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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 becomes 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 prefent." I am fure I find a bad heart in the best season, a proud, dead, wandring, hard heart; I find it wofully out of order, God knows, and this is my mifery. Hence note,
Doct. That the best Chriftians do fenfibly feel, and fadly be
wail the workings of their corruptions, and that in the very feafons and opportunities of their communion with God. Bring thy thoughts, reader, close to this point, and fadly ponder thefe three things in it:
First, In what fpecial acts Chriftians use to feel the working of their corruption in the season of their communion.
Secondly, Why is it that corruption ftirs and troubles them more at fuch 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 fpecial actings of corruption in the seasons of communion, they are fuch as have a natural aptitude and defign to deftroy all communion betwixt God and the foul; Gal. v. 17. "The flesh lusteth a"gainft the Spirit." It is contrary to the Spirit; and by reafon of that contrariety, a poor Christian cannot do the things that he would.
How many times have fome Chriftians lamented this upon their knees, with bleeding hearts and weeping eyes? Lord, I came hither to enjoy thee; I hoped for fome light, ftrength, and refreshment in this duty: I promised myfelf a good hour; my heart began to warm and melt in duty; I was nigh to the expectation and defire of my foul; but the unbelief, deadness, and vanity of my heart hath separated betwixt me and my God, and with-held good things from me.
Three things are requifite to communion with God in duties :
First, Compofedness of thoughts.
Thirdly, Excitation of affections: and all these are fenfibly obftructed by innate corruption; for by in-dwelling fin,
First, The order of the foul is disturbed by fending forth multitudes of vain and impertinent thoughts, to infest and diftract the foul in its approaches to God: the fenfe of this evil gave occafion to that prayer, Pfal. lxxxvi. 11. Unite my
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 unbelief: O 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 fenfibly feels itself bound and fettered by its own unbelief, fo that it cannot affent with that fulness, clearness, and determinateness that it would; it cannot apply with that Arength, certainty, and comfort it defires; 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 effays and offers heaven-ward, which oftentimes are fruftrated 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 eafy 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 Chriftians more paffionately bewail, and are more fenfibly afflicted for, than the deadnefs and hardness of their own hearts. Nothing is found fufficient sometimes to affect and raife them; and yet 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 Chriftians find themselves more infefted by natural corruptions in the seasons of duty than at other times; the reafons are obvious to him that confiders, 1. That duty irritates it; 2. Satan excites it; 3. God permits it to be fo.
Firft, Corruption is irritated by duty, it is provoked by that which bridles and purges it: Nothing is found more destructive to fin than communion with God is; and therefore nothing makes a fiercer oppofition to all fellowship and communion betwixt the foul and its God than fin doth. As waters fwell and rage when they are obftructed by a dam, so 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, efpecially
in fuch feasons. When Joshua the high priest stood before the Lord, Satan was feen ftanding 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 fpiritual works, whilft Satan ftands at his right hand, the working hand, to make refiftance.
The devil is aware that one hour of clofe, 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 spirit having an easy access to the fancy, that busy and unruly power of the foul, will not be wanting to create fuch figments and notions in it, as, like a rapid ftream, fhall carry away the foul and all its thoughts from God in duty. O what ado have moft Chriftians to prevent the fallies and excursions of their hearts from God at fuch times!
