SERMONS UPON St. MARK III. 5.
And Iesus looked round about on them with Anger, being grie∣ved for the Hardness of their Hearts.
IN the first Verse of this Chapter we read, that there was a Man which had a withered Hand, who came to Jesus for Relief on the Sabbath-Day. Here was a fair Occasion offered to the Pharisees to display their Malice: The Sabbath was of high Esteem and Veneration among the Jews; and therefore now they thought by this means to blast the Repute of Christ among the People. In case he should heal on the Sabbath-Day, their Noise and Clamour against him might seem to be justified: Therefore 'tis said, They watched him whether he would heal on the Sabbath-day, ver. 2. But Christ is not daunted, he goeth on with his Work for all their Prejudices; nay, to make the Miracle more manifest, he biddeth him stand forth, ver. 3. However, to satisfy the People, he disputeth with them: they themselves would do more to a Beast, than he was requested to do to the Man with a withered Hand: Ver. 4. He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath-day, or to do evil? to save Life, or to kill? In Matth. 12.10. it is said they propounded the Question to him: and in the 11th Verse, by way of answer, he ma∣keth use of an Argument from a Beast fallen into a Pit; He said unto them, What Man shall there be among you, that shall have one Sheep, and if it fall into a Pit on the Sabbath-day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? —But they held their Peace. They could reply nothing by way of Answer, and sufficient Confutation; and they would reply nothing by way of Approbation and Consent. At their malicious Si∣lence Christ is both angred and grieved. There is an excellent Temper and Mixture in his Affections: In Christ's Anger there is more of Compassion than of Passion; he knew how to distinguish between the Man and the Sin, and to manifest his Displea∣sure and Grief at the same time. The Cause of both is assigned in the Text, for the Hardness of their Hearts,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; He was softned for their Hardness.
The Point which I mean to handle, is the Grievousness of the Sin of Hardness of Heart: Christ was grieved with it in the Pharisees, and there is not a greater cause of Offence to his Spirit.
Doct. That Hardness of Heart is a grievous Sin, very offensive and provoking to Iesus Christ. I shall,
- I. Open the Terms.
- II. Shew you the Nature of this evil Frame of Heart.
- III. The Kinds of it.
- IV. The Causes of it.
- Page 498V. The Heinousness of it.
- VI. Some Observations concerning this spiritual Malady.
I. For the Terms by which it is expressed: they are two, Heart, and Hardness.
1. Heart. This Hardness is sometimes ascribed to the Neck, as Prov. 29.1. He that being often reproved, hardneth his Neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without Remedy. And then it is a Metaphor taken from refractory Oxen, that will not en∣dure the Yoke; and so it noteth Disobedience. Sometimes to the Face, as Ier. 3.5. They have made their Faces harder than a Rock. And so it noteth Impudence; they can no more blush than a Rock or Stone. But most usually it is ascribed to the Heart, as in the Text: so Ezek. 3.7. The House of Israel will not hearken to thee, for they will not hearken to me; for all the House of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted. And so it noteth Obstinacy. All go together, an hard Heart, an hard Neck, and an hard Face: Men are first disobedient, then obstinate, then impudent. But it is the Heart that we are to consider, which naturally, and in its first Sense, signifieth a piece of Flesh in the Body, which is the chief Seat and Shop of Life; but morally and metaphorically it signifieth the Soul: 1 Sam. 12.20. Serve the Lord with all your Heart; that is, with all your Soul. Now in the Soul there are many Faculties; the Mind, the Conscience, the Memory, the Will and Affections; and they are all expressed by this Term Heart. The Mind is called Heart; Rom. 1.21. Their foo∣lish Heart was darkned; that is, their Mind. The Conscience; 1 Sam. 24.5. Da∣vid's Heart smote him; that is, his Conscience. The Memory; Phil. 1.7. I have you in my Heart; that is, I am mindful of you. But usually it signifieth the Will and Affections, as Mat. 22.37. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart. And this is the Faculty in which this Disease is seated. Blindness is incident to the Mind, Searedness and Benummedness to the Conscience, Slipperiness to the Me∣mory, Deadness to the Affections; but Hardness is incident to the Will, that part of the Soul by which we chuse and refuse Good or Evil.
2. Hardness. It is expressed by different Terms in Scripture; sometimes by 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as in the Text, and Ephes. 4.18. which noteth a callous, brawny, insensible Hardness, such as is in the Labourer's Hand, or the Traveller's Heel: Sometimes by 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. So it is a Metaphor taken from dry Bodies, when the Parts are more condensed, and so more impenetrable. D•xi∣ties est qualitas, densas & bene compactas habens partes, difficulter cedens tactui: It doth not easily yield to any Impressions from without. So it is set forth by the Hardness of the Adamant; Zech. 7.12. They made their Hearts as an Adamant Stone. They can no more be wrought upon to receive any Impression of Grace and Refor∣mation, than the Diamond, or Flint, or hardest Rock can be ingraved, or fashio∣ned to any Form by the Tool of the Artificer.
II. I must open the Nature of it. The Hardness of Heart discovereth it self by two Properties: it is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, an insensible Heart, and an inflexible Heart.
1. An insensible Heart; as a brawny Substance, or callous piece of Flesh, like the Labourer's Hand, and Traveller's Heel. This the Apostle intimateth, Ephes. 4.18, 19. Having the Vnderstanding darkned, being alienated from the Life of God, through the Ignorance that is in them, because of the Blindness of their Heart: Who being p•st feeling, &c. In one Verse he chargeth them with Hardness of Heart, and in the first Words of the next Verse with loss of Feeling. Feeling of all Senses, though it be not the most noble, yet it is the most necessary; there is no Life without it; it is diffused throughout the whole Body: and in what Member soever it is lost, there is no more Intercourse of vital and animal Spirits; and where 'tis totally lost, there is no more Life. There may be Life when other Senses are wanting: a Man may be deaf, and yet live; blind, and yet live: but if he utterly lose his Feeling, he can∣not live. Such a dead sensless Heart is the hard Heart, as appeareth in the Wicked, by that great Security, Ease and Quiet, which they naturally have, though lying under the Guilt of many and grievous Sins; and though they be obnoxious to the Wrath of God, yet they are never troubled nor affected with any sense of their Con∣dition: They can sin freely in Thought, foully in Act, without any Remorse and Shame. Ab assuetis non fit Passio: Men are not moved by such things as they are Page 499 much used to. As they that live by the fall of great Waters, sleep quietly, because they are accustomed to the Noise; so Men that are accustomed to Sin, can swear, and be drunk, and commit Filthiness, or go on in some other Trade of Wickedness, and are never troubled. Mithridates through the Custom of drinking Poison, made it so familiar to him, that he drank it without danger. Elementa non gravitant in suis locis; Elements weigh not in their proper place. A Fish in the Water feeleth no Weight; Sin is not burdensom to wicked Men, it is in its own place. This Insen∣sibleness is the greater, where Men will not be awakened out of their Lethargick Fit by all the Means which God useth to them, by the Threatnings of his Word, or the Judgments of his Providence. There is a Method in God's Dispensations; he threatneth, that he may not punish; and punisheth now, that he may not punish for ever. Now the Children of God are startled at the Threatnings, and tremble when they see a Storm in the Clouds, before it falleth: As Iosiah had a tender Heart, and melted at the Threatning, 2 Chron. 34.27. And they are said to tremble at the Word, Isa. 66.2. and Ezra 9.4. But wicked Men think this is a vain Scarecrow; and though they are most obnoxious to the Judgment and Wrath of God, yet they have no sense and tender feeling of it: Therefore God goeth on to his second Dispen∣sation; he punisheth now, that he may not punish for ever. As Absalom set Ioab's Barley-field on fire, that he might draw him to come and speak with him; so God seeketh to make Men serious, to bring them to the Throne of Grace, and sue out their Pardon, by many temporal Judgments: But still wicked Men start aside, and will not turn to him that smiteth them; Ier. 5.3. Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive Correction. As the Anvil is smoothed into Hardness by many Blows and Strokes; so are Men more insensible of their Condition, and will not regard the meaning of God's Provi∣dences. Well then, an hard Heart is insensible of what they have done against God, or what God hath or may do to them. And so far as we lose our Sense and Tender∣ness, so far is the Heart hardned.
2. It is an inflexible Heart; it is not easily bent to God's Purpose: say he what he will, Men are as light, as vain, as mindless of Heavenly Things, as basely wed∣ded to the Delights of the Flesh as ever; and obstinately, and against all Means to the contrary, refuse the Counsel of God for their Good. Though God hath the highest Reasons of his side, and great Variety of powerful and alluring Motives to gain Souls to his Obedience, and these represented not only to the Ear by his Mes∣sengers, but to the Heart by his Spirit; yet Men are so addicted to their own Wills and Lusts, that they will not suffer themselves to be perswaded by him to accept of his Offers and rich Mercies in Christ; they will not obey the sweet Directions of his Word, nor regard the Motions and Strivings of his Spirit, to let their beloved Lusts go, and comply with the Will of God.
(1.) They are inflexible to the Counsels of his Word, where God interposeth in the way of the highest Authority, straitly charging and commanding us under pain of his Displeasure; and reasoneth with us in the most potent and strong way of Ar∣gumentation, from the Excellency of his Commands, and their Sutableness to us as we are reasonable Creatures; from his great Love in Christ, whom he hath given to die for us; from the Danger if we refuse him, which is no less than everlasting Torment; from the Benefit and Happiness of complying with his Motions, which is no less than eternal and compleat Blessedness both for our Bodies and Souls: and all is bound upon us by a strict impartial Day of Accounts, when we are to answer for our Neglects, or else to receive the Reward of our Diligence. But alas! the hard Heart defeateth the End of this whole Contrivance. Neither the Awe of God's Authority, nor the Reasonableness of his Commands, nor the wonderful Love of Christ, nor the Joys of Heaven, nor the Horrors of everlasting Darkness, nor the Strictness of the last Day's Account, will work Man to a sense of his Duty, or gain him to make serious Preparation for his own Happiness and everlasting Salvation. Out of what Rock was the Heart of Man hewen? What will work upon you, if this Doctrine, upon which God hath laid out all the Riches of his Wisdom and Grace, will not work upon you? Hath God another Son to die for you? a better Heaven to bestow upon you? or an hotter Hell to scare you withal? Would you have the Day of Judgment more exact and severe? or greater Obligations to all Holiness and God∣liness of Conversation, than those already propounded? or more Charms and Per∣swasiveness Page 500 added to the Gospel? O no, that cannot be: Infinite Wisdom hath al∣ready stated these things. Or would you have God save you against your Wills? or thrust these things upon you without your Consent? Surely it is Obstinacy, plain Obstinacy, and hardness of Heart, that maketh you stand out against God. Psal. 58.4, 5. They are like the deaf Adder that stoppeth her Ear, which will not hearken to the Voice of Charmers, charming never so wisely. So Mat. 11.17. We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. The sweetest Strains of Grace move not the obstinate Sinner. If an Angel come from Heaven, he cannot bring you better Arguments: for the Gospel is the Wisdom of God, 1 Cor. 1.24. If one came from the Dead, he cannot present you with more powerful Motives; Luke 16.31. If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be perswaded, though one rose from the Dead. O why will you not be perswaded? You do in effect say, Let God do or say what he will, he shall not have my Heart. Well then, this Unteachableness and Unperswadibleness is another Property of Hard∣ness of Heart; and Slowness of Heart, and Backwardness to God's Work, is a De∣gree to it.
