answer it. But you are the subject, you say, of such strange, vain, infidel, blasphemous thoughts, that you know not how to think there is any good work in you. This may be ; and if you consult others, you will find they have reason to complain of the same thing. A celebrated minister tells us, in the account of his experience, how he was troubled in this respect. “I was infested,” says he, “ with thoughts so monstrously obscene and blasphemous, that they cannot be spoken, nor so much as hinted, and I believe such as hardly ever entered into the heart of
* Ps. xxvii. 14. Ps. xxxvii. 3-5. Prov. iii. 5, 6. John iii. 16.