« PreviousContinue »
ference which is between the beginning of a thing, and the perfection of it.
Having thus endeavoured to clear this truth, I come, in the
Fourth and last place, to make some brief application of it to ourselves.
1. This is' matter of great encouragement to us, under the sense of our own weakness and impotency. When we consider the corruption of our nature, the strength of our lufts, and the malice and power of the Devil, and compare our weakness with the strength of those mighty enemies of our souls, we are a pt to despond in our minds, and our hearts are ready to fail within us ; like the people of Israel, when they heard the report of the spies, concerning the strength of the land which they were to conquer; and the terror of the inhabitants, they wished themselves almost dead for fear of death; Would to God we had died in the land of Egypt ; or would to God we had died in the wilderness. Wherefore bath the Lord brought us into this land, to fall by the sword? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt ? Numb. xiv. 2, OC. Thus we are apt to be dif. heartened, when we look only to ourselves, and consider the power of our enemies.; but when we look beyond ourselves, as Caleb and Joshua did, to that presence and strength of God, which was promised to go along with them ; if we would but consider those gracious and powerful assistances of God's Holy Spirit which are offered to us, and are ready to join with us in this holy warfare of fighting, against sin, and fubduing and mortifying our lufts, we Thould then encourage ourselves as they did Fear ye not the people of the land ; for they are bread for us : their defence is departed from them, the Lord is with us, fear them not, Numb. xiv. 9. If we would but apply ourselves to God for the aids of his grace and Holy Spirit, and make use of that are fiftance which he offers, we should (as the Apostle fpeaks in another case, Heb. xi. 34.) out of weaknefs be made strong, wax valiant in fight, and be able to put to flight the armies of aliens. If we would U 2
but wisely consider our own strength, How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight! All our spiritual enemies would quail before us, and as it is said of the Canaanites, Josh. y. I. Their hearts would melt, and there would be no more Spirit left in them. 2 Kings vi. 15. when Elisha's fervant saw an host compassing the city of Samaria, with horses and chariots, he was in great fear and perplexity, and said, Master, what shall we do? but when upon Elisha's prayer, the Lord had opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold the mountains were full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha: then he took heart, and his fears vanished, because those that were with them were more than they that were against them. Thus, if our eyes were opened by faith, to discern those invisible aids and affiftances which stand by us, how should this raise our courage and our confidence, and make us to triumph with the Apostle, Rom, viii. 31. If God be for us, who can be against us? And to rebuke our fears, and the despondency of our fpirits, as David does, why art thou cast down, o my soul ? and why art thou disquieted within me? Truft still in God: and to say with him, when multitudes of enemies compass us about, in the name of the Lorde we will destroy them. Eph. vi. 10. when the Apostle represents to the Christians what enemies they had to contest withal, we fight not only against flesh and blood; that is, not only against men who persecute us; but against Devils, who continually intest and çempt us, against principalities and powers, &c. he encourageth them againit all these, by the strength of God, Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Thus we should en. courage ourselves in God, and animate our resoluti. ons from the consideration of God's Holy Spirit, that Spirit of might and of power, which God is ready to give to every one of us, to allift us to do whatever he requires of us. And we have no reason to complain of weakness, so long as the strength of God tands by us, and the powerful aids of God's Spirit are ready to join themselves to us.
. 2. Let
2. Let us earnestly beg of God his Holy Spirit, seeing it is fo necessary to us, and God is to ready to bestow this best of gifts upon us. Bread is not more neceffary to the support of our natural- life, than the Holy Spirit of God is to our spiritual life and ftrength : and there is no father upon earth more ready to give bread to his children that cry after him, than God is to give his Holy Spirit to those who heartily and earnestly beg it of' him. Did we but know how great a gift the Spirit of God is, and how necessary to us, we would not lose fuch a blessing for want of asking, but we would be importunate with God, and give him no rest, ask, and seek, and knock, and address ourselves to him with all earneftness, and never give over till our desires were granted.