(2.) It is inflexible to the Motions of God's Spirit: God doth not only invite Sin∣ners by the Word, but knocketh at their Hearts by the pressing Motions and Im∣pulsions of his Grace; and yet they do not open to him to give him entrance. How often have we eluded the Importunity of many warm Convictions, and baffled ma∣ny Pangs and Checks of Conscience? Acts 7.51. Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in Heart and Ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost. Their Ears are said to be un∣circumcised, as they do resist the Counsels of the Word; and their Hearts, as they do resist the Motions of the Spirit, who enforceth Truths with a clearer Light and Conviction upon their Hearts. There are many importunate Motions and Convi∣ctions which they slight and oppose. An hard Heart goeth to Hell with Violence; the Word standeth in the way, and the Spirit standeth in the way; but still they break through, and so their Condemnation is more just: As the Prophet said, Isa. 7.13. Is it a small thing for you to weary Men, but ye will weary my God also? Wic∣ked Men do not only grieve God's Ministers and Messengers, but his Spirit, in re∣fusing to accept his gracious Offers. The Crime would be less, if the Counsel of the Messengers were not enforced by the Motions and Inspirations of the Holy Ghost. God is not behind-hand with a Sinner: If the Words of Men offer occasion of Suspi∣cion and Prejudice, yet these inward Checks and Excitements in their own Bosoms, to be more serious and diligent, carry their own Evidence with them; and upon such a close Application, we should be ashamed to give God the Denial. But they resist all inward and outward Means of Reformation; they resist the Spirit, as well as despise the Minister. But can the Spirit be resisted? Certainly no, when he wor∣keth according to an eternal Purpose of Grace; for God never made a Creature too hard for himself: Yea, it is said even of wicked Men, Acts 6.10. They were not able to resist the Wisdom and Spirit by which he spake. The meaning is, they could not hinder his Workings, tho they thwarted his Motions; the Light was so clear, that they could not hinder the shining of it, nor contradict it, but out of obstinate Ma∣lice. But how are they said to resist the Holy Ghost? We had need to vindicate the Place, because it is usually urged against the Efficacy of Divine Grace: The Opera∣tion of the Spirit is not irresistible, say they, for the Jews did always resist it. We may grant the whole: Wicked Men of an hard Heart may resist the common Ope∣rations of the Spirit, his Light, and his Motions; but the Opposition of the Elect is overpowered by the Efficacy of Grace. There is a Spirit of Resistance in us, but the stronger Operation of the Holy Ghost maketh it to give place; we may kick against the Pricks, till the Soul be awakened, and then God hath us at his own beck. Tho the Grace of Conversion be not common to Elect and Reprobate, yet the Grace that tendeth to Conversion is common, and this may be resisted. God may knock at the Heart that is never opened to him; they may have Excitements; but alas, they are as the Rock or Adamant to the Tool. There is no Impression left upon them. Obj. But if God will use a fainter Operation, why are they to blame? I answer, God is not bound, but they are bound to prepare their Hearts to receive his Motions; let them prove God a Debtor, and they may excuse themselves for their Disobedience.
III. The Kinds of Hardness: These will be known by these Distinctions.
Page 5011. The first Distinction is, that Hardness of Heart is either, (1.) Natural: or (2.) Voluntary and Acquired: or (3.) Penal and Judicial.
(1.) Natural Hardness of Heart is a part of inbred Corruption, which remaineth with us till God take it away by Grace: Ezek. 11.19. I will take away the stony Heart out of their Flesh, and I will give them an Heart of Flesh. The Stone in the Heart is a Disease that all Adam's Posterity are subject unto; it runs in the Blood: It is not inci∣dent to Nabals only, or such as he was, Men of a churlish and crabbed Temper; no, all Men are sick, and most Men die of this Disease: We brought it with us into the World, a strong Bent to carnal Things, and by consequence an Averseness from God; and it is a mighty Work of Grace, if we do not carry it with us out of the World. When Nabal died, his Heart was a Stone, and so might yours.
(2.) Acquired and Voluntary; when Men do wittingly and willingly reject the Counsel of God, and strengthen themselves in their natural Disobedience and Obsti∣nacy; or being invited to Faith and Repentance by God, out of love to Sin resist God's Call, and put away the Word from them, and refuse to obey: Psal. 95.8. Harden not your Hearts. It is our own Act. And 2 Kings 17.14. They would not hear, but hardned their Necks, like to the Neck of their Fathers. This increaseth our natural Hardness, and maketh it grow more and more, till it be stiffned and settled in an Aversion to God: as a crooked Stick or Twig by growing, becometh more dif∣ficult to be made streight. By every Act of Sin we lessen our Awe of God; and having ventured once, grow more bold to sin a second time. Men when they first put forth to Sea, are very fearful, but afterwards laugh at Storms: so when a Man cometh off safe from Sin, he will venture again. By every Act of Disobedience our Incapacity to receive Grace is increased, and our Inclination to carnal Vanities is strengthned: By frequent Acts we are confirmed in the Habit. But nothing increa∣seth this voluntary Hardness so much as refusing Grace; as no Water is so apt to freeze as that that hath been once heated. God is provoked when we refuse his Grace upon a closer Application; and the Heart is encouraged to continue in Sin. So that by their Carelesness and Delay, Men are hardning by Degrees. Every Call defeated, addeth one Degree of Hardness more; and so God is more apt to desert us and forsake us.
(3.) Penal and Judicial Hardness. This adds to voluntary Hardness, as voluntary Hardness implies something above natural. Man as naturally hardned, doth not turn to God; as judicially hardned, he cannot: there is a great Impossibility he should: This is God's Act, he hardneth as a just Judg, not by infusing Evil, but withdraw∣ing Grace. In Scripture God is said to harden two ways. (1.) By leaving some in their natural Hardness: Rom. 9.18. Therefore hath he Mercy on whom he will have Mercy; and whom he will, he hardneth. So it is an Act of Dominion; he passeth them by; he may do it justly, he is Lord of his own Grace, and is not bound to save Sin∣ners. This is not an Act of Justice, but Dominion; God doth not act as a Judg, but as a Lord; it is matter of Favour to soften, not Right. (2.) By giving up others to a reprobate Sense, which is a Penal and Judiciary Act: Acts 28.26, 27. Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for the Heart of this People is waxed gross, and their Ears are dull of hearing, and their Eyes have they closed, &c. There is consideration had of Man's Sin, and fore∣going Provocations. God punisheth them by their own Sin: Men first harden them∣selves, they go before peccando, by sinning; then God cometh after judicando, by in∣flicting this Judgment of Hardness of Heart on them. They harden themselves, and God leaveth them under their Hardness. As Ieroboam stretcheth out his Arm against the Prophet; and then God layeth a Judgment upon him, that he could not pull it in again to him, 1 Kings 13.4. So Men hardning themselves, God layeth this Judgment upon them, that they shall not return to any Softness.
2. The next Distinction is, that Hardness of Heart is either total, or partial; some are in the State of Hardness, others complain of it as their present Frame. There is a difference between Hardness of Heart and an hard Heart; some Hardness of Heart is in God's Children: Mark 6.52. They considered not the Miracle of the Loaves, for their Heart was hardned. And Mark 16.14. He upbraided them for their Vnbelief and Hardness of Heart. Original Hardness of Heart is not altogether taken away by Grace. Much of the Heart of Stone, or old Averseness from God and ho∣ly Things, remaineth with God's Children; but yet they are not wholly insensible, Page 502 and wholly inflexible to God's Purpose; their Hearts are bent to his Testimonies, though ever and anon they are apt to fall back to the old Bias. Therefore David prayeth, Psal. 119.36. Incline my Heart unto thy Testimonies, and not to Covetousness. The Children of God do often complain of Deadness, and Unaptness for holy things; yet there is not in them that Obstinacy, Impenitency, and hardness of Heart, that is in the Wicked; Rom. 2.5. But after thy Hardness and impenitent Heart, treasurest up unto thy self Wrath against the Day of Wrath. In the one 'tis bemoaned, in the other not; in the one it ariseth from Negligence and Drowsiness, in the other from flat Disobedience and Enmity to God. When God's Children give too free a Con∣tentment and Licence to the Flesh, they have not that Sense, that Liveliness in Pray∣er, that Readiness to obey, that Delight in the Word, as at other times: but the other are contemptuous and scornful, and do not set their Hearts this way, to please God, or enjoy his Favour. In the Wicked there is a careless Security, no sense of their eternal Condition, they banish it out of their Thoughts: Amos 6.3. Ye put far away the evil Day. If it intrude upon them, they look upon it as a melancholy Interruption; they seek to put off what they do not put away; yea, there is a plain Reluctancy and Opposition to good Things, and a Contempt of God's Messages: But in the other there may be some hanging off from God; for Original Sin is not quite done away, especially under a Distemper occasioned by carnal Liberty. Luke 21.34. Take heed to your selves, lest at any time your Hearts be over-charged with Sur∣feiting, and Drunkenness, and Cares of this Life; and so that Day come upon you una∣wares. A Christian is a compound Creature, he hath Hardness as well as Softness; when their Hardness prevaileth, for the present they mourn less for Sin, and do not tremble at the Word, and are not affected with Providences, slight the Warnings and Motions of the Holy Spirit, are more dead in Duty, find not alike Favour in the Promises, and Duties seem more irksom to them. An hard Heart maketh their Work seem hard and tedious.
