Billeder på siden

the way wherein I should walk, and mark out my path plain for me.'


4. I would mourn, and tell him, how little converse I have with himself, how much he is hidden from me: I would complain to him, how far off I am from him the most part of my life, how few are the hours of my communion with him, how short is the visit, how much his face is concealed from me, and how far my heart is divided from him. A soul then says, "Surely there is too great a distance between me and my God, my heavenly Father!" and cries out with bitterness, Why is God so far from me, and why is my heart so far from God? How often do I wait upon him in his own sanctuary, and among his saints, but I am not favoured with the sight of his power and glory there! And how often do I seek him in my secret retirements, but I find him not? I would tell him how often I read his promises in the gospel, and taste no sweetness; I go frequently to those wells of consolation, and they seem to be dry; then I turn my face and ⚫go away ashamed.

5. I would tell him too of my temporal troubles, if I got near to God, because they unfit me for his service, they make me incapable of honouring him in the world, and render me unfit for enjoying him in his ordinances: I would tell him how they damp my zeal, how they bow my spirit down, and make me go mourning all the day long, to the dishonour of christianity, which is a dispensation of grace and joy. Thus I might complain before God of pains, of weakness, of sickness, of the disorders of my flesh; I might complain there too of the weakness of all my powers, the want of memory, the scatterings and confusions that are upon my thoughts, the wanderings of my fancy, and the unhappy influence that a feeble and diseased body has upon the mind: "O my God, how am I divided from thee, by dwelling in such a tabernacle! still patching up a tottering cottage, and wasting my best hours in a painful attendance on the infirmities of the flesh

I might then take the liberty of spreading before my God, all the sorrows and vexations of life, that unhinge my soul from its centre, and throw it off from my guard, and hurry and expose me to daily temptations. I might complain of my reproaches from friends and enemies; because these, many times, wear out the spirit, and unfit it for acts of lively worship. These are my weekly sorrows and groans, these are my daily fears and troubles; and these shall be spread before the eyes of my God, in the happy hour when I get near him.

Lastly, I would not go away without a word of pity and complaint concerning my relations, my friends, and acquaintance, that are afar off from God. I would put in one word of petition

for them that are careless and unconcerned for themselves: I would weep a little at the seat of God for them: I would leave a tear or two at the throne of mercy, for my dearest relatives in the flesh, for children, brothers or sisters, that they might be brought near to God, in the bonds of the spirit. Then would I remember my friends in Christ, my brethren and kindred in the gospel; such as labour under heavy burdens, languish under various infirmities of life, or groan under the power of strong temptations. When God indulges me the favour of his ear, I would spread their wants and sorrows before him, together with my own, and make supplication for all the saints. I would leave a petition at the mercy-seat for my native country, that knowledge and holiness may overspread the nation: that our king may be a nursing father to the church, and our princes may be blessings to the land. And while I send up my request for the British islands, I would breathe out many a sigh for Zion, that she may be the joy of the whole earth. I proceed now to,

[ocr errors]

III. The third head of enquiry, which is this; why does a saint, when he gets near to God, delight to tell him all his circumstances, and all his sorrows?

In general I might say this, because it is so seldom, at least in our day, that a saint gets very near to God; therefore, when he finds that happy minute, he says to his God all that he wants to say he tells him all his heart, he pours out all his wants before him; because these seasons are very few. It is but here and there an extraordinary christian, who maintains constant nearness to God: The best complain of too much distance and estrangement. But to descend to particulars :

1. He is our chief friend, and it is an ease to the soul to vent itself in the bosom of a friend, when we are in his company.More especially as it was in the case of Job, when other friends failed him when he had begun to tell them some of his sorrows, and withal maintained his own integrity; they would not believe him, but became his troublers instead of his comforters: My friends scorn me, says Job, chap. xvi. 20. but mine eye poureth out tears unto God. I go to my best friend, my friend in heaven, when my friends here on earth neglect me.

Man is a sociable creature, and our joys and our sorrow are made to be communicated, that thereby we may double the one, and alleviate the other. There is scarce any piece of human nature, be it never so stupid, but feels some satisfaction in the pleasure of a friend, in communicating the troubles and the pleasures that it feels; but those that have God for their highest and best friend, they love to be often exercising such acts of friendship with him; and rather with him than with any friend besides, ra

ther with him than with all besides him. This is the noblest and highest friendship; all condescension and compassion on the one side, and all infirmity and dependence on the other, and yet both joined in mutual satisfaction. Amazing grace of God to man! The christian rejoices in this admirable divine indulgence, and delights in all opportunities to employ and improve it.

Besides, this is the way to maintain the vigour of piety, and keep all the springs of divine love ever opening and flowing in his own; therefore he makes many a visit to the mercy-seat, and takes occasion from every troublesome occurrence in life, to betake himself to his knees, and improves every sorrow he meets on earth, to increase his acquaintance with heaven. He delights to talk all his grievances over with his God. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, is a blessed example of this practice; 1 Sam. i. 10. When she was in bitterness of soul, by reason of a sore affliction, and the teazing humour of her rival, she prayed to the Lord, and wept sore: and when she had left her sorrows at the mercy-seat, she went away, and did did eat, and her countenance was no more sad; ver. 18. So saith the christian, "I commit my sorrows to my God; he is my best friend, and I go away, and am no more sad: I have poured out my cares into his ear, and cast my burdens upon him, and leave them there in peace."

