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my gracious God still appears the Bank of Faith, I am come once more to pay thee a visit from the press. Whether thou wilt smile or frown at me, I know not, nor shall I make any inquiry. If thou approvest of my company, discourse with and examine me; for the wise man saith, "Counsel in the heart is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out," Prov. xx. 5. If my company be agreeable, prepare me a lodging upon one of thy shelves; my board will be no expense, lodging will be all; and you can take me down and peruse me when you please; only take care to put me out of sight when any of my enemies visit thee, or else thou wilt be in as much danger of losing thy reputation as poor Jonah was.
But perhaps my reader is one that loves the truth, and is valiant for it, and not awed by the fear of man; if so, thou needest not put me out of sight, for I am not ashamed of myself before
men, if thou art not ashamed of me. And, shouldst thou entertain me, and use me till thou hast worn me out, thou mayest have me again for little more than the price of a pack of cards.
Possibly my reader is one that despises heartwork, and rests in carnal security; with a little speculative knowledge in the head, and a little decent morality in outward show: if so, thou hast got thy lamp; there is nothing wanting but oil in thy vessel-that is, the Spirit of grace in thy heart. This thou must have, before thou canst be assured that thou art a vessel of mercy. But perhaps my reader is too old to learn, and too wise (in his own conceit) to be taught by a coal-heaver; if so, I shall not stand to dispute thee out of thy wisdom; for I would sooner dispute with a young and a wise child, than with an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished, Eccl. v. 13. Of this, however, be assured, that God's word is called a lamp, Psal. cxix. 105. A bare speculative knowledge of God's word is a lamp taken by many; that is, by half the bulk of professors. "Five of them were wise, and five were foolish." An external reformation under the gospel is an hypocritical going forth to meet the bridegroom. Markthe feet go forth out of the world, and join in communion with the righteous in external appearance, while the heart is still fixed on earthly things. But, if thy heart be destitute of the
Spirit of God, thou hast no oil in thy lamp, Matt. xxv. 8; no treasure in thy earthen vessel, 2 Cor. iv. 7; and without God's Spirit thou canst not know God, nor the things of God; "because they are spiritually discerned," 1Cor. ii. 14. It is God's Spirit that teaches us to "know the things that are freely given to us of God," 1 Cor. ii. 12. God reveals them to his saints by his spirit, 1 Cor. ii. 10. That blessed Spirit is the oil that anointeth us, 2 Cor. i. 21. And he is that unction which teaches us all things, 1 John ii. 27; and seals us up to the day of redemption.
Therefore, if thou hast not the Spirit of Christ, thou art none of his, Rom. viii. 9. Thou art not made wise to salvation, 2 Tim. iii. 15. Thou art a foolish virgin, and thou wilt one day call about thee for inspiration-" Give us of your oil" will be the universal request of every foolish virgin, when the midnight cry cometh to call the labourers from the vineyard; and this will be a night in which no man can work.
Therefore beware of trusting to a little head knowledge; for, depend upon it, that lamp will not stand the appearance of an angry Judge, Prov. xiii. 9. "Our lamps are gone out," say the foolish virgins. How should it be otherwise, when there was no oil to feed the flame, no golden pipe of faith to bring it from the bowl of the candlestick? Zech. iv. 2, 3. Thou mayest be so reformed as to deceive many; yea, thou
mayest preach and pray too, and have a deal of zeal and diligence about thee; insomuch that thou mayest almost, if not altogether, deceive the very elect. But all thy zeal, joy, diligence, and gifts, shall wither, if the root of the matter be not in thee, Job xix. 28. And thou wilt then fall away; for God declares that "a prating fool shall fall," Prov. x. 8. And then thou wilt go to sleep in carnal security and insensibility; as it is written, "while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept," Matt. xxv. 5. The wise, as well as the foolish, slumbered and slept. But the watchmen began to sound an alarm to those in a Laodicean church state; and to tell them that the Saviour knocked at the door, and was just ready to come in and see the guests. The watchmen then began to give them the counsel they had received from the Lord, which was, that they should buy of Christ gold tried in the fire, that they might be rich; and white raiment that they might be clothed, and that the shame of their nakedness might not appear; and anoint their eyes with eye-salve, that they might see that the Judge is even at the door, Rev. iii. 18.
Being thus alarmed, and awaked out of their lethargy, they cried out, "It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh; I sleep, but my heart waketh," Song v. 2. The bridegroom is coming. Now they began to look about them. And
the Saviour, having awakened their attention, calls to them again, "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." Rev. iii. 19. And now his rebukes came on them, and his chastening hand was heavily felt. Under these rebukes and chastisements they sink into the furnace of affliction, in which God hath chosen them, Isa. xlviii. 10; and they come forth from the fiery trial like gold, Job xxiii. 10; yea, they found the trial of their faith more precious than gold that perisheth, though it was tried with fire, 1 Pet. i. 7. This made them rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom of glory, that was just ready then to be revealed. Having obtained faith's wealth, they now looked with a pitying eye on their much abused Lord, whom they had greatly slighted by their spiritual sloth and drowziness; and mourned and repented, as he bid them. The finger, too, of their tried faith brought fresh healing virtue out of Christ, Mark v. 30. And they then felt precious refreshings come forth from the presence of the Lord; as it is written, "Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you; whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things," Acts iii. 19-21.
More grace being given them, they were purged and sanctified, and appeared in the cover