3. The next Distinction is, that Hardness of Heart is either felt, or unfelt.
(1.) Felt, as by Men under a preparative Work, and in God's Children: for Hardness there may be in them; yea, it is their Condition as long as they are in the World. Grief for Hardness is a good sign that there are some tender Parts left. An Heart judicially hardned, can never feel that Hardness, nor grieve for it: but the Children of God fear it as the greatest Evil, and complain of it as the greatest Bur∣den, and so accordingly strive against it. Thus Ephraim bemoaned himself, and his Obstinacy and Inflexibleness; Ier. 31.18. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised as a Bullock unaccustomed to the Yoke: Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. There is hope of Cure, when they are sensible of the Disease; they fear it in themselves and others, as the greatest Evil: Heb. 3.12, 13. Take heed, Brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil Heart of Vnbelief, in departing from the living God: but exhort one ano∣ther daily, while it is called to day, lest any of you be hardned through the Deceitfulness of Sin. Of all Judgments, the Judgment of the hard Heart is worst. They complain of it as the greatest Burden; Isa. 63.17. O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy Ways, and hardned our Heart from thy Fear? They find much deadness and dul∣ness of Spirit; they are not affected with God's Presence in Duties, nor with his Providences in the World. This is their Complaint and Burden; Lord, I have a stiff Neck, that will not easily be brought under the strict Duties of Religion, to meditate, and to pray in private; I have a proud stubborn Heart, too hard for me to take down. Thus do they complain of these things, and strive against it; as a Man that hath a Stone in the Bladder, he useth good Means to soften it, and is care∣ful of his Diet; so are God's Children sensible, and therefore fearful and careful, of∣ten bemoaning themselves.
(2.) Unfelt: so it is in wicked Men, who never consider the Frame of their Hearts, or bemoan themselves because of spiritual Evils. The Heart of Stone is not sensible of it self: and so God's Children for a while may be under great Desertions, and the Guilt of hainous Sins, and be insensible: after gross Falls they may lie in Hard∣ness for a while, till God rouse them up again. Great Falls are like a Blow upon the Head, that stuns us, and amazes us for a while; and it is some good while ere we re∣cover again. David's Conscience was not presently awakened. Spiritual Lethargies are long Fits. David lay ten Months from the Conception to the Birth of his Child, Page 503 and yet all this while did formally use God's Ordinances and publick Service. Nathan comes to him after the Child was born; 2 Sam. 12.14. The Child that is born unto thee, shall surely die. And he never relented till Nathan came to him, as appeareth by the Title of the fifty first Psalm, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the Prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. All this while Grace was not dead, but in a deep Sleep. The least Sin maketh way for hardness of Heart, much more Sins a∣gainst Conscience; there is a more long Sequestration then: God will not let you enjoy the Comforts and effectual Presence of his Spirit: These Blows and Wounds will leave you for dead for a long while.
And Iesus looked round about on them with Anger, being grie∣ved for the Hardness of their Hearts.
IV. THE Causes of hardness of Heart.
1. Ignorance. The blind Mind and the hard Heart always go together; Iohn 12.40. He hath blinded their Minds, and hardned their Hearts, that they should not see with their Eyes, nor understand with their Hearts. Men are first unteachable, then unpliable: Obstinacy beginneth at Sottishness of Conceit: He that knoweth not what he ought to do, careth not much what he doth. The Children of God never feel hardness in their Hearts, but when the Light in their Minds is unactive or obscured; there is a kind of Darkness for that time. We see that the most carnal Wretches, when they come to die, are sensible; when the Mind is cleared from the Fogs of Lust, and Conscience is awakened, then they feel a great Weight of Sin upon them. Light always begets Tenderness; as in a clear Vessel the Dregs do soon appear. Well then, either they are ignorant, or have but a naked Theory, not the lively Light of the Spirit; and hence it is that their Hearts are hardned.
2. Unbelief: for it is Faith that maketh all Truths active and lively. The great Motives and Arguments of Religion are mainly fetched from things to come. Now it is not enough to know the things of the World to come, but there must be an hearty Assent to them, as if we did see them before our Eyes. Things that are at a distance, are as nothing to us; as the Stars appear as so many Spangles, they lose much of their Greatness. Men sin, and no Evil cometh of it, therefore they grow bold and sensless in Sin: Eccles. 8.11. Because Sentence against an evil Work is not executed speedily, therefore the Heart of the Sons of Men is fully set in them to do evil. They grow remiss and slack in their Duty. The Reward is not by and by: Mal. 3.14. Ye have said, It is in vain to serve God, and what Profit is it that we have kept his Ordinances, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts? We are for a present Good. Now Faith is the Substance of Things hoped for, and the Evidence of Things not seen, Heb. 11.1. It maketh Things present, as if we did see them with our Eyes, as if the Judgment-Seat were set, and the Books were opened. Those that hardned their Hearts, did not believe what God said was true, Heb. 3. from the seventh to the eighteenth Verse. If Men did believe there were an Heaven, and Hell, and Judgment to come, they would not lie in their Sins, they could not be unpliable to God's Motions. All disrespect of Promises and Threatnings cometh from Unbelief. Christ did chide his Disciples for their Unbelief and hardness of Heart, Mark 16.14. What is the Reason, that though we preach the Law, and the Judgment of God so much to you, and beseech you to come in and receive Christ, Page 504 and you shall be saved, and this Time after Time, and Day after Day; and yet the Word hath no Effect upon you, you are as ignorant and careless as ever? The Rea∣son is, you do not believe. Certainly the Word would work otherwise than it doth, if you did believe it. If one should tell a Man, that such an earthly Potentate, if he would but come to him and visit him, would raise him to great Honour, it would be the first thing he would do: Truly so if you did believe that coming to Christ were the only way to Happiness, you would mind it more seriously than you do. Again, if you did believe that the Word of God is true, that God is a just God; if the Drunkard did believe, that Drunkards shall be damned; or the Adulterer did believe, that no Adulterer shall inherit the Kingdom of God; or if the vain Person, or the Gamester did believe, that they must give an Account of their mis-spent Time, and idle Words, and vain Communication; they would not sport themselves in their Sins as they do. If Men did believe, that God calleth when, and whom he listeth, they would not defer their Repentance, and put off the Motions of the Spi∣rit, but would strike while the Iron is hot, and let out the Sails when the Wind bloweth. But Men do not believe, and therefore go on in their Sins as they do. Tell Men of earthly Things; of a Commodity, which if they would but by, it would yield an hundred for one; surely they would not neglect the Market. We press Men to renounce but a little Ease and carnal Pleasures, and to use Diligence to get Christ into their Hearts, and they shall have a hundred for one: but Men want Faith; therefore Christ lieth by as a refuse Commodity. There is nothing breed∣eth hardness of Heart so much as Unbelief of what God can and will do.
3. Custom in Sinning. As an High-way is trodden hard by long travelling in it; so the Heart by long Custom groweth more obstinate every day. In Sin there is not only a Fault, Guilt, but a Blot, a stronger Inclination to the practice of the same Sin again; as a Brand that has been once in the Fire, is more apt to burn again. Every new Oath is as Oil to the Tongue, to make it more glib and fleet in the repe∣tition of that Oath or vain Speech. There is a natural Tenderness in Men whilst young, at least a lesser degree of Hardness, which will get Strength by Use and Age, if not in time cured: Ier. 13.23. How can ye do Good, that are accustomed to do Evil? Water when it first freezeth, will not bear the weight of a Pin, but after∣wards by continual freezing it cometh to bear a Cart-load.
4. Hypocrisy. Take it for Dissembling, whereby we deceive others; or Formali∣ty, whereby we deceive our selves. For Dissembling: the Pharisees were a dissem∣bling Generation, and they are the famous Instances of hardness of Heart in the first Gospel-days. Hypocrisy is a constant Lie, and every Lie is a Sin against Light. When Men take a Religion out of design, their Pretences condemn them. Men sin, and are secured against the Stroke of the Word, and Checks of Conscience, by their Fame and plausible Appearance. Then for formal performing of good Duties; Prov. 7.14. I have Peace-Offerings with me; this day have I paid my Vows. I do this and that, I read so many Chapters a day, and keep to my Church. Men think they have done enough, though they have done never so little. Hardness of Heart is often occasioned by the Ordinances: Now how do Ordinances harden? They may harden, partly as they irritate Corruption, but chiefly as they are trusted in. Du∣ties soundly done, humble Men; as new Wine rendeth and breaketh old Bottles all to pieces. But when formal Duties are used as a sleepy Sop to stop the Mouth of Conscience, the Heart is insensibly hardned. Every Man must have a Religion to lean to: Conscience, like the Stomach when it hath no solid Food, draweth Wind.
5. Pride and Stubbornness against God. Men scorn to be controlled: Exod. 5.2. And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord that I should obey his Voice, to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go. Nehem. 9.29. They dealt proudly, and hearkned not unto thy Commandments, but sinned against thy Iudgments, and withdrew the Shoulder, and hardned their Neck, and would not hear. Jer. 13.15. Hear ye, and give ear, be not proud, for the Lord hath spoken. Men scorn to submit to Ordinances, to be checked by God's Messengers, and say, What have we to do with them? In this Light of Christianity, the Contempt is cast upon the Messenger, though indeed the Heart riseth against the Authority of God himself. One great Cure of hardness of Heart is seriously to meditate on God's Power: Deut. 10.16, 17. Circumcise there∣fore the Foreskin of your Heart, and be no more stiff-necked: For the Lord your God is God of Gods, and Lord of Lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth Page 505 not Persons, nor taketh Reward. Do you know what God is? Will you contend with him? You will fail in the Enterprize; you cannot be hard-hearted if you would, in the Issue of the Combate. Pride is the Root of all Sin: what is the Rea∣son Men dare sin? They think they shall carry it out well enough for all God, and so suffer their Lusts to perk above the Commandment.
6. The Deceitfulness of Sin; Heb. 3.15. Lest any of you be hardned through the Deceitfulness of Sin. Now how doth Sin deceive us, and so harden the Heart?
(1.) By general Invectives: We all cry out of Sin, and complain of Sin, and yet all this while regard it in our Hearts. We make Sin a Notion, and so defy it in the general, when in Particulars we love it all the while; as many ignorant People defy the Devil, but hold the Crown upon his Head, for he is the Ruler of the Dark∣ness of this World. The Devil careth not for ill Words, so he can keep Possession of the Heart. We make Sin the common Pack-horse to bear all our Burdens; Men content themselves with empty Declamations or Forms of Satyr and Invective, yet the Heart liketh it well enough, and so is insensibly hardned; they are not serious and particular. Men look upon Matters of Religion as abstracted Ideas and Mat∣ters of Fancy. O take heed of this.
