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Thus the law, as a rule of life, may be improved to the humiliation of the people of God, in that it may serve to keep fresh in their minds their native universal depravity.... their former wickedness--and to discover their remaining sinfulness: And I may here observe, that it is believers' peculiar acquaintance with the law, in its true meaning, strictness, and purity, that is the occasion of their peculiar acquaintance with their own hearts : And while the law daily shows them what they are, it learns them more and more their need of a redeemer and sanctifier, and daily puts them upon going to God, through Jesus Christ, for pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace. The law makes way for the gospel ; and a sense of sin, weakness, and unworthiness, makes Christ and gospel-grace precious, and stirs up a man to repentance, faith, and prayer. Deluded, therefore, are those poor
souls that " We must not look into our hearts, “nor labor after a sense of our sins and sinfulness ; for that is “legal, and tends to discouragement: but we must look only to “Christ and free grace, and believe and rejoice, and a sense of “the love of Christ will humble us :” Just as if the great business of Christ was, to keep men from a sight and sense of their sins; and just as if a man could be truly humbled, without seeing what he is, compared with God and his holy law : But, poor souls, they feel a legal, discouraged frame always, when they have any sight and sense of their sinfulness, and it damps their faith (and if they were but thoroughly sensible of their sinfulness, it would kill their faith) and joy : and, therefore, they conclude it is not a good way to look into their hearts; no good can be got by it. But when they do not mind their hearts, but look steadily to Christ and free grace, (a fancied Christ!) firmly believing that all he has done and suffered is for them, and realizing the matter to themselves, now they feel sweetly and joyfully; and therefore conclude that this is the way, the only way, to get good for our souls ; and hence grow mighty enemies to the law....to self-examination....to sense of sin, &c. This is the door by which, if any man enters in, he will soon become an Antinomian and an Enthusiast. But, to proceed,
Use IV. Of thankfulness. While the law shews us what we are, it does, at the same time, make us sensible what we des serve ; while it discovers to us our sinfulness, it makes us feel our unworthiness of any good, and desert of all evil: and while we feel our unworthiness and ill deserts, our afflictions appear far less than we deserve, and our mercies appear more in number than the sands, and the kindness and bounty of our God appears exceedingly great, and we wonder at his goodness, and bless his holy name : And thus the law is of use to promote thankfulness.
God, the great Governor of the world, in testimony of his high displeasure against mankind for their apostacy from him, has spread miseries and calamities all round the earth : from the king upon the throne to the beggar on the dung-hill, there is not one but has a greater or lesser share in the troubles of life; and many have their days filled up with sorrows.
And now murmurings arise all round this guilty world, and the general cry is, “Nobody meets with such troubles as I do....I am very “hardly dealt with.” But the law teaches us that God is holy in all these his ways, and righteous in all these his works; and that we are all punished far less than we deserve; and so our complaints are silenced, and our hearts quieted into humble submission, and it appears infinitely fit, a rebellious world should be fuil of woe, that we might learn that it is an evil and bitter thing to forsake the Lord.
But, at the same time, God, the great Lord of all, out of his boundless goodness through Jesus Christ, reprieves mankind from the threatened ruin....strews common mercies with a libe. ral hand all round the earth....sends rain and fruitful seasons, and fills the hearts of all, more or less, with food and gladness and to some he grants his special grace, makes them his children, and entities them to eternal life : And thus he is the Savior of all men, but especially of those that believe....I. Tim. iv. 10. Yet this goodness of God is but little taken notice of in the world. But the law, while it discovers what we are, and how unworthy and hell-deserving we are, makes us sensible of the freeness
and riches of God's grace in these kindnesses : For, while we feel that hell is our proper due, every thing that renders our case better than that of the damned, we shall accept as a choice mercy, and as an effect of free grace ; and so, instead of being always in a murmuring and repining disposition, we shall be always wondering at the goodness, admiring at the kindness of the Lord ; saying, with good Jacob, We are not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servants....Gen. xxxii. 10—and with the Jewish Church, o give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good....for his mercy endureth forever....Psalm cxxxvi. And we shall always find that the more sensible we are of our unworthiness and ill desert, the more cause we shall see for thankfulness, let our outward circumstances in this life be what they will. But,
Use V. In the last place, let all that has been said be improyed, by way of exhortation, to excite and engage the people of God more and more to renounce themselves, the world and sin, and give up themselves to God, to love him, and live to him, and delight in him, with all their hearts, forever.
