CHAP. I. Impediments which hinder Souls from coming to Christ, removed.
THERE are divers Impediments which hinder poor Christians from coming to CHRIST; all which I desire to reduce to these following Heads,
I. FIRST, Such Hinderances as really keep Page 2 Men from coming to take hold of Christ at all; which are briefly these.
1. Blind, Careless, or Presumptuous Secu∣rity; whereby Men content themselves with their present Condition, presuming all is well with them, when there is no such matter.
2. Being convinced of this, they bethink how to save themselves by their own Strength; and thereupon set upon a Reformation of Life, thinking to make God amends by reforming some Sins which they hear themselves reproved of by the Ministers.
3. The Sinner being convinced of his ut∣ter inability to please God in himself, at length gets up a Stair higher, and sees all his Perfor∣mances, and Prayers, and Duties to be of no power in themselves, but that he must leave all, and cleave only unto Christ by Faith; and this he thinks he can do well enough, and so thrusts himself upon Christ, thinking all the work is then done, and no more to be looked after.
4. If he sees this fails him too, then he goes yet further, and confesseth he cannot come to Christ, except Christ give him his Hand, and help him up; therefore now he will attend on the Ordinances, and labour and bestir himself hard in the use of all good Means, conceiving thereby to hammer out at last a Faith of his own to make him happy. And here he rests, hanging as it were upon the outside of the Ark so long, till Page 3 at last the waves and winds growing fierce and violent, he is beaten off, and so sinks for ever.
II. Besides these, there are OTHER kinds of Hindrances which do not indeed deprive a Man of Title and Interest to eternal Happiness, but make the way tedious and uncomfortable, so that be cannot come to Christ so readily as he desires and longs to do: The ground whereof is this; when Men, out of carnal Reason, contrive another way to come to Christ than ever he ordained or revealed; when we set up our Standards by God's Standard, or our Threshold by his, Ezek. 43.8. and out of our own Ima∣gination, make another state of believing than ever Christ required or ordained. No marvel that we come short of him: For thus we put Rubs, and make Bars in our way: We mana∣cle our Hands, and fetter our Feet, and then say that we cannot take, nor go: Thus it is with you poor Christians, and the Fault is your own But, amongst many, there be three Hindrances which are chiefly to be observed,* by which many gracious Hearts are marvelously hindered from coming to, and from re∣ceiving that Comfort from Christ which they might, and he is will∣ing to impart unto them.
 First; The distressed Soul, being (haply) truly humbled, takes notice of the Page 4Beauty of Holiness, and the Image of God stampt on the Hearts of his Children, and of all those precious Promises which God hath made to all that are his; now the Soul seeing these, begins thus to Reason with it self and saith,
But we must know, this doth not hinder; and that we make that a Hindrance, which, in Truth, is none. For (observe it) we must not think to bring our Enlargements and Hope to the Promise, but go to the Promise for them: Hope must be stirred, and Desire quickned, and Love and Joy kindled by the Promise. But who made this Condition of the Covenant, That a Man must have so much of Enlarge∣ment, before he can come to the Promise? Our Saviour being our Husband, requires no Page 5 Portion with us, nor ever look'd after any: All that he looks for is meer Poverty and Emp∣tiness. If thou hast nothing, yet he will have thee with thy nothing; provided that thou wilt have him. Therefore it is thus written, The Rich he sends away empty; but the Poor he satisfies, and the Thirsty he refreshes with Good; and so, as that there is nothing re∣quired on our Side but to receive him as a Husband: For, Buy without Money is the Text. You must not come and think to buy a Hus∣band: The Lord looks for no Power or Suf∣ficiency from you, of yourselves; nor of your selves any Power against Corruption, or En∣largement to Duties: If you will be content that Christ shall take all from you, and dispose of you and all; then take a Saviour, and then you have him.
Object. But the poor Soul saith, If I go thus hood-wink'd, how shall I know that I do not pre∣sume, and how shall I know that I have a true Title to the Promise?
Answ. I answer: There is no better Ar∣gument in the World to prove that thou hast an Interest in Christ, than this, which is thy taking of the Lord Christ as a Saviour wholly, and as an Husband only, John 1.12. As ma∣ny as received him, to them he gave Power to be∣come the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his Name. He doth not say, To as many as had such Enlargement to Duties, and such Page 6 Power against Corruption; but if thou wilt take Christ upon those Terms on which he offers himself: There is no better Argument under Heaven than that, to prove that thou hast a Title to the Promise. Indeed there is a desperate Despair that often seizeth upon the Hearts of distressed Sinners.