(2.) By delaying; Acts 24.25. Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient Season I will call for thee. Christian, it is but a Deceit, take heed thy Heart be not hardened by it. What Reason hast thou to presume of that which God can only give? If Cesar had read the Letters over-night to prevent the Conspiracy, he had been safe. What Security have you either of Time or Grace, but your own Pre∣sumptions? And he that is Security to himself, is a Fool. It is true all may be re∣dressed by Repentance, but this is not in thy Power, and thy Hardness by delaying increaseth every Day.
(3.) It cometh lapped up in carnal Baits of Profit and Pleasure, to gratify our Lusts and Interests. Sin pretends great Advantage; but be not deceived, it will harden thy Heart, and destroy thee, it cannot profit thee.
(4.) It hath many Colours wherewith to beguile a Man. It presents it self in another Dress than its own; and therefore we have need to have our Eyes about us: Prov. 28.14. Happy is the Man that feareth always: but he that hardneth his Heart, shall fall into Mischief. Many Sins lie secret, unrepented of, and so the Heart is hardned.
(5.) It will increase upon thee; it groweth to a Custom by Degrees; it is of a bewitching Nature, and soaketh into a Man insensibly, from Thought to Consent, then to Action, then to Reiteration, then to Custom. First, Men excuse Sin, then justify it, then glory in it, and in time they grow senseless, and confirmed in a Ha∣bit of Sin, and are loth to quit it. At first Temptations seemed horrible; the first committing of Sin much perplexed the Soul, but in time it is not so burdensom, yea it is become pleasing and delightful. Be not deceived and hardned by saying, it is a little one, and my Soul shall live, unless we take it betimes; as Peter went out immediately and wept bitterly; it cannot easily be subdued. Sampson knew that Dalilah had purposed to betray him into the Philistines Hands, and yet he could not leave her. Though Sin cost Men temporal and eternal Life, yet they cannot give it over.
(6.) That God will be merciful; this is another thing whereby we are deceived, a Presumption of Impunity. Psal. 50.21. These things hast thou done, and I kept Si∣lence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thy self: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine Eyes. So Deut. 29.19, 20. And it come to pass when he heareth the Words of this Curse, that he bless himself in his Heart, saying, I shall have Peace, though I walk in the Imagination of mine Heart, to add Drunkenness to Thirst. Be not deceived, mark what follows: The Lord will not spare him, but then the Anger of the Lord and his Iealousy shall smoak against that Man, and all the Curses that are written in this Book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his Name from under Heaven. Take heed of the Deceitfulness of Sin. These are the Causes of Hardness of Heart.
V. The Heinousness of it.
1. It is a contending with God; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a fighting with God. The hard Heart is the greatest Enemy God hath on this side Hell. That there is a Contest Page 506 between God and an hard Heart, who shall have the better, the Instance of Pha∣raoh sheweth: God sendeth a Message to him, and meeteth with a Repulse: His Message to Pharaoh was, Exod. 5.1. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my Peo∣ple go. And this proud Creature hath the Boldness to deny him: Ver. 2. And Pha∣raoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his Voice, to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go. And he standeth it out after many Warnings and foregoing Judgments. And he doth not stand alone, but hath more Fellows in the World: Nehem. 9.29. They dealt proudly, and hearkned not to thy Commandments, but sinned against thy Iudgments, and withdrew the Shoulder, and hardned their Neck, and would not hear. Every Command of God, every Offer of Grace is a Message from God; To you is the Word of this Salvation sent, Acts 13.26. and it should be re∣spected with as much Reverence as if an Angel himself were the Messenger: Only here is the Difference, God saith to Pharaoh, Let my People go: To us he saith, Let Sin go. It is pity he should have the Repulse. Sin will be as bad an Inmate to the Soul, as the Israelites were a Snare to Egypt; they were fain to thrust them out at length, and were glad they could be so rid of them. I say, this is the Contest be∣tween God and his Creatures, whether Sin shall go or tarry; whether Christ shall be accepted or no? He sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh; and he hath sent Prophets, Apostles, Pastors and Teachers to us. Let Idols, Images, and false Worship go; Swearing, Sabbath-breaking, Adultery, Murder, Disobedience to Parents, Lying, Covetousness, let it all go, there should not be an Hoof left. This is God's Message. Now if you will try it out, you shall see whose Word shall stand, God's or yours, Jer. 44.28. his Threatnings, or your vain and delusive Imaginations. If you put it to the Trial, you have more Boldness than an Angel; Iude 9. Yet Michael the Arch-Angel, when contending with the Devil, he disputed about the Body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing Accusation. An Angel durst not use one passionate Word, and will you dare to set up other Gods, to profane the Sabbath, to swear, lie, or be drunk, and to say we will not let these things go, let God say or do what he will to the contrary? The Contest on God's part is managed for a long time in a mild condescending way; He beseecheth his own Creature; Ier. 13.15, 16. Hear ye, and give Ear, be not proud, for the Lord hath spoken: Give Glory to the Lord your God, be∣fore he cause Darkness, and before your Feet stumble upon the dark Mountains; and while ye look for Light, he turn it into the Shadow of Death, and make it gross Dark∣ness. Be not obstinate, it is better that you should take down the Stoutness of your Hearts, than that I should pull it down. Let me have the Glory of this Conquest voluntarily, I shall carry it at length: You dream of Happiness and Pleasure; alas▪ you cannot injoy these vain Delights long: Come, leave them, and I will make you as happy as Heart can wish; but if not, take that that followeth, you will stum∣ble into the Dungeon of Hell, and then be as miserable as Almightiness can make you. Iob 9.4. He is wise in Heart, and mighty in Strength; who ever hardned him∣self against God, and prospered? You will never get the day of God; if you contend with him, there is nothing to be expected but Blows. You may indeed overcome him, but it is not by resisting, but stooping; a tender Heart overcometh him: Jer. 31.20. Is Ephraim my dear Son? is be a pleasant Child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my Bowels are troubled for him, I will surely have Mercy upon him, saith the Lord. And Isa. 57.18. I have seen his Ways, and will heal him; I will lead him also, and restore Comforts to him, and to his Mourners. But a hard Heart is no Match for God, it is ever foiled in the Enterprize; if they yield not to his Mercy, they are consumed by his Wrath. Pharaoh would contend with God, but found his Maker too hard for him at last. So Iulian the Apostate. Ezek. 22.14. Can thy Heart endure, or can thy Hands be strong in the Days that I shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it. And 1 Cor. 10.22. Do we provoke the Lord to Iealousy? are we stronger than he? It is a foolish Contest, it ever endeth with our Destruction.
2. It is in it self the sorest of all Judgments: when other means are urged in vain, God giveth them up to Hardness of Heart; it is one of the Chains of Dark∣ness, in which captive Souls are held unto eternal Judgment. A stormy Consci∣ence, that lieth under the Power of perplexing despairing Fears, is not so bad as an hard Heart: They are both Chains of Darkness, Despair, and Obstinacy, as in the Devils; but in Men Despair may make way for Repentance. God hath them in the Page 507 Briars, many are brought to Heaven by the Gates of Hell: God hath begun with them, but left these. Again, it will end in Despair; the Heart that is not sensible now, will then be sensible enough. We read of the Worm that never dieth, and the Fire that shall never be quenched, Mark 9.44. In Hell Men will remember, how every Sabbath God did stretch out the Arms of his Mercy to imbrace them, and they would not; how Christ offered a Plaister of his own Heart's-blood to cure them, but they refused it, and made light of it; how the Holy Ghost put many good Motions into their Hearts, but they rejected these Thoughts, and would not be interrupted in their Ease and false Peace. O the deep Wounds and Stings these Thoughts will occasion when 'tis too late!
3. It never goeth alone, but bringeth other Judgments along with it. Pharaoh had Plague upon Plague. Zech. 7.12. They made their Hearts as an Adamant Stone, lest they should hear the Law, and the Words which the Lord of Hosts hath sent in his Spirit, by the former Prophets; therefore came a great Wrath from the Lord of Hosts; more than ordinary Displeasure. So Prov. 29.1. He that being often reproved, hard∣neth his Neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without Remedy: They shall be de∣stroyed; not afflicted only, and that without Remedy, there shall be none to help. And Rom. 2.5. After thy Hardness and impenitent Heart treasurest up unto thy self Wrath against the Day of Wrath, and Revelation of the righteous Iudgment of God. God will harden his Heart against you, shut up his Bowels against you in your greatest Straits: when his Patience is quite spent, God will retaliate. Zech. 7.12, 13. They made their Hearts as an Adamant Stone, lest they should hear the Law, &c. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of Hosts. There is a time when the stoutest-hearted Sinner, who careth least for God, shall stand in need of his Help, and would give the whole World for one favourable Look from God. But, O no! not a Glimpse, not the least Answer. God's Children meet with sad Suspensions sometimes; Cant. 5.6. I sought him, but I could not find him; I call'd him, but he gave me no Answer. He seemeth not to hear their Prayers, when they are deaf to his Counsels: He will make them sensible of their unkind ungracious treating of him.
4. It is the great hindrance in the spiritual Life; it depriveth you of Grace; the Spirit of God will not animate a stony Heart: A Body of Flesh is only fit to be animated with a living Soul; so the Heart of Flesh, or tender Heart, by the Spirit of God. Ezek. 11.19, 20. I will give them one Heart, and I will put a new Spirit within you, and I will take the stony Heart out of their Flesh, and will give them an Heart of Flesh; that they may walk in my Statutes, and keep my Ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my People, and I will be their God. So Isa. 57.15. Thus saith the High and Lofty One, that inhabiteth Eternity, whose Name is Holy, I dwell in the High and Holy Place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble Spirit, to revive the Spirit of the Humble, and to revive the Heart of the contrite ones. There is God present with his Graces. God hath two Places of special Residence, the highest Heaven, and the humblest Heart. In the one is the Presence of his Glory, in the other of his Grace. When the Spirit is humbled and softned, it is a fit Pillow for God to rest on. The hard Heart hindreth us in Duty: 'Tis an hard Heart that maketh our Work hard. If once the Will were gained, all things would be easy in Religion: Rom. 8.7. The carnal Mind is Enmity against God; for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be. It is not subject to God, but averse from him.
