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find a law, q. d. what or how others find, I know not : fome may boaft of their gifts, and fome may talk more than be comes them of their graces; they may find excellencies in themselves, and admire themselves too much for them ; but, for my part, “ I find a law, that when I would do good, evil “ 'is present.” I am sure I find a bad heart in the beft season, a proud, dead, wandring, hard heart; I find it wofully out of order, God knows, and this is my misery. Hence nore, Doct. That the best Christians do fenfibly feel, and fadly be
wail the workings of their corruptions, and that in the vé
ry seasons and opportunities of their communion with God. Bring thy thoughts, reader, close to this point, and sadly ponder these three things in it:
First, In what special acts Christians use to feel the working of their corruption in the season of their communion.
Secondly, Why is it that corruption stirs and troubles them more at such a time than at others.
Thirdly, Upon what account this is so great a burden to every gracious heart.
First, As to the first of these, namely, the special actings of corruption in the seasons of communion, they are fuch as have a natural aptitude and design to destroy all communion betwixt God and the foul ; Gal. v. 17. “ The flesh lufteth a“ gainst the Spirit.”. It is contrary to the Spirit ; and by reaTon of that contrariety, a poor Christian cannot do the things that he would.
How many times have some Christians lamented this upon their knees, with bleeding hearts and weeping eyes? Lord, I came hither to enjoy thee; I hoped for some light, strength, and refreshment in this duty: 'I promised myself a good hour; my heart began to warm and melt in duty; I was nigh to the expectation and desire of my foul ; but the unbelief, deadnels, and vanity of my heart hath separated betwixt me and my God, and with-held good things from nie.
Three things are requisite to communion with God in du: ties :
First, Composedness of thoughts.
Thirdly, Excitation of affections: and all these are fenfibly obstructed by innate corruption ; for by in-dwelling fin,
First, The order of the soul is disturbed by sending forth multitudes of vain and impertinent thoughts, to infest and diftract the soul in its approaches to God: the fense of this evil gave occasion to that prayer, Pfal. lxxxvi. 11. « Unite my
6 heart to fear thy name.” How much have we to do with our own hearts upon this account every day? Abundance of rules are given to cure this evil, but the corruption of the heart makes them all neceffary.
Secondly, The activity of faith is clogged by natural un belief: 0 what difficulties is every work of faith carried through! “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief," Mark ix. 24. It cramps the hand of faith in every part of its work; the foul sensibly feels itself bound and fettered by its own un. belief, so that it cannot affent with that fulness, clearness, and determinateness that it would; it cannot apply with that Arength, certainty, and comfort it desires; and thus are the wings of faith pinioned, that when we should foar aloft in the highest acts of sweet communion with God, we can but flutter upon the earth, and make some weak efsays and offers heaven-ward, which oftentimes are frustrated and put by, through the unbelief that is in us.
Thirdly, The excitation of the affections is rendered difficult, by reason of that natrual deadness and hardness that is in the heart. Alas, it is naturally an heart of stone, and as easy it is to diffolve or melt the rocks into a sweet fyrup, as the heart into spiritual and heavenly affections towards God. There is fcarce any one thing in the world that Christians more paflionately bewail, and are more sensibly afflicted for, than the deadness and hardness of their own hearts. Nothing is found sufficient sometimes to affect and raife them; and yer if they be not excited out of their torpor and stupidity, they cannot have communion with God in duties.
Secondly, And if we enquire into the reasons why poor Christians find themselves more infested by natural corruptions in the seafons of duty than at other times; the reafons are obvious to him that considers, 1. That duty irritates it; 2. Satan excites it ; 3. God permits it to be fo.
First, Corruption is irritated by duty, it is provoked by that which bridles and purges it: Nothing is found more destructive to sin than communion with God is; and therefore nothing makes a fiercer opposition to all fellowship and commu. nion betwixt the foul and its God than sin doth. As waters swell and rage when they are obstructed by a dam, fo do our corruptions when obftructed and checked by duty. Sin would fain make men leave praying, and prayer would fain make men leave finning.
Secondly, As duty irritates it, fo Satan excites it, especially
in such seasons. When Joshua the high priest stood before the Lord, Satan was seen standing at his right hand to resist him, Zech. iii. 1. How hard is it for a Christian then to be dextrous, apt, and ready for spiritual works, whilft Satan stands at his right hand, the working hand, to make resistance.
The devil is aware that one hour of close, fpiritual, and hearty converse with God in prayer, is able to pull down what he hath been contriving and building many a year. Now this envious fpirit having an easy access to the fancy, that busy and unruly power of the soul, will not be wanting to create such figments and notions in it, as, like a rapid stream, ihall carry away the soul and all its thoughts from God in duty. O what ado have moft Christians to prevent the fallies and excursions of their hearts from God at such times !
