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of the righteous law of the most high God, dishonourable to him, and destructive to the soul. He was wont to marvel, what made men raise such an outcry against sin, or what harm it was for a man to take a little forbidden pleasure. He saw no such heinousness in it, that Christ must needs die for it, and most of the world be eternally tormented in hell on account of it. He thought this was somewhat hard measure, and greater punishment than could possibly be deserved by a little fleshly liberty or worldly delight; by the neglect of Christ, his word, or worship; by a wanton thought, a vain word, a dull duty, or a cold affection; but now his views are changed. God hath opened his eyes to see the inexpressible vileness of sin, which satisfies him of the reasonableness of all this.
(2.) They are convinced of their misery. He who before read the threatenings of God's law, as men do the stories of foreign wars, or as they behold the wounds and the blood in a picture or piece of tapestry which never makes him smart or fear, now finds it is his own story, and he perceives it is his own doom, as if he found his name written in the curse, or heard the law say, as Nathan, "Thou art the man." The wrath of God seemed to him but as a storm to a man in a dry house, or as the pains of the sick to the healthy bystander; but now he finds the disease is his own, and feels the smart of the wounds in his own soul. In a word, he finds himself a condemned man, that he is dead and damned in point of law, and that nothing was wanting but the mere execution to make him absolutely and irrecoverably miserable.
Whether you call this a work of the law or gospel, yet sure am I it is a work of the Spirit wrought, in some measure, in all the regenerate. And though some do judge it unnecessary bondage, yet it is beyond my conception, how he should come to Christ for pardon that did not first find himself guilty and condemned; or for life, that never felt himself dead. "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." Yet I deny not that some gracious
souls may scarcely perceive, and others scarcely remember this work of humiliation. The discovery of the remedy as soon as the misery, must needs prevent a great part of the trouble, and make the distinct effect on the soul to be with much more difficulty discerned. Nay, the actings of the soul are so quick, and often so confused, that the distinct order of these workings may not be apprehended or remembered at all. And, perhaps, the joyful apprehensions of mercy may make the sense of misery the sooner forgotten.
(3.) They are convinced of the vanity and insufficiency of the creature. Every man is naturally an idolator. Our hearts turned from God in our first fall, and ever since, the creature has been our god. When God should guide us, we guide ourselves. When he should be our sovereign, we rule ourselves. The laws which he gives us, we would correct; and if we had the making of them, we would have made them otherwise. When we should depend on him for our daily mercies, we would rather keep our stock ourselves, and have our portion in our own hands. When we should stand at his disposal, we would be at our own. When we should submit to his providence, we usually quarrel with it, as if we knew better what is good for us than he, and how to dispose of all things more wisely.
Thus we are naturally our own idols. But down falls this Dagon, when God once renews the soul. It is the great business of that great work to bring the heart back to God himself. He convinces the sinner, that the creature of himself can neither be his God, to make him happy, nor yet his Christ, to recover him from his misery, and restore him to God, who is his happiness. This God does not only by his word, but by his providence also; because words seem but wind, and will hardly take off the raging senses. He therefore makes his rod to speak, and continue speaking, till the sinner hear and learn by it this great lesson. This is the great reason why afflictions so ordinarily concur in the work of conversion. When a sinner made honour his god, and God shall cast him into
lowest disgrace, or bring him that idolized his riches, into a condition wherein they cannot help him—what a powerful help is here to this conviction! When a man that made pleasure his god,-whether ease, or sports, or mirth, or company, or gluttony, or drunkenness, or clothing, or buildings, or whatsoever a ranging eye, a curious ear, a raging appetite, or a lustful heart could desire, and God shall take these from him, or turn them all into gall and wormwood,-what a help is here to this conviction! When God shall cast a man into a languishing sickness, and inflict wounds and anguish on his heart, and stir up against him his own conscience; and then, as it were, take him by the hand, and lead him to credit, to riches, to pleasure, to company, to sports, or whatsoever was dearest to him, and say, "Now try if these can help thee. Can these heal thy wounded conscience? Can they support thy tottering frame? Can they keep thy departing soul in thy body? Will they prove to thee eternal pleasures, or redeem thy soul from eternal flames? Cry aloud to them, and see whether these will now be unto thee instead of God and his Christ." O how this works with the sinner, when sense itself acknowledges the truth, and even the flesh is convinced of the creature's vanity, and our very deceiver is undeceived. Now he despises his former idols, and calls them all miserable comforters. He chides himself for his former folly, and pities those that have no higher happiness.