VI. The Observations concerning this spiritual Malady.
1. With spiritual Hardness of Heart, there may be a natural and sinful Tender∣ness. Some Men have a natural Softness and Sweetness of Spirit, as to Commerce with Men, yea rather a faulty Easiness; yet they are very hard-hearted as to God: As Zedekiah, Jer. 38.5. The King is not he that can do any thing against you. He was easily drawn by Company and evil Counsel. Usually it is so; an hard Heart is like Wax to the Devil, but as a Stone to God, hardned against Goodness, but exorable, and easy to be intreated by Sin and Satan. If the Devil do but whist, they find an irresistible Power in his Temptations. If carnal Men do but hold up the Finger, it is a strong Cord to draw them to Excess; the Looks and Speeches of the Harlot are enough to cause them to follow, though it be like an Ox to the Slaughter; Page 508 Prov. 7.21, 22. With much fair Speech she caused him to yield; with the flattering of her Lips she forced him; he goeth after her straight-way, as an Ox to the Slaughter, or as a Fool to the Correction of the Stocks. God may plead and tell us of Grace and Glory, but we mind it not. A Diamond is not wrought upon but by its own Dust. On the contrary, Men may have a stout Heart in Dangers, that are very yielding and trembling in Point of Sins: Prov. 28.14. Happy is the Man that feareth always; but he that hardneth his Heart, shall fall into Mischief. David could encounter Lions, Bears and Giants, yet in what a weeping humble Posture is he when he hath to do with God: It is good to be a Coward in Sin, pulling and weak-hearted as to any Contest with God.
2. Small Sins harden as well as great Sins; it is hard to say which most. It is confessed, for the present little Sins do not deaden and harden the Heart so much as great. As a Prick of a Pin maketh a Man start, but an heavy Blow stunneth him, and leaveth him dead for a while. David when he cut off the Lap of Saul's Gar∣ment, and had some revengeful Intention against his Soveraign, he quickly perceived his Error; His Heart smote him, 1 Sam. 24.5. But when he committed the foul Sin of Adultery, he lay insensible for a long space of time. But on the other side, little Sins do by Degrees harden. Great Sins are apparent and liable to the Judg∣ment of Conscience; but we neglect small Sins, and so a Custom groweth upon us, and we are insensibly hardned by our Carelesness and constant Neglect of our Souls. A Surfeit or violent Distemper maketh us run to the Physician; but when a Disease groweth upon us by degrees, it proveth mortal e're we regard it: Therefore we should make Conscience of daily Failings; Heb. 3.13. Exhort one another daily, while it is called, To day; lest any of you be hardned through the Deceitfulness of Sin. Great Falls, as they astonish us for the present, so they awaken Conscience after∣wards, and so we regard that and other Sins: As when a great Sound hath awakned us out of a deep Sleep, we easily hear lesser Sounds: But Men slide into a carnal Frame of Heart unawares. Qui nunquam delirat, semper erit fatuus. We would never grow wise but for some notable Acts of Folly. Chrysostom saith, that we should be more watchful of small Sins than of great, Nature abhorreth these, but the other slide into us. A little Leak unespied, drowneth the Ship, as well as a great Breach. If we would look more to small Sins, so many great Mischiefs would not ensue.
3. Sins of Omission harden as well as Sins of Commission, yea sometimes more; a neglect of Duties, as well as the practice of gross Sins; because they use not the means whereby the Heart may be kept soft, and in a due Remembrance of God, and their Duty to him. An Instrument never so well in Tune, if it lie by, it soon groweth out of Kilter. In every Sin of Commission there is a Sin of Omission, but not the contrary. A Man may be civilly harmless, in offensive, and yet have a very hard Heart, if he hold no Communion with God, and neglect the means whereby the Heart may be kept tender. The Neglect of good Duties is a more general means of Destruction than the commission of Evil: Men are estranged from God by the neglect of the Word and Prayer; Psal. 14.4. They call not upon the Lord; attend not upon the means of Grace with that Life and Seriousness they ought to do.
4. None are so confident of the Goodness of their Hearts, as those that have an hard Heart: For the more any spiritual Disease increaseth upon us, the less it is felt. There is Hope whilst there is some complaining of Sin, that there is some Tender∣ness left. The hardest Heart must needs be the most confident, because they use no Recollection and Reflection upon themselves; Ier. 8.6. No Man repented him of his Wickedness, saying, What have I done? What am I, what have I done? Yea they slight their Danger, take up every vain Pretence and Allegation to maintain their carnal Peace and Quiet: Deut. 29.19. And it come to pass, when he heareth the Words of this Curse, that he bless himself in his Heart, saying, I shall have Peace, though I walk in the Imagination of my Heart, to add Drunkenness to Thirst. The Lord will yet spare him, &c. Broken-hearted Christians are sensible of the Holiness of God, and what an hard matter it is to hold Communion with him, and observe their own Weakness and Unworthiness; and therefore they complain of the Badness of their Hearts, that there is no greater bent towards God, and are always suspicious of their spiritual Condition.
Page 5095. Hardness of Heart is most apt to creep upon us in times of Ease and Prosperity: Solomon saith, Prov. 1.32. The Prosperity of Fools shall destroy them. And Rom. 2.4, 5. Despisest thou the Riches of his Goodness, and Forbearance, and Long-suffering; not knowing that the Goodness of God leadeth thee to Repentance? But after thy Hard∣ness and impenitent Heart, treasurest up unto thy self Wrath against the Day of Wrath. Usually in the times of God's Goodness and Patience, Men are besotted with the Pleasures of the Flesh, and then lose their Feeling: Nothing bringeth a Brawn up∣on the Heart so much as Sensuality, and an inordinate Use of the Creatures; it taketh away the Heart: and usually in a prosperous Condition Men grow sensual and careless. Pharaoh himself, when under the Rod, could speak as good Words as another; but when he was well at Ease, then his Hardness returned upon him. As Metal in the Furnace is very yeilding and melting, capable of any Impression; but out of the Furnace it returneth to its wonted Firmness and Consistency. The greatest Plague was upon his Heart when he wanted other Plagues. Men do well in their Wickedness, injoy themselves with Comfort, and then fear nothing. We see in the brute Creatures, when they are in good Plight, they grow more fierce; so doth Man that aboundeth in Ease and Pleasure, his worldly Happiness maketh the Heart gross and sensless. We had need to take heed of an hard Heart at all times, but especially when we are like to be corrupted with Ease and Pleasure. A sensual Heart will be sensless.
6. Hardness of Heart is a grievous Sin at all times, but then most sinful, when most unseasonable; for Time is an aggravating Circumstance in all things, so in this. Now when is it unseasonable? In times of Judgment, and times of Gospel-Grace.
(1.) In times of Judgment: 2 Chron. 28.22. In the time of his Distress did he trespass yet more against the Lord: This is that King Ahaz! There is a Brand set on him. Certainly the Times we live in are extraordinary Times; we have seen many Changes and great Effects of God's Anger for Sin; we have now many spiritual Judgments upon us, Error and Blasphemy, great Divisions and Breaches among God's People, and Scandals of them that profess the Gospel. An hard Heart now is most unsutable, it is like a Garland of Rose-buds in a Day of Mourning. Clearly upon some the Stroaks of God's Providence have lighted very sore; if they shall add Hardness of Heart to their other Plagues, who will pity them? When all the Cor∣rections of an angry God cannot draw any sensible and serious Thoughts from them, how sad is this! I tell you, Christians, it looketh like Hell, to continue Sinning un∣der Suffering, and to be obstinate against God, and the Counsels of his Grace for your Salvation; it speaketh much of a spiritual Plague added to temporal Judg∣ments. If we did perswade you to a Party only, it were more excusable; but when we press you to come to Christ, and you still remain obstinate and hard∣hearted, this is sad! If the Ministry were only used as a State-Engine to ingage you in such a Faction and Design, you might have something to plead for your selves. Pardon me for dealing thus freely with you, we are Debtors to all, Rom. 1.14. Would you be troubled if the Base should rise against the Honourable? it were a Judgment certainly; but what are you to God? Poor base Worms! will you con∣tend with your Maker? You would complain of it as an heavy Burden, and strange Inversion of all States and Conditions, if Men of mean and low Fortunes should be at the Top, and have Power and Domination over the ancient Gentry and Nobility of the Land. Be it so, but I would have you to consider in the mean time, what an horrible Presumption it is, and how God may take it, that you stout it out against the Fear of God: Alas! there is a greater Distance between you and him, than between you and your Fellow-Creatures: For you to contest it with God! to swagger it and outbrave his Ordinances! to contend with his Spirit! how may God complain of this, if it be so grievous to you to be outbraved by your Fellow-Crea∣tures?
(2.) Times of Light and great Gospel-Grace. An hard Heart in Gospel-Days is the very Reproach of Ordinances. Many think the Ministry and Ordinances useless things; why? because there is so little Success. You make them useless, and then there will not want those that decry them apace. 2 Cor. 6.1, 2. We then, as Workers together with him, beseech you also, that ye receive not the Grace of God in vain: for he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the Day of Salvation have I succour'd thee: Behold now is the accepted time, behold now is the Day of Salva∣tion.Page 510 An heard Heart should be a thing now quite out of Fashion. In a time of Ig∣norance, or a time of Restraint of Preaching, when Visions are not open, or un∣der a dead sleepy Ministry, God might dispense with what he will not under a clear Discovery of his Will. But now when the Doctrine of the Gospel is so clearly opened, and Christ so freely tendred, now to be estranged from the Fear of God, is as unsutable as if we should revert to the Fashions of Barbarism, or those kind of Clothes or Dresses which our Ancestors wore, before they were reduced to this Pitch of Civility whereunto we are now arrived. You would laugh at Garments of an antique Fashion; and if the Gallants of the Age should put on the Dress of Adam, or be clothed with Skins newly taken from the Beasts offered in Sacrifice: A blind Mind and a sottish obstinate Heart is more uncomely in the Eye of God. Will you be Strangers in Israel, and lose the Blessings of the times by refusing the stricter ways of God?