[ocr errors]

2. The saint knows God will understand him right, and will judge right concerning his case and his meaning. Though the expressions, it may be, are very imperfect, below the common language of men, and propriety of speech, yet God knows the meaning of the soul; for it is his own spirit that breathes in that soul, and he knows the mind of his Spirit; Rom. viii. 27. The friends of Job perverted his sense: Therefore he turns aside to God, for he knows God would understand him. It is a very great advantage, when we spread our concerns before another person, to be well assured that person will take us right, will take in our meaning fully, and judge aright concerning our cause. Now we may be assured of this, when we speak to our God: he knows our thoughts afar off, and all circumstances, better infinitely than we can tell him. These our poor imperfect expressions of our wants, shall be no hinderances to his full supplies, nor any bar to his exercise of friendship towards us.

3. A saint pours out his soul before God, because he is sure of secrecy there. How many things are there transacted between God and a holy soul, that relate to guilt and inward workings of iniquity, that he could never publish to the world! and many things also that concern his conduct in life, his embarrassments of spirit, his difficulties his follies, or the obstinacy, guilt, or

follies of his friends or relatives, which prudence and shame forbid him to tell his fellow-creatures; and yet he wants to spread them all before God his best friend, God his dearest relative, the friend nearest to his heart. There may be many circumstances and cases in life, especially in the spiritual life, which one christian could hardly communicate to another, though under the strictest bonds and ties of natural, and civil, and sacred relation: But we may communicate these very affairs, these secret concerns with our God, and unburden our souls of every care without the least public notice.

We cannot be perfectly secure of this with regard to any creature'; for when we have experienced the faithfulness of a friend many years, he may possibly be at last unfaithful: Unfaithfulness is mingled with our nature since the fall, and it is impossible any person can be infallibly secure from it: Ps. lxii. 9. Men of low degree are vanity, and great men are a lie: but we may leave our case with our God, as secure as though we had communicated it to none: Nay, we may be easily secure and free in speaking, because God knows all before-hand. Our complaint adds nothing to his knowledge, although it eases our souls, and gives us sweet satisfaction in having such a friend to speak to.

4. A saint believes the equity, faithfulness, and the love of God; therefore he spreads his case before him. His equity, that the judge of all the earth will do right; the righteons may plead with him. His faithfulness, that he will fulfil all his promises: and his love, that he will take compassion on those who are afflicted; he will be tender to those who are miserable. David takes occasion from this, to address God under his sufferings and sorrows; Ps. lxii. 1, 2. He is my rock, and my salvation, and my defence, I shall not be moved; therefore my soul waits upon God; my refuge is in him. lxv. 1, 2. He is a God that hears prayer, therefore unto him shall all flesh come. God will not account our complaints troublesome, though they be never so often repeated; whereas men are quickly wearied with the importunities of those who are poor and needy. Great men are ready to shut their doors against those who come too often for relief; but God delights to hear often from his people, and to have them ask continually at his door for mercy. Though he has Almighty power with him, saith Job, yet he will not plead against me with his great power: No, but he would put strength in me; he would teach me how I should answer him; how I should answer his justice, by appeals to his mercy; and how I should speak prevailingly before him.

5. Lastly, A saint tells God all his circumstances and sorrows at such a season, because he hopes for relief from him, and from him only; for it is impossible creatures can give relief under any


[ocr errors]

trouble, unless God makes them instruments of relief. And there are some troubles in which creatures cannot be our helpers, but our help must come only from God, and that in a more imme. diate way, Whatsoever be our distress, whether it arise from past guilt, and the torments of an anxious and troubled conscience; or whether it arise from the working of in-dwelling sin, the strength of templation, or the violence of temporal afflictions, still God is able and willing to give relief, Call upon me, saith the Lord, In the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me; Ps. 1. 15. And he hath never said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye my face in vain; Is. xlv. 19.

IV. The fourth general head of discourse which I proposed, is to shew, How a saint, near the mercy-seat, pleads with God for relief.

Holy Job tells us in this text, that if he was got near to the seat of God, he would fill his mouth with arguments. Not as though he would inform God of the necessity, or the justice of his cause beyond what he knew before; no, this is impossible: He that teacheth man all things, shall he not know? Ps. xciv. 9. 10. He who orders all the circumstances of our lives, and every stroke of his own rod, can he be unacquainted with any thing that relates to our sorrows? Nor can we use arguments with God to awaken his ear, or move his compassion, as though he had neglected us, or forgotten our distress; for all things are for ever naked and open before the eyes of him, with whom we have to do; Heb. iv. 13. The Shepherd of Israel cannot slumber nor does his mercy want our awakenings.

But in this sort of expressions, the great God condescends to talk, and to transact affairs with us, and permits us to treat him in a way suited to our weakness: He would have us plead and argue with him, that we may shew how deep a sense we have of our own wants, and how entirely we depend on his mercy. Since we cannot converse with him in a way equal to his own majesty and godhead, he stoops to talk with us in such a way as is most agreeable to our state, and most easy to our apprehension: He speaks such language as we can understand, and invites us to humble conference with him in the same way. Come, says God to his people, by Isaiah his prophet, Come now, and let us reason together; Is. i. 18. And he often, in holy scripture, represents himself as moved and influenced by the prayers and pleadings of his afflicted saints; and he has ordained, before-hand, that the day when he prepares their hearts to pray, shall be the day when his ear shall hear the desire of the humble, and shall be the season of their deliverance; Ps. x. 17.

If you enquire, how a christian pleads with his God, and whence does he borrow his arguments? I answer, that accord-'

« ForrigeFortsæt »