[2.] Therefore in the second Place, as the Sinner looks upon the Excellency of Christ and of Grace, and upon his own Insufficiency with∣al, which makes him that he will not venture upon the Promise; so he looks too altogether upon his own Sinfulness and Worthlessness, and therefore dare not venture upon it: He views the Number of his Sins so many and vile, and the Continuance of them so long, and durable; and he seeth the Floods of Abo∣minations coming in so amain upon his Soul, and Satan to boot, (who helps him forward in all this,) therefore he dares not make out unto Christ. But this is the Policy of the Devil, who (if he can) will make a Man to see Sin thro' his own Spectacles, or not to see it at all; and then to say, There is Mercy e∣nough in a Saviour, and therefore I may live as I list. But when the Sinner will needs see his Sin, then he will let him see nothing but Sin; and this, to the End that he may despair for ever.
Now here the poor Sinner is at a stand, and can go no further: For tell him of the Mercy Page 7 of God, and of the plenteous Redemption in Christ, and of the Riches of the Freeness of God's Grace:
1. First, (Observe it) For whom did Christ come into the World, and for whom did he die when he was come? Was it for the Righteous? Such needed him not: It was for the poor Sinner that judgeth himself, that condemns himself, and that finds he cannot save himself. Paul saith, 2 Tim. 1.15. Christ Jesus came into the World to save Sinners, of whom I am the chief: And the Prophet, Zech. Page 8 13.1. There is a Fountain opened for Sin and for Uncleanness; that is, for all sorts of Sins, and kind of Sinners; be their Iniquities never so great, and never so vile, there is a Fountain set open for them; come who will. There was never any saved that was not a Rebel first; nor any received to Mercy, that first opposed not the Mercies of God, and his Grace in Christ. The fiery Serpents did sting the Peo∣ple in the Wilderness; first then they were stung, and being stung, there was a brazen Serpent to heal them. But,
2. Observe the Folly of this Plea: What Scripture ever said, that the Greatness of Man's Sin could hinder the Greatness of God's Mercy? No Scripture saith so; we see Da∣vid prayeth to the contrary, Psal. 25.11. Have Mercy upon me, O Lord, and pardon my Sins, for they are great: Nay, God himself doth the quite contrary, Isai. 43.24, 25. Thou hast made me serve with thy Sins, and wea∣ried me with thine Iniquities; yet I am he that blot∣teth out thy Transgressions for my Names Sake. When the Jews did tire God with their dis∣tempered Manners, and burthened him with their sinful Courses; then the Lord, for his own Names sake, would not so much as re∣member their Iniquities against them.
3. Again observe, That Sins, tho' they be never so heinous of themselves, yet if the Soul can see them, and the Heart be burdened with Page 9 them, they are so far from hindering the Work of Faith, and from making thee uncapable of Mercy, that they fit thee the rather to go to Christ. The Truth is (which I pray you to take Notice of) it is not properly our Un∣worthiness, but our Pride and Haughtiness that hinders us from coming to Christ; for we would have something from ourselves, and not all from him. But to the distressed Soul, that sees the Vileness of his Sins; I say, suppose thy Sins were 〈◊〉; yet upon such a Suppose, thou would'st not go to Christ, as perswaded of the Freeness of his Grace; but because thy Sins are not many, and upon Conceit that thou hast a Worthiness in thy self, and would'st bring something to Christ, and not receive all from him; therefore thou keepest back. And is it not plain (then) that it is thy Pride and thy Self-conceitedness that hinders thee? Thou thinkest thou must have thus much Grace and Holiness; and Christ must not jus∣tify the Ungodly, but the godly Man. But I tell thee, that, upon such Terms, he will never justify thee, or any Man while the World stands.
Object. But the Soul replies again; My Sins are worse than so, not only because they are many, but because of the Mercy and Salvation that I have rejected, and which hath been offered me from Day to Day.
Page 10Answ. But, I answer: This cannot hurt thee, provided that thou canst see those Evils of thine: For then, tho' thou hast cast away the Kindness of the Lord, yet the Lord will not cast thee away, if thou wilt come and seek him earnestly again and again, Isai. 57.17, 18. For the Iniquity of his Covetousness I was wroth (saith God) and I smote him; I hid my∣self, and he went on frowardly in the Way of his own Heart. If this could have hindered, Ju∣dah should never have received Mercy: But the Text saith, I have seen his Ways, and will heal him; Jer. 3.1. Thou hast play'd the Har∣lot with many Lovers, yet turn again unto me, saith the Lord. So then, there is no Time past, if a Man has but a Heart to return. There is no Limitation of the Riches of God's free Grace, except the Sin against the Holy Ghost; therefore saith Christ, Rev. 3.20. I stand at the Door and knock: Though he cry 'till he be hoarse, and stand 'till he be weary, yet he stands still: If any adulterous or de∣ceitful Wretch open, the Lord will come in, and bring store of Comfort to him, and sup with him.