3. As Satan exercises it, fo the wife 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, amidft fuch fenfible workings and minglings of corruption with them, what would we be if they were more pure and excellent? Thefe things alfo make the faints weary of this world, and to groan within themselves after the more perfect state wherein God fhall be enjoyed and feen in more perfection and satisfaction. But,
Thirdly, This in the mean time cannot but be a very grievous affliction and preffure to the gracious foul, to be thus clogged and infefted by its own corruptions in the very feafon of its communion with God. For,
Firft, By this the foul is rendered very unsuitable to that holy prefence it approaches; Hab. i. 13. "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and eanft not look upon iniquity. Muft the great and bleffed God wait upon a poor worm till it be at leisure to attend him? Muft he be forfaken for every trifle that comes in the way of its fancy? Oh, how provoking an evil is this!"Surely God heareth not vainty, neither will "the Almighty regard it," Job xxxv. 13. This unfuitableness of our fpirits to the Lord, cannot do lefs 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 thofe benefits and comforts are intercepted which are better than life; there is a fenfible prefence of God; there are manifeftations 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 feafons are communicated to men in the way of duty; and would it not grieve a man to the very heart and foul, to be defeated of thofe ineftimable treasures, by the breaking forth of the unbelief, pride, or vanity of his own heart, when fuch mercies are almost in his hand?" Your iniquities, (faith the pro"phet) have feparated betwixt you and your God; and your
fins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear," Ifa. lix. 2. O cruel covering! O difmal cloud! that hides the face of God from his people, that they cannot behold it! "Wherefore "am I come from Gefhur (faith Abfalom) if I may not fee "the king's face ?"
What do I here upon my knees, faith a Chriftian, if I may not fee God? Duties are nothing to me without God; the world and all its comforts are dry and taftelefs things to me without God; his manifefted 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 thefe things the beauty and excellency of duties are defaced. Thefe dead flies spoil that excellent ointment; for wherein confifts the beauty and true excellency of duties, but in that fpirituality and heavenly temper of foul 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 fhame and forrow. Take away the heart from duty, and what remains but a dead carcafs without life or beauty?
Fourthly, By these things gracious fouls are greatly puzzled and perplexed about their eftate and condition; this is the fountain of their fears and doubtings. Oh! when a man feels fuch deadness in his heart towards God, such stiffness in his will to the will of God, fuch a liftlefs carelefs temper to all that is fpiritual, how (thinks he) can this confift with a renewed ftate and temper? Sure no Christian is troubled with fuch an heart as mine is, especially when it fhall be found in its ordinary course, so free, nimble and indefatigable in its purfuits and entertainments of things fenfual 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 fpur here. Lord, faith the poor foul, I know not what to do; if I do not look into my heart, I cannot be fincere; and if Ido, 'I can have no comfort. This is a fad perplexity indeed!
Fifthly, and laftly, By these things the Spirit of God is grieved; and that which grieves him cannot but be a grief and burden to us: his motions are quenched by these corruptions, his fanctifying defigns (as much as lies in us) obftructed by them; furely then there is caufe enough why a Chriftian fhould follow every vain thought with a deep figh, and every ftirring of unbelief with a fad tear.
The usefulness of this point is great and exceeding seasonable, when we are to draw nigh to God, and address ourselves to fpiritual duties; it may to great purpose be improved by
1. Of information.
We may greatly improve it for our information, in the fol lowing particulars.
1. Hence we may take our measures of the wonderful and aftonishing grace and condefcenfion of God to his people, who, notwithstanding all that evil which is prefent with them in the good they do, will not reject their perfons or duties for all
How doth free grace make its own way through fwarms of vanity! How doth it break through all the deadness, infidelity, and hardness of our hearts to do us good? Though evil be prefent with us, our gracious God will not be abfent from us notwithstanding that.
How greatly was the fpoufe amazed at the unexpected condefcenfion and grace of Christ in this matter? Cant. ii. 8. "It is the voice of my beloved; behold, he cometh leaping over "the mountains, fkipping over the hills." It is the voice of my beloved. That abrupt broken expreffion fhews a perfect furprize she saw mountains of guilt and unworthiness betwixt Chrift and her foul; and yet, behold, he comes skipping over all those mountains and hills: O free grace, rich and admira; ble grace, which with fo many notwithstandings and nevertheleffes, will fave and comfort the poor unworthy foul!
How little reafon have any of us to be proud of our best performances! "There is not a juft man upon earth, that doth
good, and finneth not," faith Solomon, Ecclef. vii. 20. If there be fomething fupernaturally good in our duties, yet there is abundance of natural evil commixed with that good; the evil is wholly ours, the good wholly God's; we have no reafon then to glory in our best performances.
It hath been a queftion with fome, Whether fome fhort