7. Hardness of Heart groweth and increaseth on us more and more, if we let it alone; Zech. 7.11.12. But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the Shoulder, and s•opped their Ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their Hearts as an Ada∣mant Stone, lest they should hear the Law, and the Words which the Lord of Hosts hath sent in his Spirit by the former Prophets. There are so many Degrees mentioned; first they grow slight and careless, and do not care to hear what you say; then they refuse to obey what they have heard; then they grow Sermon-Proof, they can hear, and have no Benefit by it. As long as the Word doth any way affect a Sinner, there is some Hope; but within a while Conscience smiteth not, and Men have gotten the Victory over their Fears and Scruples: And thus they go on from natural to vo∣luntary, and from voluntary to judicial Hardness of Heart, and so are a ready Prey for the Devil.
8. Dilatory Excuses are the last Refuge of an hard Heart. When they can no longer withstand a Conviction, they adjourn and put off the Compliance with God's Will, and so elude the Importunity of the present Conviction. Felix his Heart boggled; Acts 24.25. And as he reasoned of Righteousness, Temperance and Iudgment to come, Felix trembled, and said, Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient Season I will call for thee. Mind the present Season, when God is affording Oppor∣tunities of getting Grace: Heb. 3.7, 8. To Day if ye will hear his Voice, harden not your Hearts. Psal. 119.60. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy Commandments. Zacheus, Luke 19.6. he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. Peter and Andrew, Mark 4.20. They straitway left their Nets and followed him, Paul, Gal. 1.16. Immediately I conferred not with Flesh and Blood. If God hath given you any Will and Inclination for the present, it is an Advantage. Sin the longer it con∣tinueth, the stronger it groweth. He that doth not go over at the Fountain-head, will not be able to go over when the Stream groweth broader; and the farther he goes downward, the broader still he findeth it. Every Day's Impenitency bringeth on a new Degree of Hardness. Would a Man that is to drink that which to his knowledg is poisoned, put the more into his Cup, and then take it off, out of a Presumption that at length he shall find an Antidote? Alas! thou may'st be poisoned and dead before the Antidote comes.
And Iesus looked round about on them with Anger, being grie∣ved for the Hardness of their Hearts.
Vse 1. OF Trial. Is this our State? Take the two Properties to judg by, Insensibleness, and Inflexibleness.
First; A hard Heart is insensible; insensible of Providences, of the Word, and of the State of the Soul.
1st. Insensible of Providences.
1. Of Mercies: Either of the Author of Mercies; they never look up to the God of their Mercies: Hosea 2.8. She did not know that I gave her Corn, and Wine, and Oil, and multiplied her Silver and Gold. As Swine that feed upon the Acorns, but never look up to the Tree from whence they fall. Cant. 4.1. Behold▪ thou ar• fair, my Love; behold thou art fair, thou hast Doves Eyes. As Doves peck, and look u•∣ward. It is a sign of a tender Heart, to see God in every Mercy. A drowsy and unattentive Soul never heedeth it, is wholly swallowed up in present Enjoyments▪ and looketh no farther. It is our Privilege above the Beasts, to know the f•rst Cause▪ other Creatures live upon God, but they are not capable of knowing God; they glo∣rify God in their Kind, but we may know him. Idolatry and Sottishness had never crept into the World, if Men had owned the first Cause▪ Or of the End of Mer∣cies, which is to draw in our Hearts to God; therefore they are called Cords of a Man, Hosea 11.4. I drew them with Cords of a Man, with B••ds of Love. Esther 6.3. What Honour and Dignity hath been done to Mordeca•for 〈◊〉? 2 Sam. 7.2. Th•• the King said unto Nathan the Prophet, See now I dwell in an House of Cedar, but the Ark of God dwelleth within Curtains. When the Heart is urging to Duty upon this score, God hath been good to me, he hath given me Food and Raim•••▪ What have I done for God? Now the Heart is hard, when we are not sensible of his daily Pro∣vidence, and gracious Supplies in this kind. 2 Sam. 12.7, 8, 9. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee King over Israel, and delivered thee out of the Hand of Saul. And I gave thee thy Master's House, and thy Master's Wives into thy Bosom, and gave thee the House of Israel, and of Judah: and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the Commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? David had lost his Awe of God, because he had not a thankful sense of the Mercies of God.
2. Of corrective Providences. The Body is a tender Part with wicked Men; when they are straitned for bodily Conveniences, they will complain: yet the hard Heart is still insensible of Judgments. They are insensible of the Author, or discer∣ning Cause; they do not look upward nor inward; and though doctrinally right in these things, yet they do not seriously consider it, and recal it to mind. Opinion is one thing, and Consideration is another; wicked Men may take up good Opinions, but they do not consider the Force and Consequence of them.
(1.) They do not see the Hand of God in them: Isa. 26.11. Lord, when thy Hand is lifted up, they will not see. They look on these things but as a Chance: 1 Sam. 6.9. And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own Coast to Bethshemesh, then he hath done us this great Evil; but if not, then we shall know that it was not his Hand that smote us, it was a Chance that happened to us. If Men own God's Hand, they should take up the Matter with him; but they own it doctrinally, though not practically. A Godly Man hath explicite Thoughts of God. Iob doth not say, the Sabeans and the Chalde••s, but the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, Job 1.21. They do not complain, when they are crossed, of Chance, but the Lord is an∣gry; Page 512 and when they are stricken, they consult with him, and humble themselves before him. Wicked Men are sensible of the smart of the Rod, but not of the Hand that holds it.
(2.) They do not see the deserving Cause of them, which is Sin. Lam. 3.39, 40. Wherefore doth a living Man complain, a Man for the punishment of his Sins? Let us search and try our Ways, and turn again to the Lord. If Sickness cometh, if a Rela∣tion be taken away, if an Estate be blasted, a waking Conscience looks to the Cause; they would see the Mind of God in the Rod. When Israel fell before the Men of Ai, Ioshua looketh out for the Troubler; so do God's Children.
2dly. Insensible of the Power of the Word: they have no taste, no feeling of the Powers of the World to come. Jer. 23.29. Is not my Word like a Fire, saith the Lord, and like a Hammer that breaketh the Rock in pieces? There is a breaking, and a melting Power in the Word.
1. What Law-work hath been wrought on you? what shakings of Heart, and feeling of the Powers of the World to come? Have you been roused and startled out of your natural Condition? Many will assent to this Truth, that all are miserable by Nature: But wast thou ever sensible that this was thy Case, and accordingly af∣fected? Wert thou ever feelingly convinced of thy Misery? Otherwise we do but learn these things, as a Parrot learneth them by rote. What feeling have you of your cursed Estate by Nature? Have you had any Experience of the Terrors of the Lord? You know the Misery of Man by Nature, but have you ever felt it?
2. What Gospel-work hath been wrought on you? what Taste have you had of the good Word of God? what Experience of the Efficacy of the Spirit? 1 Pet. 2.3. If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
3dly. Insensible of the State of the Soul; they never look after it. If the Body feel but the scratch of a Pin, or want but a Night's sleep, we complain presently; but the poor Soul, though oppressed with Lusts, and unfit for Duties, is never minded nor regarded, and they have no heart to pray for a Release out of that spiritual Judgment. To own the Plague of our own Hearts, argueth Tenderness: 1 Kings 8.38.—which shall know every Man the Plague of his own Heart. When we complain of Lusts more than Fevers, and indisposition of Soul more than weakness of Body, the languishing of Grace more than an outward Consumption, the Stone in the Heart more than the Stone in the Bladder and Kidneys. We find Ephraim bemoaning him∣self, being ill at ease for an untoward Heart; Ier. 31.18. I have surely heard E∣phraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a Bul∣lock unaccustomed to the Yoke. Did you ever complain of the hardness of your Heart, and lay it before God? Do you not bemoan your spiritual Distempers, when lazy and backward? Where is your Relish for the Word? your Delight in spiritual things? Isa. 63.17. O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy Ways, and hardned our Heart from thy Fear?
Secondly; A hard Heart is inflexible. That will be known, where it is more gross.
1. By a refusal of the Word, when Men will not give God the hearing. Zech. 7.11, 12. But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the Shoulder, and stopped their Ears, that they should not hear: Yea, they made their Hearts as an Adamant Stone, lest they should hear the Law, and the Words which the Lord of Hosts hath sent in his Spirit by the former Prophets. They refused to hear, either to vouchsafe their Presence or Attention. Acts 13.46. Ye put it from you, and judg your selves unworthy of eternal Life. The Case is clear in these, whenas to others it is doubtful; what needeth more dispute in the matter?
2. By an Unteachableness, so as not to apprehend ought that is spiritual. To be ignorant is one thing, to be unteachable is another. Ezek. 12.2. Son of Man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious House, which have Eyes to see, and see not; they have Ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious House. Acts 28.26. Go unto this People, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive. They do not see what they do see; they have no spiritual discerning, though a grammatical Knowledg: Job 5.14. They meet with Darkness in the Day-time, and grope in the Noon-day as in the Night. They are sim∣ple in the midst of rational Advantages; as the Disciples, Luke 24.16. Their Eyes Page 513 were bolden, that they should not know him. They see the general Truth, but make no Application. When a Man is shewed a thing, and he minds it not, but his Mind is on another Object, that Man may be said to see and not to see, because he doth not regard it. Or a Man that hath a Matter come before him, he heareth it, but his Mind being otherwise employed, he regardeth it not; in which sense he may be said to hear, and not to hear. Not to apply, is not to regard: in seeing ratio∣nally and literally, he doth not see spiritually, with any Life and Power. There is a literal Knowledg, and there is a spiritual Knowledg; the literal Knowledg is that which the hard Heart may have. It is said, 2 Cor. 3.3. Ye are manifestly decla∣red to be the Epistle of Christ, ministred by us, written not with Ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in Tables of Stone, but in the fleshly Tables of the Heart. It is an Allusion to the Law of Moses; consider it in the Letter, as separated from the Spirit, and only as a Law written in Stone, wherein there is a naked Direction of Life, but no Power: so a stony Heart may see, but in seeing they see not. But the Spirit of Christ writeth it on the Mind and Heart, and maketh the Heart docile and tractible; Rom. 7.6. That we should serve in newness of Spirit, and not in the oldness of the Letter. The Letter of the Law only manifested Duty, but gave no Power to perform it; it discovered Corruption, but gave no Strength to subdue it; it was written in Tables of Stone, to shew the hardness of Man's Heart. But now the Law, when it cometh in upon us with a spiritual Light, softneth and strengthneth the Heart, and maketh it docible and pliable to God's Counsel.