Answ. This Hurts not neither; provided that thy Heart be weary of it self, because it cannot be weary of Sin, Mich, 7.18. The Lord sheweth Mercy, because he will shew Mercy: It is not because thou canst please him, but be∣cause Mercy pleaseth him. When did the Lord shew Mercy to Paul? I say, When, but even when Paul did express most Malice against him? Acts 16. Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? He persecutes Christ, and yet Christ pities him, and shews him Mercy: And so the churlish Jaylor, when he was most opposite against the Means of Grace, the Lord even then shewed most Compassion upon him. He that (before) resisted the Means of Grace, was now bro't home by those Means that before he resisted.
Answ. This is the last Plea whereby the Devil keeps in, and possesseth the Heart of a poor heartless Sinner. But let me answer thee, and for Answer, I say: This hurts not neither: For here at least thou mayst have Hope of Mercy? And here observe the three Things by Way of Answer; and know that.
1. First; The Word and Means of Grace do work Good, if they make thee more sen∣sible of thy Hardness and Deadness. Tho' haply they work not that Good, and after that Manner that thou desirest; yet if they make thee to see thy Baseness, thy Hardness of Heart, and Dulness of Spirit, in Regard of that Body of Death which hangs upon thee, then the Word and they work in the best Manner; because it is after God's Manner, howsoever not after thine. That Physick works most kindly, that makes the Party sick before it works: So it is with the Word. Before, thou hadst a proud Heart, and didst therefore lift up thy self in thine own Abilities, and didst trust in thine own Strength, and thou tho'tst Page 13 that thy Care, and the Improvement of the Means, would work Wonders: But now the Word works sweetly, when it makes thee ap∣prehensive, that a wounded Soul is the Gift of God, not of Man, nor of the Means; when it makes thee look up to God for it, and to prize it when thou hast it; and to wait upon God with thy daily Prayers, still to continue it so. To feel Deadness, is Life; and to feel Hardness is Softness: Only remember this one Caution; except there be some Lust or Distemper that thy Heart hankers after, (for then the Word will harden thee, because thou hardnest thy self) that one I say excepted, thou art in a good Way.
2. Secondly; (Mark this, I beseech you) Thou art the Cause why thy Heart is not soft∣ned, and why the Word works not upon thy Soul: The Distemper of thine own Heart, hinders the working of the Word, and Dis∣pensation of God's Providence, and the Tenour of the Covenant of Grace. Thou thinkest to limit the holy One of Israel; but that may not be: For, his Covenant is a Covenant of Grace; and the Lord (who is free) will not stand bent to thy Bow, or give thee Grace when thou wilt; for,*it is not for us to know the Times and Sea∣sons. What if the Lord will not give thee Grace this Year, nor the next, nor all thy Life? If at the last Gasp he will drop in a Page 14 little of his Favour, it is more than he owes thee. Therefore hear to Day, and wait to Morrow, and continue in so doing, because thou knowest not when God may bless his own Ordinances. Complain not of Delays, but wait, for God hath waited for you long; and therefore if he make you wait for Peace of Conscience, and Assurance of his Love, he deals but equally with you, and as shall be best with you. God gives what, and when, and how he will; therefore wait for it.
3. Thirdly; Know and consider, that thou hast rested upon thine own Duties and Endeavours,* and so doest not go to God, that blesseth both the Means, and all the Endeavours of his this Way. The Fault therefore is thine own, (I say) thine own, because thou restest in thine own Performances, and in the Power of the Means that thou apprehendest, and doest not go to God, that would have wrought more than all they can: For, did a Man depend upon God's Power and Mercy in his Ordinances, he should always find some proportionable Succour, as well when he finds no Success, as when he finds any. God some∣times give, and sometimes delays to give: But God's Love is as constant when he gives not, as when he gives. Therefore labour to quit all carnal Confidence in holy Duties. Rest not in thine own Performances, but look beyond Page 15 all Duties to God in Christ, and desire him to give thee the Success above them.
Watch how thy Soul behaves it self after the naked Discharge of a Duty: All quiet and calm, notwithstanding he lives in a daily Course and Practice of Sin; so that he prays and lies, fasts and cozens, and yet this makes all whole: I tell you, it is an undoubted Argument, that the Soul did place a carnal Confidence in his own Performances, and as yet never attained to a Lord Christ in the Duty: For he that seeks a Saviour in his Duties, and rests not in Self-Performances, this Man brings a Saviour a Christ into his Soul. And mark what fol∣lows; Christ brings pardoning Vertue, and purging Vertue with him, and gives him more Power against Corruptions, and more Suspicion over his own Soul than ever he had before: So that the Soul begins to quarrel with it self, and lies down with Shame, and says, What shall I think of my praying and hearing? Where is the Virtue and Power of it? Did e∣ver Christ hear my Prayers, or come into my Soul by his Ordinances? Where is the purg∣ing Virtue then, to clear me of my Sins? Where is the purifying Virtue to cleanse me of my Corruptions? This is a Ground of a gracious Heart, that placeth not any Confi∣dence in holy Duties, but only in the Lord Christ.