3. As Satan exercises it, so the wise and holy God, for good ends to his people, permits it to be fo.
This thorn in the flesh keeps them humble ; these lamented distractions and corruptions in their duties destroy their dependance upon them, and glorying in them : For if we be fo prone to pride and confidence in our duties, amidst such fenfible workings and minglings of corruption with them, what would we be if they were more pure and excellent ? These things also make the saints weary of this world, and to groan within themselves after the more perfect state wherein God shall be enjoyed and seen in more perfection and satisfaction. Buty
Thirdly, This in the mean time cannot but be a very grievous affliction and pressure to the gracious foul, to be thus clogged and infested by its own corruptions in the very seafon of its communion with God. For,
First, By this the foul is rendered very unsuitable to that hoIy presence it approaches ; Hab. i. 13. “ Thou art of purer eyes
than to behold evil, and canft not look upon iniquity.”. Must the great and blessed God wait upon a poor worm till it be at leisure to attend him ? Must he be forfáken for every trifle that comes in the way of its fancy? Oh, how provoking an evil is this ! « Surely God beareth not vainty, neither will “ the Almighty regard it,” Job xxxv. 13. This unsuitableness of our spirits to the Lord, cannot do less than cover our faces with thame; as it did Ezra ; chap. ix. 6. “O my God, I am “ ashamed, and even blush to look up unto thee."
Secondly, By this those benefits and comforts are intercepted which are better than life; there is a fenfible presence of God; there are manifestations of pardon, peace and love ;
there are reviving influences and fresh anointings of the Spirit ; there are a thousand mercies of this kind, that in their seasons are communicated to men in the way of duty; and would it not grieve a man to the very heart and soul, to be defeated of those inestimable treasures, by the breaking forth of the unbelief, pride, or vanity of his own heart, when such mercies are almost in his hand ? “ Your iniquities, (saith the pro« phet) have separated betwixt you and your God; and your * sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear," Ifa. lix. 2. O cruel covering ! O dismal cloud ! that hides the face of God from his people, that they cannot bebold it! “Wherefore “ am I come from Geshur (faith Abfalom) if I may not see “ the king's face ?”
What do I here upon my knees, faith a Christian, if I may 'not fee God? Duties are nothing to me without God; the world and all its comforts are dry and tasteless things to me without God; his manifested favour and fealed love are the very life of my life, and from this the corruptions of my own heart have cut me off,
Thirdly, By thcfe things the beauty and excellency of duties are defaced. These dead flies spoil that excellent ointment; for wherein consists the beauty and true excellency of duties, but in that spirituality and heavenly temper of soul with which they are performed? This makes them fuitable to their object, John iv. 24. Take away fpirituality from duties, and then you may number them among your fins, and the matters of your shame and sorrow. Take away the heart from duty, and what remains but a dead carcass without life or beauty?
Fourthly, By these things gracious souls are greatly puzzled and perplexed about their eitate and condition, this is the fountain of their fears and doubtings. Oh! when a man feels such deadness in his heart towards God, such stiffness in his will to the will of God, such a, listless' careless temper to all that is fpiritual, how (thinks he) can this consist with a renewed ftate and temper? Sure no Christian is troubled with such an heart as mine is, especially when it shall be found in its ordinary course, so free, nimble and indefatigable in its pursuits and entertainments of things sensual and earthly: 'there it is as the chariots of Amminadib, but here, like Pharaoh's chariots : there it as much needs the curb, as it doth the spur here. Lord, faith the poor soul, I know not what to do ; if I do not look into my heart, I cannot be sincere ; and if Idc, 'I can have uo comfort. This is a fad perplexity indeed!
Fifthly, and lastly, By these things the Spirit of God is grieved; and that which grieves him cannot but be a grief and þurden to us : his motions are quenched by these corruptions, his fanctifying designs (as much as lies in us) obstructed by them ; surely then there is cause enough why a Christian fhould follow every vain thought with a deep figh, and every stirring of unbelief with a sad tear.
The usefulness of this point is great and exceeding seasonable, when we are to draw nigh to God, and address ourselves to spiritual duties; it may to great purpose be improved by way,
1. Of information.
3. Confolation. may greatly improve it for our information, in the fol. lowing particulars.
1. Hence we may take our measures of the wonderful and astonishing grace and condescension of God to his people, who, notwithstanding all that evil which is present with them in the good they do, will not reject their persons or duties for all that.
How doth free grace make its own way through swarms of vanity! How doth it break through all the deadness, infideli, ty, and hardness of our hearts to do us good? Though evil be present with us, our gracious God will not be absent from us notwithstanding that.
How greatly was the spouse amazed at the unexpected condescension and grace of Christ in this matter ? Cant. ii. 8. " It s is the voice of my beloved; behold, he cometh leaping over
the mountains, skipping over the hills.” It is the voice of my beloved.
That abrupt broken expreslion shews a perfect surprize: she saw mountains of guilt and unworthiness betwixt Christ and her soul; and yet, behold, he comes skipping over all those mountains and hills: O free grace, rich and admira; ble grace, which with so many notwithstandings and nevertheleffes, will save and comfort the poor unworthy foul !
How little reason' have any of us to be proud of our best performances! “ There is not a juft man upon earth, that doth
good, and sinneth not,” saith Solomon, Ecçles. vii. 20. If there be something supernaturally good in our duties, yet there is abundance of natural evil commixed with that good ; the evii is wholly ours, the good wholly God's; we have no reafon then to glory in our best performances.
It hath been a question with fome, Whether some shorg