3. By an unwillingness to be admonished in publick or private; if in publick, the greater the Evil. Private Admonition is a kind of Charge, a closer Application. To storm against private Admonition, argueth an ill Spirit, when Men are loth to be disturbed in the ways of Sin. But much more against publick Admonition, where the Application ariseth not so much from a personal Charge, as from their own Consciences. When Men cannot endure sound Doctrine, it is a dangerous Crisis, that which the Prophet Ieremiah speaketh of, chap. 6.10. To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their Ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken; behold, the Word of the Lord is unto them a Reproach, they have no delight in it. Surely Men delight in Satan's Arms, when they are loth to be pluck'd from thence: Satan hath made his Nest there, and is loth to be disturbed. 2 Sam. 23.6, 7. But the Sons of Belial shall be all of them as Thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands. But the Man that shall touch them, must be fenced with Iron, and the Staff of a Spear. The Sons of Belial are compared to Thorns that cannot be touched with hands, but rend and tear those that meddle with them. Men are angry that they cannot quietly enjoy their Lusts. Plausible Strains are ve∣ry sutable to a carnal Heart, or tame Lectures of contemplative Divinity; but sound Doctrine that rendeth and teareth the Conscience, is not endured.
4. By scoffing at the Word. The Chair of the Scorner is a Preferment in Sin. Psal. 1.1. Blessed is the Man that walketh not in the Counsel of the Vngodly, nor stand∣eth in the Way of Sinners, nor sitteth in the Seat of the Scornful. Jer. 23.34 to 39. And as for the Prophet, and the Priest, and the People that shall say, The Burden of the Lord, I will even punish that Man and his House. Thus shall ye say every one to his Neighbour, and every one to his Brother, What hath the Lord answered? and what hath the Lord spoken? And the Burden of the Lord shall ye mention no more, for every Man's Word shall be his Burden; for ye have perverted the Words of the living God, of the Lord of Hosts our God, &c. The Prophets used to begin their Prophecies with the Burden of the Lord; and they would in mockery demand, What Burden they had from the Lord for them? Now shall we hear again of the Burden of the Lord. Saith God, Every Man's Word shall be his Burden; that is, you shall dearly pay for this scoffing Language, your Words shall be your Burden. But these Marks may not be close enough, let me propound other things.
(1.) Did you ever lay down the Buckler before God, and say, I have done foo∣lishly, I will do so no more? Were you ever feelingly convinced, and your Lusts powerfully subdued? Did you ever say as Paul, Acts 9.6. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Every Man carrieth on his Opposition against God, till he be brought to yield by a mighty Spirit breaking in upon him. When were the Wings broken, that you could fly no longer? the Will subdued, that you said, Lord, I have too long stouted it out against thee, so that you were willing to be at peace with God? Isa.Page 514 27.5. Let him take hold of my Strength, that he may make peace with me, and he shall make peace with me. Were you ever forced to cry Quarter? Didst thou ever appre∣hend God ready to smite and give Fire upon thee, and then in a submissive Posture didst intreat him to stay his Hand?
(2.) What Effect hath the Word upon you? Isa. 66.2. To this Man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite Spirit, and trembleth at my Word. It is a great part of Sensibleness to tremble at the Word. What meltings and yieldings of Heart do you express? Doth it put you upon recourse to God? 2 Chron. 34.27. Be∣cause thine Heart was tender, and thou didst humble thy self before God, when thou heard∣est his VVords against this Place, and against the Inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thy self before me, and didst rent thy Clothes, and weep before me, I have even heard thee, saith the Lord. Didst thou ever humble thy self before the Lord, to clear up Matters between God and thy Soul, and to get thy Doubts resolved, and thy Lusts morti∣fied?
(3.) What pliableness has there been in thee to the Holy Ghost's Motions? A Man that hath a tender Heart, yieldeth to the Motions of the Holy Spirit: Psal. 27.8. VVhen thou saidst, Seek ye my Face; my Heart said unto thee, Thy Face, Lord, will I seek. There is a quick Eccho to God's Voice. Isa. 6.8. I heard the Voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send? and who will go for us? Then said I, Here I am, send me. There is not only a readiness to obey, but he offers himself to the Work. When we grow lazy and backward in holy things, and hang off, it is a high degree of hardness of Heart.
Vse 2. Exhortation.
1. To press us to beware of hardness of Heart. It is a grievous Sin. I shall use three Arguments.
(1.) It depriveth you of Grace. See before, pag. 507.
(2.) It unfitteth you for Duty, while we are under the power of it. An hard Heart is forced and superstitious. With what Coldness and Formality did David pray, during the suspension of God's Grace? We come into God's Presence with great Backwardness and Reluctancy, while we are under the power of a hard Heart.
(3.) It fitteth for Judgment. The Heart groweth harder and harder, and the Mind blinder and blinder, till it be cast into an utter Indisposition and Impossibility of Repentance. Hardness of Heart turns a Man into a Beast, nay into a Devil; and according to our Sin, so is God's Wrath: Rom. 3.5. After thy Hardness and impe∣nitent Heart, thou treasurest up unto thy self Wrath against the Day of Wrath, and Revelation of the righteous Iudgment of God.
2. To press us to come out of this evil Frame of Spirit. Arguments.
(1.) As long as the Heart is hard, you are very remote from the Comforts of the Gospel. Christ came to heal the broken-hearted, Luke 4.18. So Matth. 9.12, 13. They that be whole, need not the Physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the Righteous, but Sinners to Repentance. You are full of Sin, but not sick; as a Toad is full of Poison, but the Toad is not sick, because it is natural to him. Will a Phy∣sician go about to cure a Toad? Men lie under a great weight of Sin, yet they sleep, and eat, and drink, and trade, and look as well as ever, feel no Pain, nor any thing to trouble them. These Men have no Need and Will to be cured, and of all Men are most properly said to be dead in Trespasses and Sins; they neither break an hour's sleep, nor abate one drachm of their carnal Delights, but are Heart-whole. The Physician hath no desire to meddle with them that will not take what he prescri∣beth; as carnal Men will not submit themselves to God's Directions.
(2.) You are very remote from the Work of the Gospel. As God maketh a way for his Anger, so he maketh a way for his Mercy and Grace. The Heart is fitted and prepared for the Spirit's Residence. It is softned before it is quickned. Ezek. 36.26, 27. I will take away the stony Heart out of your Flesh, and I will give you an Heart of Flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my Sta∣tutes, and ye shall keep my Iudgments and do them. The vital Spirit is not infused, till the Body be organized and formed. God made Adam out of the Dust of the Ground, and then breathed into him the Breath of Life. The Spirit of Grace co∣ming into the tender Heart, maketh way for it self.
Page 515Now for the Cure of it I will recommend unto you two Means, two Graces, and two Ordinances.
First; Two Means, Light and Love.
1st. Light. Jer. 31.19. Surely after that I turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my Thigh: I was ashamed, yea even confounded, because I did bear the Reproach of my Youth. Men that know not the Nature and Danger of Sin, are little troubled about it. Where there is no Knowledg, there is little Conscience. When the Troops of Syria were smitten with Blindness, they were easily led into the midst of their Enemies, 2 Kings 6.18, 19. And when they thought themselves at Dothan, they were in Samaria. Ignorance, because it is not always accompanied with gross Acts, is little thought of; but it is a bloody Sin: If Men did know God and themselves more, they could not be satisfied with their Condition. Ignorance is the greatest cause of hardning.
2dly. Love. I do not consider it as a Grace, but as an Argument to melt the Soul. It is a forcible Argument, and a kindly Argument.
1. It is a forcible Argument. Saul relented when David had an advantage against him, and spared him in the Cave; 1 Sam. 24.16, 17. Saul lift up his Voice and wept; and he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me Good, whereas I have rewarded thee Evil. To make the Heart relent, it is good to study God's Kindness, not only how he hath spared us, but how he hath blessed us.
(1.) For temporal Mercies, Creation and Providence. For the Mercies of Cre∣ation. We all condemn the Rebellion of Absolom for rising against his Father. God made us out of nothing; none so much a Father as God, and yet we rebel against him. If we had lost a Limb, an Eye, a Tooth, or an Arm, would we injure him that could restore us these things? God gave them to us at first, how should the Thoughts of this soften our Hearts? Then for the Mercies of Providence: Na∣than mentions God's Mercies to David to humble him; 2 Sam. 12.7, 8, 9. I anoint∣ed thee King over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul. And I gave thee thy Master's House, and thy Master's Wives into thy Bosom; and gave thee the House of Israel, and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given un∣to thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the Commandment of the Lord, to do Evil in his Sight? It is God that feedeth and maintaineth you, and pre∣serveth you. Men stand upon their Honour in the World, to be true to their In∣terest, not to be unthankful to their Preservers. Now God giveth us Life and Breath, and all things. You value these things when they are given you by Men, much more should you when they are given you by God. Is Water the worse because it cometh from the Fountain, and not from the Cistern? Water is purer in the Foun∣tain. We have more Reason to value Mercies when they come from God, that so great a Majesty should look after you! Psal. 113.6. Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in Heaven, and in the Earth. That God that standeth not in need of you, as Man doth of the meanest! that God whom you have offended, whose Fa∣vour you are so much concerned about! In a small Gift from a King, the Favour is valued: we are continually fed and maintained at the Expence and Care of his Providence.