Page 16Do not content yourselves in this, that you see a Need of a Saviour, because your Minds are enlightned therein, and your Reason per∣swaded thereof; when in the mean Time you place a kind of Confidence in the Duty per∣formed and Service discharged, and think thereby to bring Christ at your Beck, and you in the mean while do what you please: This is a wonderful cunning Craft of Satan. This I say then, a Man may see a Need of a Savi∣our; but do not quiet thy Soul because thou knowest it must be so, and because thou find∣est by Experience thou canst not help thy self, the Guilt of Sin still sticks upon thee, and therefore a Saviour now must help thee: I say content not thy self with the meer Notion of it, to say, I see it should be so, and it must be so, and rest thy self contented in the Perfor∣mance of Services, and think to bring a Saviour at thy Beck, to do what thou wilt for thy Soul; this is a Slight that Satan has pinn'd to thy Soul. Many think to have a sovereign Authority o∣ver Christ, when they have performed Duties: So that he does not use the Means to be led to Christ, but he takes up his Duties to be commanders of Christ, and that he may dis∣pose of Christ for his own Turn; so that he makes Christ an Abetter of his own Wicked∣ness, not a Subduer of his Corruptions. This is a marvellous Deceit, when Men rest in their own Abilities, and so abuse Christ. And this will appear in these Particulars.
Page 17First; Watch how thy Heart is in the Performance of Duty. Doth thy Prayer, and Hearing, and performing of Services, make thee venturous and fool-hardy to meddle with Corruptions? Then it's a certain Ground thou placest carnal Confidence in thine own Performances. As for Example: If a Pro∣fessor should say, What if I do now and then sin? And what if I do now and then pilfer, and use false Weights and Measures? I'll but pray so much the more, and fast so much the oftner: Will not my Conscience then be sa∣tisfied? It shall be satisfied; I will command it: I will put in Bail for my Sin, and pray a∣gainst it. Now I beseech you observe it; this praying and performing of Duties, is meerly to command a Saviour to give Allow∣ance to Sin, that so he may commit it freely. As who would say, I have Authority over my Saviour, and he shall pardon my Sin, and give me Allowance to commit Sin. O the wretch∣ed Villany that is in this Man's Heart! Fear∣ful is thy Estate, whosoever thou art, that makest thy Performances an Abettor of thy Distempers: So that thou doest thy Duties not to convey Christ, that he may help thee to prevent Sin, but that Christ may take off the Venome and Indignation of Sin, that so thou may'st commit Wickedness without either Suspicion or further Distraction.
Page 18Many a Man makes his Services his Saviours. For, he makes them the Bottom to bear up his Conscience: The Ground whereof is this: Haply he finds and feels by woful Experience what the Fruits of Sin are: He sees the Ve∣nom of his Corruptions, and the lamentable Effects of all his sinful Practices: He tho't it before, a fine Thing to swear, and lie, and drink, and follow base Company; but now they are Gravel to his Heart, and Gall to his Soul. His Conscience flieth in his Face, and he is ready to sink down to Hell under the Burden of his mis-order'd Life. Conscience saith, These be thy Sins, and these will be thy Damnation: They have been thy Delight, but they will prove thy Shame and Confusion in the End; and shortly thou shalt find the Smart of them: To Hell therefore, be pack∣ing, and gone.
Now this Man hath no other Cure for his Conscience in such a Case, but this; he in∣treats Conscience to be quiet. He confesseth he hath lived in base Courses, and his Con∣dition to be very miserable; but now he will reform all. He hath neglected Prayer here∣tofore, but now he will pray: He hath hated God's Servants, but now he will love them: His Ways have been exceeding evil, but now he will reform them, and now he will turn over a new Leaf. This he saith, and this (he thinks) will serve his Turn. And thus many Page 19 poor Souls use the Means as Mediators, and so fall short of Christ. But a gracious Heart doth not only pray, and hear, and receive, and use all possible Means to obtain CHRIST, but is restless and unsatisfied 'till he enjoy and pos∣sess CHRIST in the Means. He rests not up∣on the bare Performance of any Duty, neither thinks by Virtue of any such his Endeavours to get into Christ.
I will express this Particular more fully in this Manner. A rich Usurer that is sick of some Disease; tell him such a Physician can cure him, but he stands upon State, and will not come without a great deal of Charge. Charge (saith he) I do not stand upon that; I have Money enough by me, enough to fetch him hither. Such a Man now placeth all his Confidence in his Money. So when the Soul sees the Guilt of Sin is not removed, and that Conscience is still snarling, and that (the Law condemning him) Christ is the only Saviour, and he only that can satisfy and cure all. But now, How shall Christ be procured? Why? His Prayer, and Fasting, and Performances, may command so much, and that by the Pow∣er and Merit of the Work done. The Voice of a Pharisee, and proper Language of a Pa∣pist. But what Promise is there for it? With∣in-book none. But thus Fools rest on their own Performances, and so fall short of Christ and Salvation.