(4.) They are convinced of the absolute necessity, the full sufficiency, and the perfect excellency of Jesus Christ. This conviction is not by mere argumentation, but also by the sense of our desperate misery, as a man in famine is convinced of the necessity of food; or as a man that has heard his sentence of condemnation, is convinced of the necessity of pardon; or as a man that lies in prison for debt is convinced of the necessity of a surety to discharge it. Now the sinner finds himself in another case than ever he was aware of. He feels an insupportable burden upon him, and sees that there is none but Christ can take it off. He
perceives that he is under the wrath of God, and that the laws proclaim him a rebel and an outlaw, and that none but Christ can make his peace. He feels the curse lie upon him, and upon all he has, and that Christ alone can make him blessed. He is now brought to this dilemma; either he must have Christ to justify him, or be eternally condemned; he must have Christ to bring him to God, or be eternally shut out from his presence. And now no wonder, if he cry as the martyr Lambert, "None but Christ, none but Christ." It is not gold but bread, that will satisfy the hungry; nor any thing but pardon that will comfort the condemned. "All things are now but dross and dung;" and what he counted gain is now "but loss in comparison of Christ." For as the sinner sees his utter misery, and the inability of himself and all things to relieve him, so he perceives that there is no saving mercy out of Christ.
And as the soul is convinced of the necessity of Christ, so also of his full sufficiency. He sees that though the fig-leaves of our own righteousness are too small to cover our nakedness, yet the righteousness of Christ is large enough; that though ours is disproportioned to the justice of the law, yet Christ's does extend to every tittle. His sufferings being a perfect satisfaction to the law, and all power in heaven and earth being given to him, he is able to supply all our wants, and "to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him."
The sinner is also convinced of the perfect excellency of Jesus Christ, both as he is considered in himself, and as considered in relation to us, both as he is the only way to the Father, and as he is the end, being one with the Father. Before, he knew Christ's excellency as a blind man knows the light of the sun; but now he knows it as one that beholds his glory.
2. Change of will. After this sensible conviction, the will also discovers its change; and that in regard to all the four objects now mentioned.
(1.) The sin which the understanding pronounces evil, the will accordingly turns from with abhorrence.
Not that the sensitive appetite is changed, or any way made to abhor its object; but when it would prevail against the conclusions of reason, and carry us to sin against God, Scripture becomes the rule, and reason the master, and sense the servant. This disorder the will abhors.
(2.) The misery which sin has procured, he not only discerns, but bewails. It is impossible that the convinced soul should look either on its trespass against God, or yet on its own self-procured calamity, without compunction and contrition. He who truly discerns that he has crucified Christ, and killed himself, will surely in some measure be "pricked at the heart." If he cannot weep, he can heartily groan; and his heart feels what his understanding sees.
(3.) The creature he now renounces as vain, and turns it out of his heart with disdain. Not that he undervalues it, or disclaims its use; but only its idolatrous abuse, and its unjust usurpation.
(4.) He turns to God as his Father, and to Christ as his Saviour. Having before been convinced, that nothing else can be his happiness, he now finds it is in God; and therefore looks toward it. But yet it is rather with desire than hope; for the sinner has already found himself to be a stranger and an enemy to God, under the guilt of sin, and the curse of the law; and knows there is no coming to him in peace, till his state be changed: and therefore, having before been convinced that only Christ is able and willing to do this, and having heard this mercy in the gospel freely offered, his next act is to accept of Christ Jesus as his Saviour and Lord.
I have said that, in believing in Christ, the soul accepts him at once as a Saviour and Lord: for in both relations will he be received, or not at all. It is not only to acknowledge his sufferings, and accept of pardon and glory, but to acknowledge his sovereignty, and submit to his government.
3. Perseverance in grace. The believer perseveres in grace to the end. Though he may commit sin, yet ne never disclaims his Lord, or renounces his allegiance