(2.) For spiritual Mercies, they melt the Heart. What great Love Christ shewed in the Business of our Salvation, what he left, what he suffered, what he purchased. 1. What he left. That Love that is accompanied with Self-denial, is accounted the highest: how many Degrees did the Sun of Righteousness go back? 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Phil. 2.8. He humbled, or emptied, himself. There was a Vail upon his Godhead: when he was rich, for our sakes he became poor, 2 Cor. 8.9. In the Fulness of the Godhead he abstained from the Use of it. Did Christ leave Heaven, and wilt not thou leave thy Lusts? Was he made the Son of Man, and wilt not thou be made the Son of God? It was his Abasement, but it is our Advancement. 2. What he suffered. We are more affected with what Men suffer for us, than with what they do for us. Cubitum sin• manu; To shew the Stump of the Arm where the Hand was lost, was an effectual Plea; Zech. 12.10. They shall look upon me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only Son, and be in Bitterness for him, as one that is in Bitterness for his First-born. Sin doth most affect the Heart, when we consider the Wrong done to Christ by it. Amor Page 516 doloris causa; the more a Man loveth another, or apprehends that he is loved of him, the more he is grieved, that he hath any way injured him. Your Sins strike at Christ, and have pierced him; shall not your Hearts be pierced, when his Head was pierced with Thorns, his Hands and Feet with Nails, his Heart with Sorrows? Can you look upon Golgotha with dry Eyes, and a careless stupid Heart? Think that you heard Christ say, Behold, is any Sorrow like to my Sorrow? Will you still go on in your Rebellion against me? Is all nothing, all that I have done and suf∣fered for you? 3. What he purchased for us: He gave himself a Ransom and Price, a Ransom to free us from Death and Hell. We would love a Man that should get a Pardon for our Lives when we are condemned to die. 1 Thess. 1.10. Even Iesus, who delivered us from the Wrath to come. There was never any such Wrath past or present, it is a thing to come, when he shall stir up all his Wrath: And a Price to purchase for us the Favour of God, and our eternal Abode with him in Heaven. Heaven is called the purchased Possession, Ephes. 1.14. If we were to be annihilated, or to spend our time in some obscure Place, it were Mercy; but to be for ever with the Lord, and to be filled up with God, who can express the Greatness of this Mer∣cy? And all this is freely offered to you in the Gospel. Things that concern us, af∣fect us; and therefore surely this should melt the Heart; Rom. 12.1. I beseech you therefore, Brethren, by the Mercies of God. What! shall not Mercy prevail? Ioel 2.13. And rent your Heart, and not your Garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to Anger, and of great Kindness, and repent∣eth him of the Evil. Surely God's Graciousness and Readiness to receive returning Sinners, should work upon us. An Hammer will easily break an hard Stone against a soft Bed; but if it be laid on an hard solid Body, that will not give way under∣neath; strike as hard as you will, it is kept from breaking: so smite thy Soul on the Gospel, Hell and Damnation may be the Hammer; but then lay thy Soul upon the Gospel and Gospel-Considerations, then it breaketh all to shatters. Strike thy Soul with the Blows of God's Wrath against the Law, and it resists still; all doth but make us desperate: but now remember the Mercies of the Lord, how freely he inviteth returning Sinners, and this breaks the Heart to pieces.
2. It is a kindly Argument; the Heart is not till then kindly humbled for Sin as Sin. An apprehension of Wrath is one thing, godly Sorrow is another thing; the former is necessary, but not enough. 2 Kings 22.19. Because thine Heart was ten∣der, and thou hast humbled thy self before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake a∣gainst this Place, and against the Inhabitants thereof, that they should become a Desolation and a Curse, and hast rent thy Clothes, and wept before me, I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. Threatnings may terrify, but this melts the Heart, and begets a serious Remorse for Sin, as offensive, displeasing and grievous unto God: 2 Cor. 7.10. For godly Sorrow worketh Repentance to Salvation, not to be repented of; but the Sorrow of the World worketh Death. Ezek. 6.9. And they that escape of you shall remember me among the Nations, whither they shall be carried Captives, because I am broken with their whorish Heart, which hath departed from me, and with their Eyes, which go a whoring af∣ter their Idols; and they shall loath themselves for the Evils which they have committed in all their Abominations. Not only for the Evils which they have suffered, but which they have committed; for the Evil that is in Sin, not for the Evil that is after Sin. 2 Chron. 32.26. Hezekiah humbled himself for the Pride of his Heart. Not only for the Inconvenience and Mischief done thereby, but because God was offended. That Christian Niobe wept much, because she loved much, Luke 7.47.
Secondly; There are two Graces, Faith and Fear.
1. Faith. As Reason maketh a difference between a Man and a Beast, so doth Faith between a Man and a Man. It is Faith bringeth us under the power of a Truth, and maketh Light active. Three times Christ reproached his Disciples for hardness of Heart, and still the Cause given is Unbelief. Mark 6.52. They conside∣red not the Miracle of the Loaves, for their Hearts were hardned. Mark 8.17. Why reason ye because ye have no Bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your Heart yet hardned? Mark 16.14. Afterwards he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at Meat, and upbraided them because of their Vnbelief and hardness of Heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. A Man is dull, stupid and sensless, till Faith maketh Light break in upon the Heart with Power; till then Page 517 he will not make use of his Eyes, Ears, or Memory. All Affections follow Perswa∣sion. Faith perswadeth of Death, and Hell, and Judgment to come. We would not trifle away the Day of Grace, if we did believe the Goodness of God offering Favour and Life eternal in Christ. Haec audiunt quasi somniantes: Men entertain these things as a Dream, and are only a little troubled for the present, till they tho∣rowly believe them.
2. Fear. It is always made a Preservative against hardness of Heart. Isa. 63.17. O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy Ways, and hardned our Heart from 〈◊〉 Fear? Fear argueth a constant sense of God's Presence, and a deep respect to him, so as that we are loth to offend him; it makes the Soul to walk as in God's Company, and therefore it is kept humble: Prov. 28.14. Happy is the Man that feareth alway; but he that hardneth his Heart, shall fall into Mischief. It will make us tender of offen∣ding God, and yielding to our own Corruptions, though never so secret. Who is the Man that is opposed to him that hardneth his Heart? He that feareth alway. Care∣lesness breedeth Senslesness: but now when we are continually watchful, and say, Shall I thus and thus offend God? the Heart is kept in a good Frame.
Thirdly; There are two Ordinances, the Word, and Prayer. For Water, if ne∣ver so scalding, will return to its natural Coldness.
1. The Word. 2 Chron. 34.19. It came to pass when the King had heard the VVords of the Law, that he rent his Clothes. And ver. 27. Because thine Heart was tender, and thou didst humble thy self before God, when thou heardest his VVords against this Place, and against the Inhabitants thereof, and didst rent thy Clothes, and weep be∣fore me, I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord. Heb. 3.7, 8. To day if ye will hear his Voice, harden not your Hearts. A conscionable hearing the Word will pre∣vent hardness of Heart. Jer. 23.29. Is not my VVord like a Fire, saith the Lord, and like a Hammer that breaketh the Rock in pieces? There is the double Work of the Word, Legal, and Evangelical; the breaking, and the melting Power of it. There is a great deal of difference between breaking the Ice with a Staff, and thawing or melting it: break it in one place, and it freezeth in another; Melting is more uni∣versal. There are Legal Breakings, and Gospel Meltings; there Sin is discovered, here it is subdued. But then you must use the Word as an Ordinance, receive it in Faith and Obedience: use it in Obedience, when you are discouraged in point of Faith. Luke 5.5. Master, we have toiled all the Night, and have taken nothing; nevertheless at thy Word I will let down the Net. But use it not only in Obedience, but in Faith; you must hear the Word, not only as a moral Lecture, or legal Discourse, or as a means of literal Instruction, but Evangelically, waiting for the Power and Presence of God.
2. Prayer. God will be specially owned in this Work. No Creature in the World can soften and turn the Heart, but only God. He that made the Heart, can only change it: Ezek. 11.19. And I will give them one Heart, and I will put a new Spirit within you; and I will take the stony Heart out of their Flesh, and will give them an Heart of Flesh. It is God only that gives a teachable Mind, a pliable Will, and ready Affections. Go then, and practise this Duty; beg of God to give you a Heart more pliable to the Work of Grace, more capable to be renewed, more soft and rea∣dy to receive the Impressions of Grace; and be earnest with him for this.
I shall now give you some further Advice.
1. In the first place begin with Conversion to God, look for a change of State. Repentance in particular Cases is neither right nor acceptable, as long as Men do not mind Conversion to God, and a change of State by Regeneration. When the Tree is good, then the Fruits are answerable. Get the Heart of Stone taken away, and then labour to preserve a tender Frame. It is a fruitless Course to look after a good Frame, till we are brought into a good Estate. Natural Hardness is the cause of habitual Hardness; till that be taken away by Regeneration, all cometh to no∣thing.
2. Be tender how you use your Light. Men wax bold by sinning against Light, and seem to get a Victory over their Consciences. When the Candle is put out, Lust will be stirring. Light and Reason is God's Bridle on Man to keep him in awe. Well then, use your Light tenderly; if it be but an half Light, search further; if Page 518 it be a full Light, walk by it. If you are Children of the Light, you will have no Fellowship with the unfruitful Works of Darkness.
3. After you have sinned, take up betimes; as Peter went out, and wept bitter∣ly; for Sin will fret, and soak in more and more.
4. Use frequent Recollection, and communing with your Hearts. Man hath Reason, and can talk with himself. God that cannot err, surveyed every Day's Work, and found it good. Cast up your Account at the foot of every Page: he that runneth in Debt, and never casteth up his Accounts, will sink at last. A Man is insensibly hardned for want of searching and ransacking his Conscience; there is no serious Repentance with it: Lam. 3.40. Let us search and try our Ways, and turn again to the Lord. God will search you, if you leave the Work to him.
5. Improve Afflictions. It is a Means God hath appointed to shake us out of our Security. We are apt to be lulled asleep with the Delights and Pleasures of Sin, till we feel the sharp Rod of Afflictions. 2 Chron. 28.22. And in the time of his Di∣stress did he trespass yet more against the Lord: This is that King Ahaz. They are Monsters of Nature, and hopeless Wretches, that are not reclaimed by Afflictions: God sets a Brand on Ahaz; like a dogged Servant that will not stir, beat him never so much. Unprofitableness under the Rod is an ill Presage. In Hell Sinners are al∣ways suffering, and always sinning.
6. Beware of those things which are both Steps unto, and Causes of hardness of Heart: for one Degree is the cause of another; as when Sin is committed without Remorse, and swallowed without Grief.
7. Beware of extenuating Sin, of having less Thoughts of it, and being less trou∣bled about it. At first it seemed a horrible thing, a Burden too heavy for us; but afterwards it grows less light, and the Heart more insensible, and Sin more delight∣ful. The Burden of Sin encreaseth in the Children of God, as Light and Acquain∣tance with God increaseth: that which they made nothing of at first, groweth ve∣ry heavy.
8. Keep Grace in a constant Exercise. Let the Fire be kept always in that came down from Heaven: 2 Tim. 1.6. VVherefore I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the Gift of God that is in thee.
9. Frequent the Society of God's People. Want of care of our Company is a great Fault; for Company hardneth in Sin, or humbleth. The very Example of God's People will be a great help to you, how tender they are, how watchful, what meltings of Heart they have in Prayer, how they make conscience of the least Sin, how they complain of themselves, O what a hard Heart have I! Coals lying toge∣ther, keep Fire. This is a means to keep us tender. Heb. 3.13. But exhort one another daily, while it is called, To Day; lest any of you be hardned through the Deceit∣fulness of Sin.