Page 20Object But oh (saith a poor Sinner) fain would I go out of my self. I see too well now, that I have rested, and do rest upon Duties done; but I cannot deny my self as I would.
Answ. I answer, It is Satan's Subtilty to keep us in ourselves, by endeavouring thus to make us go out of ourselves: For by our own Strength he would have us to do it; and per∣swades us we may. But this is a marvellous Deepness of his, wherein he shews both Ma∣lice and Cunning in the suparlative. For here he makes us believe (and we, out of Igno∣rance are perswaded as he would have us) that we have the Staff in our own Hands, that is, the Power to get out of our selves. But is it so? Oh no, it is a supernatural Work to be quite out of our selves. The same Hand must bring us out of our selves, that must bring us to Christ: And this is Self-denial: And Self-denial is, when the Soul knoweth it hath nothing,* and therefore is so over-powered with the migh∣ty Hand of God, and the Work of his Spirit, that it doth not so much as ex∣pect any Power or Ability from it self, or from the Creature, in the doing of any Good: For it knows it is dead, and therefore cannot help it self, much less can the Creature do it any Good, It therefore looks up to Heaven, and seeks all Sufficiency from God alone. For (observe it) whiles I thus think that I have A∣bility Page 21 to go out of my self; do I not then say, I have a Principle within me to deny my self? But it is not so; rather it is quite contrary: For to deny a Man's self, is to know he hath no Power in himself to do any spiritual Duty: Therefore we must look only to the Voice that calleth us, the Voice of Christ, and know that he that calls us from the Ways of Dark∣ness, and out of our selves, must and will bring us out. Therefore expect only Power from Christ to pluck thee out of thy self, and to make thee a Believer; for the same Hand must do both, or it will never be.
I would not have a poor Creature think thus with himself: If this Means, and these Ordinances will do me no good, nor work up∣on my Heart, I shall never have Comfort: But speak thus unto God, and say, In truth, Lord, I expect no Power from my self, nor from the Means; but my Resolution is, to look up to him that hath hid his Face yet from his poor Servant. I will not look any lower, as here within my self, for any such Power: No, Lord, but to the highest in Power and Gifts. Nor will I look to the Minister, or to the Means, but I will wait upon thee (O Lord) and look up to thy Power, to work by thine own Means. Remember what the Prophet saith: Isai. 50.20. Who is amongst you that feareth the Lord, and obeyeth the Voice of his Ser∣vant, that walketh in Darkness, and hath no Page 22 Light, (of Comfort) let him trust in the Name of the Lord, and stay himself upon his God. Then when all other Things in the World fail, let the Soul look up to the Lord, and get away from it self. For then is the fittest Time of all to meet with God. I would have a Chris∣tian chuse this Time above all Times, the fit∣test wherein to meet his Saviour, and to dis∣appoint Satan: For, as I said, it is the last Refuge that the Devil hath: And if he miss of this, his Force is gone for ever. For other∣wise the Sinner, partly seeing the Beauty of Grace, will not; and partly seeing the Base∣ness of his own Heart, will not dare to come to Christ.
[3.] But the next Complaint, in the next Place, is, Want of Sense and Feeling, such as a Christian must have, and finds not. There∣fore the distressed Soul saith, Alas! I never knew what it was to have the Assurance of God's Love, I never received any Evidence of God's Favour; and can I (then) think that I have Faith? They that believe, have their Hearts filled with Joy unspeakable and glorious; the Word saith as much: But I am a Stranger to this Joy; how then can I think that I have any Work of Faith wrought in me?
Answ. I answer; This doth not hinder, either that thou hast not Faith, or that thou may'st not come to God in Christ by believing. Only remember these three Particulars;
Page 23First; Thou must not think to have this Joy and Refreshing before thou goest to the Promise: Thou must look for it when thou hast chewed and fed upon it: Or wouldest thou have the Lord give thee the whole Bar∣gain at once, and before the Match be made? This Joy is a Fruit that proceeds from Faith after much wrestling; and doth not presently flow from Faith, not so soon as ever a Christian begins to believe, but after a Time, and then the Heart is joyous; but never filled with Joy before believing. Afterwards, and when a Man hath had the sweet Dew of the Promises dropping upon him; but many a Day after, let him look for this Joy.
Secondly; Know that these Joys, and this Sense and Feeling may be absent from Faith. For a Man may have a good Faith, and yet want the Relish and Sweetness which he longs after. One may want what he Desires, and yet want neither Life nor Heat. A Tree may want Leaves and Fruit, and yet want neither Sap nor Moisture: And a Man's Faith may be somewhat strong, when his Feeling is nothing at all. David was justified and sanctified, and yet wanted this Joy. And Job trusted upon God when he had but little Feeling; as when he saith, Thou makest me a But to shoot at; yet I will trust in thee tho' thou kill me. Therefore build not your Comfort upon Sense and Feel∣ing, Page 24 which is to build upon the Sand; but go to the Promise, as to the Rock, for it.
