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is to come, while it is yet to come, before it overtake you, and there be no escaping.
And let it not be grievous to us, to be put in mind of these terrible things. How much eafier is it now to hear of them, while they may be avoided, than to endure them hereafter, when they will be both unavoidable and intolerable? And look upon them as the best and most faithful friends, who deal plainly with you in these matters, and acquaint you with the true state of things, and tell you nothing but what you will certainly find true, if you persist in this dangerous course of offending God; who represent things to you as they are, and forewarn you of so great and certain a danger.
It is no pleasure to any man to speak of such dread. ful and tragical things; it can be no delight to fright men, and to grate upon their ears with such harsh and unwelcome words : but it is necessary to the greatest part of sinners, to set their danger before them in the most terrible and frightful manner; and all this litile enough to awaken the greatest part of mankind to a due consideration of their ways. Soft words, and rober reason,and calm arguing will work upon some persons; some sinners are more yielding, and may be taken in upon parley: but others are so obstinate and resolved, that they are not to be carried but by storm; and in this case, violence is the greatest act of friendship and kindness. Our Saviour when he spake these terrible words to his disciples, and gave them this warning, does insinuate, that it proceeded from a most sincere and hearty friendship to them: And I fay unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can de; but I will forewarn you whom ye mall fear, &c.
SER MON CCLII.
The efficacy of prayer, for obtaining the · Holy Spirit.
LUKE xi. 13.
Holy Spirit to them that ask him? "
H E great advantages which we have by the
1. A more perfect rule for the direction of our lives.
2. A more powerful assistance to enable us to the performance of our duty. And,
3. The assurance of a glorious and an eternal reward.
And all these are contained in that excellent sermon of our bleffed Saviour upon the mount : of which this passage in St. Luke is a part, although it was spoken here by our Saviour upon another occafion, and at another time.
Our Saviour begins that sermon with the last of these, as being the great motive and encouragement to our duty, the promise of blessedness, and of a great reward in heaven.
And then he lays down the rule which was the substance of those moral duties, which are contains ed in the Law and the Prophets; only he explains and supplies whatever was obscure and defective before, and thereby brings our dury to a greater cere tainty, and clearness, and perfection than it had be. fore,
But because this would have signified little to us, if we be still unable to perform our duty, and to obey that law which God hath given us, and to the obedience whereof he hath promised so great a reward; therefore that nothing might be wanting to excite and encourage our obedience, our blessed Saviour, after he had made our duty as strict as pofsible, left we should faint and be discouraged under an apprehension of the impossibility, or extreme difficulty of performing what he requires of us, is pleased to promise an assistance equal to the difficulty of our duty, and our inability of ourselves to perform it; knowing that we are without strength, and that no. thing is a greater discouragement to men from attempting any thing, than an apprehension that they have not sufficient strength to go through with it, not being able of themselves alone to do it, and defpairing of assistance from any other.
And this is the great discouragement that most men ly under, as to the business of religion; they are conscious to themselves of their own weakness, and not sufficiently persuaded of the divine assistance; like the lame man in the gospel, that lay at the pool of Bethesda to be healed; he was not able to go in himself, and none took that pity on him as to help him in.
Hence it comes to pass, that a great many are disheartened from engaging in the ways of religi. on, because some spies, those who have only taken a superficial view of religion, have brought up an evil report upon that good land, which they pretend to have searched, saying, as they of old did, when they returned from searching the land of Canaan, Nuinb. xiii. 31, 32, 33. We be not able to go up a. gainst the people, for they are stronger than we : And they brought up an evil report npon the land which they had searched, unto the children of Israel, saying, The land through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof, and all the people that we saw in it, are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the fons of Anak, which come of the giants; and we were in
our own fight as grashoppers, and so we were in their fight. Just thus we are apt to misrepresent religion to ourselves, as if the difficulties of it were insupportable, and the enemies which we are to encounter, were infinitely too strong for us; not considering that the Lord is with us, and notwithftanding our own impotency and weakness, yet by his strength we inay be (as St. Paul expresleth it) more than conquerors.
Therefore to remove this discouragement, and to put life into the endeavours of men, our blessed Saviour assures us, that God is ready to assist us, and to supply our weakness and want of strength by a power from above, even by giving us his Holy Spirit, which is a Spirit of might and of power, and of the fear of the Lord, as he is called by the Prophet ; and be is ready to bestow so great a gift upon us on the .easiest terms and conditions imaginable; if we will but ask this blessing of bim, How much more Mall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them, that ask him?
How much more ? Which words are an argument from the less to the greater, by which our Saviour from the confidence which children naturally have in the goodness of their earthly parents, that they will not deny them things necessary and convenient for them, if they earnestly beg them at their hands, argues Chris ftians into a great confidence of the good will of their heavenly Father, and of liis. readiness to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask himi
The force of which argument depends upon a double comparison, of the quality of the persons gie. ving, and of the nature of the gift.
1. The quality of the persons giving. Fathers upe. on earth, and our heavenly Father. If earthly fathers be naturally disposed to give good things to their children, how much more may we believe this. of our heavenly Father ? if they who are but men have so much goodness; how much more confidently may we presume it of God, who excells in all perfections, and whose goodness excells all his oo ther perfections. If they who are evil, that is maa ny times envious, and ill natured, and at the bett, but imperfectly good; how much more God, who is infinitely good, and even goodness itself ? If they who are many times indigent, or but meanly provided of the good things they bestow, and if they give them to their children, must want them theinselves; how much more God, who is not the less rich and full for the overflowings of his bounty, and can never impair his estate, nor impoverilh him. Jelf by conferring of his bleflings and benefits upon others ?
2. If we compare the nature of the gifts. If earthly parents that are evil, be ready to bestow good things upon their children, things necessary and convenient only for their bodies and this life; how much more confidently may we believe the good God inclined to bestow upon his children the best things, things necessary for their souls, and conducing to their eternal Jife and happiness
So that in the handling of these words, I shall,
First, Endeavour to sew what is comprehended in this gift of the Holy Spirit, and how great a blesfing and benefit it is.
Secondly, What kind of asking is here required.
Thirdly, To confirm and illuftrate the truth of this proposition, that God is very ready to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.
Fourthly, To remove a considerable objection to which this discourse may seem liable. And,
Fifthly, To make some practical application of it to ourselves,
First, I shall shew what is comprehended in this gift of the Holy Spirit, and how great a blessing and benefit it is. St. Matthew exprefleth this somewhat differently, chap. vii. 1: How much more mall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Which compared with tbe. expression here in St. Luke. doth intimate to us, that the Spi. rit of God is the chief of blessings, or rather the sum of all good things. The promise here in the text is not expreit so generally as it is in St. Matthew ; but . our Evangelift instancech in the greatest gift that God