You have seen what grounds you have to do so, arising from God's infinite greatness, glory, and excellence ; and you have been viewing your superadded obligations : And is the Lord such a God, and is he your God and Redeemer? O how strongly are you bound to keep all his commandments! And what isit, o believer, that the Lord thy God requireth of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul ? And is there not, in keeping his commands, a great reward ? Did you ever taste such sweetness as in a life of devotedness to God? And have not your wanderings from him cost you many a bitter and mournful hour? O, how happy would you be, if once you could come to it, to have done with everything else, and to be wholly the Lord's ! Seriously consider these things :
1. That you can come to it, to have done with every thing else, and be wholly the Lord's, at least in a vastly greater degree than
cver yet you have.... See Phil. iii. 13, 14. You actually already have God working in you to will and to do.... Phil. ii. 13. He has always been, as it were, laboring to humble you, and wean you from the world, and bring you nearer to himself, to love him, live to him, and delight in him, ever since the day you first came to know him, by the outward dispensations of his providence, and by the inward strivings of his spirit. He has always been purging you, that you might bring forth more
fruit... John xv. 2 : Yea, this was the very design of Christ's coming into the world, that he might deliver you out of the hands of all your enemies, and bring you to serve God, without fear, in holiness and righteousness, all the days of your life.... Luke i. 74 and that he might redeem you from all iniquity, and purify you to himself, that you might be peculiarly his, and zealous of good works.... Tit. ii. 14: And, for this end, God has already taken, as it were, infinite pains with you, and this is what he is continually urging you unto, and he declares that he is readier to give you his holy spirit, than earthly parents are to give bread to their children, and invites, and encourages, and commands you to ask .... Mat. vii. 7, &c. And will you not now, therefore, arise, and put on the whole armour of God, and make your strongest efforts to recover from sin to God?
God, the great King of heaven and earth, commands you to do so--Jesus, the kind Mediator, invites you to do so and the holy spirit, the Sanctifier, is ready to help you. Arise, therefore, and be of good courage, for the Lord is with you. Did you ever stir up yourself to seek after God in yain, or set about a life of greater seriousness, watchfulness, and prayer, and find no advantage by it? Or have you not always said, in the conclusion, that it is good for me to draw near to God....(Psalm Ixxiii. 28,) and condemned and hated yourself for
former slackness, and been ready to resolve, from your inmost soul, that you would call upon the Lord as long as you live ?.... Psalm cxvi. 2.
And let me put it to your conscience, do not you believe, that, if now you would gird up the loins of your mind, and quit
yourself like a man, and be strong, that, through Christ's strengthening of you, you may do all things ? And shall carelessness or stupidity....shall laziness and sloth....shall the allurements or the discouragements of the world or the devil, now, after all, hinder you? What! when you have been redeemed, not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of the Son of God—when your prison-door is Alung open, and your chains knocked off, and you called and invited to come out into the glorious liberty of the children of God, and when God is actually striving with you already, and stands ready to afford you farther help, what, now be hindered! What, and be hindered by carelessness, unwatchfulness, &c! What, shall the Savior
groan in the garden, and die on the cross, and yet you lie sleeping here! What, asleep! What, content without God in the world! What, when the whole army of prophets, apostles, and martyrs have fasted and prayed all their days, and waded through a sea of blood at last! Methinks you had better abandon every mortal delight, lay aside every weight and the sin that more easily besets you, and mourn, and weep, and watch, and pray, and fight, and strive, as long as you live, than act so far beneath the dignity and character of a christian.
It is but a few in the world that truly know God, and the way of access to him, through Jesus Christ, and are in a (spir. itual) capacity to live a life of devotedness to God, and communion with him : most men are dead in sin : But you hath he quickened, and you are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works ; and it is God's design you should walk in them : you that were without Christ, and without God in the world,afar off, are now brought nigh; and you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God: for this cause I therefore beseech you, walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called : See this argument enlarged upon in the second, third, and fourth chapters of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and your duties still more particularly delineated in the fifth and sixth,