Quest. But how comes this Desire after Christ?
I answer: There are no more but two Af∣fections in the Soul to absent Good, God infi∣nitely wise having so framed it; and these two are Hope and Desire. The Understanding says, such a Thing is profitable & comfortable if I had it; then Hope is sent out to wait for that Good∣ness; and if it comes not, then Desire is sent out to meet that Goodness: Hope stands and waits for it; but Desire wanders up and down seeking and enquiring after a LORD JESUS, and goes from Coast to Coast, from East to West; O that I could, O that I might, and when shall I? And how may I come to the Speech of a Lord Christ? As it was with the Spouse in the Canticles; when her Beloved was gone, she wandered up and down seeking him, and enquiring of the Watchmen if they did not see him whom her Soul loved; so wanders from this Thing to that, from this Place to that Place, and never ceaseth to seek and see if she can gain Notice of Christ. It goes to Prayer, to see if that will entreat a Christ; it goes to the Word, to see if that will reveal a Christ: It goes to Conference, to see if it can hear of Christ there: Then it comes to the Congregation, and to the Sacra∣ment, to see if it can hear of any News of a Lord Christ, and of Mercy.
Page 25The Soul thus continues wandring and seeking, till at last the Lord Christ comes into the Soul, when the Soul hath thus hungred and longed for him. At length the Lord Christ is pleased to shew himself in view: Behold, the King cometh: so the Soul says, Behold the Lamb of God, that takes away thy Sins. O thou poor broken-hearted Sinner, here is thy Saviour; he is come down from Heaven to speak Peace to thy Soul in the Pardon of thy Sins. Thou that hungrest for a Christ, here he is to satisfy thee: Thou that thirsteth after Christ, here he is to re∣fresh thee. Thou that hast long sought him, he saith, Here I am, and all my Merits are thine.
Now when the Lord Jesus is pleased to present himself to the Soul, now Desire hath met with the Lord.
It is in this Case with a Sinner, as it is with a Traytor who is pursued, and takes a strong Hold, and is there besieged: And now he seeth no hope of Favour, nor no hope of Escape; therefore he is content to submit, and lay his Head on the Block, that he may receive Punishment for his Offence: Now coming to Execution, he hears an inkling from the Messenger there is yet Hope he may be pardoned. The poor Traytor in the Pri∣son, with that is stirred up to hope. Nay, then he hears by another Messenger from the Page 26 King himself, if he will come to the Court, and seek to his Majesty, and importune his Grace for Mercy and Favour, it's like he shall be pardon'd. Then he makes haste, and Desire carries him to the Court to sue for Favour from the King. So that now he will be listening and enquiring of every one there, Did you hear the King speak nothing of me? How stands the King's Mind to∣wards me? Pray how goes my Case? Then some tell him, the Truth is, the King hears you are humbled, and that you are sorry for what you have done: At last the King looks out of the Window, and sees the Malefactor, and says, Is this the Traytor? One says, Yes, if it please your Highness, this is the Man that is humbled and pleads for Mercy, and desires nothing so much as Favour. Here∣upon, the King being full of Mercy, tells him, The Truth is, his Pardon is a drawing, and coming towards him. With that his Heart leaps in his Bowels, and his Heart is en∣larged towards his Majesty; and he says, God bless your Majesty; never was there so favou∣rable a Prince to so poor a Traytor. His Heart leaps for Joy, because his Pardon is coming to∣wards him. Haply it is not sealed yet: Now when it is sealed, and all done, the King calls him in, and delivers it.
So it is with a poor Sinner, he is the Male∣factor. You that have committed High-Treason, Page 27 you think not of it: But take heed, God will pursue you one Day. Haply God lets you alone for the present, but he will sur∣prize you on a sudden, and Conscience will pluck thee by the Throat, & carry thee down to Hell. And now the Lord pursues him with a heavy Stroke and Indignation, and lets fly at his Face, and sets Conscience at work as a Pursevant, and that says; These are thy Sins, and to Hell thou must go, God hath sent me to execute thy Soul. Now the poor Soul sees he can no Way escape from the Lord, and to purchase any Favour he sees it impos∣sible; therefore he is resolved to lie down at God's Feet, and hope. Now Hope is a Fa∣culty of the Soul to look out for Mercy: As a Man that is in Expectation of the Coming of his Friend, goeth to the Top of a Hill, looks round about him, to see if he can understand any Thing of his Friend; so the Soul hopes and waits, and stretches it self out for Mercy. When will it be, Lord? When will this Par∣don come? The Soul gets up and stands as it were a tip-toe: O when will it come, Lord?