3. Let us take heed of grieving the Spirit of God, and provoking him to withdraw himself from us. As God is very ready to give his Spirit to us, so we should give the best entertainment we can to so great a guest, left we give him cause to take away his Ho. ly Spirit from us. And there are two things chiefly which provoke God hereto.
(1.) If we refift and quench the motions of his Spirit, and be not compliant to the dictates and sug: gettions of it. We affront the Spirit of God which is given us for our guidance and direction, when we will not be ruled, and governed, and led by it; we thrust the Spirit of God out of his office, and make his presence uselefs and unnecessary to us; and this cauferh bim to go away grieved froin us. '
(2.) If we harbour and entertain any thing that is of a contrary quality and nature to him, and in. consistent wich him; and of such a nature is every lust and corruption that is cherished in our souls. The Spirit of God is the best friend in the world : but as friends have the most tender resentments of unkind ufage, so the Spirit of God is of a most ten. der and delicate sense, and cannot bear unkindness, cfpecially fuch an unkindness as to take in to him the greatest enemy he hath in the world : for there is no such Itrong antipathy, in nature, as there is between fin and the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit of God cannot endure to dwell in an impure foul. If we would have the Spirit of God abide with us, we must give no entertainment to any lost, we must banish the love of all sin for ever out of our hearts : for it we harbour any luit in our bosom, it will be to us as Delilah was to Sampson, it will insensibly bereave us of our strength: the Spirit of God will depart from us, and we mall be like other men.
4. And lastly, God's readiness to afford the grace and assistance of his Holy Spirit to us, to enable us to the performance of our duty, and the obedience of his laws, makes all wilful fin and disobedience inexcusable. Let us not pretend any longer the impor. Sibility, or insuperable difficulty of our duty, when so powerful an assistance is offered to us. If any man come short of happiness for want of performing the conditions of the gospel, it is by his owie wilful fault and negligence; because he would not. beg God's grace, and because he would not make use of it. If any man be wicked, and continue in a finful course, it is not for want of power, but of will to do better. God is always before-hand with us in the offers of his grace and affiftance, and is wanting to no man in that wbich is necessary to make him good and happy. No man shall be able to plead at the day of judgment want of power to have done bis duty: for God will judge the world in righteousa ness; and then I am sure he will condemn no man for not having done that which was impossible for him to do. God hath done enough for every man to leave him without excuse. St. Paul tells us, that the blind Heathen should have no apology to make for shemselves. Next to the being of a God, and his goodness and justice, I do as. verily believe it, as I do any thing in the world, that no man shall be able to say to God at the great day, Lord, I would have res pented of my fins, and obeyed tby laws, but I want, ed power to do it; I was left deftitute of the grace which was neceffary to, the performance and dir. charge of my duty; I did earnestly beg thy Holy Spirit, but thou didft deny me. No man ahal have
the face to say this to God at the great day; every man's conscience will then acquit God, and lay all the fault upon his own folly and neglect : for then every mouth shall be stopped, and God Mall be juftis fied in his saying, and overcome when we are judged.
The bad and the good use of God's signal judgments upon others.
Luke xiii. 5. I tell you, Nay: but except ge repent, je Mall all
H E occasion of these words you have at the
beginning of the chapter, There were present L' at that season ( says the Evangelist s fome that told our Saviour of the Galileans, whosé blood Pilate had mingled with ther facrifices. These in all probability were some of the faction of Judas Gaulanita, who about that time, as' Josephus tells us, had stirred up the Galileans to a sedition against the Roman government, under a pretence of a flert-ing their liberty, by freeing themselves from the Roman tribute ; and some of these coming to Je rusalem to sacrifice, (as the custom of the Jews was, especially at the time of the passover ) Pilate caused them to be sain upon the place, while they' were at this service, shedding their blood with that of the beasts, which were killed for sacrifice.' The report of this profane cruelty being brought to our Saviour, he (as bis custom was in all his conversation, to raise fome useful meditation, from such occurrences that happened, and to turn them to a spiritual advantage) takes occalon from the relation of this.