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such messages as these to Christ, who is come now to the very gates of the soul; Mercy, Lord, mercy, oh were I but assured thou wouldst receive, spare, and pardon me, I would open to thee the next moment ! Thus the soul is "shut up to the faith of Christ,” Gal. 3: 23, reduced to the greatest strait and loss; and now the merciful King, whose only design is to conquer the heart, hangs forth the white flag of mercy before the soul, giving hope that it shall be spared, pitied, and pardoned, though so long in rebellion against him, if yet it will yield itself to Christ.
Many doubts, fears, half-resolves, reasonings for and against, there are at the council-table of man's own heart at this time. Sometimes there is no hope ; Christ will slay me, if I go forth to him; and then it trembles. But then, who ever found him so that tried him ? Other souls have yielded, and found mercy beyond all their expectations. Oh, but I have been a desperate enemy against him. Admit it, yet thou hast the word of the King for it : "Let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isa. 55 : 7. But the time of mercy is past, I have stood out too long. Yet if it were so, how is it that Christ has not made short work, and sunk me into the flames of hell ? Still he waits that he may be gracious, and is exalted that he may have compassion.
A thousand such debates arise, till at last, the soul considering, if it abide in rebellion, it must perish; if it go forth to Christ, it can but perish : and being encouraged by the messages of grace sent into the soul at this time, such as Heb. 7: 25, Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him ;" and John, 6 : 37, "He that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out ;” and Matt. 11 : 28, Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" it is, at last, resolved to open to Christ. Now, the will spontaneously receives Christ; that royal fort submits and yields; all the affections open to him. Concerning the triumphant entrance of Christ into the soul, we may say, as the psalmist rhetorically speaks concerning the triumphant entrance of Israel into Canaan, " The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs. What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? Thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?" Psa. 114:5, 6. So here, in the like rhetorical triumph, we may say, the mountains and hills skipped like rams: the fixed and obstinate will starts from its own basis and centre; the rocky heart rends in twain. A poor soul comes into the world, full of ignorance, pride, self-love, desperate hardness, and fixed resolutions to go on in its way; and, by an hour's discourse, the tide turns, Jordan is driven back. What ailed thee, thou stout will, that thou surrenderest to Christ! thou hard heart, that thou relentest, and the waters gush out ? And thus the soul is won to Christ; he writes down his terms, and the soul willingly subscribes them. Thus it comes to Christ by free and hearty submission, desiring nothing more than to live under the government of Christ for the time to come.
II. Let us see how Christ rules in the souls of such as submit to him. There are six things in which he exerts his kingly authority over them.
1. He imposes a new law upon them, and enjoins the strictest obedience. The soul before could endure no restraint; its lusts gave it laws. "We ourselves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, serving divers lusts and pleasures." Tit. 3: 3. Whatever the flesh craved, and the sensual appetite longed after, it must have, cost what it would ; even if damnation were the price of it. Now, it must not be any longer "without law to God; but under law to Christ.” These are the articles of
peaco which the soul willingly subscribes in the day of its ad. mission to mercy, " Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” Matt. 11:29. This " law of the spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus, makes them free from the law of sin and death.” Rom. 8 : 2. Here is much strictness, but no bondage; for the law is not only written in Christ's statute-book, the Bible, but copied out by his Spirit upon the hearts of his subjects, in correspondent principles; which makes obedience a plea. sure, and self-denial easy. Christ's "yoke is easy." "His commandments are not grievous.” 1 John, 5 : 3. The soul that comes under Christ's government must receive law from Christ; and under law every thought of the heart must come.
2. He rebukes and chastises souls for the violation and transgression of his law. That is another act of Christ's regal authority: "Whom he loves he rebukes and chastens.” Heb. 12:6, 7. These chastisements of Christ are either upon their bodies and outward comforts by the rod of providence, or upon their spirits and inward comforts. Sometimes his rebukes are smart upon the outward man. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” i Cor. 11:30. They had not that due regard to his body that became them, and he will make their bodies to smart for it. And he had rather their flesh should smart, than their souls should perish. Sometimes he spares their outward, and afflicts their inner man, which is a much smarter rod. He withdraws peace, and takes away joy from the spirits of his people. The hidings of his face are sore rebukes. However, all is for their benefit, not their destruction. And it is not the least privilege of Christ's subjects to have a seasonable and sanctified rod to restore them from the ways of sin, Psalm 23:3; while others are suffered to go on stubbornly in the way of their own hearts.
3. Another regal act of Christ is the restraining of his servants from iniquity, and withholding them from those courses to which their own hearts would lead
for even in them there is a spirit bent to backsliding ; but the Lord in tenderness keeps back their souls from iniquity, and that when they are upon the very brink of sin. "My feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped." Psalm 73:2. Then doth the Lord prevent sin, by removing the occasion providentially, or by helping them to resist the temptation, graciously assisting their spirits in the trial, so that no temptation shall befal them, but a way of escape shall be opened, that they may be able to bear it. 1 Cor. 10:13. Thus his people have frequent occasion to bless his name for his preventing goodness, when they are almost in the midst of all evil. And this I take to be the meaning of Gal. 5:16; "This I say, then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh :" tempted by them you may be, but fulfil them ye shall not; my Spirit shall cause the temptation to die and wither away in the embryo of it, so that it shall not come to a full birth.
4. He protects them in his ways, and suffers them not to relapse from him into a state of sin and bondage to Satan any more. Indeed, Satan is restless in his endeavors to reduce them again to his obedience; he never leaves tempting and soliciting for their return; and where he finds a false professor he prevails; but Christ keeps his own, that they depart not again. "All that thou hast given me, I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition.” John, 17: 12. They are "kept by the mighty power of God, through faith unto salvation,” 1 Pet. 1;5; kept as in a garrison, according to the import of that word, None more assaulted, yet none more safe than the people of God. They are
preserved in Christ Jesus," Jude, 1. It is not their
own grace that secures them, but Christ's care and continual watchfulness. This is his covenant with them, "I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” Jer. 32:40. Thus, as a King, he preserves them.
5. As a King he rewards their obedience, and encourages their sincere service. Though all they do for Christ be duty, yet he has united their comfort with their duty. "This I had, because I kept thy precepts." Psalm 119:56. They take this encouragement with them to every duty, that he whom they seek "is a bountiful rewarder of such as diligently seek him." Heb. 11:6. O what a good Master do the saints serve! Hear how the King expostulates with his subjects: "Have I been a barren wilderness, or a land of darkness to you ?" Jer. 2:31. Have I been such a hard master to you? Have you any reason to complain of my service? You have not found the ways or wages of sin like mine.
6. He pacifies all inward troubles, and commands peace when their spirits are tumultuous. This "peace of God rules in their hearts." Col. 3:15. When the tu. multuous affections are excited ; when anger, hatred, and revenge begin to rise in the soul, this hushes and stills all. "I will hearken (saith the church) what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, and to his saints.” Psalm 85:8. He that saith to the raging sea, Be still, and it obeys him, he only can pacify the disquieted spirit. These are Christ's regal acts. And he exercises them upon the souls of his people, powerfully, sweetly, suitably,
Powerfully: whether he restrains from sin, or impels to duty, he does it with a soul determining efficacy; for "his kingdom is not in word, but in power." 1 Cor. 4:20. And yet,
He rules not by compulsion, but most sweetly. His