How does God stir up the Heart to hope? It's worth the while to consider how this is main∣tained.
1. First; The Lord sweetly stays the Heart, and perswades it that his Sins are par∣donable, and that the Good he wants may be supplied; this is a great Support to the Soul. Page 28Hope is always of a Good to come. Now when a poor Sinner sees his Sins, the Number of them, the Nature of them, the Vileness of them, the Cursedness of his Soul, that he can take no Rest; he sees no Rest in the Crea∣ture, nor in himself. Tho' he pray all Day, yet he cannot get the Pardon of one Sin: The Soul is out of any Expectation of Pardon, or Power of Mercy in any Thing he hath or doth: Though all Means, all Helps, tho' all Men and Angels should join together, yet they can∣not pardon one Sin of his. Now the Lord lifts up his Voice, and says from Heaven, thy Sins are pardonable. O the Infiniteness of God's Power! tho' the Guilt of Sin is power∣ful to condemn the Soul. But when the in∣finite Power of the Lord is considered, as able to over-power all his Sins, this lifteth up the Heart in some Expectation that the Lord will shew Mercy to a Man; tho' it is a hard Thing to hope, when the Soul is thus troubled, (Can this Heart be broken? Can these Sins be pardoned? Can this Soul be saved?) Now comes in the Power of God: God can par∣don them. Never measure the Power of God by that shallow Conceit of thine. All Things are possible to God, tho' not to Men. And as it is said of Abraham, He hoped above Hope; he looked to the Lord that was able to do what he had promised: He considered not that he had a dead Body, but that he had a Page 29 living God to hope on. Justice cannot be so severe to revenge thee, as Mercy is gracious to do Good unto thee. If thy Sins be never so many, God's Justice never so great; yet Mercy is above all thy Sins, above all thy Re∣bellions. This may support thy Soul.
So there you have the first Ground to stir up Hope; thy Sins are pardonable. There is more Power in God to shew Mercy to thee, than Power in Sin to destroy thee.
2. The Lord Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost; it was the Scope of his coming. Now saith the broken and humble Sinner, I am lost. Did Christ come to save Sinners? Then Christ must fail of his End, or I of my Comfort. God says, Come to me all ye that are weary and heavy laden: I am weary: Unless the Lord intended good to me, why did he invite me, and bid me come? Surely he means to shew Mercy to me.
(1.) Oh take heed of Despair. Question thy Estate thou mayest, thou must; but to cast away all Hope is very heinous in the Eyes of the Lord. Cast away all carnal Confidence thou must, and yet thou must hope. Let Is∣rael hope in the Lord, for in the Lord, &c.
1. The Lord takes this very ill at our Hands. Thou goest to the deep Dungeon of thy Cor∣ruption, and there thou sayest these Sins can never be pardoned: I am still proud, and more stubborn: This Distress God seeth not, Page 30 God succoureth not, his Hand cannot reach, his Mercy cannot save. Now mark what the Prophet saith to such a perplexed Soul, Isaiah 40.27. Why sayest thou thy Way is hid from the Lord? The Lord saith, Why sayest thou so? The young Man shall faint and be weary; but they that wait on the Lord shall renew their Strength. Is any Thing too hard for the Lord? You wrong God exceedingly: You think its Matter of Humility, to count your self so vile. Can God pardon such a Wretches Sin as mine? Mark that Place of the Psalmist; they spake against the Lord, Can the Lord pre∣pare a Table in the Wilderness? They spake not against themselves, but against the LORD. So we speak against God, and charge God him∣self. It is true, says the Soul, Manasseth was pardoned, Paul was converted, God's Saints have been received to Mercy; But can my Sin be pardoned? Can my Soul be quickned? No, no, my Sins are greater than can be par∣doned, saith the despairing Soul. Consider how injurious this is to God, to make the Power of Sin greater to condemn thee, than the Power of God to save thee: To make the Power of Satan stronger to ruinate thee than the Power of God to relieve thee, and succour thee. And what can you say more? And what can you do more against the Lord? Is not this to make God an Underling to Satan, and to Sin? This is just as to say, The Almightiness of Page 31 God is weaker than the Weakness of Sin; the Sufficiency of God is weaker than the Ma∣lice of Satan. It is so; poor humble Sin∣ners many Times will make bitter Complaints this Way; and they think they speak against themselves. No, no, they speak against the LORD. They spake against the Lord, when they said, Can the Lord prepare a Table in the Wilderness? So you speak in this desperate Manner: Why truth, Lord, this proud Heart will never be humbled; if any thing would have wrought, it would have been done e'er this Day: How many Sermons, how many Mercies, how many Judgments, how many Prayers? And yet this proud Heart, this stub∣born Heart will not be reformed. You think you speak against your selves now: No, no, you speak against the Lord. And know, this is one of the greatest Sins thou committest, to say thy Sins cannot be forgiven.
2. Secondly; As this Sin is injurious to God, so it's dangerous to thy own Soul. It is that which takes up the Bridge, and cuts off all Passages, and there can no spiritual Comfort or Consolation come into the Soul of a poor Sin∣ner, Luke 3.5, 6. Every Valley (or Ditch) shall be filled, and then all Flesh shall see the Salvation of the Lord. What are these Ditches? Why nothing else but those deep Gulfs and Ditches of Despair: And unless these be filled, no Man can see the Lord Jesus Christ. The Page 32 Truth is, this Despair of the Soul is that which cuts the Sinews of Man's Comfort, and takes off the Power & Edge of all the Means of Grace; it daunts all a Man's Endeavours; nay, it plucks up Endeavours by the very Roots: For that which a Man despairs off, he will never labour after. It's here, as with a Man in the Pangs of Death: Unto such a Man, as all Things are unavailable for his Good: His Bed will not ease him, Meat will not refresh him, chafing will not revive him; at last we say he is gone, he is a dead Man; Friends leave him, Physicians leave him: They may go and pray for him, and mourn for him, but they cannot recover him. So this Despair of Soul makes a Man cast off all Hope, and lie down in a for∣lorn Condition, expecting no Good to come. Alas, saith the poor Soul, what skilleth for a Man to pray? What profiteth it a Man to read? What Benefit in all the Means of Grace? The Truth of it is, the Stone is rolled upon me, and my Condemnation is sealed for ever, and therefore I will never look after Christ, Grace and Salvation any more. Let him come to hear the Word, and mark how he casts off the Benefit of it. It was marvellous, season∣able and profitable, it was the good Word of God unto such as have share therein: Why then may not you expect Benefit therefrom? No, saith the Soul, the Time of Grace is past, the Day is gone. If Ministers would pray for Page 33 him, and good People pray for him, he bids them save their Labour; for Hell is his Portion, and his Condemnation is sealed in Heaven. See now and consider what desperate Danger Despair brings to a poor Heart, and carries him beyond the reach of Mercy. That's a sweet passage of David's, Psalm 77.7. Will the Lord cast me off for ever? I said this is my Infirmity, saith the Text. The Word in the Original, This is my Sickness, as who shall say, This would be my Death: What, is Mercy gone for ever? then my Life is gone, then is all my Comfort gone, my Hope gone: Therefore take heed of this, it takes off the edge of all our Endeavours and God's Ordinances that might do us good.
(2) Secondly. This marvellously condemns that great Sin of Presumption; a Sin more fre∣quent, and if it be possible, more dangerous. The Presumption of carnal Hypocrites that bolster themselves up with marvellous Boldness in their course. It is as true here, and I be∣seech you observe it, as they said Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands: Dis∣pair hath slain his thousands, but Presumption his ten thousands. That Men may swear, and lie, and cozen, and break all Commands, and yet hope to be saved. They hope Grace will save them, and yet resist Grace. They hope Jesus Christ will save them, and yet op∣pose Christ. This is that which hath slain Page 34 many thousands among us; and they are few that have not split upon this Rock. And there∣fore I say, this serves to reprove the Baseness of such Hypocrites that boast themselves, and compare their Hopes with the Hopes of the Saints. It is true, say they, I cannot walk so freely, I cannot repeat a Sermon, I have not those Parts that they have; yet I hope to be saved as well as they. This is that which hath slain so many thousands of Souls that are now roaring in Hell; and they may thank Presump∣tion for it.
Now this Hope is not the Hope of the Saints. The Hope of the Saints is a grounded Hope; but these Hopes hang upon some idle Pleas and foolish Pretences, and some carnal Reasons▪ But I tell you they will fail, and sink into the bottomless Pit ere they are aware. It is the Command and Counsel of Peter, That every Man should be ready to give an account of his Faith and Hope that is in him. Look to the Reasons that carry you, and to the Arguments that perswade you; see they be not groundless and foolish Hopes. You hope to be saved, and you hope to go to Heaven, and you hope to see the Face of God with Comfort. Look about, I say; good Hope hath good Reasons, grounded Hope grounded Reasons.
(3) Thirdly. The Saints of God many times are deprived of Comfort; not because God with-holds it, but because they put it from them∣selves,Page 35 and will not have it though he offer'd it; as David, Psal. 77. My Soul refused Com∣fort: He was a sullen Child that will not eat his Milk, because he cannot have it in the golden Dish. So sometimes, and because God doth not for us what we would, we will have nothing at all. These are the main Hindran∣ces, and I might add many more; for carnal Reason is very fruitful this way, and we thro' our own Folly, and the Devil's Craft, are apt to abuse things, and to make them Hindran∣ces in our way to Happiness eternal.